Earlier this week at the college we had all sorts of dramas processing Credit Card payments. In the first instance a lady came in to pay her course fees and the dreaded response from the Credit Card machine came back—’Declined. Contact Issuer.’
Two hours later the same thing happened with another student, and again a little later on. By this time we had realised that the problem was at the bank rather than with the students’ cards, but knowing that didn’t really help those people who were unable to pay their fees—or do anything else that required a credit card or bank transaction for the rest of the outage. (One student only had a few dollars in her purse and still needed to go and get groceries for that night’s dinner. Without access to her any of her money that was a somewhat difficult proposition.)
Anyone who works in business . . . or in an office . . . or a school . . . or a supermarket . . . or for the government . . . or, well, anywhere else at all really, will be well aware of the frustration that occurs when the computer, phone, printer, scanner, or ‘whatever’ isn’t working properly—or even at all. I know that when the technology goes down at the college (or the power goes off altogether as it has done several times lately) I might as well just pack up and go home for the day (or sit outside the office in the sun and read the paper which is what I did last time it happened.)
Now I have nothing against technology. Technology has made my own life safer, healthier, and easier to manage. And, in my working life, although the newer technologies can bring with them their own set of frustrations (and they do, they really do) there is no way I would want to go back to ‘the way we were’.
(I have vivid memories of retyping whole letters or documents several times a day (on a cranky old typewriter) because my boss had decided, just as I finished, to re-write the last paragraph . . . or using messy carbon papers for duplicate or triplicate copies . . . or worse, stencils for (hand-cranked) gestetners or . . . OMG . . . that godawful flouro-pink-stencil-correcter that used to make your eyes water and bring on a searing headache. Okay, showing my age here, but I bet there are a few of you out there that know exactly what I am talking about . . . )
Although I have no inclination to return to those earlier (dawn of man) days, it does concern me slightly at how much we take it all for so very much for granted. It seems that it is only when all the whizz-bang technology stops working that we realise how powerful our technology is, and how very much we depend on it.
‘They’ (the ubiquitous ‘they’) say it could never happen, and they are probably right (although the sci-fi geek within me definitely screams otherwise)—but what if—just what if one day all our technology comes crashing down . . . and never comes up again?
What then? What do we do then? Is there a Plan B? Do you have a Plan B?
It’s worth thinking about.
And for those readers-of-a-certain-age (and friends who may now be reminiscing over long-ago experiences with telex machines and ‘ticker’ tape) here’s a little poem I found that you might find amusing . . .