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Please GROW UP

By pete.mcgettigan ·
Your recent article about shell scripting had the following sentence...

And you are undoubtedly already familiar with the interface, although you probably call it the command prompt or, if you're a real old-timer, perhaps the DOS prompt.

There is enough age discrimination around without you guys accusing us 30 somethings of being 'real old-timers'. Please stop it. It promotes age discrimination and does no good whatsoever for our industry. Some of the best IT practitioners I've met have been in their 50's and beyond.

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I think

by GuruOfDos In reply to Please GROW UP

You have a point!

However, the majority of people in the IT industry have joined SINCE DOS was regarded as obsolete. Let's face it, when DOS was mainstream, there wasn't an 'IT Industry' as we recognise it today. Computers were relatively few and far between and we didn't NEED an 'industry' because it was a new thing and back then, DOS and Windows came with REAL manuals!!

Us 'old timers' who have been playing with computers since the early days learned how to use DOS and what all the arcane commands did and how to use them. GUI's were new fangled and mice were seen as something strange. Of course, as Windows (or MacOS or AmigaWorkbench, or whatever) came along, we adapted to the changes and could pick up these new ideas because we already knew the fundamentals. All we did was build on them. As we went along, we could build on our existing knowledge.

Today, there are one hundred times as many 'personal computers' in existance as there were in 1987. They are more complex, more 'clever' and have a whole new pantheon of 'goodies' that never existed when we were 'young'...todays computer users have never had it so good!!!

The problem is, only 100th of the users of todays computers have 'grown up' with computers and built on the experience of DOS and Windows3.1 (or Gem, or Apple Macintosh Lisa). That is to say only one in every hundred computer users UNDERSTAND their computer. The IT industry is entirely based on the premise that 99% of users have no clue what is going on, and it's up to us 1% of 'old farts' to keep the show on the road.

I started working with computers at the tender age of 19. I trained in electronics and computers were part of electronics...not a separate entity in their own right. I am now in my 'mid-to-late' thirties (37 next birthday) and have two children aged 6 and 8 who now use a computer on a daily basis. They have grown up with a computer in the house and it holds no fear for them...they just have no concept as to what is going on under the hood. Today people buy computers for the home in much the same way that they buy toasters, kettles or floor mops!!!

Now, my father used to repair our old toaster or TV if it broke. I can too. I can also repair the car, the TV or the computer. Will my kids be able to in twenty years time?

We live in a throwaway society where everything has to be cutting edge, cool and new. This seems to apply to knowledge too...nobody uses DOS anymore so there is no need to know about it.

Techs in my local retail store get puzzled when they see a machine with Windows 95 or 98 on it. Their average age is 17 and when 95 came out, they were still in short trousers...when I built and configured my first PC with a 386, Dos6.22 and Windows 3.0, some of them weren't even born!! Now I worked for said store between 1997 and 2000. They have my phone number and call me in if they have anything come in older than about 2001!!

"Mike, you old fart!", they say. "You remember Windows 95 don't you? How do you..."

Well, I resent 'age-ism' in this industry as much as the next man (or woman)...but it is nice to be wanted, isn't it?!!!!

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by Jellimonsta In reply to I think

Ahh!... the memories of being a young boy programming my name to scroll down a screen in basic on my Amstrad 128!! :) Or those games in the computer magazines that you could code in and spend 2 days doing so, only to get a syntax error when you try to run them :)
Good times!!!

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by Oldefar In reply to I think

Now babies are calling kids "old timers"! And I still haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up!!

Personally, I remember learning solid state as part of electronics and working with the transistors that displaced tubes and mechanics, and then chips displacing discreet components. Try chasing problems through a tube and servor analog computer! Better wear your ear protection though.

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Not to mention

by GuruOfDos In reply to Ouch!

Asbestos gloves!!!

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by maxwell edison In reply to I think

"DOS" when there was no IT industry".

I remember when I had to give up DOS. I accepted Windows, but only with a lot of kicking and screaming.

You make some great points, Guru.

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On age

by GuruOfDos In reply to On DOS

The older I get, the more I yearn for yesterday. When I was a kid, school holidays seemed to last forever and be filled with constant activity. In the life experience of a seven year old, seven weeks is a large proportion of time. If you think that most memory becomes very hazy before age 4, that means a seven year old has a clear memory of perhaps 3 years. 7 weeks as a proportion of 150 or so really is a long time.

When you hit your 30's, 7 weeks as a fraction of 27 years or thereabouts is a mere spit in a very large bucket. Its all relative though. A week in 1974 is exactly the same as a week in 2004. It just seems shorter as you get older.

It is an accepted fact that the advances in IT have been almost exponential. Back in the 80's, a new CPU would come out every 9 to 12 months or so, and was just a case of faster rather than different. MS DOS plodded along, with large spans of time between subsequent releases. It took 5 years to go from MS Dos 4.01 on a 286 to MS DOS 6.22 on a 486 DX2-66 (reading the adverts in the back issues of computer magazines of the time). In that time, Windows went from 3.0 via 3.10 to 3.11, or NT 3.51 if you were a business user. I still have Windows 3.0 on 5.25" floppies for the 286. Not exactly a quantum leap over that relatively long period of time and a very gentle learning curve. Then Pentium, PII, MMX, 3DNow! came along and Windows95, Windows98, WindowsME, Windows2K. In a much shorter space of time. XP and cpu speeds in excess of 4GHz is the state of the art today, but even this isn't good enough. New launches and bigger and better 'everything' are almost a weekly occurrance. Not only do we have more to learn, but we have an ever decreasing time window in which to learn it before something else comes along. Microsoft please note: Launch a product when it is READY and WE are ready for it!

I have probably 'forgotten' more than I will ever have time to learn now. By forgotten, I don't imply that I don't KNOW it, just that it doesn't get used so often these days. When I have to use it, it's still there because I learned it over a far greater proportion of time and that kind of learning lasts.

There is a wealth of difference between age and maturity. One hopes perhaps that maturity comes with age. I don't think of my DOS (or Amiga, or BASIC, or CP/M) experience and knowledge as 'out of date' or 'old fashioned'. I simply regard it as knowedge which has 'matured' and stood the test of time, as I too have done - seventeen years down the line, my boss still pays me. When things progress so far that I just cannot keep up anymore, it may be time to grab my hat and coat and dissappear out of the door, never to return. For now, the industry is still somewhat reliant on 'mature' and 'proven' products rather than just 'new' and 'fresh'. People DO still run 200MHz computers with DOS and Windows 9x. People DO still have to get 'under the hood' and tweak about in the DOS prompt. I WILL still find new and interesting things to play with as time progresses (and my failing eyesight allows), but I think that there is still a place for an old fuddy-duddy stick-in-the-mud slowpoke like me in this game. For how much longer, I really wouldn't like to say.

Let the young play with their toys. Tomorrow they too will be older and (presumably) wiser and they will form part of our collective knowledge and history, for the 'next generation' to fall back on.

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I'm 25.

by LincDK In reply to I think

But know all about DOS and DOS commands. I started using computers way before there was an "industry" per se.

I'm kinda flattered that at 25 i'm and "old timer" in the industry

It's all a matter of perspective really!

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30-somethings as "old-timers"

by shiny_topadm In reply to Please GROW UP

First, I understand your point about the article's wording, but I think you missed the complimentary aspect to the phrase. I would like to think that if a "thirty-something" takes (minor) offense to evidence of age-ism, that he missed the point! I'm 20 years past 30-something, and this happens in every industry, although the "IT" world seems to proceed with the highest rate of change. Time and technology march on, unimpeded. Sometimes, our "ancient" wisdom is called upon to decipher problems with devices that have long been out of favor. The company I work for has a division that repairs consumer electronics devices. Open-reel tape recorders, turntables that play vinyl(!) discs, electron tube devices are still out there and will positively bewilder any recent tech-school graduate. Us "old-timers" are proud to wear that badge, even if a hat would be more useful!

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Yes, "old-timer" is not an insult everywhere.

by DC_GUY In reply to 30-somethings as "old-tim ...

This is a profession where the WISDOM of the more experienced people can be of great value, even if some of our KNOWLEDGE itself has no direct practical application. That's supposed to be the whole point of growing old: to become an elder, not just an "old fart" with a bumper sticker on a three-ton motor home stating, "We're spending our children's inheritance." In the UK, is it still considered polite and complimentary for two acquaintances to address each other as "Old Man" and "Dear Boy"?

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by Jellimonsta In reply to Yes, "old-timer" is not a ...

That would be 'old chap' DC, 'old man' would be refering to one's father.

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