Are Computers Female?

Computers, like ships, boats and yachts, must be female. They all need a lot of loving and sometimes need to be shouted at, they often have problems depending on the time of the month, and all of them need a lot of money spent on them regularly.

Do you remember the time when only pretty secretaries with nice legs and short skirts had computers on their desks? The bosses looked at them longingly, the computers not the secretaries, but sometimes both. The computers were called word processors because that was all they could do. The secretaries could do more, but I will not go down that path. At least the secretaries made coffee, if you were nice to them. If the company had a main-frame computer it could spew out large quantities of information on huge pieces of folded, perforated paper. Confidence in computers was so low then that these documents were never thrown away and offices had tall piles of especially made folders containing them.

In those days I had no computer skills. Didn't need them. I just pressed a button on my desktop telephone and pretty secretary came running in with notebook and pencil ready to take dictation. I enjoyed that because pretty secretary always crossed her nice legs in her short skirt in front of me before I started dictating.

Change always comes. I talked my way into a good job at a senior level with a high tech telecommunications equipment company. No secretary, pretty or not.

On my first day a new laptop computer, heavy in those days, was delivered to my office. Luckily, I was scheduled very quickly for two days computer training. I learnt all the basics, like how to start it up and adjust the settings, how to troubleshoot, how to defragment the disk drives. I learnt how to use Windows, Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It had a fax and LAN card. My new job involved a lot of travel to Asia. My boss said "Take your laptop with you always, we expect regular reports faxed to us after your meetings" I had become a road warrior!

Sounds exciting doesn't it? It was a lot of the time; visiting places I had never been to before. Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia all gave me new experiences, cultural, business, visual, food. I became a more experienced and educated person as a result and I am lucky to have been through that. Ineluctably, the term Road Warrior brings other experiences too. Boarding aircraft with an extra bag containing laptop, portable printer then a portable scanner and that little bag containing vital accessories like adapters, power and telephone cables, tiny screwdrivers. Being questioned in security channels, having to power up the computer to prove it was not stuffed with Semtex, and then interrogated by customs officers about where I bought the hardware, was all part of that exciting lifestyle. I was often traveling to various countries for 2-3 weeks and usually spent at least one day of the weekend working on the computer.

Even 5 Star hotels did not have wireless internet connections then, so I spent a lot of time in hotel rooms crawling around the floor trying to find a telephone socket I could unscrew and the connect my cable to a line. Every country seems to have different connectors but thanks to my little bag, I was never defeated and could send the required reports to the office.

I dreaded being asked for a presentation at short notice. That meant hours with Microsoft PowerPoint then printing and hoping the client had a good projector. She often let me down too, my unfaithful traveling companion the laptop computer. Shouting at her never solved the problem, but coaxing with the promise of a software upgrade or a disc defrag. as often as not resulted in an afternoon of bliss. I miss dictating to those pretty secretaries though.