- SPECIAL REPORTS
- THE MAGAZINE
It was the spring of 1976. Seymour Cray was developing the first commercial supercomputer, and I was a typical smart-aleck teenager (weren’t we all at one time or another?). My buddy, Jackie, and I decided to take a brand new class, one of those easy classes-you know, the type of class sure to be smooth sailing while we enjoyed our last semester of high school. The class was on basic computer logic and programming.
Jackie and I gave that teacher hell-not on purpose (well, maybe a little), but the teacher made our job easy. He had no knowledge of computers or programming or anything else, as far as we could tell. There was no computer in the classroom. In fact, there was no computer in the entire school. I’d be surprised to learn there was one anywhere in that small town. Yet there we sat, listening to a man trying to teach us something he knew nothing about.
Flash forward 14 years to 1990. I was starting my very own surveying business, and as part of the process, I bought my first two PCs. The “good one,” an IBM PS/2, had such a large hard drive (60MB) it had to be partitioned. It also had two full megabytes of RAM and a 386 processor. Yes, it was hot stuff.
Flash forward another 19 years to 2009. Computers with 1,000 times the memory of my original PS/2 are pretty basic. Many of us have hand-held calculators with more processing power than the computer Mr. Cray built way back in 1976. Plus, we’ve all seen the TV commercial that touts the breaking of the Petaflop barrier (more than 1 quadrillion calculations per second).
I take you on this trip down memory lane to emphasize that things change. In fact, the only thing we can truly depend on is that in a few years everything will be different than it is today. Equipment will evolve. Software will be more complex and powerful. Surveying techniques not possible today will become commonplace.
Now, those readers who, like me, only partially grew out of their smart-aleck ways are probably thinking, So what? Here's my point: Realizing that things change means we have to change, too. We need to spend time every day learning new things, keeping in touch with trends in the profession, studying ways to adapt what we’ve always done to what we need to do. Like it or not, change will happen. We can embrace that change or, like the wagon wheel makers of a hundred years ago, we can hang on to what we used to know until we are left hopelessly behind.
No, I’m not saying forget the old tools and techniques. We surveyors need to know and respect the old ways to properly do our jobs. But we do not have to continue using every piece of equipment exactly like we learned when we were in college way back when. We do not have to be stuck with the mentality, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” What we should do is try to learn something new every day. We should think constantly about whether there is some new technique, some new technology, some new way of seeing things that can improve our work.
The choice is ours to make. Whether we want to or not, we have to make a choice. Sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring change is choosing to lose ground. We will be left in that cloud of dust as the winds of change pass. Fall behind, and it will be difficult-if not impossible-to ever catch up. Fall very far behind, and we run the risk of being like that teacher from high school. When that happens, the smart-aleck kids will find us whether we want them to or not.
What do you think? Please post your comments below.
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