Many moons ago, in a far off place (uh, okay, Syracuse, New York in 1983), my handsome prince and I worked for International Business Machines (IBM). My new husband sold computers and I installed them. He worked as a Marketing Rep for the National Accounts Division (NAD); the organization that sold and installed the “big iron” – gigantic IBM mainframes that sat on raised floors, lived in enormous rooms called data centers, and were supported by sizeable staffs who were managed by a Data Processing Manager. I, on the other hand, was a Systems Engineer and worked for the National Marketing Division (NMD); the group that was made up of people who had sold and supported typewriters, word processing systems, copy machines, and small- to mid-sized computers.
While we all wore dark suits (primarily navy), starched white shirts, and various colored silk ties (even the women wore little silk bowties and matching cummerbunds) back then, there was a difference between us. The NAD guys handled IBM’s “crown jewels” and acted that way. They managed the multi-million dollar accounts and worked with huge corporations. Prince Charming primarily worked with “super computers” at Cornell University.
The NMD folks were treated a bit like the proverbial “step-children.” We were seen as somehow less professional; less knowledgeable and kind of low-tech. Our customers were comparable neophytes in the game of technology. Many of my accounts, for example, were automating some of their business processes for the very first time; moving from a variety of manual systems to computer-based ones. My favorite “win” was the installation of a System/36 as the very first computer at a local turkey farm!
Despite the work-related differences between us, at home we agreed that we needed technology in our lives. We loved it and we were spoiled. Long before the Internet and email, we used a cool IBM inter-office application called PROFS (Professional Office System) that offered a calendar application and internal electronic mail. There even was function that was a bit like instant messaging or texting. Then, the buzz about home computing started to get loud. IBM opened a “Product Center,” a store where we used our employee discounts to buy our first home computer. We typed documents on DisplayWrite, created spreadsheets with Lotus 1-2-3, kept track of our finances in Managing Your Money, and printed continuous-form-feed checks with a dot-matrix printer. People thought we were crazy, but we somehow knew we were the cool pioneers. We started with an IBM PC, then over time traded up to a PC XT, PC AT, and even a Convertible.
All that was a long time ago…A very different time and place.
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I am sitting on a plane as I write this entry. I’m typing on my sleek, skinny MacBook Air. My brand new (I bought it yesterday!) iPad Mini is in my backpack under the seat in front of me. My iPhone is in my jacket pocket. (I’m not eligible for an upgrade to the iPhone 5 until January.) My Apple devices are all charged and synched up with the Cloud. Technology overkill? Maybe. Don’t care.
It truly is fascinating to look around and see how far technology has come from those days. Almost everyone has some personal device today. There are so many options to capture the imagination with wide ranges of affordability. The thirty something-year-old guy sitting next to me has his earphones in as he’s playing a game on his Droid. The young woman, in the center seat across the aisle, is working on iPhoto on her MacBook Pro. The old guy diagonally in front of me is using some type of spreadsheet application on his fairly large, heavy looking…HP (no Windows 8 for him J). The middle-aged man diagonally behind me is reading on his Kindle. And, when I got on the plane, it seemed that everyone was doing something on a mobile phone. And that’s just the hardware. Applications now make it easy to videoconference with someone half-way around the globe, make charitable donations online, download books, pay bills on line, organize meetings with others, track expenses, shop online, check phone messages at home, find new recipes, etc., etc., etc. Today, I even heard a story about an eighty-year-old grandmother who regularly uses Facebook to see what all her grandchildren are up to! How did people ever manage or function without this stuff?
I only hope the continued evolution of technology – especially in the area of social networking tools – is used for good; brings people closer together; and continues to enhance the quality of our lives. Technology should connect, not separate or divide or isolate, us.
Now, before we land, I’m going to use the Wi-Fi on board the plane to post this latest entry to my blog…