Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ROW 80 POST 27 – DO NOT ENTER


I had to try and think of several catchy titles for this post. Titles are very important and I stress over the creation of them, much as I stress over every other goddamned piece of minutiae in my life. This is why I have a head full of bats, moth balls and cinders.

Anyway, JC was telling one of his epic stories yesterday. When JC tells a story, it is awesome. Truly; it’s like listening to God. He can make you cry, but more often he makes me laugh and he really had me howling yesterday about one of his wives who got all puffed up at him during a tent revival. He was on the other side of the tent. She thought JC “was a-lookin’ at the choirmistress,” which would have been a neat trick, since the choirmistress was not in his line of sight. He saw his wife “swell up, like a puffer toad, and start cussin’,” although he couldn’t hear her. Ten years with the woman and he knew what was fixin’ to happen. In his words, “I grahbbed mah Bahble, went straht out the back o’ that tent, got in mah truck, and drove 165 miles without stoppin’.”


YEEHAAA!  Ah'm outta heah!

His accent is pure west Texas and pretty, but his expressions are all pure JC. When we lived over at Happy Acres, he asked the particularly asinine Mr. Pimp My Ride, who festooned his bicycle with tin foil, thinking it put him in competition with the true bad asses who drove the hopped up Camaros and Chargers, before the FBI got them, with custom paint jobs, rims and 20k sound systems, if he was an Astronaut. “What yo mean, Cracker?” JC and I were standing in the House's hall, when this took place. When Mr. PMR said that, I looked at my feet. JC just said, “Cause a' ahll that spay-ace bah-tween your eyes.” He really emphasizes the drawl, when he's being particularly snarky. Now, I'm looking at the ceiling.

I hustled the two of us on out of there before Mr. PMR realized he’d been made fun of, but that was the thing. He was easy meat. He never got it. There were about 4 or 5 of us who got away with all kinds of shit like that. But that’s not what this is all about and I’ve really digressed. While JC was telling the hilarious story of his late wife who pulled the puffed up toad act at church, my mind hit on and then filed away for today’s #Row80 the topic of ta-da “The Evolution Of The Carriage Return.”

I’m sure there’s been tons of horribly boring, or not so boring articles written on this fascinating evolution. Back in the day, when we all learned to type, I learned to type in some old sourpuss’s class in my sophomore year in high school. I sat next to Steve Tersigni and Kevin Phillips, who always somehow managed to be in my classes and make them fun. Our teacher made us type to horrible songs like “Turkey in the Straw” and that’s all I remember. Except the god-awful racket of all of the keys hitting the carriages and the sound of all of us hitting the carriage returns. It sounded like siege engines at war.

I typed 35 words a minute from the age of 15 and never went near another typewriter if I could help it. The only other thing that sounded remotely that horrible was the sound in my 1st year Music Theory Class at SJSU with Dr. Brent Heisinger, where we all had “ear training,” or some shit. There were 25 music majors, non-piano majors, in a room full of out-of-tune pianos and we were supposed to play “chords.” What we played was a bunch of noise. Dr. Heisinger, being the wonderful, hip, cheerful guy, would holler, “almost! Once again!”



Once again, what?! It sucked. Even if we all played the same thing it sucked. The pianos hadn’t been tuned since the Punic Wars. Well, my ear got trained, or maybe it already was. I digress. So, after wandering around in the music biz and then marrying the chucklehead who believed the piccolo fairy was going to come and turn me into piccoloist and that didn’t happen, it was back to school and computer science for moi.

An amaze-balls thing happened in the 20 years since I’d been around a typewriter. Number one, there weren’t any. Number two, there were these cool things called keyboards now and they didn’t clack as much and you could work up a pretty good head of steam on them. My typing speed improved. I was still a bit confused by some of the names on the keys, but that stuff sorts itself out.

Off I went to work at IBM, and further sortage occurred. IBM IT Support in 1995 was a warehouse of the weird, old, halt and lame. We had some older systems, that hadn’t worked out, and lots of applications that only few clients used, as well as all of the big, mainstream stuff. If the client wanted to pay for it, we would supported it. Some of us became eclectic masters of the bizarre, others stayed with the mainstream. And until the telephony system was put in place, you never knew what you were going to get on the other end of the phone when it rang.

These are actual calls, not verbatim, but real nonetheless. 

"Hey! My fat ass-wife sat on my printer and mashed a bunch of buttons; now it won't work." After a few hours noodling with this and brainstorming with other engineers, solution? Mash a bunch of buttons. This was back in the day of Printer Hell, when no one had any printer that resembled any other printer.

“Hello? My screen wants me to press the ‘ANY’ key. I don’t have one of those.” Simple enough. “Press your space bar, the letter “A” It doesn’t matter.”

“Hi! This here XYWrite is telling me to press the NEXT button. I ain’t seeing that.”
Again, analogous to, “Enter,” and simple to fix.

But along with the weird WORD 6.0 for MAC O/S (which no longer exists) which was probably the worst program ever, the AmiPro, Word Pro, Lotus 123, Word Perfect, (now owned by Corel) there was one product that we. Never. Figured. Out. If we ever did, and were able to execute the damned thing, it probably would have blown up the entire Universe. We spent months on it. Not a bunch of engineers all out. It was this one call, one guy. I didn’t even get the call.

But we spent weeks trying to get an answer for this guy. He was trying to install something. Some kind of Word processing program. It was probably so old it was used back in the days when you had to turn on the computer and install the brain before you could use it. That was some rockin’ shit back then. 1984, I remember kind of seeing those at the University of Michigan along with the Halloween screens. High tech, cutting edge.

This poor schlemiel is stumped because he can’t find the “Go” key. Sounds kind of like “Enter,” only “Enter” isn’t working. We actually had the manual for that software package. It, by God said to press the “Go” key, only there’s no fucking GO key. We start calling other offices, we’re trying to get a hold of the manufacturer, which is no longer in business; they’ve been eaten up by MicroShit. We. Never. Solved. It. So, I put that one in the Unsolved case.
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