Of Mice and Men

Aug 27, 2014 | Random

Technology, especially its management and implementation, is a large part of what our bank’s IT department does every day, including holidays, evenings and weekends. Nothing’s easy, but with all my heart, I love my job, and my staff feels the same way. When you come to us with a problem or question, we are happy to help solve or answer it. Simply put, we love what we do. What we do isn’t easy, but if we didn’t love it, we couldn’t do it.

But we do, so we do.

Truth be told, I count myself among the most fortunate of men.

I wasn’t born thinking like that. Many things have transpired between my first breath and my current state of being. At this juncture, I choose to rise above the narcissistic tendencies inherent in social media (social media being Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other second generation Internet applications, including this blog) and will gladly abstain from boring you with the events that occurred between those two seminal moments.

I do this not because I’m benevolent, but rather because you don’t care…wait…perhaps I’m benevolent after all!

I will say, all jesting aside, that longer ago than I care to mention, I had an epiphany. It was not a pleasant and empowering one like The Valhalla Sauce Epiphany, but rather a humbling yet ultimately, infinitely, more beneficial realization...one that actually facilitated the birth of my career:

I realized that I was wrong.

I was working at the university’s CSD (Computer Services Division) in the very early 90s. We were introduced to a new technology called a “mouse”, and I was firmly opposed to the idea. After learning to use 10 fingers and a keyboard to navigate “programs” on a “PC”, why would anyone want to use only two, plus taking an entire hand off of the keyboard, to manipulate a mouse? I boldly and vocally stated that this was a fad, and that it would not last.

A few months later, I had a humbling realization that fundamentally transformed me: a mouse was easy-to-use, and it “leveled the playing field”. With a mouse, anyone could click ‘B’ for ‘Bold’ instead of doing the non-mouse ‘Ctrl-B’. It was easy and intuitive, and easy and intuitive would win the day…and it did.

When I realized that I was wrong, WRONG, about something, it changed me fundamentally. Please don’t misunderstand, I had made many mistakes prior, and I was well aware of them. The difference here was that something clicked deep inside me, and I realized that nothing is permanent, that change is the only constant. What was cool yesterday is inane and obsolete today.

At that infinitely significant moment, one that I still remember vividly, I was sitting at a table in front of an IBM PC, facing northwest in a room with no windows (nothing’s changed in that regard), looking past hard disk drives the size of washing machines, with a CPU the size of two deep freezers behind me, a bank of vacuum reel-to-reel tape drives on my right, and Al Gore still inventing the Internet in his basement, I understood that I COULD NOT afford to permanently embrace ANY single technology. If I was going to succeed in the computer business, I would have to enjoy the technology de jour with the understanding that it would change…and that I MUST change with it.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a seminal moment. The humility I learned in that instant forever changed the course of my career.

However, I must state that after saying all that, after writing all those many words that chronicled a life-changing revelation, after the introspection that comes from being wrong, after all that transpired and helped create my world today, after all that, I am now struck with the realization that my initial reaction was indeed correct: Mice won’t last. They have reigned supreme for over 20 years, but the simple fact is that there is something simpler and more easy-to-use than a mouse. Instead of “point-and-click”, how about “point”?

To quote my father, “I once thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken.” Let me prove my argument: How many of you bought a mouse adapter for your smart phone, iPad, or laptop? I am sure that several of you will answer, “Yes”.

I’ll ask that question again in 2 years, and those answering in the affirmative will be next to zero…and the reason for that will be the same as the one that made mice so popular in the first place: ease-of-use. If everything is touch-screen, you don’t need a mouse.

As long as we have this generation of desktop computers, we will have mice. However, I am becoming convinced that mobile computing (smart phones, iPads, laptops and their TBD offspring) will become the way most folks will access technology. Mice will still have a place with PCs and static computers, in much the same way that televisions still have buttons for controlling volume and changing the channel. But seriously, when was the last time you actually pushed a button on your TV? In my home, we have a TV that has not, at any one time since its purchase, had ANY of its buttons pushed. The simple “point” remote does all the work. It will be that way with mice, at least for the time being. Eventually, they will go the way of the 8-track and the floppy disk drive.

Nevertheless, even though I was right, I was still wrong.

The invention of the mouse made computing easy. It took technology from the geeks and gear-heads, and made the complex significantly less so. In terms of economics (which commands more facets of life and living than most people realize), the market creates demand…but if the market cannot figure out how to use a product, demand will not be created, and the product will die. Bill Gates became the billionaire he is because he took the complex and made it more easily accessible. (Steve Jobs beat him to the punch, but I don’t have time to explain why Gates won the day…that day, anyway. Gates is brilliant, but Jobs is a genius…he may yet finish his race ahead of Gates …I hope he lives to see that day, should it arrive.) In the interests of full disclosure, I am not traditionally a Mac/Apple guy. For most of my career, I’ve hated that company. Complementing Apple pains me, but right is right…and these folks are right on the money.

Without the mouse (which actually came into its own as a vehicle to navigate GUI (Graphical User Interface…pronounced “gooey” as in “sticky, gooey mess”) programs like Windows), I doubt we’d now have the iPad or Facebook or the smart phone…eventually, sure, but the invention of the mouse and point and click software took a niche product (the personal computer) and quickly made it a global product, one that anybody could use. It made the complex significantly less so, and thereby infinitely more accessible.

And that is where we find ourselves today.

Over the next few months, our bank will begin rolling out several new technology-related products. First, electronic statements are finally ready for internal testing. (I am embarrassed that we haven’t had them until now. It’s my fault that this took so long…suffice it say that our bank values (as do I) security above technology, and it took us a while to get that part nailed down to where we were comfortable with it…that, plus a conversion plus a bunch of other stuff proving that nothing is easy.)

As soon as testing on e-statements begins, we will initiate the process of implementing mobile banking. You will be able to use a smart phone to conduct your banking business, including balance information, transfers, online bill pay, and other nifty things. We anticipate that this new product will be ready very quickly, perhaps as early as later this spring. You can access these features now with many smart phones, but the new applications will allow text banking, and we will have an app for iPhone and Android, in addition to a mobile-friendly website. These enhancements will significantly increase the access, ease and speed of mobile banking.

Other online banking products, such as person-to-person payments (P2P), personal financial management (PFM), and account aggregation are being vigorously studied and seriously considered. Of course, we will continue to explore new and better ways to use social media like Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. We are in the design stages of creating informative and concise videos that will cover a wide range of topics from IT security to explaining new regulations coming down from Washington and how they will impact you as a bank customer. We will post these videos on YouTube so you can watch them and comment on them at your convenience and as often as you like.

Folks, we’re just getting started.

Who knows what new and wonderful things technology will bring in the years to come? Above all else, our bank is committed to success of our customers: “The purpose of our bank is to help our customers grow and prosper.” We will use technology, in any secured and appropriate way, to fulfill our commitment to you, our customer. Simply put, our success depends on yours. We will use all means at our disposal, from face-to-face contact to virtual interaction through technology and innovation, to help you succeed.

It is our mission and our calling: And we will fulfill it!

What, then, shall be our conclusion regarding the controversial species called “mice”?

Once the bane of humanity, carriers of The Plague, death and destruction, mice have, for a while at least, made an all-out effort to befriend and assist humanity. They’ve worked mightily to atone for the wanton destruction they have wrought, to make peace with mankind and to advance progress, knowledge and technological innovation.

What shall we say to them in response to their recent benevolence?

Nice try, mice.

Nice try.

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