What’s In A Name?

What we’ve named computer things is a bit strange sometimes.  Now I like the “keyboard”, in terms of what we call it.  It’s a board with keys on it.  That’s great.  Although if I’m honest I don’t care for calling them keys, they’re buttons.  So I think a keyboard should be called a buttonboard.


I understand why we call the computer mouse a “mouse”.  It’s got sort of the right shape and the cord looks a bit like it’s mouse’s tail.  But I don’t like the idea of holding a “mouse” all day.  And cordless mice are like tail-less mice which is also weird.  I’d like to call the mouse something else.  Like the Clicker.  “Move the clicker over the file and then double click the clicker.”  I might say to a user.  I think Clicker is way better.


What the actual “computer” is sometimes confuses people.  The monitor is not the computer (well maybe if you’re talking about an iMac that’s acceptable).  The Hard Drive is not the computer.  The CPU is not the computer.  Basically the computer is the sum of all the parts in the “tower” or “case”.  It’s like how the brain isn’t just the amygdala or the … I don’t know the names of other parts of the brain.  At any rate, the brain is all those different pieces put together.  And so is the computer, it’s all those different parts combined.  I don’t know that we need to rename the computer, we just need to educate people so they stop calling monitors computers and computers hard drives.


3.5” floppy disk, it doesn’t matter anymore but those were cover by a hard plastic shell.  The media inside was floppy but still, it was silly to call it floppy when you had to break it apart to reach the floppy part.


I think it’s silly that we still call the little computers we keep in our pockets “Cell Phones”.  We run a million different applications on them including spreadsheet programs, fitness trackers, music players, games and many more.  They are our calendars and electronic personal assistants.  They are how we check email, both personal and work.  But because one of the billion things they can do is to make and receive phone calls we still call them “phones”.  It’s just that telephone calls aren’t really their main purpose anymore.  We should call them Pocket Computers.  Or Pocke-comps.  Or Pokuters.


human pyramid

“Teamwork is important!” a former boss of mine was telling us.  “Remember, there’s no, “I” in Information Technology.”  I was never sure if he was joking or not.


Back then I was a lowly Tech 1 at a Credit Union.  Me an three other Tech 1’s were responsible for the most basic of jobs.  Your computer doesn’t turn on?  I’ll come by and make sure it’s plugged in.  Your mouse doesn’t work well?  One of us will run over with a new one.  You don’t know how to “do Excel”?  I’ll show you how to sign up for a training because I don’t know that either.  I replace mice and plug in computers, I don’t excel at Excel!


The four of us shared the workload.  And because we were such good teammates we shared it equally.  If I saw an easy ticket come in I’d take it right away.  If I saw a hard one come in I’d leave that for somebody else since I had already taken a lot of easy ones.  If I saw a hard ticket sit in the queue for a long time I’d go home early so nobody else felt guilty about taking it.  That’s what I called, “Being a team player”.


We were a team the way Congress is a team.  In theory we all worked together towards the same goal but in reality we all had completely different ideas about what that goal should be.  Bobbie believed we should replace all the Windows computers with Macs.  Another guy wanted to replace all the Windows installs with Linux.  I wanted to leave everything exactly the way it was because their ideas sounded like a lot of work.  Willy wasn’t sure everybody even needed a computer at all.


I remember one time a user brought in their personal mac laptop.  The whole company was Windows so Bobbie never got to work on Macs during his normal duties, and he spent the whole day “fixing” that mac.  Phones were ringing off the hook because something or other was down and we were all busy as heck but good old team player Bobbie wouldn’t turn away from that Mac.  His idea of helping us was telling us that, “If we used Macs like this instead of Windows that system wouldn’t have gone down.”  He spent the day extolling the virtues of Macs while we did our own work and his.  It did not make us fall in love with Macs.


The best example of our teamwork was when somebody had to transfer a ticket they had started to somebody else.  I remember getting one of Willy’s tickets about a user who couldn’t get email.


“Let’s reset your password.” I told the user.


“Willy already did that, it didn’t help.”  The user said.


Now, Willy hadn’t put in any notes so I had no idea what he had or had not done.  I assumed he hadn’t done anything because that’s the sort of employee he was.  Hearing he had done something left me in an awkward position.


“Did he have you try using the web mail?  Yes?  Did that work?  Okay.  Do you know if he double checked your account settings?  You don’t know?  I’ll do that, please hold a minute.  Okay those settings all look good, oh now you remember he did do that?  Great.  Just … great.  Do you know what he was going to do next?”


I’m sure teamwork is important in every job with two or more employees.  That’s why my dream job is a small company where I can be the whole I.T. department myself.  I work well with myself, and I wouldn’t have to worry about anybody else taking all the easy tickets before I do.

Desktop Versus Laptop

I have thought about the pros and cons of desktops and laptops for decades and the debate rages on.  So today I’d like to discuss the differences here in a completely fair, balanced, and unbiased fashion.

Desktop Pros:

Desktops are generally cheaper than laptops.  Unless you count Chrome Books in the laptops category.  Or look at super high end gaming computers.  Suffice it to say that desktops are cheaper than laptops except for when they’re not.

Desktops are easy to tinker with.  You can open up a desktop computer and swap components or rearrange the interior cabling or store Red Bull’s inside them.  But if you’re the sort of person who likes to take computers apart but can never get them put back together correctly then maybe the ability to dismantle your computer isn’t a good thing.

Desktops are actually very portable.  As a teenager and while I was in my twenties I would regularly take my desktop computer to friends houses to play multiplayer games with them.  That’s not entirely necessary these days with the internet fad being in full swing.  But the point is that it’s entirely possible to put your desktop computer in your car, drive somewhere else, remove it from your car and reassemble it in a new location.  Then play video games on it with your friends until after midnight and do the whole thing in reverse to take it home.  Although I’ll say the whole process was a bit easier when I was younger.  Maybe computers are starting to weigh more?  They sure feel heavier than they did when I was twenty.

Desktop Cons:

There aren’t any cons.  Desktop computers are great.

Laptop Pros:

Portability.  If you want to take your tiny computer into a public restroom and video conference with your mom while you’re on the toilet then a laptop is for you!

A laptop can be placed under the leg of a table to help steady it if one of the legs is shorter than the others.

Laptops are excellent for hitting people upside the head.  That’s risky though as you may damage the laptop.

Laptop Cons:

Laptops are tiny little computers with tiny little screens and tiny little processors and tiny little hard drives that you can’t easily open up to repair or upgrade and they cost too much.

They are dumb.

The Conclusion:

In conclusion I think you’ll find that my data is impeccable, the analysis was fair and based on sound reasoning.  And that the clear winner is the desktop.  Now if you want to buy a laptop because it’s portable then you certainly should do that, but I will not be accepting video conferencing requests from you.

The Computer/Harmonica Similarity

I don’t care for the harmonica.  It’s fine if you like it, that’s great.  But the sound it makes doesn’t appeal to me.  So all my life there’s been this group of people learning and playing the harmonica and I’ve felt like they were wasting their time.  When I was a child there were adults who felt the same way about computers, they were not interested in computers AT ALL and they wondered why anybody wasted their time on them.

People who weren’t interested in computers in the 90’s must have felt like the world suddenly decided that playing the harmonica was an important job skill.  Suddenly something they didn’t care about was a big deal.  A lot of young people who thought computers were cool had already amassed all this useful computer knowledge and skill for fun.  And now older workers weren’t being praised for their decades of job experience they were being chastised for not knowing how to email.  It must have been very frustrating for them.  I imagine my boss telling me, “You’re good at your job but if you can’t play Yanky Doodle Dandy on the harmonica I’m going to fire you and hire somebody who can.”

Those people are still around.  These are the people who print out all their important documents and put them in folders and filling cabinets.  And you tell them, “It’s saved on the server.  The server is backed up every night so it’s safe.  Everything there is searchable.  It’s easily shared with anybody in the company you want to share it to.  Or you can protect it so nobody see’s it but you.  You don’t need a filling cabinet.”  And they respond, “I don’t trust the computer.  It might break.”  And you go on to list all the ways the printed out piece of paper might get lost, stolen, spilled on, burned up or become unreadable and they don’t care.  All the things that can go wrong with their sheet of paper are things they understand and have spent a lifetime learning to protect against.  The computer is a mystery, from their point of view literally ANYTHING could happen to it.   A computer virus could turn all their files to jelly.  So that’s scary, the unknown is scary.

Working in I.T. I get frustrated by them sometimes.  They get angry because their boss wants them to use Skype for a meeting and they’d rather drive to the building the meeting is happening at.  And you show up to install Skype and suddenly you’re also teaching it too them and you’re thinking to yourself, “I learned how to use skype, on my own, like ten years ago.  What is even happening right now?  I’m explaining that it’s like a phone but on the computer?  What sin did I commit for which this is my punishment?”  And then they refuse to enable to camera because “Communists might spy on me.” and you tell their boss that you installed it and showed them how to log in.  Whether they enable the dang video mode in the meeting or not is beyond your control.

But then I think, “What if somebody showed up at my desk to teach me how to do something I don’t like, don’t want, and don’t think I need?  What if they showed up to teach me the harmonica.  What if the company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying everybody harmonica’s and was forcing me to play it every day?  How would that make me feel?”  Obviously you and I know that there are very good reasons and benefits to using computers over typewriters and filing cabinets while there is no good reason to force an entire company to learn the harmonica.  But from the point of view of people who hate computers it feels the same to them.  They honestly don’t know why or believe that computers offer any benefit.  So I think they feel the same about computers as I feel about harmonicas.  So to empathize with them I imagine company enforced harmonica lessons.

And that helps me relax and to be kind and gentle with the users.  It helps me empathize with them.  It reminds me that while I don’t enjoy teaching somebody how to add an attachment to their email (I was doing that twenty years ago people!) they probably hate it even more than I do.  And that shared unhappiness is a bonding moment between us.