Home > The Monday Musings Column > musings on the pace of change

musings on the pace of change

I’m writing this at almost 11,000 metres above the Atlantic ( 36,000 feet for those of us who are still partially in Imperial mode), my iPod is pumping 60’s Motown into my ears and I’m comfortable in my window seat. I have a drink and my laptop and have nothing much else to do so writing this week’s missive seems a good idea, but what to write about? Well the fact that I’m doing all of the above is still a source of wonder.

The music that is pleasing me was written and recorded nearly 50 years ago and the thought then that I might be doing what I’m doing now with the toys that surround me would have been beyond my wildest dreams. It’s something that comes up regularly for me in a work sense; I’ve been at it for longer than many of the people that I work with have lived. Even things that, for me, seem fairly recent happened 30 years ago; ancient history for someone just into their 20s.

I’ve recently been working down in Docklands again. When I first worked there the East India docks were pretty much derelict and, whilst the West India docks were still functioning, there wasn’t a lot going on. This was back in the mid 1970s and in those days, as a salesman, like most of my colleagues I carried a small bag of change in case I needed to call in to the office and I knew every call box on my patch. Mobile ‘phones; I didn’t even have a ‘phone at home then.

Computers were around and much of our paperwork had to be completed in a way that aided input. For about five years I wrote everything in block capitals, each letter neatly within a box on the form. It took me some time to re-learn how to write joined up letters again when I started to draft things for typing. But we never saw the computers that we fed for these were vast beasts taking up enormous space somewhere, possibly not even owned by our company as renting computer time was common then (not everything is a new idea, for The Cloud is, to a degree, just a modern version of the ways things were).

Even when I began to programme computers in the early 80s not once did I see any of the machines that my programmes would work on and it was not until I worked on financial systems running on an IBM System 36 that I actually saw my digital friend, a device about the size of a launderette washing machine. When I was recruited into a supply chain project in 1984 they sat me in front of what I thought was a dumb terminal only to realise with some horror that it was an IBM PC: I didn’t have a clue what to do with it, but neither did anyone else and two all-night sessions taught me enough MS Basic to make the thing work in those pre Windows days.

So now I sit here six and a bit miles above the ocean, whizzing along at about 550mph typing on a lap top alongside which is my phone, either of which has far more computing power than the hidden machines that I wrote for half my lifetime ago. My iPod has more storage space that we could even have conceived of in those days and it’s about the size of a boyhood bar of chocolate.

Whatever else is going on, these certainly are fantastic times, but where do we go next?

 

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