In a Snapchat World, History is Not Your Friend

yesterday, i was trying to create a business envelope in word that i could save as a template and use to print a single envelope or in a mail merge for mass mailings. now, i’ve done this many times, but i hadn’t done it in my current version of word since i was using templates that pre-dated this version. unfortunately, my established templates committed suicide and i was forced to have to re-create them all. creating that stupid envelope took me almost a half hour, which included multiple useless microsoft knowledge searches and a lot of cursing at word programmers.

btw, microsoft programmers must not do any kind of user research. if they had, clippy would never have existed.

here’s the problem: i’m old enough to remember how i always did this in word version #1, but this latest version, in its attempt to spoon feed the user, actually interfered with the logic of how to accomplish the task. i have this issue a lot in new word, whose big brother attitude needs some controlling. yes, i know i can turn some of this nonsense off, but many of the issues are structural, as in what i used to do with one click now takes five.

i’m old enough to have gone through college without a computer of any kind. i typed all my papers on an electric typewriter and took notes with pen in a spiral notebook. in those days, the wave of the future was when some student brought a tape recorder to class to tape the lecture.

two years after i graduated college, when i was working for publishing company, the executives gathered all the employees together and talked about introducing a new thing called a personal computer
those were the days where there were actual debates as to whether you would ever have a computer in your home, because, afterall, what would you ever do with it? there were layout and tech specialists who worked at CRTs , but none of us mere mortals were allowed to touch their machines. now executives were proposing to put a computer on someone’s desk! though they still hadn’t figured out what said employee was going to do with it.

it’s funny to think of now, but those suits mounted a dog-and-pony-show to convince employees to participate in the program and anyone who volunteered to be the first wave of employees with a personal computer would be sent to classes to learn how to use it, all paid for by the company. then they asked for a show of hands. out of a room of a couple hundred people, i was one of a handful who volunteered.

i often tell this story to our kids, which elicits an expected eye rolling, but i like to think that one day maybe they (or their kids) will appreciate the history here.

here’s my point: sometimes historical knowledge is not your friend. anyone remember lotus 123? unless you were one of the first adopters of personal computers, you probably skipped the whole lotus 123 thing and plunged directly into excel. same for the early (non mouse) versions of word processing software where you did formatting using function keys. likewise with operating systems. remember dos? my computer day wasn’t greeted with a lovely picture hand picked for my huge screen, but a blank, black screen and a blinking green curser next to a C:>. no clicking of little icons to get a program running and no concept of an internet that could answer a question in an instant. you want to get something done? program it yourself. same with getting something fixed. user help desk? not a chance.

those of us learning these new software programs huddled together like birds in a storm, trading information in our little underground, triumphant with each little success, always reciting the mantra: save your work! save your work!

i spent many hours and overheated many brain cells mastering early versions of software that has now been streamlined and updated and equipped with user interfaces that make it easier to use without a whole lot of user programming. sometimes it comes in handy to have an old roadmap, knowing the underpinnings may help to wind through a logic pattern, but often it gets in the way.

so when my kids wonder my mom can’t remember stuff i tell them that between the early software knowledge and tv theme songs i don’t have enough room left in my brain.

so much for being an early adopter.

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2 Comments

Filed under advice, age, computers, technology

2 responses to “In a Snapchat World, History is Not Your Friend

  1. Of course, as a card-carrying computer scientist, I don’t have any of the problems you listed.

    Not! My experience is exactly the same as yours. And, here is why we struggle w/ Word 2013:

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