Sunday, October 5, 2014

Grumpy Old Man

Sadly, my body is now 54 years old.

But my mind is still a wise ass teenager. My mind remembers Black and White TV, with tin foil on the rabbit ears. There was no such thing as a remote control, and there was channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 11 and 13. If you watched TV at night, at some point after midnight they would play the National Anthem and then you would get a test pattern.

How many WPM can you type?

Back in the day, this one question was more important than the rest of your resume. To “get the job” you needed to type at least X words per minute without errors or you would not be considered.

Back in the day, the teacher would write in chalk the chapter to read, the questions to answer and the homework for the day ON THE BLACKBOARD. The next morning some would turn in their homework, some would not. And some would ask “there is a book for this class?”  

Back in the day, we had “car phones” that cost $1,800 plus installation fees, and the service was terrible. There were only 9 cell towers active in 1983, and it cost $1 per minute plus taxes fees and a monthly service charge on top of it all. There was only a very small footprint where cell service would even work. We would say “call me back from a real phone” which was the most embarrassing thing to hear from a client.

Back in the day, we would go to the library, use the periodicals, read things on microfiche, and you NEEDED to go to the library. You did what you had to do to get the job done. Period.

Back in the day, computers did not work well at all. DOS operating systems, dot matrix printers and floppy disks made it an adventure to use a computer. There were no color screens, there was no Internet. You could not share - anything. Back in the day, we just made it all WORK.

You had to read the manual. You had to go to the library. You had to figure it out, do it yourself, read a book, research it. You had to find a way to do anything that you needed to get done. But we were all in the same boat. We all had to learn how to type, we all had to read, research, seek, find, discover.

Back in the day, computers were very, very dumb. YOU were the computer. YOUR BRAIN made that stupid little box do magic. There was no magic in the box, all the magic was still in your head.  It was a wonderful partnership. If you could make a computer “do anything” YOU would be the one to get the credit. Not Google, not Facebook, not Twitter or any billion dollar company. 

Computers in the 90’s were dumb, and WE were smart. We were the ones that pulled the magic out of the silicon chips and wires. We did all of the work, and we got all of the credit. Back in the day, we did the work. Not our machines.

Today, I have the pleasure of working with many kids in their 20’s.  My two sons are on that list. The “work” that they do is very different indeed from the work that I did what I was their age. It is a different time, and I know that we must not live in the past.

But deep down inside, I wish that the kids today could experience what did when I was their age. I wish they could experience the feeling of getting the TV picture to come into focus, from putting tin foil on the rabbit ears. I wish they could appreciate standing in line at the library, to make photocopies of some pages of some “reserved book” that you could not check out. I wish they could appreciate writing a term paper with a typewriter, with whiteout and with carbon paper. OMG, who remembers using carbon paper!!!!  We drove cars with paper maps, not a GPS. If there was traffic, you were going to be late. And AM radio was terrible in the car, back in the day.

Yeah, my body is now older, but my mind is still a wise ass teenager. But when I was a teenager, we just made it work. You either did your homework, or you did not. You either made your computer work, or you did not. You used the map, you read the book, you figured out how to do just about anything and everything. Back in the day, it was a simpler time - we could take credit for everything, because we did everything.

I love technology. I sell it, I have made a wonderful living over the years, selling and embracing and marketing technology. But somehow along the way, in the last 30 years, we as a society have somehow lost our way.

Doing a Google search is simply not the same thing as walking to a library on a rainy day, to search the stacks and the periodicals so that you could do your homework. Back in the day, homework meant that you actually had to do the work. Not cut and paste stuff from the Internet. WORK was the key part of homework. It was supposed to be hard, that was the point.

Hey kids: cc: means carbon copy, as in carbon paper.  bcc: means blind carbon copy.

Back in the day, if something went viral, it was not a good thing at all. I wonder if this blog will go viral? Damn, I am old. Is this what it means to be a grumpy old man? I better Google it.

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