Efficiency – Friday Fictioneers

claire-sheldon

PHOTO PROMPT © Claire Sheldon

I had been doing it for twenty-five years and was an expert.  File comes in, take the staple out, highlight the pertinent data, send it to the accountant.  I no longer answered phones.  The accountants liked to do it themselves.  They’ve done their own typing since the late 1990s.  With the new tools, it was more efficient.

The boss came in, fumbled with my stuffed toys and accidentally spilled the cup full of used staples.

“I’m sorry Sue,” he finally said.  “The new system is set up and everything is 100% electronic.”

“I’m so efficient, though.”

“Not to a computer.”

— — — —

Word count = 100

Friday Fictioneers is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  This week’s prompt is here and uses a photo provided by © Claire Sheldon.  Read more or join in by following the InLinkz “linky“.

I was away and missed last weeks FF.

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60 thoughts on “Efficiency – Friday Fictioneers

  1. patriciaruthsusan

    Uh, oh. There goes her job. It’s the Rise of the Machines. I hope she has an IRA and not a pension connected with the job. The way things were going in her office she should have already been looking for another position, also combined with additional training to update her. I’m glad I’m already retired. Good writing, Trent. —- Suzanne

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Some people just don’t see the writing on the wall. I hope she did! I read that one of the reasons the last recession was so bad is that a lot of companies used it as an opportunity to get rid of those old legacy jobs. The problem is, those people who were let go no longer had a viable career – their jobs, huge just a few years previously, didn’t exist at all any more.

      I hope you are enjoying retirement. I’m the type that loves to learn, so I’ll still be taking courses and such after I retire.

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  3. Christine Goodnough

    And there’s the situation at the other end of the pay scale. Most of our customer service type people are imports. North Americans want & expect the top dollar, no sweat jobs.
    Simple “skills” like showing up for work on time aren’t being taught, so why not replace people with computers that are never late or Jung ov

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  4. Sarah Potter Writes

    I only heard on the radio yesterday a discussion about how it was efficient women who first taught men how to operate computers! Your story rings so true, Trent. Thank goodness I gave up office work after a couple of years of trying it. To think of all those people who have put so many years into their work, to find that their skills are no longer needed (well, they are needed for the very reasons that Kalpana Solsi gives).

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I’m a computer nerd (professionally), yet I think we’ve done so much wrong with our automation and such. The main reason is that most of the decisions are made based on money, not what it actually does. But there is “progress” – Most of the job titles of 150 years are meaningless in today’s world and we will continue to create new areas as the old ones go away.

      Thinking of your comment about efficient women teaching men to use computers, so far I haven’t had a chance to see the movie or read the book about the black women who made NASA’s space program possible, but it is on my to read and to view list.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I think of Jonny Cash’s version of John Henry and the lines:

      Now did the Lord say that machines ought to take place of livin’?
      And what’s a substitute for bread and beans? I ain’t seen it!
      Do engines get rewarded for their steam?

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  5. Sandra Conner

    Well written, Trent. And sad. However, if a few grids go down, all the companies will be scrambling for the people with those “old” skills, as their only chance to keep their business afloat. Certainly, the students in school today are not learning ANY of them. Maybe the tide will turn back yet.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I don’t know if the tide will turn back on a lot of the technologies, but for some they might. The problem is,there would have to be a long term outage, long enough to make it worth while to have people relearn the old ways. In ways I think it is a shame, because it does take the personal face off of so many businesses and leaves only the money-making part exposed. One scary thing is thinking of the long term future and history – what happens if there is a long term outage and we lose every document created after the mid-1990s?

      I think the future is “craft” type jobs were a machine might be more efficient, but you’ll pay the little extra for that human touch.

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      1. Sandra Conner

        The state of Illinois has already lost really important documents because they switched everything to computer. I taught in this state for many years — in three different counties — and had to register my teaching certificate regularly — although I had as much as a 5-year bridge if I took time off and could still register without having to take more classes, etc. Due to a relative’s long illness, I did take time off, and when I went back to register my certificate to go back to teaching, they could not find a copy of it. Unfortunately, I made a move during that time and lost my personal copy. That should have been no problem, because the state office should be able to send a new copy. But during that period, the state had switched everything in the Education Department to computer, and they looked into their computer system and said, “You do not have a certificate registered with us. We have no record of a certificate ever being registered for you.”

        I checked with county and state offices and got the same story. Finally I talked to the woman at the main state office, and she said, “You are certified, and here’s your number, but you have never registered your certificate in the state.” I said, “Then how do you account for the fact that I taught for years in this state — in three different counties — and have already been paid my teachers’s retirement.” Her only answer was, “I don’t know, but you have never registered your certificate, and if you want to do so, you’ll have to pay for all the years from 1970 to the present.”

        When I talk to people about the technology problems today, I’m constantly surprised that they honestly believe there could never be a serious problem with information if there is no hard copy anywhere. It’s like they’ve been brain-washed.

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        1. trentpmcd Post author

          That does sound like a mess. That issue sounds like it happened when they were moving from paper to digital and it is possible all of the paper is still there, stored in some huge warehouse (like the one at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie).

          A big problem is file types. Can any of those millions of Word Perfect documents from the 1980s be read today? Or Word Star, which was huge for a few years? These files are worthless. I had a copy of WordStar 1995 (or something liek that) and in 2000 I could not find any way to open any of the files – I searched on “Alta Vista” (no Google back then) and nothing existed five years after the file format was created.

          Do the people running the archives keep the files up to date? My guess is “no”.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      With TV, even the idea of what TV is/was has changed in those 21 years from video and analog signals to all digital. The changes everywhere have been very rapid and the technologies have changed expectations (i.e., the reference in the story to people answering their own phones)..

      Thanks.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I think you get more use from your drawing and painting today than you would from shorthand or filing skills, Hopefully Sue has some of those types of skills (artistic) she’s been practicing Thanks!

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      There are few jobs that are 100% insured against being automated away. As I said in another comment, I remember when we had a room full of clerks and secretaries, and now there is just one assistant.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      With self driving cars, higher levels of machine autonomy, etc., it won’t be long before we’ll all be on the dole and the computers will do everything. I even saw an article that said a computer will write a NY Times bestseller by 2050….

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  6. jellico84

    replaced by electronics… pretty much summed up my skill set. Old school, 16 column ledgers by hand (no calculator), shot to hell by Excel… same with filing skills (replaced by Access & the like)… ability to do math using my God-given calculator – obsolete.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      That is the way the world went. Rooms full of people replaced by a little beige box. I know that one of the problems with deep recessions like we recently had (8 years ago already?) is that companies use it as an excuse to get rid of the jobs that use those old skills and then never bring them back, so many people who found themselves unemployed will never have a job that matches their skill set come up. I hope your skill set was updated enough to keep you employed…

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      1. jellico84

        Haven’t had a job outside the home in more 18 yrs (since accident in ’96). Have tried to update skills but software changes to fast to keep up. That’s just life.

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        1. trentpmcd Post author

          I’m sorry, it is tough. When you use the technology on a day to day basis and keep up with it to do the job, you almost don’t notice the changes, but when i go back and look at things I did just a few years ago, yeah, it moves pretty rapidly.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Most jobs can either be replaced now or will be able to be replaced in the near future. One of the great things about “craft” anything, from beer to handmade greeting cards. It might be more efficiently done by machines, but it’s nice to know there is a person behind it.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I’ve read that computers are better at high level decision making than the world’s best executives, so maybe the next time there is a major culling of the workforce it will be at the top and not the bottom…. (I’m not holding my breath)

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      1. James

        As Thurston Howell III (played by the late Jim Backus on the TV show “Gilligan’s Island”) once quipped, “Money doesn’t talk, it shouts.” Truer than ever today.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I remember the rooms full of secretaries and clerks that were gone by the end of the 90s, but I read that a lot of those types of jobs didn’t totally disappear until the recession – the first jobs to go and they never returned.

      Thanks.

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