Tuesday, 23 September 2008

DOS-ing about

At work, our surveyor is soon going to New Zealand for a year. I haven't asked why - perhaps he couldn't get a return flight any sooner - but it's not important. The point is that he will be leaving a large, surveyor-shaped hole when he departs and my boss' attempts to fill it have not been fruitful. It was then suggested, by said Antipodean bound surveyor, that I should be trained up to take over when he leaves. Sensing a pay rise, I expressed a firm interest and so he invited me to his place to familiarise myself with the software he uses. I was slightly apprehensive about getting to grips with what would surely be a system so complicated that the sheer brain power required to use it could cause a haemorrhage that would end my life (and therefore hamper my career ambitions). Remember, surveyors are well paid! They must have access to stuff that NASA can only dream of. Anyway, he led me into his study and switched on the Grand Machine of Destiny and Truth (my name for it, not his, applied in anticipation of its awesome processing power). The monitor flickered into life and displayed a Windows 98 splash screen. Ha! Obviously an ironic joke. These surveyors are a hoot!

And then reality was torn from my limp, unsuspecting grasp and sucked into a temporal vortex that eventually spat us out, like a couple of phlegmy hairballs, into 1985! Well it must have been, for we were staring at the following display:



At first I was excited about going outside and reliving 1985 all over again. Bright colours! Over-produced music! A cheery lack of taste! However, this feeling soon wore off. You see, I am a cold and rational man and it took me only a few minutes to realise that temporal folds are not really possible and that the more likely conclusion must be that we were still in 2008. Looking at a 23 year old Lotus spreadsheet. A spreadsheet that only runs in DOS. "When I first devised this spreadsheet," he explained proudly, "I thought it would only have a shelf-life of about ten years. And yet here we are, almost a quarter of a century later, and it's still going strong!" Well, yes. As long as you ignore the parts of the word 'strong' that relate to 'strength' and also that loud alarm in your head that's bleating FUCKETY-FUCK, HE'S STILL USING DOS. It's quite feasible that some people reading this won't even know what DOS is. All I'll say is that although the D doesn't stand for dinosaur, but it probably should have done.

So that's what I've been up to lately. Getting my head around a computer system that's about as advanced as a speaking birthday card. And yet, in a strange way, I'm enjoying myself. Not in a nostalgic sense - who can honestly say that things were better back then? - but because I love spreadsheets. I will, of course, be re-programming this archaic beast in a modern software environment and I'll find it hugely enjoyable. Some of you may recall the dance I created a couple of years ago called My Version of Excel is Better Than Yours. It wasn't a joke, I really do get that excited about spreadsheets. Perhaps in this admission I've lost you, dear reader, but the path of an Excel lover always was a lonely one.

7 comments:

editingrequired said...

congrats on your impending promotion (presumably to the post of Master of the Grand Machine of Destiny and Truth?)
while being of sufficiently advanced age to remember using DOS (and the abacus) myself, i've never had much call for excel (don't do numbers...), so can't really relate to your excitement about reworking a database, but am sure it's going to be a blast...
or something.
still, it must be good to know that all the accumulated minutes and hours of dance practice every day, waiting for a chance like this to come along, have not been in vain...

Sofi said...

I would label you a geek but then traditionally, theyre hardly renowned for their amazing sense of humour. hmm. i'm gona have to work on this.

for some shameless blog plugging, please check out my latest blog entry on some amazing pictures on observing ramadhan and let me know your favourite! :p

Ariane said...

Ah, I wish I were back in 1985. The excitement of the Spectrum ZX as the cassette tape loaded... and loaded... and loaded...

Josh said...

I remember DOS and how it came on 6 floppy disks, thanks for the blast from the past but I can help noticing that you have a modernish mouse pointer on the screen, what happened to the rectangular block?

Love the dance by the way =)

Graham said...

It's nice to know that my two week absence from the blogging 'scene' hasn't resulted in a total loss of readership; I feared that this post would just echo endlessly around the cavernous void created by my general slackness. I will try to update more regularly from now on.

Josh, the only way I could run the software was with a DOS emulator, hence the modern pointer.

I trust you've all been dancing...

Gavin said...

Any chance of you putting a clip of the Excel dance on YouTube, so we could appreciate its full majesty?

Graham said...

Gavin, this is not only possible but almost inevitable. It's sure to form part of my forthcoming Creative Year (see post for September 28) and become a viral sensation!