Anyone can make a mistake. It’s human nature. From the guy hitting the wrong key and wiping millions off the stock market, to our choice of partner, buying a car or choosing a school for the kids.In today’s world, practically everything is handled by computers. There are databases for every conceivable thing, and no doubt a database of databases is lurking in the bowels of cyberspace if it isn’t already out there for anyone and everyone to access.
To be honest, that worries me. A lot.
Nothing about you is private. Nothing you say or write about is ‘just between us’. Big Brother isn’t simply watching you, he’s joining you for breakfast, and heaven forbid if you don’t serve coffee.
In my early banking days, there were no computers in the branches, no automatic teller machines. Anything paid in was counted and checked manually, and would not appear on your account until the following day. Coins were the only things weighed in (duly bagged to the correct value and denomination) and my scales were set so perfectly, I could tell when a 10p was in a £10 bag of 50ps, or an old ha’penny was in a £1 bag of two pence pieces. If there were any pre 1953 coins in a £5 bag of silver, my scales hovered ‘light’. Experience counted (excuse pun) and was recognised.
Bank Cashiers scales are more sophisticated now, and everything, including notes, is weighed. You don’t even have to have full bags of coin anymore. As for my little ‘soldiers’ of coins, they are now redundant due to the cute little columned ‘box’ that sits on top of most tills similar to what the bus conductors used to dispense change. These days you have to have the right money for your fare because no-one seems to be able to count anymore.
My first sight of a computer room was practically half an office floor with huge machines and their whirring reels lining one wall with cables snaking across the floor in places like some mad blueprint for the next Spaghetti Junction. Today, you can hold a computer in the palm of your hand and still have room to hold something else (like a hamburger) . It’s called a smartphone.
I am not knowledgeable enough to get into detailed discussions as to the whys, do’s, don’ts and hows of how these things work. If the landlines are down, the telephone guys come along in their van and tweak a few wires here and there in the huge terminal boxes seen on the roadside, or even under it.I’m afraid I take it all terribly for granted, and like a car, I just want it to do what I expect it to, that is when I switch on, for it to work. My Mum isn’t the only technophobe in the family.
Patience is not one of my virtues. Probably not even in the top ten actually, as I am easily flustered and frustrated by things I don’t understand. I have some degree of common sense though, so if it is an electrical appliance that fails, the first thing I do is check that it’s plugged in, switched on at the socket, any cable is attached at both ends (appliance and said socket) and the ‘ON’ switch has been engaged. If all that is in order, then out comes the trusty screwdriver and I check the fuse in the plug, also testing for any loose wires (I have remembered to unplug it to do this) . That’s my check list. If all seems well and it still fails, then it’s a case of asking Hubby to come and have a look at the offending object and know he’ll get it working for me (he’s useful like that) .
Years ago, an electric typewriter in the office was a luxury, as was a phone with more than one line and an ansafone, or even a photocopier. In the early 80s, if you had a fax machine, WOW! All those little flashing lights and beeping microchips singing away, the prelude for the big issues to come.
It’s amazing that I can use a computer I suppose. I hadn’t used one really until 1989, and then it was a very quick learning curve if I wanted to do my job properly. I’d go into the office in the morning, switch on and go and make a pot of tea for the department whilst everything was ‘warming up’. We had a good support team if things went wrong with the software, and by 1991, everyone in the office had their own computer terminal and access to email. Where I worked though, the internet was not part of the normal working day and you were in serious trouble if anyone caught you playing games like Solitaire or Freecell, even in your lunch hour.
You can’t go anywhere today without automation, electronics, or computerisation. The tube strike in the UK over the last couple of days was partly because the Powers That Be want to do away with ‘people in kiosks’ and have everything done by machine (very simplistic, I do not want to get into a political debate) . Imagine how frustrated people like me would get when you ask ‘the machine’ a question and like in I Robot, the computer replies ‘I’m sorry, my answers and programming are limited. You are not asking the right question’ .
Terrific. Governments will be over the moon because they will no longer have to massage the figures for whatever subject is flavour of the day, nor will they hold you at verbal gunpoint until you say what they want to hear. All they’ll have to do is simply change the computer programming chip and they can have all the ‘right answers’ they want! After all, politicians are experts at saying a lot of stuff in various ways but without actually answering the question!The same thing goes for medical check lists, or child development analysis. If you (or the child) don’t conform to a computerised tick list, it’s assumed there’s something wrong with you, you’re a misfit, even a threat to a society of ‘beautiful people’. A computer cannot see a person. It can only digest the information put into it and process accordingly to its programming parameters.
But going back to my guy hitting the wrong button on the stock market. Perhaps that sort of thing would have been unlikely to happen all those years ago because technology, although pretty advanced as it was then, was not as instant as it is now. He could have had a ‘Do You Really Want To Do This?’ prompt or, in the case of my working days, anything over a certain amount had to have another signature or authorisation code before the transaction was processed.
Just think about the recent glitches the Banks have had with their systems. Their customers couldn’t use their cash cards in ATM machines, supermarkets or petrol stations. Nothing worked, and when it all started again, some entries had been duplicated!
Yep. To err is indeed human. But it takes a computer to screw it up completely (I was being polite) .