It's gotten scary. It's really strange. IT is not the way it used to be anymore.

Maybe that's good. But in some ways, it's very, very bad. After 20 years in high-tech, I’m totally out of my comfort zone. The things I once used everyday I use no more. Cherished items I could not live without are now relics. They’ve gone the way of the coding pad and the plastic flowchart template. They gather dust.

My twenty-something colleagues say I don't understand. They come to work on their skateboards. They speak of their dotcoms. They say I'm out of touch. Because what were once the tools of my trade are now artifacts, and it gives me a stomachache. I miss the stuff I used to use. Stuff like:


I had great manuals. Shelves packed with binders. Pounds and pounds of paper. I could read about the System Development Lifecycle. I could quote chapter and page about General Design. I've memorized the 28-step methodology we've used over the last two decades to develop an application. The only problem is, after two decades we're still developing that same application. They now want it "up in 90 days." They want Internet speed. "You can take 28 steps," they say, "but if you do, they'll be out the door.”


I have a marble paperweight from the Payroll Project in '87. I got a really expensive one from our Big Six consultant that says something in Latin and I have no clue what it means—probably, "We added the cost for this paperweight right into your bill."

Fancy paperweights look good on a desk, but who cares, because I'm deskless. Instead I have a mobile office. Which really means no office. I have no cubicle, no credenza, no pictures of the wife and kids. I have a cell phone, DSL and a PC in the den—when my son isn't playing NFL 2000. And on those rare occasions when they let me come into work, I share a "bullpen" crammed with twenty-somethings and share a workstation in the corner—when they're not playing NFL 2000.


I've had this daily-planner-thing since '82. It's effective, it's genuine leather and it makes me look like an idiot. Because everybody else has a palm-something—a $300 handheld device which can interface and calendar and page and Yahoo. I probably should look into getting one of these. At least I've jotted it down in my Day-Planner.


Yes, I still have one. I like phone numbers. I keep business cards. I write down hotline numbers—all on this little rolling file, which used to be on my desk, when I had one. But my skateboarding colleagues tell me that's so “twenty-minutes-ago.” Everything is on the Web. You don't call for service. You send an e-mail. Or go to their Web site. Unless you need service 'cause their Web site is down. Then you're up a creek and may as well go play some NFL 2000 on that workstation in the corner.


Finally, I used to have a boss, with whom I had problems. Constant disagreements. Intellectual brawls. I was hopelessly mismanaged, but at least I knew by whom. Now I have "virtual management." I report to some e-project manager in Ohio. And I’m appraised online by some personnel guy in Phoenix. And I attend a biweekly e-chat with my department every other week. I'm confused. I'm out of the loop. I don't know what's going on. I'd like to complain to management about all this, if I could figure out who management is.

Mike Cohn lives in Atlanta and has been telecommuting, e-mailing and faxing for so long, he's not quite sure where he works anymore.

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