Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Of Machines and People

The Winamp player in my computer has just finished presenting Desafinado, performed by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd, and is about to play Vivaldi's Concerto for 4 Violins and Cello in B minor next. I'm typing words and sentences into a Blogger template. They will shortly be available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection, anywhere on the globe, at my Atavist blog. While I am doing this, emails appear, as if by magic, in my Outlook Express Inbox. A utility chugs away in the background checking for viruses.

My current office computer is already a couple of years old, at least, but it has more than enough power to do what I want. It cost me probably a couple of thousand dollars, and is one of many in my building, all connected via a network.

How things have changed in just a few short years. I bought my first business computer in 1977 or 1978. It was the size of an executive desk, with a separate disk drive unit about the size of a four-drawer filing cabinet. It was a Burroughs B80, and cost me about $30,000, a huge amount of money at the time. It had 64K of RAM (the same as the Commodore 64 which I bought as a toy for myself in 1984. Cost: $249) and the disk drive unit held two removable disk platters which stored 2.3 megabytes each. Each platter cost $130. To run my business with a proper backup system, I needed about 10 platters in total.

The B80 was worth every penny of its cost. It was a real workhorse, and the COBOL software I had custom-developed for it (another $10,000 or so) allowed us to streamline our billing systems, speed up our collections and do with fewer employees. It saved me a ton of money.

I am in a somewhat pensive mood today, and as I listen to the music playing on my computer (Mystical Eden by Armik is up now) I am remembering what things were like in the early years of my business. There were a lot of good times and a lot of dreadful times.

Every business is like that. Every life is like that. Everything that happens to us shapes our lives in some way from that point forward. We deal with things as best we can. We do some things well and some poorly. We have moments of brilliance and moments that would be beneath even Homer Simpson. We are flawed to the core and must strive continually to rise above our nature and to strive for something higher and better.

I realized over the years that I can always deal with things, whatever those things might be, but that I have much more difficulty in dealing with people, whoever those people might be. Why is that? Many people are unpredictable, inconsistent, unrealistic, fickle. Expedience rules their actions. Principle is AWOL. Not with everyone, all the time, but enough so that I can say that nearly every problem I have ever had that made me step back and wonder what had just happened was because of something someone did or didn't do.

What is the solution?

Other people. I have found that if one is patient enough and looks hard and long enough, one can find those very special people who are loyal, thoughtful, consistent and principled. I am surrounded by such people and I am grateful for that every day. My businesses have come a long way from the days of my Burroughs B80. We now have very sophisticated hardware and software systems in place, and are always as current with technology as it is practical to be. None of this, however, is as important as the people who keep things rolling along, every day, with good cheer and dedication. As I type this, the telephones are ringing non-stop and I know that everything is being taken care of as it should.

If you have good people in your life, whether as employees, bosses, friends, spouses or lovers, be very grateful. They are worth more than fame or fortune. They give you stability, peace of mind, and comfort. They are to be treasured.

And I do treasure those good people in my life.

1 comment:

  1. Nothing can replace those we love, certainly.

    Not even technology as some people might think.