How easy one forgets or just plain misses his/her history. In today’s world of fancy-pants super computers masquerading as dumb-downed smartphones there was a day a long, long, long time ago where humility reigned supreme–especially when it was Friday late afternoon and one takes on a deadline for 8am Monday. At least that’s how I remember my entry into the world of mega personal computing.
When the assignment arrived everyone in the office scattered, conveniently putting themselves out of a hard weekend’s way. I had just joined the firm and was unaware of the divisiveness of corporate hallway work-avoidance. In fact–it’s all coming back to me now!–I believe I actually volunteered to take the job. The job was nothing more than providing company data, aka business profiles, of all the suppliers for telephone networking systems–by Monday morning. Keep in mind, this was pre world-wide-web. Even though I knew that it would be a lot of hours putting the individual profiles together I also knew that the fancy-pants consultancy I had just joined–the company that literally brought me to Europe for an extended stay that to this day has not ended–had all the resources I would need to get the job done. All I had to do was:
- Identify the companies (which I was able to do within a few hours Friday)
- Find their balance sheets, find a few news articles about them and, whenever I could, get some info about them from sources e.g. Lexis/Nexis, Gruner + Jahr, etc. (which the firm I worked for actually had in its mega firm-library)
- After that all that was left was to write it all up in company format and provide it in digital form.
Sounds easy enough, eh. Well, actually it is/was pretty easy even though I didn’t own a computer at the time–nor was I eligible for a fancy-pants portable computer that the firm sometimes loaned out. Also, for whatever reason, that weekend no one was allowed in the office to work. Something about fixing all the cubicles, fumigating, renovating, etc. I guess, in a way, I committed myself to something that was definitely “up-river”.
Luckily the head of the information & research department–where I worked–came to me a few minutes after I took the job. He was carrying a huge black suitcase.
“Toe-ma,” he said. “Here. Take this. There’s plenty of empty floppies in it. Get the data you need from our database and then you can sort through it all at home.”
I took the suitcase to my cubicle and opened it. Luckily it was Friday late afternoon in Germania. I was alone at my cubicle. To this day everybody leaves early on Friday. It’s Germany’s Volksport! Which means… No one could see the excitement in my face when I opened that black case.
Did you know, dear worst-reader, that a Grid Laptop was the first portable computer to go to space? I suppose that’s something to be proud of, especially if your John Ellenby, the founder of Grid. In fact, when the Challenger exploded in 1986, the Grid that was onboard survived not only the explosion but it was found underwater and when salvaged it still worked. Heck, even Steve Jobs owned a few Grids and if you take a hard long look at Apple’s first (krappy) laptop there’s no missing the similarities. Yea. Grids rocked.
Needless to say I was flabbergasted when I opened the large black case my boss had given me. I actually thought for a second or three that I should just leave with the device and never come back. If I could pawn the damn thing… Grids were only affordable by CEOs back then. The things costs something like $10k a piece! I could live in Mallorca for a few months. ;-)
But no. Back then the bite and bitterness of corporate cynicism hadn’t yet corrupted my measly worst-mind. I was dedicated, I was committed, I wanted to work. Of course, the girl that took the pictures which I recently found tucked away in an old shoebox also got a bit of attention that weekend as I was on (yet another) assignment to help her with her American-English. All-in-all it was a good weekend.
I met the Monday morning deadline–with lots of praise from my boss.
The girl that took the pics got in a few hours of learning “American” for her university courses in Anglistics.
And I got to work with a Grid computer.
RIP John Ellenby.