Computer Technology: Curse You, Bill Gates!

Every business is held in thrall to its computer technology. In most white-collar environments a computer crash comes with the added expense of employees sitting dumbly at their stations, unable to function.

When a function of our business becomes a core competency, we do our best to make it fail safe. Why hasn’t it happened with computers? The best we can do is try to maintain old computer technology when the latest version seems to be worse (think Microsoft Vista).

We’ve come to accept critical vendors who require us to spend more on features we don’t need or want in order to remain in business. “Upgrades” come at the additional price of threatening the performance of the functions we need. The vast majority of office (or Office) users want word processing, spreadsheets and file organization. Yet we are required to buy software that can do so much more than we want or care about.

What were your favorite new features of the last 5 word processing upgrades you purchased? Other than having to learn where they moved the function menus, I can’t think of any. I still type on a QWERTY keyboard designed with no particular logic in mind during the 1800’s. I have a few more colors available for text, but most of them are unreadable, at least to the human eye. It’s the same if I highlight in anything but yellow.

I can still bold, underline or italicize fonts. That’s the exact same variety I was offered in Lotus Word Pro when I was starting out on my IBM 286. Most other programs then were 80%, 90% or even 97% IBM compatible, but only IBM could run 100% on IBM. Of course, that never really meant 100%. Nothing having to do with computer technology has ever been 100% compatible.

The software features that get piled on require faster computers, so we have to buy new desktops and laptops. The old ones worked fine, but they couldn’t keep up with the unnecessary and unrequested changes in their software. It’s like the local mob boss telling you that your restaurant has to carry his brother’s lousy brand of ice cream. It’s overpriced. It doesn’t sell. The company requires minimum sized orders, and you have to buy an extra freezer from the Don’s equipment company to store it. Of course, if you don’t do it you are out of business.

If you hire an IT expert for your business, he or she is paid a premium for understanding the latest computer technology. Unfortunately, that knowledge starts becoming obsolete on the day of hire. The IT person can either a) attend a lot of classes that cost you a fortune until he is recruited away from you, or b) hold back your technology development by stalling at the level of development that was already in place when he walked in the door.

We always say that IT conversions take twice as long and cost twice as much as you planned. Sometimes we hedge our bets by saying they take three times as long and three times as much. So we plan for triple the time and triple the cost, and they still take three times as long and cost three times as much.

We have been trained to believe that something costing thousands of dollars, and requiring thousands more to maintain, should fail regularly and be thrown out after a few years. This is during the same time that a 100,000 mile automobile went from being a rarity to the minimum life span acceptable. Except, of course, for the computer stuff it’s packed with.That will have to be fixed or replaced multiple times during those 100,000 miles. It can’t be upgraded, so I guess we will just start throwing away our cars because their IT no longer functions. That’s not outrageous, it’s a behavior we are trained for already.

Of course, computers do allow one person to broadcast his rant about computer technology to thousands of others. I guess there is some redeeming value.

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3 Responses to Computer Technology: Curse You, Bill Gates!

  1. Chris White says:

    Your rant shows the importance of the move to “the cloud” which, if it delivers on its promises, will make the laptop or desktop about as important as a telephone…simply a means of establishing a link to your software programs, your files, etc.

    Once everyone is in “the cloud” all we have to worry about is just exactly who is this new “big brother” that we have invited into our businesses, our homes and our innermost thoughts?

  2. Computers, Internet & Technology = Enabling faster decision making and faster errors in today’s need it now marketplace.

  3. Zbig Skiba says:

    I took Fortran when I was in college. I would submit my card deck to the people who ran the mainframe computer, and if I was lucky would get the results in 4 hours. Generally, the results indicated that I had missed a period and I had to do it all over again. So I think that we’ve made some progress since those days in the ’70’s.

    That said, I agree that more effort should be spent on stability and ease of use and less on adding gee whiz features. I currently have a color printer that gives me an error message that is meaningless and refuses to be fixed. So it’s a piece of junk — it shouldn’t be that way.

    Cars have had 100 years to get better. My first car was a 1971 Toyota Corolla that had burned through its engine valves at 28,000 miles and had rusted through the fenders before it was 2 years old — when I disposed of it by totaling it and luckily not myself. So now we pay 5 times more for a superior product that lasts 5 times longer. Computer prices have actually gone down, and the product is far superior to what it used to be. That said, more work to be done.

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