Slow But Sure

YSI's desere tortoise on the lawn about to eat a dandelionTechnology is here to stay. It has revolutionized the way we do things. Much has been said about both the joys and the sorrows it has visited on the planet, but it is not just a passing fad that will soon disappear.

In 1990 when I first started working at the Youth Science Institute (YSI), there was one computer–a Mac that had been acquired through a generous donation. To support its use, a laser printer, a costly addition, had been purchased and for many years slowly churned out perfectly printed pages. But with seven employees waiting to use this one computer, you sometimes had to take a number and spend days in the queue.

The first day I sat at that computer at YSI, I felt something moving around my feet. I looked down and, to my amazement, found a desert tortoise (seventy years old, I learned) slowly walking over my shoes. This was not an ordinary job, I realized. But I got used to it.

YSI, unlike many businesses, made accommodations for desert tortoises, but like many businesses, also mad accommodations to technology. Little by little, things changed.

Computers took root. They got faster and had more memory and did graphics and come with color monitors and changed as fast as a teenager. And so did YSI. We got more computers as our friends outgrew their old ones and got new ones. They donated them faster than we could use them. We ended up with an assortment of Macs and PCs and strung them together as bes we could with telephone wire into a jerry-rigged network.

But the time came when dissatisfaction set in. The computers and their care were taking more time than they were saving. This mishmash of mismatched machinery was high maintenance. We all had better computers at home than we did at work.

So we did it. We sprang for a real, if not up-to-the-minute, network. Most of the time things work fine, but occasionally something goes wrong. All does not always run smoothly. Usually we are able to figure out why, but sometimes it takes more than a minute.

There was, for example, the time last month when–in the middle of a print job–the printer suddenly stopped. There seemed to be no logical reason. It was obviously plugged in. It had been printing. Everything was running. I checked the breakers. No problem there. I clicked on the icon in the printer folder. No problem there. I tried turning the printer off and on. Still nothing.

Finally, in desperation, I got down on the floor and reached far back under the cabinet to make sure the cord was plugged into the power strip. It was. I could feel it firmly seated in the receptacle. But then as I put my head on the floor to look and make sure I was not being deceived. I found the source of the problem. Sitting on the switch on the power strip was the desert tortoise.

I hope technology is not the only thing that is here to stay.


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