Tag Archives: technology

Forget Kim Kardashian, Alice Bowman is a Name that Should be Famous


When I was a kid, I never learned very few names of women who contributed mightily to our nation and the world. Now, as an adult I am learning for the first time the names of women who were major factors in the world of science and technology and literature, art, engineering, architecture, medicine, research and every other field area. Unfortunately, our own children also learned little of the contributions of women to our world. Hopefully that will change for our grandchildren.

So, while many of us can probably rattle off the names of the astronauts and ever some of the men in mission control for the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle missions, we probably think that there aren’t any women in these field areas (unless they’re fetching coffee or designing cute flight suits).

Well, here’s a name to know: Alice Bowman. If your kids and grandkids aren’t learning her name in school, you need to speak to someone in your school district. And if you don’t know her name, let me share with you. Alice Bowman is the first woman Mission Operations Manager and she led the mission that has glimpsed the edge of our solar system. And she’s not done yet.

Rather than write about her, I thought I’d post this interview with her. Hopefully you’ll read it yourself and to your kids and to your grandkids. And hopefully one day, they’ll be so many women in science and technology that they will be known for their achievements and not for their gender.

INTERVIEW WITH ALICE BOWMAN.

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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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Filed under advice, age, computers, technology

Steve Jobs can’t distort this reality

if you love steve jobs and your apple products, don’t read walter isaacson’s biography of him. 

in fact, if you admire steve jobs, don’t read anything about him unless it’s something steve jobs says about himself.  

I read through 576 pages of isaacson’s book for the same reason i read any biography – searching for the arc of a life.  like most other things about jobs (and apple) I got sucked into the vortex and willingly wasted some brain cells thinking that the journey of jobs and apple would be an interesting and insightful lesson on the inventions and business in the golden age of technology.  some of the journey is interesting indeed, particularly the early years (when I was in college and friends with the tech nerds who were neither cool nor exalted at the time).  but the journey gets murky as it becomes more and more clear that isaacson got sucked far too deeply inside steve jobs’ reality distortion.   

after every single story about jobs’ fabled temper, his lack of social skills, his arrogance, compulsiveness and downright cruelty, isaacson issues the caveat, “but, they got it done” “or, it got better” or “they appreciated how he made them the best.”  doubtful.   

the history of the world and innovation is filled with stories of leaders who led by inspiration not denigration.  it’s also filled with stories of how cult leaders operate.  it’s a two pronged approach:  tear down everyone (everything) else, elevate yourself to deity.  take credit for all their hard work, make them believe that’s okay.   

steve jobs was not an edison. I do not believe that steve jobs was even a genius.  I believe that steve jobs was so arrogant as to believe that he was a genius but what he understood above all else was how to steal from others and convince himself that it was his to take credit for. (he put his name on almost every patent at apple even when his involvement was minimal at best) steve jobs was a creative opportunist who had the vision (and the means) to assemble the right people and pieces to get something done.   

he was not the only brilliant mind in the technology arena and without steve jobs the world still would have changed.  with or without his version of design.   

what was clear from isaacson’s version of jobs was that with his success came a legion of enablers, isaacson included.  afterall, do you risk your job and your future in what you love to tell your volatile boss that it wasn’t his idea?  steve jobs and apple have (and always had) a vested interest in the myth.   

isaacson spends an inordinate amount of time repeating jobs’ mantra of simplicity… perfection…integration…design… ooooohhhhhmmmmmm but conveniently forgets to mention that very many (if not all) of apple’s products don’t work first time out and often quit working properly within a few months.  so is perfection putting out a product where the customer has to purchase the warranty agreement for survival really perfection?   

no doubt apple wins on all counts with the cool factor.  and often beauty of design (c’mon the jelly bean stuff was not enduring).  and beauty of packaging.  I have a hard time throwing away the packaging from apple products.  (and after watching the nightline report on the chinese factory where apple products are made, and hearing about the profit margin, I understand that the beauty and substantial packaging is to fool me into forgetting that I paid  waaaaaay too much for the product). 

isaacson included a lot of material on the design and concept of the apple store and how it proved to be one more example of jobs’ brilliance.  but he forgot to mention how every single apple store sinks of b.o.  (then again, it was probably a jobs concept considering that he spent most of his life (falsely) believing that because he didn’t eat animal products he didn’t stink).  or how the geniuses at the genius bar take your apple computer in the back and work on it using a p.c.    

jobs spent most of his life believing a lot of things that were ridiculous.  but what he almost never spent time thinking about was other people (unless he needed to exact punishment on them).  he often punished others for what he was guilty of.  he had infinite forgiveness for himself, none for others. this was a man so filled with his own arrogance that empathy never even occurred to him.   

I can forgive the arrogance and brashness of a young man.  but as time goes on in our lives, the idea (perhaps even the buddhist idea jobs reportedly emulate) is that we grow and learn.  and no, growing and learning doesn’t just refer to revenge or distrust.   for 576 pages I searched for redemption for jobs, or a moment of self-reflection.  don’t bother.  it’s not there.  to the very end, jobs stuck with his arrogance, self-involvement and self-aggrandizement.   

there is very little evidence that he ever cared about what really matters in life and without that you are not entitled to the label of greatness, nor the lofty ideals of putting a ding in the universe.  

how fitting it is that he titled himself iCEO of apple and that products to follow carried the ubiquitous “i” preface. 

 

 

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