The New Computer
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.
"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.