Changing Technology

When home computers were first coming on to the scene, I found a niche of helping animal welfare professionals to embrace this new technology.  I wrote several articles in the National Animal Control Association Newsletter explaining this new technological era.  I gave classes at conferences and used computer advertisements to test the attendees with their new found skill; like the difference between RAM and ROM memory.

As with any technology, computer designers must have been competing to design computers with multiple ports.  There is Com (communication) Ports used to connect joy sticks, Serial Ports to connect computer peripherals, and Parallel Ports for connecting computers and VGA Ports to connect monitors.  Later, Firewire Posts connected hard drives and video equipment.  Because the industry had not settled down, it was critical to buy a computer with as many different kind of ports to connect to any future device that you might wish to purchase.  It was a relief to finally have USB ports that have hung around for a while.  Many of them might go away with Bluetooth connectivity.

The early computers came with 10, 20, or 30 Megabyte hard drives.  I member salesmen claiming a person could NEVER fill up a 30 Megabyte hard drive.  The first disk drives used 5 inch disks and then 3.5 inch disks became the standard.  Many of use had to keep two different disks drives as technology evolved.  Installing software was a great chore.  When installing Microsoft Office, you would have a stack of 20 disks that you installed one right after the other.  For some reason, when you completed the installation of all of the disks, the computer would asked for you to reinsert disk number one.  I guess it was a test to make sure that in a rage that you didn’t throw out the disks after inserting them.  Installations became much easier with the advent of CDs and DVDs, then the Internet changed all of that; with a high baud rate, software can be downloaded in seconds.

Home computers opened the world to us with their 300 baud modems.  These slow modems were the making of later war stories like how we had to walk to school in three feet of snow as children.  It might take us hours to watch a photo slowly materialize on our computer monitor.  Everything was slower then, but somehow we had the patience for it; not like today were people are upset with 5 meg/sec download speeds.

All of this technology came at a price.  I used to provide technical support for an animal shelter management software tool called PetWhere.  The software required constant babysitting.  It was on the phone with clients that I discovered how many shelter workers were unprepared for this technology.  I once got so frustrate with a guy who could not distinguish his left mouse button from his right.  After an hour, I asked him to stop a minute and go out into his lobby to see if there was a child that he could find that I would walk though the solution.  There was no getting around it, in order to use a computer, you needed to know your right from your left.

Computers have made our lives so much easier and yet teaching our staff to use our animal shelter management system software frequently becomes one of our hardest tasks, even in today’s age.   In an era of telling staff to put away their smartphones and get back to work, many of them still find using computers difficult.  I think they are waiting for the day that they can conduct their data entry with their smartphones.