Funny from 1986

I met our corporate trainer at the elevator door just before it opened. I smiled politely and asked how work was going.

"Busy," she said, "very busy," and returned my smile. I was dying to tell someone how frustrated I was. I told her I had just read this month's copy of PC World.

She smiled politely.

I said, "It looks like we are all going to have Windows soon. There seems to be a clear direction in the industry."

She smiled politely.

"I guess I just don't understand," I said. "I have work to do on my PC. I don't have time to play with a mouse. It is so much faster to keep my hands on the keyboard. I have a hard time understanding the benefits of the GUI. All those tiny symbols. Don't words mean anything any more? Who thought of GUI anyway?" Her face changed. I was getting through.

"Seven thousand years ago." she said.

"Seven thousand years ago? What does that have to do with GUI?" I asked.

"Seven thousand years ago," she said, "the IQ of the average human being was about 38. They didn't have a written medium for communication, so they used GUI."

I began to think her elevator didn't go to the same floor as mine.

"You've seen them," she said, "pictures on cave walls, deer, buffaloes. Those were GUIs. We spent the last seven thousand years developing a clear form of communication. In the last seven years we mass marketed the finest communication tool ever known to man. A giant leap forward."

"A giant leap forward? What does that have to do with seven thousand years ago?" I asked.

"The new communication tool made the existing written medium totally inadequate. Everybody thought if they just had a better tool for communicating, they would be great writers, accountants, or businessmen. Instead, most people found they never really knew what they wanted to say."

I thought I'd asked a simple question. I smiled, and trying to look intelligent, I said "I don't understand."

"Suppose you thought you were a genius," she said. "Suppose I gave you a tool that could unleash your creativity. How would you feel if you couldn't create?"

I thought of uncle Joe, the writer.

"You would say the tool has a problem."

Uncle Joe bought a farm in Maine so he could write.

"Millions of computer users are still having trouble creating. They say there is a problem with the tool. No one wants to admit they can't communicate."

Got that right. "What does that have to do with seven thousand years ago?" I asked.

"Nobody wants to admit the tool is better than they are, so they keep saying the tool is flawed. The tool makers figured they needed to move to a simpler form of communication."

"This is my floor," I said.

"Pictures. We are going back to communicating with pictures. Everyone thinks it's a giant leap forward."

She sounded like one of those IBMers, except it made sense. "All I can say is, I'm going to be the last person on earth change over." I said as I walked out of the elevator.

She smiled and said, "Second to the last."

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Copyright: Peter J. Smith 2005 Return to