Monday, September 16, 2013

My Productivity Tools Then And Now

Dale Matson

Productivity tools have always been a part of my working life. As an adolescent in Michigan I began with tools like rakes, dirt and snow shovels and push lawnmowers. A wheelbarrow was a step up and made it easier to move wood and dirt around our yard. It had a pneumatic tire and occasionally went flat. The blades on the mower became dull and it tended to skip over the tougher grass. These were problems with tools with moving parts.

I worked as a laborer for quite a few years including my first two years of college. The grounds supervisor promoted me to tractor driver and I pulled a set of gang mowers to mow acres of grass daily on our campus. I enjoyed it and taught myself how to operate other kinds of heavy equipment used by the grounds department.

After military service I moved to Wisconsin and went to work for a general contractor. My primary productivity tools were bulldozers, backhoes and front loaders. I enjoyed the work and appreciated how much these machines could do compared to hand labor. I still used shovels and rakes to finish up close to buildings.

Dale Operating Dozer In Late 1970’s

I went back to college still using the typing skills I learned in high school. This extended into my early college days with ‘onion skin’ paper the paper of choice because it could be erased. The transition to the word processor was easy since the keyboards were the same but mistakes could easily be corrected and work stored. “Xerox” machines made it easy to duplicate work. They became my productivity tools as I completed my master’s degree and doctorate. As a professor, my productivity tools also included an overhead projector. At this point, computers were used to email folks, perform statistical analysis and word processing. PowerPoint was fairly new when I retired. This was far beyond the use of the yellow legal pad and a ball point pen. The Commodore 64 computer that I used had a whopping 64 kilobytes of RAM. Writing lesson plans and lectures was a snap.

The hardware and software I use today is another giant leap. The hardware is smaller, much more powerful and easier to use. The real change is the internet, traffic speeds and software (some refer to it as “Apps”). This is the digital age. As an author and self-publisher my productivity tools are mostly contained in a laptop and desktop computer. My pocket point and shoot camera can take and store almost an unlimited number photographs. Just one picture file today would not “fit” on an older 3.5” floppy disc. I have a love hate relationship with my modern productivity tools and spent two hours today installing a newer version of Adobe Photoshop. Don’t look for tech support. Companies today think FAQs will suffice. Sorry but NO!

We now have “cloud technology” where software companies will keep their products in the cloud and the software user will rent the software. I don’t trust cloud storage and cloud access. My productivity tools will remain in my house along with my shovel and rake. Every occupation has productivity tools. These tools make the impossible only difficult and sometimes easy.  

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