Muling around in Columbia, and points beyond

Today I got to go to Columbia. That’s Columbia, Tennessee, not the country. I’m not a mule for the cocaine trade if there are any DEA or NSA snoops reading over my cyber-shoulder. I’m hanging out with consultants whose job it is to replace the computer system I’ve been working with/around/under for many many years. Our system IS old-fashioned. It was written for ‘green screens‘ and is entirely a COBOL-written system. Roughly speaking, for you youngsters, if Laura Ingalls was using a health-related system on Little House on the Prairie, our system might look familiar.

Recently hired nurses and clerks and docs who have grown up on Windows-based systems and the internet don’t know what to think of our system. Hey, we work for the state and we live several years, if not decades, behind you, technologically speaking. We’re going to the net, but we’re taking our time. You taxpayers don’t want us to spend money toooo fast.

Anyway, when the consultants ask what are the things WRONG with our current system, I wince inwardly because i have spent a LOT of time over the years with the programmers working to improve the system, chicken-wiring, patching and installing mirrors. I know this system. Sometimes when the progammers at the company that wrote the system have a question about some of the system features they actually call me. I’m not a genius or’s just that I have ‘lived’ in this system for 16 years. To me it’s a beloved family car that has taken us all on memorable trips over the years and I hate sending it to the junkyard.

I know it is rapidly becoming obsolete technologically, but it does still function, and it does get us from Point A to Point Z, even if the points in between skip a few letters well-known to internet users.

I guess the truth is that I am a little scared. My kids have gone off and are doing well on their own. I dare to eat peaches, but I know about the pits. I know I still can learn a trick or two at my advanced age, but inside I feel like a ‘green screen’ dial-up in a room full of fiber-opted broadband gangsters.



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4 responses to “Muling around in Columbia, and points beyond

  1. People can be pretty freakin’ insensitive about the work other people did before them. I know, because I’ve been guilty of that myself. At the end of the day, though, most of us get clueful enough to realize that nothing is ever perfect on version 1.0.

    Good luck with your work!

  2. John, if I knew you were coming, I’d’ve baked a cake.

  3. I always get a kick out of the double entendre with Columbia, TN’s Mule Day.

  4. Hey Donna – I didn’t know you were a Columbian. I actually really like Columbia. All my co-workers down there have been nothing but friendly, and the potato casserole at Legends is most excellent.

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