Wed, Feb 5, 2014 08:05 PM
I was waiting for the elevator to go to lunch last week. Yes, I
should have been taking the stairs instead, but I was very
There were two women also waiting for the elevator. They were from
the architectural firm with whom we share the third floor of our
building and they were "talking amongst themselves." I was
mentally reviewing my afternoon schedule intertwined with thoughts
of where to eat. I was thinking it might be an Olive Garden
all-you-can-eat soup and salad kind of day.
Suddenly a harried looking gentleman came flying around the corner,
pen and pad in hand. He got very close to the face of one of the
women. Breathlessly, he posed a question in a tone that made it
appear to be a life or death matter.
"Is this on the cloud?" he asked frantically.
Wait…what did he just say? Is what on a cloud?
He continued, "Is this on the cloud, or our network, or some place
I can access it?"
Ok, now I get it. He wants to know where his document, or more
probably his blue prints or drawings, are backed up. So is this
where technology has landed? In that great big network in the
I must admit, I have heard of cloud technology but I don't really
know the details of how it works. I think it means companies store
their data with a third-party as opposed to their own on-site
hardware. It's all so cerebral.
I have worked in administrative positions most of my career and
have watched office technology blossom. It happened rapidly, so
it's not at all difficult to remember how it used to be.
My first secretarial job out of college was in midtown Manhattan. I
had hit the big time at $140 a week with bennies. It was also my
foray into electric typewriters, though we still had to use carbon
paper if we needed more than one copy.
After two years on the job, I ran into a lady in the bathroom who
worked for another firm on the same floor. She mentioned she was
transferring to their New Jersey office and they were looking for
someone to take her place. She got me an interview and I was hired
on the spot - at $20 a week more! And they had a Xerox machine. It
was a whiz at making copies though it did not come with that
intoxicating aroma I remembered from the mimeograph machines in
I loved my IBM Selectric typewriter. How amazing that you only had
to push a button to get to the next line. You couldn't call it a
carriage return because there was no carriage. A steel ball sat in
the middle of the machine containing all the letters of the
alphabet along with numbers 0 through 9 and the appropriate grammar
marks. The ball rotated and made an impression on the paper. It was
quite amazing to watch if you typed fast.
Corrections were also a breeze with the new technology. You could
back space and retype the letter with the correction key on.
Presto, the letter disappeared. It was actually a pin-pointed slap
of white out, but you could type right over it. No one would ever
know unless they held the paper up to a light.
We didn't save our work to clouds or networks. We put it in file
folders - vanilla colored file folders. We typed tabs for each one
and then we stored them in file cabinets, alphabetically. Sometimes
a file would get misplaced.
Today, if you can't find a file or folder, you type a search term
into your computer and it scans every piece of data in about a
second. Back then, you could spend days searching for a missing
file folder. Sometimes it ended up inside another folder. Sometimes
it ended up in the wrong file cabinet. And sometimes it was
actually in someone else's office and it would mysteriously appear
on your desk during a bathroom or smoke break. Actually, back then
you could still smoke at your desk.
The times have certainly changed. Today everything is digital and
virtual. We had a rare snow storm here in the Carolinas this week.
When it snows in the South, everything comes to a grinding halt.
Having learned how to maneuver snow-covered roads while living in
Vermont, I ventured to the office - slowly but surely. There were
just a handful of us there.
When I logged onto my office email, there was a message from the IT
department that our servers went on overload because over 200
employees were trying to log in from home. It may have been a snow
day, but everyone was still working as huge amounts of data flew
through fiber optic lines.
Today's technology affords us many opportunities to stay connected
and have full access to information. The downside is we can
literally work 24 hours a day. And you don't even need to be
"plugged in" to access data, you just need a cloud.
I am thankful for the conveniences that technology provides, but
honestly, the only cloud I want to be on is number nine.
Cindy Phillips is a columnist for The Mountain Times. She can be
reached directly at email@example.com.