The network is down here at work. This means that out of an office of 20 people or more, only four of us can actually turn our computers on. I'm lucky. I can get at most of my files, and I can get some e-mail, although I don't have internet access. Most people are sitting twiddling their mental thumbs. Some of us have learned how to use the telephone. Some of us are wandering around, in shock. One of us is a liar. One of us is a sinner. One of us is a saint. One of us just got sucked into the giant propellor that we use to cool the server. Some of us are thinking back to the good old days.
I still believe myself lucky. When I first started in an office in Scotland at age 20, there were a hundred of us. We had a hundred and three computers. One hundred were terminals, which were only good for getting access to our mainframe. One was an Apple. Two were Olivetti PCs - for those that care, an 8086, and an 80286 ('the fast machine'). Those two belonged to our team.
I learned programming on those machines, really. I was producing user developed applications, and running batch calculation jobs, and basically hiding behind it for oooh maybe two or three hours a day.
The rest of the time, I was working at a desk. That's what we used to have before we had workstations. My desk had three drawers, plenty of space for laying out papers, a telephone that didnï¿½t have a digital display, and that was it. When I looked up from the stack of papers I kept there, do you know what I saw? Another human being. And beyond him, the outside world. We talked to each other all the time.
Now admittedly, my minion Nuala talks all the time, but that's just because that's the way that her brain is wired. If her jaw stops working, then she seizes up. I've seen it happy, and it's not a pretty sight. We work at workstations. The view ahead of me is my monitor, and the walls of my cubiclette - neither low enough to be able to see over comfortably, or high enough to insulate me from distractions. The walls of my cubiclette are solid, but covered in a togh fabric. They look like a pin board, but mankind has not yet invented a pin that will penetrate them. The air conditioning drones overhead, and the lights are positioned in just the right place to maximise the glare on the monitor.
Digressing again. The thing that amuses me today is that the current problems in our office are all driven by our desire for security. Our fanaticism to avoid risks of viruses, to ensure that anyone can log on to any machine anywhere in the company, is largely responsible for the huge degree of connectivity, of networking that we rely on. When that fails - and this is the second time this year that this has happened - it fails catastrophically. The weakest link though is - rather worryingly - our reliance on machines and our inability to function effectively without them.
Cripes how old ARE you?
My first office (at 20) was chock full of PCs running Windows 95 BETA. Although I had to live with Windows 3.1.1 Workgroup for the first couple of weeks.
We have similar issues here, network goes down and everything slowly halts. Except for those who actually use the "offline folders" option in Windows XP and so we have to work on, hoping out laptops don't keel over on us.
Are you not supposed to be in the Seychelles with a thong or thomething?
When I first started we had to code at our desks on huge coding sheets, then send the sheets to the "punch girls" to produce our decks of punched cards. I believe we may have been working on navigation systems for Noah's Ark.
Posted by Douglas
August 29, 2005 6:36 PM
I recall loads of terminals and not many PCs then too. I reckon the desktop PC population explosion must've hit your company about 5-6 years later.
It's pretty much the same where I work now. Especially when they stop working. Only thing is, it's part of my job to get them working again.