Five Things a CIO Hates About Information Technology

I just returned from a great visit to NASA’s Johnson Space Center.  I also got my first chance to see pieces of history from our nation’s space program.  Two pieces of history are pictured here – a slide rule and pneumatic tube cylinder.  Gee, at first, I thought it was so amazing that we could get to the moon without all this fancy technology.  How could a CIO be so biased against technology?  The pneumatic tube was the Internet of its day.  And what cool smart geek back in the day didn’t calculate their logarithms using a slide rule?

Why are we so biased against technology today?  Here are five reasons why.Slide rule

The Scarecrow Effect.  If something goes wrong on your desktop you may call for a desk-side visit from a technician.  It never fails that it never fails … what I mean is that when someone comes by and you attempt to re-create the failure, it doesn’t fail at all.  Of course, when they leave, the failure recurs.  This is a proven effect!

Murphy’s Law.  Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. And it often does.  A corollary to this law relates to the demons of demos.  If something works hundreds of times flawlessly, it will fail once publicly in front of hundreds of people.  This is a proven law!

Moore’s Law. This law is loosely attributed to the prediction that computer hardware doubles its performance every 18 months.  That’s wonderful.  Except this makes whatever you have, obsolete in about 18 months.  With more and more capability being delivered in software, end user environments will become bloated and screech to a halt – into you finally sell out and upgrade.  Just wait long enough, and you’ll see this truth.

Tonjua’s Law.  Tonjua is a NASA Enterprise Architect.  She knows technology and she’s a good mother.  Her daughter Jewel is safely an adult so it’s probably ok to let this secret out.  Tonjua always had a challenge disciplining Jewel.  She was generally well-behaved and never a demanding child.  I remember that Tonjua tried really hard to get her to like the technology of video games, just so she could restrict its use as a punishment.  Many industries do this to us.  Just as we get used to something, it’s “taken away” perhaps replaced by a newer version or a newer model – sometimes not replaced at all.

The Butterfly Effect. This refers to the effect where very small changes have major results.  This should come as no surprise that these things called computers, which can only count to two, have such a significant impact on our lives.  Our at least, we allow it. 

As capabilities increase, we grow accustomed to those capabilities.  We rely on it.  We love it.  We get quantum benefits from it.  Maybe in the good old days, people hated slide rules, pneumatic tubes, or even telephones.  Yet, we look back at these things fondly now and admire the awesome capability that they provided.  So, I guess hating information technology isn’t so bad.  If I wait long enough, I will love it.

 Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA

6 thoughts on “Five Things a CIO Hates About Information Technology”

  1. Very interesting Linda Cureton. How you managed to gather these horrendous laws into a single text lean?

    Balanced I could only ask: Jesus, how do I save myself?

    The other day you spoke of Yin & Yang, really important. Before these laws must be horrible to have much balance. In difficulties, who has balance, wins. In adversity, corrects the balance. Comfort, keeps the balance. It is not easy, but necessary.

    So I can only say that you do not despair. I believe that a CIO, and he must not only be aware of other laws, perhaps not so well named, but which also reflected in the phenomenal world and keeps us saved.

    Soft water in hard rock, either hits until it sticks. The insistence, the training they tend to “get”. You may not need to call a technician, discovers a gimmick.

    Never leave for tomorrow what you can do today. Is this desire of living, which drives forward. If you understand life, perceives the beauties and pleasures of it, you walk forward with great force, and the laws you quoted are horrendous overcome with disdain.

    And finally, the good always wins in the end. It is a rule of life of the righteous. If your computer crashes you might even be sad, but make sure you always can make everything wonderful that has planned, they are really wonderful things.

    Thus, just add these things, I like to join your blog. I hope I have presented reasons for, preventable cruel laws that you have presented, prohibitive, you notice some of the permissive laws. Why not just be careful, we must also be proactive.

    Cheers Linda Cureton. I hope not to irritate her with you playing your piano. There are times I fear for invading your blog and abusing the freedom that you give me for comment. If this keeps up call blog written by Linda and Victor. Pardon! I loved the pictures.

  2. From my days of working at Intel Corporation as a Senior Network Analyst and Global Project Manager… Intel of course is famous for its General Purpose Processors.. CPUs .. 8080, 80286, 80386, 80486…Pentium.. now today .. the iCore line.. and my observations of all the users of this great technology have brought me to the conclusion….

    All that these newer faster processors do for us as a whole is make us more impatient.

    The old 8080 (and dare I admit it…z80 by Zilog Systems) systems that I had back when dinosaurs walked the earth.. still runs WordStar for CP/M just as well today as it did then.. what has changed is my expectations of what I can do with a computer. Perhaps we would do well to reflect on how far we and our systems we use and support have come.

  3. Linda,

    You forgot to mention the relentless march, or “creep” of technology. Did you look at the instrumentation they used to send men to the Moon? Only an industrial instrument “geek” like myself will marvel at the Honeywell Dialatrols, Leeds and Northrup Model Gs, and Honeywell Class 15s that Kranz & Company used back then.

    Today, they are termed “obsolete”, or for those of us who still use and repair them, “legacy” instruments. You’d be surprised how many companies rely upon those instruments and controls.

    Just like my BlackBerry 7100t…and it’s almost six years old. On RIM’s site, it’s listed under “legacy devices”.

    Like everything else, modern industrial controls and instrumentation are computer-based, and as such, require a certain level of understanding to keep up and running.

    I work at a 500 MW coal-fired power plant that was built in 1950. Its control systems have been “upgraded” from the original pneumatics to the modern Delta V DCS system. There are periodic issues with water in the instrument air system, a throwback to the old days, but computer issues as well. As one of four Electrical and Instrument technicians, the DCS has recently come under our area of concern, but we’ve received no training on it.

    During the recent heat wave, a crisis of Biblical proportions arose…all of the control room screens had frozen, leaving the unit operators blind with all four units running at maximum output! A call to THE IT contractor went out, but my fellow techs and I put our heads together and reasoned that rebooting all of the computers would solve the problem. Debate was squelched by reasoning that nothing bad could happen, so we started the process. By the time the contractor arrived, everything was back up and running normally again. He determined that a series of switches from the primary to the secondary system was the cause of the freeze-up but offered no explanation as to why the switching had occurred.
    The important thing was that we didn’t panic, and overcame our lack of training.

    Engineers…REAL engineers…sent men to the Moon with those slide rules, Dialatrols, Class 15s, and a whole host of devices considered “primitive” these days. They built the Empire State Building, Hoover Dam, the San Franscisco Bay Bridge, and the atomic bomb with them as well. Most of the local banks use pneumatic tubes in their drive-through windows, so they are far from obsolete.

    Still…is it wrong for a techie to nurture a soft spot for tube-type radios, piston-engined aircraft, steam locomotives, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles?

  4. I have come to believe in these laws also. Just in case, I still have the slide-rule I used in college; it still works.

  5. So very true … and here’s one more

    The Busman’s Holiday Syndrome

    CIOs have typically spent much, if not all of their careers around technology. In fact many of us use technology so much today, at work and at home, that we perhaps yearn for time without technology. My guess is that if we were to research IT staff on vacation vs non-IT staff, we would find a higher percentage of IT staff choose to vacation without technology – i.e. blackberry free (of course I could be dead wrong).

Comments are closed.