My first brush with technology was way back in 1982, when I was working with an automobile OEM supplier. This was the year when computers were brought onto the shopfloor for the first time. And what chaos ensued thereafter!
A little mutiny broke out among the laborers on the shopfloor. The computer was perceived as an evil designed to threaten the livelihood of labor unions. It was met with immediate resistance and perceived to be anti-labor. On the opposite end of the spectrum, was the attitude of senior management which considered computerization, a special privilege that only senior management would have access to. Between these ends, computers were elevated to a godly status and yet not leveraged.
At that time, I had the nerve to suggest to the MD of the company that the only way to break the stalemate was to encourage the laborers to use computers. The shopfloor is a busy place. There’s a lot of documentation and material slips that exchange hands and need to be recorded. That’s what the computers were brought in for.
I got into a huge argument with management when I suggested that the union resistance to computerization must be dealt with. However, after much cajoling, I was able to convince management to allow laborers access to computers. But that was just the beginning of the problem. The computers at the company were met with tremendous resistance by the laborers.
So, I personally began to sit and operate the computer. Everyday a laborer would hand me a written slip and I would just sit there and enter the data. For weeks, they watched me, and I encouraged them to give it a try. They realized the simplicity of the function and there began the slow journey of computers infiltrating their lives. It revolutionized everything. Even today anything new invokes fear. We still follow the build, operate, transfer (BOT) model in all IT systems. But the good thing is that new technology is always cheaper, hence it’s accepted. We’ve moved a long way from the absolute distrust in technology to where our expectations are over-stated. For example, in the Stock Exchange world the concept of real time is different from others. We now talk in micro and nano second response speeds. And we depend on technology to get us there.