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2014-04-06

"The randomness in this one is strong."

There is a practice in my family that uses the commonly current term, "random", in a number of ways. We often combine it with other genres. Therefore, my daughter will say about me, "The randomness in this one is strong." I think what she means is that my thought processes run in different directions than those of the people in conversation near me. (Yes, near me. I'm usually not in the conversation, but intersect with it from time to time.) My contributions come from a different place and are headed in a different direction than the arc of other's thinking. That's a polite way to say that I'm usually clueless about what's going on.

Well, here we are with another clueless topic that no one has ever talked about (at least in my experience). The practice of bringing and using (or not) laptops or tablets to meetings, dinners, or other gatherings.

But first an excursion to understand the point. (There's a point to this? No one told me.) I'm so old that I remember using CP/M. If you don't know what that means, then you need to google "control program for microcomputers". I'll wait.

Understand where I'm coming from? Probably not. The point is I'm old! I've actually used mainframes and punchcards. I point these things out because at some point one reaches the "been there, done that" stage. It's actually fun, unless you point that out to someone younger. They don't really understand. How could they?

But I digress. I've touched on all sorts of platforms (hardware, operating systems, and software) over the past few decades. Part of me has watched the nerds and geeks come into their own from pocket protectors and calculators in holsters on their belts to be fulfilled by the vicarious pleasure of pointing out that the richest person in the world is a nerd with a bad haircut and clothes that never seem to fit well. (I suspect that Bill didn't care even before his first billion.)

So, back to meetings and computing devices. Most of the computers I've used have been supplied by my jobs, meaning that I often did not have a choice in the matter. Therefore, I've used CP/M, MS-DOS, PC-DOS, the first Mac OS, the latest version of OSX, iOS, Palm, Psion, and every version of Windows ever spawned. (Windows 7 was the one time Microsoft got more right than wrong. Sigh!)

I've used mainframes from Xerox and IBM, "transportables" from Kaypro (30 lbs!) and Hewlett Packard, desktops galore, IBM PCs, MacBooks, Psions, Compaqs (desktop and laptop), Newtons (both versions), Palms--Pilot and later, Blackberrys, iPhones, iPads, Mac Mini, and my own frankentech creations.

But I digress. Because of my experience with all these variations, I've come to see how we interact with them in meetings as a point of interest. Modern business meetings (and our high tech family gatherings) are a study in human/cyborg relations. We speak about our attitudes to these devices by merely walking into the room. Older persons usually leave their laptops in the office and bring a notebook to a meeting. Younger sorts bring their laptops. Totally hip middle-agers (yes, that's an oxymoron, but wait for it) bring either an iPad with a keyboard, their laptop, or both--that would be me. The tech-enabled tend to use their devices during the meeting (ahem, dinner) and can practice CPA--continual partial attention.

But I've noticed a difference between the Windows folks and the Mac folks--at least with those sporting laptops only. When a Mac user closes the lid, it's only a pause. By that I mean that they are stopping their CPA to pay attention. Then they open it a bit later to look something up or just check messages/email. Windows users tend to either leave the lid closed for the whole time and write notes on paper (What?!!) or leave it up and scan email. (The only people taking notes on their computers tend to be the official notetakers or OCD types like me. Therefore, only 1 or 2 in any session.)

Is this a style difference? Habitual difference? Or part of the human/cyborg interface so profound that we don't see the letter on the table. (Sorry, humanities training. Google "The Purloined Letter". Back again? Good. I bet you feel more educated/irritated/bored.) I think it's a factor of default actions by the different platforms involved. MacBooks (both kinds) don't have a latch and usually just go into quiet mode with the lid closed--meaning they turn off the display and suspend operations to some extent (usually). It happens silently. Windows laptops tend to have latches that make a clearly audible click when closing and similarly suspend operations like display and processing. I think it's the click that's in play here. It's like punctuation. The click is like the period at the end of this sentence. The end.