I remember being afraid of the first computer I used because I had to learn DOS with the little green cursor and the backslashes and forward slashes. The system didn’t automatically save your document or prompt you to save it so I stuck a stickie note reminder to the side of the monitor.
Everything was printed on a flimsy dot-matrix printer and then mailed, couriered or faxed. Faxes printed on slick paper that left black ink smudges on your clothes before curling up, turning yellow and becoming illegible.
I wasn’t sure I would like the new tech world, but soon the dreadful DOS was replaced with a desktop computer with Word Perfect. I’ve always preferred Word Perfect over Microsoft Word because it was friendlier to writers. Alas, Microsoft Word became ubiquitous and Word Perfect went the way of the dinosaurs.
Word Perfect was just an early example of all the changes technology has made to my job. Many of the jobs I held early in my career, like hand delivering pleadings to the court clerk’s office for filing, have become irrelevant due to technology. Most courts now require pleadings to be filed electronically.
But for every loss, technology had offered so much more. For example, email and text messaging eliminates the old phone tag game of trying to connect with colleagues or clients. It also lowered the cost of starting a business. Early in my career, a business owner needed to rent (or own) office space, furnish it, and hire staff. The business owner also needed a telephone line obtained at great cost from the local baby Bell monopoly, a clunky desk top computer, a printer, a copier, and a fax machine. A coffee maker was also a critical piece of office equipment.
Almost none of that is necessary today. When I started my consulting business about five years ago, technology allowed me to work from a home office and use my cell phone as my business number. My cell phone also allows me to text and email clients. I get coffee at coffee shops when meeting prospects or clients.
I run my business with a laptop and a combined printer/copier/scanner. My clients attach documents to email or we use cloud-based services like Google Docs or Dropbox to share documents on-line. I save documents electronically and only occasionally print them. A drawback to electronic databases is trying to remember my clever title for the file folder and document that I so diligently saved.
Of course, it’s not all a paradise. Technology allows hackers and fraudsters to try to crack our on-line treasure troves of information, so any small business must invest in cyber security to protect its information and reputation. Still, I wouldn’t want to go back to the days before all our modern technology. Without all these modern conveniences, I would still find it necessary to be an employee in a big corporation because the investment costs of starting a business would simply be too high.
About Norma Shirk
Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.
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