For those of you who don’t know, I work in IT. I’m a technical writer, but I’ve also worked on an IT helpdesk in the past and I’ve done some BA (business analysis) work.
I kind of fell into IT in a fit of career opportunism that, now that I think about it, characterises a lot of my professional choices. But I did go on to study IT and just over ten years ago I completed my Grad Dip in Information Technology (and did really well, too).
My point is, I not only work in IT, I’m qualified in it. So you could be forgiven for assuming I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, through-and-through IT gal. But you’d be wrong – because I’m a fraud. And I’m not saying that in some kind of impostor syndrome self-outing; I really am a fraud.
Let me explain. When I was a teenager, I defined myself in opposition to my older brother. It kind of went like this: he did science subjects, I did arts subjects. He liked heavy metal, I liked the new romantics. He was into computers and I was absolutely, definitely not into computers.
My brother and my dad, who also loved computers, spent many hours together discussing and doing stuff with them. I had no idea what, but it seemed to make them very happy. And regularly, it seemed to me at least once a year, they would be very excited because it was time to upgrade. I would sit back and observe with a quizzical expression as they enthusiastically took the computer apart and rebuilt it with newer, faster internal ‘bits’.
The 286 became a 386, and then a 486. It made no sense to me at all.
The computer, they would explain, would now start up a full three minutes quicker. They thought this was amazing, while I thought someone was having a colossal laugh at their expense.
“Faster! Better! More, more, more!!” I would tease them.
Meanwhile, when I was thirteen, I declared loudly and proudly that, “I will never use a computer!”
(Those are the exact words I used. I’d love to say that this was a one-off moment uncharacteristically lacking in foresight, but in the same year I also declared I would “never shave my legs!” …so yeah, nah.)
The reason I thought I’d never use a computer was because I was going to be a writer. And writers used typewriters; everyone knew that.
I had a kick-arse typewriter. Every press of a key produced a very satisfying ‘clack’ noise. It was solid and it was loud: clack clack clack! The more clacks, the more words you were writing – the better you felt about yourself. A computer keyboard’s muted tap tap couldn’t possibly compare.
Needless to say, eventually the typewriter was put out to pasture and by the mid-90s I had my own laptop, the size of a small briefcase. There was no ‘computers are king’ epiphany or anything, it just sort of happened.
Fast forward twenty years and I find myself not only working in IT but feeling quite at home among IT people. Even though I feel like a bit of a visitor in their world, I overwhelmingly feel that IT people are ‘my peeps’, perhaps because the original IT people I hung out with – my brother and my dad – were, literally, my family.
But I still find myself scratching my head when people get excited about new technology releases. I still can’t understand why anyone would line up to get the latest iWhatever. When I finally bought a smartphone a few years ago, I chose the model that was ‘three models old’ because it would do for my needs and was cheaper. And the iPad I bought back in August 2010? Yeah, I still have it.
This is partly because I have an instinctive anti-authoritarian bent that makes me want to give the finger to big companies who try to force me to upgrade by making their two year old products obsolete. I get Moore’s Law, but I also kind of resent what it means in practice, i.e. that technology is new for a millisecond and then you blink and it’s out of date.
But I also hang on to old devices because the prospect of upgrading just doesn’t excite me. Faster, better, more more more still seems ridiculous to me. Whereas if I was a true IT convert, you’d think I’d be evangelical by now.
This is why I know I’m a fraud. I just don’t have an IT person’s responses to technology. I even seem to miss the obvious cues when things start to fall apart.
I was genuinely stunned when my Mac died quite suddenly in April last year. Then my brother asked me how old it was and…okay it was from 2007. So yes, at that point, it made a lot more sense.
(A close friend told me recently that a woman on the Apple helpline recently told her daughter, “I see you have a vintage computer.” It was from 2008.)
Clearly I’m not going to change any time soon. My IT instincts are not getting any sharper through some kind of professional osmosis. And I think the Universe has realised this and is taking matters into its own hands.
I say this because my phone has spent the better part of the last year begging me to update its operating system and I have spent the same amount of time resisting. About a month ago things finally came to a head when my phone’s camera stopped working.
My response: You mean I can’t take photos of my dog anymore? Oh no – this has to be fixed!
Did I update my iOS? No, I did not. What I did was make plans to buy a new phone. Just like a non-IT person would.
But then a few weeks ago, as if the Universe had issued some kind of “iPhone heal thyself” edict out of exasperation, my phone came to life in the middle of the night and initiated the iOS update by itself. I woke up at 2am and seeing light emitting from my phone, picked it up and in my slumber had the wherewithal to click “Continue ” (as requested by said phone). I had no idea what was going to continue but it felt like the right thing to do, notwithstanding, or maybe because, I was half asleep.
When I woke up the next day, my phone was working as if it was brand new. No more problems with the camera.
Does this midnight miracle make any sense to me? No it does not. But you know what? I’m okay with that.
Just so long as I can take photos of my dog again.