Integration

Ever since I started working (well, maybe a little after), I’ve never understood why the PC and the phone have not been integrated.  Why has every desk in the modern world got two pieces of hardware on it?  Well, it’s possible that my wonderment has been answered, as VOIP is becoming more and more prevalent.  Whether it will mean the end of the phone remains to be seen.

Mr. Shanahan has highlighted a nifty piece of hardware integration.  This piece of software to connect the phone and the TV means that your TV displays the name of the person calling while you watch – nice.  I think this is the kind of integration that Microsoft is talking about in its reports of Longhorn, but this won’t be the holy grail, in the same way that XP wasn’t.  Interoperability is hard, as everyone who tries it finds out.  I was reading only today about the battle for a standard in the data storage arena for CDs.

One of the main reasons it is so hard is that everyone is fighting to make their way the standard, often wanting to make it proprietary, thus promoting the development of numerous "standards".  First (at least in my world), there was VHS vs. V2000 vs. Betamax.  Then there was the fight of PCs vs. Macs, Lotus SmartSuite vs. MS Office, mobile phone technologies, music formats, the list goes on.  At a more fundamental level, you’ve got imperial vs. metric – even though imperial was so obviously inferior, it took a lot of effort to get rid of it – heavens, now I’m surrounded by it!  At the end of the day, as we get more developed, catering for what we’ve done beforehand becomes more difficult.  That’s why the home isn’t all controlled from a single remote control, and why we still carry cameras, music players, mobile phones and PDAs predominantly as separate devices (well, I don’t, but you know what I mean).

Talking of the Lotus/Microsoft war, I think I’m in my 16th year of working with spreadsheets – now over half of my life.  (That makes me very happy, btw.)  I remember playing around with my Dad’s Toshiba laptop when I ventured into his office after school (can’t believe he had a laptop in c. 1987/8 – I think it was called a T2000 with 1Mb RAM).  It had an orange-on-black display, and I vividly remember the experience, learning all about what he did, and marvelling at the wonder of this machinery.  Lotus 1-2-3 was all driven through the keyboard, with the slash key bringing up the menu (I remember the first option being Range).  (One of Excel’s big wins was its compatibility with 1-2-3 – to this day, clicking the slash key still prompts the main menu.)  On a later version, there was an add-on called WYSIWYG, which did all of the formatting (actually, I think it just did borders).  I remember fondly the fact that the highlighted cell appeared in orange, and moving to another cell resulted in the previously selected cell slowly fading to black, such was the technology behind the screen.

Maybe without this introduction to the world of insurance, and therefore spreadsheets, I would have chosen a different career path, and missed out on the wonderful world of Excel.  Maybe people wouldn’t buy me geek t-shirts (which I wear regularly, btw) as parting gifts.  Again, thanks Dad!!

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