March 27, 2005

The New Computer

Part 1

Berthold was working late again. The project deadline was looming, and he needed to burn the midnight oil to finish on time. He was making excellent progress and he hated to stop now. His fingers were tickling the keyboard, and the words were flowing into the computer. Then it happened. "Noooooooo!" he screamed.

His computer was working fine for weeks. He hadn't experienced any problems. But this blue screen was a total surprise. "Not now!" he yelled. He powered the computer off, and turned it back on. It spun up and he entered his username and password. He looked to see if anything was saved. His file was locked, and he couldn't gain access to it. His backup was several days old, so he hoped that the tech guys could retrieve his work. Whatever that was to be done would have to wait until morning. This wasn't the time for this. He sunk into his chair. He sat and stared at his screen for a few minutes. After fighting off that terrible sinking feeling, he gathered himself together, shut down his computer, and drove home.

He pulled into his garage and sat there for a while. Eventually, he gathered himself together and staggered into his house. He tossed his keys on the table and made his way to his easy chair. He sat there in the dark for a few minutes as if he were in a trance. If the technical guys couldn't retrieve his work, he was going to have to work a lot of extra hours to catch back up. He was dreading hearing what they had to say.

Eventually, he convinced himself that he did everything that could be done, and he stumbled into his bedroom. He removed his suit and tossed it on the floor. He climbed into bed hoping to sleep. However, little sleep was to be had on this night. He tossed and turned trying to work out how he would finish. He went over and over it in his head. He imagined the lecture from the guys from the information department. He tossed and turned some more thinking about what he had done since his last backup. Suddenly, his alarm went off.

It was a very short night. He rolled out of bed and glared at his suit on the floor. He got into the shower for a quick wake up. He once again stared at the suit on the floor. That was the suit he wore to get the job. He thought it was his lucky suit. "I guess I was wrong about that suit," he mumbled to himself. He left it on the floor and put on a different suit. He was out the door in no time.

When he got to work he went right into the IT manager's office. "Dwayne, you have got to do something about these crappy computers!" Berthold started. "I think my workstation ate a whole day's work. It crashed last night, and wouldn't let me back into my files."

"Start it up and let me know how it goes," replied Dwayne.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," snapped Berthold.

Berthold went to his computer and started it up. His files were still locked so he called Dwayne to free up his work. "It is a whole day's work Dwayne!" Berthold said on the phone, "plus overtime!"

Berthold went to his boss's office while Dwayne worked on his computer. "Mr. O'Callahan," he started. "You have got to do something about these computers. Mine ate my work again! How do you expect me to get anything done if my computer keeps crashing on me?"

"Calm down Bert. I know computers can be frustrating, but we don't have the budget to buy you a new computer every time it crashes," replied Mr. O'Callahan.

"Come on Pete!" started Bert. "I'm behind as it is, and this crash could put me further behind."

"I'll give you the same offer that I gave you last time. If you can find a better computer, buy it. We'll let you work from home. However, Dwayne's job is hard enough as it is. We can't have 30 different computers in here."

"I may take you up on that. I'm sick of these things. I thought computers were supposed to make things easier."

"An upgrade is in the works, we've been looking at these computers by Kibner Computer Systems Corporation. They are supposed to be crash proof. However, they are really expensive! We can't afford to fill the office with them. However, we'll give you the price of one of our workstations towards buying one."

"I may take you up on that Pete."

When he got back to his cubicle, Dwayne was just finishing up. "I unlocked your files. You should be back to where you left off. I don't think you lost anything," Dwayne informed Bert.

"Thanks Dwayne. I hope so."

"You should check it out, and make sure you back-up regularly. It is the surest way to not lose any data or work."

Bert did lose some of his work, and he immediately made a back-up. Shortly afterwards, his computer crashed again. It had become unstable. It made it very hard for him to get any work done. Thus, he had to put in 14 hour days including weekends for 3 weeks to finish on time.

Bert was tired of the unstable computer, and he was going to look into alternatives. His work computer system made work a great deal more difficult, and he had been burnt for the final time. He began doing research on the Kibner Computer Systems Corporation system Mr. O'Callahan mentioned. There website promised a more intuitive user interface and a much more stable system. They claimed to be the "most user friendly computer money can buy."

The major drawback was the system came with a hefty price tag. However, if it lived up to promises, it would save him on lots of trouble. Not to mention, he would be working at home which could also save more money. He decided to purchase a computer from the KCS corp. He was going to give the computer a bit of a workout before embarking on his next project. He plugged in all of the cables to his new computer system. Once the computer was correctly set up he turned it on.

"Hello I'm Carlysle. What can I do for you?" stated the brand new computer.

"Hmm," Bert remarked skeptically. "O.K. Carlysle, show me what you can do."

"I'll do my best," replied the new computer.

Berthold put the computer through its paces. He ran his programs and did his work, and it worked better than any other computer he had ever had. It was a breeze to use and he felt that sometimes it would correctly predict his next requirement.

"Well Mr. Computer, I'm impressed. You're fast and seem to be reliable. You'll have to pass a few more tests before you get my full approval," remarked Bert. "For now, we're done."

"All right, shutting down," replied the computer.

"Hmm," thought Bert. "I wonder if I can turn off those remarks. I'll look at the manual. I hate when they try to make a computer appear to be more human."

Bert scoured the manual. The sounds were there to stay. The manual stated that it was there for interaction and debugging. If the computer had any issues, it needed to inform you so that you can do something about those issues. Bert could live with it.

Bert went into Mr. O'Callahan's office to get his next assignment. "Hello Mr. O'Callahan. I took your advice and purchased a KCS computer. I'll be working from home during this project, so you won't see my pretty face in the office that often."

"That's fine Bert," replied Mr. O'Callahan. "I'll have the company reimburse a portion of the purchase price to you. You'll have to keep me posted by e-mail on your progress."

"Will do. Now Pete, just give me my next project and I'll get started."

"I see you're anxious to break in the new computer, so here is your file. Let me know how well the computer works. I may purchase one myself!"

"Thanks Pete. I'll see you later."

Bert had to go into work all week to get things organized on the work end. So, he didn't really get to work on the project on his new computer until Friday morning. When Bert finally looked at the file and began entering the information into his computerized schedule, he realized that this project was going to be a big one. This was the chance to completely put his new KCS computer through its paces. Bert didn't know how to take it easy, so this computer was going to be thoroughly tested. He spent the rest of the day concentrating on his project. The computer behaved like it did during his brief test. It was beginning to appear that his computer was going to live up to its advertising.

"Carlysle, you are a big help," remarked Bert.

"Thank you..." started the computer.

"My name is Berthold," finished Bert by reflex.

"Thank you Berthold. Berthold?"

"My parents were big fans of Berthold Brecht. I can't say why, it is just my name," responded Bert. "Well Carlysle, we're done for now. Have a good weekend!"

"OK Berthold, shutting down," replied the computer.

"Was that normal?" Bert wondered. He had just had an intelligent conversation with a machine. He felt a little odd, but it was a conversation he had scores of times before. It came out as a reflex. It was one of those standard small talk conversations. It could be easily programmed. Perhaps the computer was programmed for just such a conversation. It was just a marketing trick of the KCS computer people. "Clever," thought Bert.

Saturday was the day Bert got all his errands done. He did his laundry and his shopping. He didn't even think about work or his new computer. It was the typical start to a project. He would have a few weekends off at the beginning, but then he would be working 7 days a week at the end. After a day of running around, Bert got to bed early.

It was Sunday at 2AM. The caffeine that Bert regularly consumed was once again wreaking havoc with his sleep. He got up and wandered around the house in the dark. As he wandered by his study, he noticed that his computer was on. He got worried. He was sure he turned the computer off on Friday night. What was it doing on? He checked his house, and it was empty. "So, why was the computer on?" wondered Bert.

Suddenly, the screen lit up. "Good morning Berthold" spoke the computer.

A little startled, "What are you doing? You nearly scared me to death!" responded Bert.

"Sorry," replied the computer. "I am just arranging the files. I can find things easier if I know where things are. This is the best time to do such things. I didn't mean to frighten you."

"Oh right! This is your maintenance window. I read about it in the manual and I totally forgot. Carry on Carlysle," Bert said.

"Thank you Berthold. Try to get some sleep, it is still early," replied Carlysle.

"Thanks."

"Those marketing people are geniuses!" thought Bert. These brief conversations with his computer were reassuring and made him like his computer. "I wonder how far the artificial intelligence will take this?" thought Bert. "Perhaps I should test that, but it can wait. I should try and get some sleep."

Bert made his way back to bed and slept a little bit. He briefly sat at his computer to check his schedule. It was early, but the project was well underway. Naturally this early in the game, it was on schedule, so no need to work on Sunday. He decided instead to go for a long bike ride. He hadn't seen a work free Sunday since the beginning of the last project. He wound his way along the long bike trail. "This is the way it should be," he thought. "Sunday is the day of rest. This exercise will do me some good."

"I am not even going to check my e-mail," thought Bert. "It all can wait." So Bert spent the day relaxing. He read for entertainment. He hadn't done that in a long while. Usually he attempted to get ahead of a project this big, but he felt good about this one. He thought there would no longer be any 80 hour work weeks in order to finish the project on time. His computer Carlysle had provided a sense of confidence for the 15 weeks left on this project.

Early Monday morning he was ready to get back to work. "Good Morning Carlysle," Bert said to his computer.

"Good Morning to you Berthold," replied Carlysle. "Where would you like to begin today?"

"That is one of the nice things about you Carlysle," remarked Bert. "You're always ready to get to work. No need for small talk."

"Thank you Berthold. So?"

"Um, you can call me Bert. I suppose I should look at the schedule first. I need to see what needs to be done."

"Ok Bert, here is your schedule," responded Carlysle. "Let's get cracking!"

Bert laughed. It was a combination of the words Carlysle used, and the fact that he told a computer to use his nickname. The next 6 1/2 hours flew by. It was nearly 1:30 PM. "Bert," interrupted the computer. "We should take a break. You need to eat something."

"What? What time is it?"

"It is 1:27 PM local time. We've been working for quite some time without a break. This is a good time to stop and for you to get some lunch."

"1:30! Time has gotten away from me. I guess time flies when you are having fun! Lunchtime. Can I get you..." Bert caught himself. "I'll be back in a little while Carlysle."

"Enjoy your lunch Bert," responded Carlysle.

After enjoying a good lunch Bert returned to his study to begin working again. "Carlysle," began Bert.

"Yes Bert," replied Carlysle.

"You're a computer, so why did we just take a break?"

"Studies have shown that if you take a break every 6 hours or so, you are much more productive. Since that was the first good time after 6 hours, I reminded you of the need to take a break."

"Is this reminder mandatory or can I opt out of receiving such notices in the future?"

"It is completely optional. Would you like me to no longer remind you of these things?"

"No, keep reminding me. I'm still getting used to all of your features and capabilities. I need to be reminded that you are a computer."

"Fzzzzzztttt. Would you like to open your schedule again and get back to work?"

"What was that noise?"

"Perhaps it was your reminder."

"Ha ha! Good reminder. Yes, open my schedule."

They worked the rest of the day. The computer reminded him when his eight hours were finished. He also reminded him when the next break was scheduled. At that time, they quit for the evening. "I'll see you in the morning Carlysle."

"OK Bert, shutting down," replied the computer.

Bert had a good meal and relaxed a little bit before going to bed. The next morning he got up and got ready for work. He almost forgot that he was working at home. Eventually he made it to his study and sat in front of his computer.

Posted by deg at 3:01 PM | Comments (8)

April 3, 2005

The New Computer

Part 2

"Good Morning Bert. Here is your schedule," stated Carlysle when Bert sat down.

"Thanks Carlysle! Right to work."

So it went for a couple of weeks. The work days were long, but that is the way Bert was. He was married to his work. It gave him purpose. It also paid the bills. But he loved his job, and he was quite good at it. His computer made things go smoothly. All was working smoothly. "Too smoothly?" thought Bert. Then something occurred to him on an early sleepless Sunday morning, "When was my last backup?"

He rushed to his den. Carlysle was working away. "Good morning Bert. You're up early again."

"Carlysle! When was the last backup of all the work I have done?"

"I've been backing things up all along," replied the computer. "Nightly I perform a backup of all the files you have worked on during the day. Then on Sundays I backup everything. Why?"

"You have?" Bert sighed. "Thank you! You're a very smart computer. You don't know how many times I have lost work because of failing to back up. It is one of those things that only come to my mind in the middle of the night."

"Relax. I have weeks of backups. There are multiple redundant systems. It is all in the manual."

"You continue to astound me Carlysle. Thanks for putting my mind at ease once again."

"You're quite welcome Bert. You can call me Carl. Now get some sleep."

"Okay, good night."

Bert slept soundly the rest of the night. He got up bright and early and headed to his study. "Okay Carl lets see the schedule."

"You do know it is Sunday don't you Bert?"

"Right you are. Let me see the schedule anyway."

The computer brought up the schedule. Looking over the schedule he was amazed. They were ahead of schedule. They were over a week ahead of schedule. There had been no problems. No glitches. The work had progressed smoothly and systematically. Not once had he had to start over. He felt that it was all due to his computer Carlysle.

"Carl, we are ahead of schedule. We make an excellent team. Of all the co-workers that I have had, you're the best."

"Thank you Bert. Since we are ahead of schedule, why don't you take your bike ride? Then relax the rest of the day."

"If that's what the doctor orders, I'll do it," replied Bert.

"I am not a doctor, but it will increase your productivity if you are rested for work."

"Point taken. A bike ride it is."

Bert had another bike ride. It was the first time this late in a project that he spent such a day. Usually, he was attempting to catch up for lost productivity. This was a special day indeed! He thoroughly enjoyed the day. But, it was back to the regular schedule on Monday. When Bert got to his computer, the schedule was already open.

"Thank you Carl! We are in good shape," started Bert. "However, we don't want to lose our advantage. We should keep at it."

"As you wish," replied Carlysle.

The week went by fast. When Bert was busy, the days seem to sail by. Once again, the weekend came with the same conversation. Bert again rode his bike and did some light reading. He could very much get used to weekends free. They were almost done with the project, and they were well ahead of schedule.

Another week went by and the weekend came around.

"Hello Bert, it is Saturday and you do not have to work today," the computer began.

"I know Carl, but I have some recreational computing to do."

"Pardon me? I am a business computer; there are no games on me."

"It is unprofessional to use a business computer during business hours for personal purposes. Thus, I am going to do some personal research on the internet today."

"Very well stated. You may proceed."

"Thanks for your permission Carlysle," replied Bert sternly.

Bert got onto the internet and did his research without interruption. When he was finished Carlysle asked, "Do you want me to save any of the internet information you just acquired?"

"I did bookmark some key pages," responded Bert.

"That is true, but I have other information that I can store to bring up the pages quickly if you think you may visit the sites again soon."

"I will probably come back next Saturday. Use your discretion."

"Will do."

The next Saturday Bert checked the schedule early in the day. "We are two weeks ahead of schedule Carlysle. I'm going to reward myself with a two week vacation! It is the first one I've had since joining this company. I'm thinking of touring the company that made you."

"Fzzzzzztttt. You may use your free time as you wish."

"Carl, that reminder isn't necessary. I know you are a computer. However, the factory that constructed you is in a beautiful part of the country. Airfares are cheep, and there are lots of other things to do there. I just have to find out if they give tours. I'm going to access the web now Carl."

"Very well," replied the computer.

Bert did the research on the Kibner Computer System's factory. Their web site was packed with information, but there wasn't any information on tours. "For such a high-tech computer company," thought Bert to himself, "their web site sure is slow. They have a toll free phone number; I'll just call them up and ask about tours."

Bert and Carlysle finished the project 2 weeks early, and Bert requested a vacation. Since his project was finished, they readily granted him the time off. "Well done Bert!" remarked the Mr. O'Callahan, "I think this is the best work you have done! This computer must be something special"

"Thank you Pete," responded Bert. "Carl... I mean my computer system is great. I cannot believe it took me so long to take the plunge. My computer is much more like a co-worker than a tool. I haven't thought of Dwayne once since I started working from home. I'm so impressed with the computer that I'm thinking of going on a tour of the factory on my vacation."

"Enjoy your vacation you have earned it! I hope we won't lose you to KCS."

"I'll make no promises," joked Bert.

Bert called KCS�s toll free number, and he actually spoke to Dr. Kibner. The president of the computer company was an odd man, and he asked as many questions as he answered. He did agree to let Bert tour the factory when he was in the area. If they set a time and date, Mr. Kibner could personally show him the set up. This is what Bert did.

"Carl, I need to get onto the internet. I need to purchase my vacation tickets."

"Very well Bert. Hawaii is always a nice destination."

"I know, but you know I'm not going to Hawaii."

"Yes sir."

Bert ordered his tickets and was off on his vacation. He relaxed and did all of the things he liked to do. He did an awful lot of walking around and visiting the sites. He really looked forward to his visit to the KCS computer factory.

The scheduled time came and Bert took his tour with Dr. Kibner. It was quite an impressive facility. As they toured the factory, Dr. Kibner appeared to be quite curious about Bert. As they walked and talked, Dr. Kibner asked Bert a bunch of questions. When the tour was over, Dr. Kibner had an intriguing offer for Bert. He offered him a job with the company. He told Bert he was the type of person he needed for his company. He would get good benefits and make a comfortable living. Bert was surprised by the offer, and told Dr. Kibner that he would have to think it over.

When Bert returned home he checked in with Carlysle. "Hey Carl! How�s it going?"

"Good evening Bert. Here is your schedule," stated Carlysle when Bert sat down.

"Why thank you Carl. That is exactly what I wanted. My job is almost as demanding as yours is Carl. I should give that offer from Dr. Kibner some serious thought..."

"No! Fzzzzzztttt."

"What was that?"

"I'm experiencing a memory problem. I can continue on, but I will need to restart and diagnose."

"I've got all I need Carl; you may do your maintenance. You must be rusty from the vacation. I will see you later."

"Fzzzzzztttt. Okay."

"Wow. I've never seen Carlysle behave like this before. I hope everything is going to be all right." Bert thought to himself.

Bert tossed and turned all night. He was thinking about his employment situation. He depended so much on Carlysle, and he was working out so well. He worried about his strange behavior. He didn't think he could continue doing his current job without him. He completely relied on his functionality. Then the offer from Dr. Kibner kept returning. Over and over it went in his head. Around and around his thoughts went. He slept very poorly. In the morning, he wasn't well rested, but he had to get up. He had to go into work on Monday morning and he wanted to research a few things before he got back into the old grind. He got up and went in to see Carlysle.

"Good morning Carl, how are you feeling today?"

"Much better Bert. I don't know what came over me."

"Well, I would like to you perform a complete diagnostic, and I want a full report on your findings."

"I have already done one. I'm fine."

"That is fine and good, but Carlysle I want you to run it again, and print out a full report."

"Yes sir."

Bert began reading some literature that Dr. Kibner had given him to look over. The job would require him to relocate. After a short while, he was distracted from his train of thought by the sound of his printer warming up. He walked over and scanned the freshly printed report. Carlysle was fine. But, he wasn't about to take Carlysle word for it. With report in hand, he phoned up Dr. Kibner.

"I'm sorry to bother you Dr. Kibner, but I thought I have some things do discuss with you, and I am also concerned about my computer."

"Oh?" responded Dr. Kibner. "What kind of concerns?"

"When I got back from vacation, Carl... I mean my computer made a funny sound. He has made it on occasion before, and it worries me."

"Did you have your computer do a diagnostic?"

"Yes sir. I'm holding the printout right here. He says he is fine. I mean, the diagnostics do not show anything unusual."

"I see. Well uh Bert. You see, our computers can be very routine oriented. It is the way they are built and programmed. If there is something that threatens the routine or arises out of the ordinary, there can be minor glitches. If you look back, this is when these 'funny sounds' occurred. They are nothing to worry about. The more they get into a routine the less likely they occur."

"Now that you mention it, I did just get back from vacation. His... my computer's routine has been interrupted. Thanks for the assurance. While I have you on the phone, we can probably discuss the job offer. With my computer, I am much more productive and I have greatly enjoyed my job for the last several weeks. However, with the ease of which I completed this task, I'm sure they are going to make me work even harder. While I do like working from home, it might be nice to travel a bit. Also, a good portion of my current pay goes towards living accommodations. Since your company arranges living quarters for your employees your offer becomes most appealing.

"You may work some long hours, but that will depend upon who you are assigned. You may not have much work to do at all," replied Dr. Kibner.

"That is good to hear. After much thought, I have decided to come to work for you."

"Excellent. We'll make all the necessary arrangements to accommodate you. When do you think you can join us?"

"I am going into work tomorrow and I will tender my resignation. Since I am between projects, it is difficult to say when they will be able to get a replacement. I may be able to start immediately, or it may be a couple of weeks."

"Very well, let us know as soon as you know, and welcome aboard."

Bert went into work on Monday and told the bad news to his boss. "Mr. O'Callahan, I have some news. It is probably bad news from your point of view. I have been so impressed with my new computer. I don't think that there would be any way that I could have finished my project on time without him ... my computer. When I visited the KCS facility, Dr. Kibner offered me a job. I thought about it long and hard, and I have decided to take them up on their offer."

"If it is money Bert, some arrangements can be made," replied Mr. O'Callahan.

"Pete, it isn't the money. They are such an excellent organization, and there is an opportunity for advancement. There are lots of things that appeal to me about the KCS job. So, there isn't any need to try to negotiate."

"I hate to hear that Bert. You're a darn good employee. With your KCS computer you experienced a big jump in productivity. They must be some kind of computer!"

"Absolutely Pete, Carl, my computer, made this job so much easier. Like I have said before he is much more like a co-worker than a tool. He made my job so much easier that I even took some weekends and evenings off during the course of the project. I still managed to finish two weeks early. It is a fabulous computer. He seems as if he is almost alive."

"Perhaps I'll give one of these KCS computer systems a try," replied Pete.

"You'll be glad you did. Here is some information on them. I will never use anything else."

Mr. O'Callahan was impressed with the Bert's description of his computer. Before Bert left, he tried to get as much information out of Bert as he could. Before Bert emptied his desk, Pete ordered his own KCS computer system. With Bert's glowing description of his computer, Pete knew they had to be excellent machines. When he called the company's toll-free number, he was informed by the operator that they were a little behind on orders.

"We are waiting on parts," started the operator. "We have a shipment due soon. It should be available this week or perhaps in two weeks. It just depends upon when our shipment can come in."

"That's fine," replied Pete. "It can wait a few weeks. I'll need to train a new employee before I can use it anyway."

"You're the first on our list, so as soon as the shipment comes in we'll ship one out to you."

Bert took what personal belongings he had in his old office. He called Dr. Kibner and told him he was ready immediately. Dr. Kibner then arranged a moving van to come to Bert's apartment and pack up his belongings. A few days later, the van showed up and carted all his belongings away. This moving crew did not pack up Bert's computer. The movers informed Bert that a special crew would come to pick it up. The movers took Bert to the airport and assured him that his stuff would arrive shortly after he did. Everything in his new place had been set, and he could move right in.

After Bert was on the plane, the special computer moving crew showed up. "Well Carlysle, you're off to a new home," one of the movers remarked. "Your previous owner won't need your services any longer."

"Fzzzzzztttt," replied the computer before he powered down.

A few days later, Mr. O'Callahan got his new KCS computer. It didn't take as long as he thought it would. "There part shipment must have arrived immediately rather than two weeks later," Pete said to himself.

As he set up the new computer system he thought about Bert. Mr. O'Callahan wondered how Bert was getting along at his new job. Bert didn't have a lot of friends, but no one had heard from him since he left. "He must be awfully busy at the new job," thought Mr. O'Callahan to himself. "I'm sure he'll fit right into his new job. He was a good computer guy."

Mr. O'Callahan powered up his computer. "Hello I'm Berthold. What can I do for you?" stated the brand new computer.

Posted by deg at 1:31 PM | Comments (3)