Systems That Work

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  In 1988 a word processing program called “Professional Write” was loaded on our computers. We did all our work in PW. We made templates allowing us to run off long forms in which we would “Find & Replace” “Name” with the client’s name, so we never had to type any but the most unusual document.

We saved our work on Floppy Disks, and as time progressed, on hard drives, which would be copied to floppy disks, for as you know, Floppies do not last long. Each year a secretary would use the DOS command, Xcopy, and with a brand new box of diskettes, get everything saved in the “Precedent” section of the Hard Drive onto floppies.

As the world went from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 we stayed in DOS, buying new “naked” handmade computers for a fraction of the cost, loading them with DOS and Professional Write, making a Directory for our Precedents, and feeding floppy by floppy into the new computer.

Soon enough we began to burn CDs of our work so that every single computer that came in our office from 1988 until 1999 had a cloned harddrive. Each new computer processed faster, had more storage and move places to plug things in, but there never was a “work” holiday.

A computer arrived, was plugged in,  a secretary (not IT manager)  installed DOS and Professional Write, made a directory under Professional Write called “Precedents” and either fed it diskettes or a CD. Though our laptops came pre-bloated, we would use the little facility to load our Professional Write, fling an Icon on the desktop and and do all our word processing in PW.

For those who needed Internet accessibility, there was a D drive, loaded with a flavour of Linux. As Linux could find all the files on the C drive, those we wished to export; i.e. email or upload, we would follow a specific protocol. We would save those files with a .rtf extension or as html in a special directory.  Linux would find the files, they’d be transmitted, then, back in DOS we’d do a ‘del *.*’ of all files in that directory.

This is because what was saved in ‘Normal’ on PW was subject to 128 bit encryption.  Hence, even if one could of hacked into our computers, without PW once could no more read our files than read a photograph translated to text.

One day, it was decided to hire an “IT Expert”. He examined our systems, made many unpleasant remarks, and during our two week Christmas break, “upgraded”. Everyone walked in on January 3 to find XP on their computers.

There was no little corner for Professional Write. This genius imperiously told the staff they had to learn to use new and modern word processing programs.

This did not go down well, to be polite.

One of the things  many IT geniuses never take into consideration is the key factor in our world; our work.

We don’t have computers in our office to play Spider Solitaire visit You Tube or My Space, we have them to produce documents.

This Genius never thought we would have twenty years of precedents which could only be read in Professional Write, nor that the staff had used this incredibly simple program to great efficiency. As far as he knew, XP was “state of the art”, (this is before Vista) and the world had to use whatever word processing program came in the bundle. His idea was that the office was extremely eccentric, compulsive retentive and that it was time for us to Move On.

When clearly instructed that there was twenty years of work we needed to keep, his voice got squeaky, and he muttered, ‘oh’.  With all respect, this character never for one second imagined that we had precedents and copies saved that could not be read in anything but PW.

I recount this story with all its gory details to give you enough fortitude to confront those shills who try to get you to upgrade to unproductivity. This is because of a major disconnect between the Work and the Process.

Managers know what work they need done, even clerks know what they have to do, the IT genius has no idea. He doesn’t realise a lawyer’s office which deals with fusty old Writs and Petitions doesn’t need sound nor graphic nor games, all it needs to do is produce documents.

Further, most IT experts know nothing about Information Technology. They know about Microsoft.  Microsoft is NOT Information Technology.  MIcrosoft is an Operating System.  There is a difference between IT and Microsoft on the level of the difference between being a chef and knowing how to micro a TV dinner.

If your system is working, don’t touch it. Don’t buy prebloated computers unless you can F/Disk and load what you’ve been using successfully all these years. 

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