— Dave Barry
Author & Columnist
(b. July 3, 1947)
Missed deadlines, late deliveries and employee frowns tell this common tale; for the past two weeks, our newspaper has been invaded by electronic aliens of the third kind whose mission has been to upgrade — that’s fancy lingo for replace — our software and hardware systems, known to insiders as computers.
Shall I continue?
Those who have endured such calamity assuredly are shaking their heads in sympathy with a dismissive wave of the hand and a sigh in the air, “No need to elaborate. Enough said. Move on to next week.”
Nice idea. But I feel compelled. It has been “that” kind of two weeks. And that’s the kind version. Frankly, I’m struggling for just the right words to describe my innermost feelings. Let’s see. Perhaps ... “Agggghhhhhh!”
Yes, that’s appropriate.
For those who didn’t catch my meaning, let me embellish ... “Agggghhhhhh!” Hmmm, feels good. Really good. Maybe just once more .... “Agggghhhhhh!”
Much, much better.
And now for the rest of the story.
The last time in my life I lived through a company computer changeout of this magnitude came 25 to 30 years ago at a newspaper ... this newspaper, not to place too fine a point on it. I was a younger man then. I had hair. My waistline had not reached pumpkin proportion. The wrinkles between my eyebrows were not permanent and the horizontal lines across my forehead were not so deeply pronounced.
In spite of my opposition, that new system of the ’80s found its way into our newsroom. All those new machines came. They saw. They conquered. And I fled journalism.
Actually, the two had no connection. Like a young dinosaur, I — and many co-workers — learned the new system. We mastered it. We became kings and queens of our little universe. And we moved on. So did I, by accepting an opportunity elsewhere — from journalism to public relations — and stayed gone for the next 21 years. In my absence, I’m sure the newspaper and its patient staff endured more than a few subsequent computer conversions.
In my new career, I avoided major companywide upgrades. Mine were just isolated machine replacements. No major pain and a little bit of gain.
Then somebody suggested getting back into newspaper work, a field I had left more than two decades earlier. I arrived Memorial Day 2010, just in time for natural disasters like April 27, 2011, March 2, 2012 ... and a total computer system upgrade.
Sorry. It just ... came out.
Admittedly, I know as much about computers as I did in my younger days of the ’80s, which is very little. When they work, they’re OK. When they’re broken, they’re not. My life doesn’t revolve around these high-tech gizmos, but my death could become a direct result thereof. I view computers as I do my cars. Run them until they fall apart. No need to replace a perfectly good one.
But in today’s electronic world of big-screen wizardry, computers must yield to the next generation every few years even if they’re still getting plenty of miles to the gallon. I don’t know why. It’s just a thing. Look at it as seven-year locusts. You know they’re coming. It’s just a matter of when.
Upon entering the newspaper business June 20, 1977 — did I say I had hair then? — ours was a world of blessed IBM Selectric IIIs. They didn’t crash. They didn’t pop up screens within screens within screens. They didn’t need surge protectors. They had no fear of viruses, spyware, adware, this ware or that ware. They knew nothing about Internet. They couldn’t send emails. They weren’t filled with suspect commentary from some social media. And they didn’t rely on big brothers called servers.
They were just machines.
They were simple.
They were divine.
They were our friend.
They clattered when we typed their keys.
They made pleasant zipping sounds when we whipped out the final page of our award-winning news stories.
They turned off at night.
They turned on in the morning.
When they died, they were repaired or they floated to typewriter heaven.
Once the company bought several new ones at the same time. Installation took 30 minutes.
Oh well. Our most recent computer upgrade is now finished. In the big picture, it was probably worth it. Frowns are fading. Moods are a couple of shades lighter. Happy feet are again dancing in the newspaper aisles. OK. OK. I’ve sensationalized on that one.
But, we have attained our new normal.
The aliens have returned to their planet.
And life is good.
Until our next computer upgrade ... “Agggghhhhhh!”