IBM PC’s and the Prep School

This dream was clearly set in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s.

Dreamed that an old friend of mine had been hired to install IBM PC’s in a prep school  At first, they bought ONE pc (aka “the” computer) and it was in the Headmaster’s office.

This only worked for about a year (dream was in multiple pieces) until the school decided to buy a few more machines.  Eventually, they decided to build a network (and you know what happened next).

Once a dialup link was put in, and the students (predictably) cracked the inadequate passwords (“secret” and such), my friend had to clean up the mess.  I had the distinct advantage of being an observer and not having to clean it up myself.

Now that I am awake, I have to wonder “just how many times this drama has repeated in real life?”


Contaminated Convenience

In another dream, I was a senior scientist working in a research lab.  I was having a conversation with a few new hires about computers.  They had overheard a conversation I was having with a colleague on a telephone.  In that conversation, I was discussing articles in the New York Times that compared high schools in New York to those in other parts of the country.  I was lamenting the poor state of education and made a comment about “box people.”

The new hires asked what I meant by “box people.”  I explained that I had been familiar with computers for a long time, and that I was not a “box person” and I was not the other extreme.  The other extreme involved people who built computers piece by piece, much as if they carved every block of every letter to build a printing press.  However, they did have the advantage that, if something broke, they usually knew what it was and could quickly locate and repair or replace it.

On the other hand, “box people” tended to want a computer to be a single monolithic box.  It was easy to purchase (but expensive) and easy to install.  However, if it broke, they could not repair it.  They had to send it off or throw it in the trash and buy a new one.

My comment was that I preferred to be in the middle of those two extremes.

Then I had to leave the lab where we worked.  I went to a nearby convenience store, but it was late at night.  And, some homeless people had slipped into the store.

I had to be careful not to touch or be touched by them.  In the lab where I worked, contamination could be an issue.  (Apparently I was working in some kind of biological lab.) 

The Apple and the German Bank

Dreamed that I was living and working in Europe.  This dream appears to be set anywhere from 20 to 40 years ago.  I was an American, an expatriate, living and working in Germany or Switzerland or some mix.  I rode the train quite a bit.

In the dream, I kept having to deal with European banks, and that was a somewhat more complicated process than dealing with U.S. banks.  In the dream, the European banks (and other similar entities) were still using punched cards for certain functions.  As customers, we had punched cards (that we received in the mail, and other sources, much as AT&T did in the 1970’s and even into the 1980’s).

(In the 1970’s, receipt of your telephone bill from The Telephone Company (i.e. AT&T) meant that you received a punched card with the famous “Do Not Bend, Fold, Staple, or Mutliate” moniker.)

After being a bit frustrated in dealing with yet another problem with a punched card, I managed to make my way into some inner realm of some back office.  Even though the dream was set in a German speaking country, the back offices seemed like something from a movie set in a Latin American country.  Fans were leisurely moving overhead and workers seemed to be barely constraining their frustration which was fed by both physical and institutional heat.

I spoke to a manager with a white shirt, a loose tie, and a balding variant of a 70’s haircut.  He was a brunet male with a smidgen of charm covering the curt demeanor of someone with not enough time to complete the busy work assigned.

Apparently Apple computers existed, and I mentioned them somewhere in the conversation.  I spoke of how micro-computers (meaning what are today called desktop computers) could speed up certain operations and (generally) make life easier.  The manager was polite, but but he did not take me seriously.

I am not certain, but I think I spied an abandoned Apple computer on a shelf, with cables wrapped around it and shoved there by someone who did not have a clue regarding how to use it.

As I left, and as I walked back through the “boiler rooms” of pre-cube days with desks but no partitions, I spied a book on a shelf.  The year must have been some time after 1979 (because the book was published in that year).  Named Goedel, Escher, and Bach, I asked the nearest employee about it.  He let me know that it had been a gift to someone, that a few looked at it, and then it had been abandoned on that shelf.

As I walked into the lobby, and prepared to leave, the manager I had talked to caught up with me, moving in a trot.  He had changed his mind and wanted to talk to me some more.  (And, I was hired as a contractor to setup a system of micro-computers for the bank.)

(What I did not know was that the book was given to him by their last contractor.  He had fired that contractor, and that turned out to be a mistake.  The contractor went somewhere else, probably to a competing bank, and successfully implemented what this organization had resisted.  And, that gave the competitor a successful advantage.  But, no one could really understand what the contractor had been saying, and they could not understand the book, either.  The manager deduced, correctly, that I understood both the book and how to do what the other contractor had proposed.)

Lessons: No particular lessons seem to leap out.  Rather, this seems to be something seen through someone else’s eyes.  However, I have known a number of people like the people in the dream, including the contractor whose eyes I was seeing through.