Believe it or not, my high-tech career began using punch cards and card readers to enter data into an IBM mainframe computer. When we got keyboards and monitors, we used them to enter what we called "card images."
As a chip designer in the '80s, I used GE Calma, Apollo, Daisy, Valid, and Mentorworkstations. I had to know a whole smorgasbord of platforms and operating systems. I don't know how I did it. Guess I had a lot more brain cells back then.
The personal computer made life simpler--one platform, one operating system. It was a dream. We even got to take it on the road. I lugged a 26-pound Compaq Portable II to customer demos in 1986. A few years later, I could actually carry my Toshiba laptop on a plane. It tipped the scales at about 16 pounds, I think.
Try that with a mainframe.
Then came notebook computers. I had the groundbreaking DEC HiNote Ultra--the first thin and light notebook--in 1995. I don't know how many times I dropped the thing, but it kept right on working. In 1998, I got Sony's ultraslim Vaio 505 with the purple magnesium alloy chassis. It was really cool but more importantly, it never crashed.
Sounds like I was living on easy street, doesn't it? Not anymore.
It's been 20 years since I was an engineer. During that time, I worked with countless IT support people. That was a real luxury. Now, as a consultant who runs his own business out of his home, I've never missed those IT folks more. I seem to have lost the recipe for solving technical problems.
Sure, computers and networks have come a long way in terms of complexity and ease-of-use. Now we have plug and play, USB ports, Windows Update, and wireless network wizards. Still, nothing is as easy as it's supposed to be. Every time I buy a new computer, I'm invariably up late at night transferring files, cleaning up bloatware, and troubleshooting my home network.
On Tuesday, I received a new Sony Vaio SZ780 notebook. I spent months agonizing over which computer to buy, and now that FedEx has delivered it to my door, I should be really excited.
I was...until I realized it was time to be an IT person again.
Now I'm afraid to touch the thing. It almost makes me want to go back to the corporate world. Sure, the paycheck, stock options, and medical benefits would be great, but I'd really be doing it for the IT support.