When the boss and the PFY both suffer from acute computer 'acronym dependence', it's time to visit Harley Street to play in the traffic...

Year 1998 - Episode 16


"...So I think the proposal for an ATM network to back up the FDDI backbone ASAP would be appropriate," the boss says.

"I beg your pardon?" I ask, thinking for a moment that I am in some 'twilight zone' replica of my workplace.

"I read your FYI last night on TCP/IP latency. I think we should get the problem solved PQD!"

"I see," I reply, realising what has happened.

I break like the wind to the office and nudge the PFY awake.

"What is it?" he asks.

"It's bad!" I reply, deeply troubled, "I think the boss is suffering from acronym dependence...It's where a non-technical person over-compensates for the lack of intellect by..."

"...over-using acronyms in conversation...And it's most often seen in managers and salesdroids who believe that it gives the impression of computing competence," the PFY completes. "I read your article about it on a bulletin board yesterday at lunchtime."

"You read a bulletin board? In your own time?" I ask, worried.

"Well, yeah," the PFY responds guiltily, "but I was only browsing while waiting for a picture to download from Netscape."

"Smut?" I ask approvingly.

"Uh...no, it was a photo of the layout of the new laptop Pentium Pro motherboard...It's got this really small profile and..."

"Bloody hell! You're worse than the boss! You're computer dependent!"

"No I'm not!" he cries.

"You bloody are! You're reading computing mags at home, aren't you?"

"No..."

"Don't lie to me!"

"Well, maybe a couple, but it's not like I'm addicted. I could give them up any time."

"Yeah, because you only read them socially, right?"

"It's just a couple of magazines! What's the harm in that?"

"So you wouldn't mind your name and photo being submitted to the Geek-Mag blacklist that gets distributed to newsagents?"

"Uh...no." he gulps.

"You've got a machine at home haven't you?"

"What if I have? It's just an old 486 that you told me to dump. It seemed like such a waste, so I..."

"So you took it home! I warned you about the dangers of working in computers! One minute, you're a highly-paid occupant of the planet earth, the next you're a mindless geek scouring ad pages for budget anorak sales. You've got to know when to switch off."

"When's that?" he asks.

"The best time is 10 minutes after you get into work, but in your case I think sterner measures are called for!"

"It's not that bad!" he cries defensively.

"Not that bad? I've seen it happen hundreds of times! One day you're working with a normal human being, the next you've got R2D2 sitting opposite you, talking about how neat it would be to port Linux to his car computer!"

"That's just silly. Linux would never fit into the memory. You'd have to retrofit some SIMMS and then find someone who'd been through the hoops to port the kernel to..."

"See what I mean?" I ask.

"What should I do?"

"Well, in situations like this I normally advise the workmate of the afflicted person to take them to Harley Street."

"Is there a specialist there?"

"No, but the traffic on Euston Road is murder. Literally. If they shunt the afflicted into it...It's the only way to be sure I'm afraid..."

"There must be some other way!!" he sniffles.

"Well, there is cold turkey."

"You mean, never touch a computer again?!?!?"

"No, I mean real cold turkey - they're serving it at the cafeteria today and I was tampering with the fridge controls again last night. By morning you'll be throwing up so much you won't want to risk going near anything electrical!"

"Can't I just... wean myself off?"

"You mean, like read a book that's almost as geeky - say a trainspotting journal - as a form of computing 'methadone'?"

"Yeah!"

"Well, it's worth a crack. But you'll have to get rid of the mags and machines."

"OK. But don't you have a machine at home?"

"You mean the one work got me for dial-in access?"

"Yeah."

"The top-of-the-line Pentium Pro II with all the fruit?"

"Yeah!" the PFY cries, seeing a 'pot and kettle' scenario ahead.

"Swapped it for a stereo system."

"But what if you get called up in the middle of the night?"

"On the phone that I had disconnected?" I reply.

"Ah."

"Right, I think I made my point! Now, I think it's time you took a couple of weeks' holiday."

"How kind," the PFY sighs. "But where will I go?"

"Somewhere where they know nothing about computing...where they wouldn't know a RAM chip from a potato chip!"

"But I don't want to visit Microsoft!" he whines.

Our conversation is interrupted by the boss who wanders in with a bleeding finger.

"I've just cut my finger on the edge of that BT patch rack. Do you think I'll need a tetanus shot?"

"Hmmm..." I respond. "Why don't you let the PFY take you to a place I know near Harley Street. Be all over in no time..."

That's my problem, you know - always looking after people's welfare...