Sunday, January 01, 2006

Can an old dog (or Professor) learn new tricks?

Regular Dormgrandpop readers (I flatter myself that there might be some) will note this as a first entry since 19 December. The principal reason is my decision, made some weeks ago, to have my regular three year technology upgrade be a change not only to a new and faster computer but to new personal computer culture. For years, I had been admiring my most ‘with it’ friends and younger AU faculty members somewhat ostentatiously porting their sleek Mac laptops, with the ‘Apple’ logo prominently displayed on the cover, everywhere. Though my high-end Toshiba had rendered valuable service for nearly four years and logged – literally – several hundred thousand miles, I have always been offended by the ugliness and clunkiness of the several Windows operating systems I have used. Nor have I forgotten apparent duplicity of Microsoft’s corporate leadership, revealed to me in confidence by a compassionate customer service representative, when they allegedly opted to cover up a flaw in a download that destroyed my hard disk and that of many other early Windows 98 users. (When I called this to the attention of Bill Gates and 18 senior managers immediately below him, in personal letters (not emails) the response was silence. That was my last attempt to penetrate the arrogance and customer unfriendliness of Microsoft Inc.’s corporate culture, but I have not forgotten).

The emergence of a ‘virtual PC’ capability, permitting Windows to run under Apple’s OS10 operating system made the shift more feasible. As a key player in AU’s academic technology scene, I do feel compelled to have access to Windows, in order to assist the vast majority of faculty and students who are still Windows users. Micorsoft’s 95 plus per-cent market share is a reality. Now this is – or when I become more proficient – will be possible.

But I do not use the world ‘cultural change’ lightly, Moving to this new computing environment might like be a bit like a business person, who had functioned with modest success in East Germany for years, suddenly having to cope with West Germany’s free market economy. There are new discourses and new ways of doing things to be learned and it is not easy. I started using my first Windows PC in 1981 or 1982 (the very first PCXT with its 10 MB hard disk). Synapses developed through daily use of the Windows 98 Operating System and its successor have had nearly a decade to solidify.

I am creeping up the learning curve slowly but steadily. Adapting AU’s somewhat archaic Lotus Notes software to my new computer, internet access from my weekend home and printing appear to be the major obstacles so far. Transferring modeling software, desktop publishing software and familiarizing myself with how the Blackboard online instructional software functions in a Mac environment are still peaks to be surmounted. There have been many acculturation hours expended in the past two weeks and there will be many more in the weeks ahead. Forty years of hands on IT experience does has its benefits. One approaches transitions of this sort with realism – and patience.

But in due course, I will be comfortable in my new world, with a new range of synoptic paths in place. Like one who can shift between contending epistemologies, I will have two information technologies in my tool kit. I will be master rather than servant. For someone of my advancing years, periodic major changes such as this are not only beneficial, but essential. They keep new blood, and new ideas, coursing more freely through the brain.

My best New Year's wishes to all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Dormgrandpop.

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WAIT! Hi, Dormgrandpop. As you can see, I am not the most computer-savvy person in the world myself. My daughter, who is a freshman at AU, had us switch our family computer several years ago to a Mac. So I can relate. I do love the Mac, despite its occasional issues and some difficulty when it comes to getting knowledgeable people for service. ... I enjoy your posts.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Congratulations, and welcome to the world of mac geekiness!

9:41 AM  

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