Victor Rozek's award-winning and thought-provoking "Out of the Blue" column was consistently one of the best things to read in any IT publication on the market. We are pleased to add his voice and thoughts about the computer industry and the world at large in this column, which runs once a month in The Four Hundred. That's Victor above with his other half, Kassy Daggett.
January 30, 2023 Victor Rozek
Writing a comprehensive history of IT would prove daunting if not impossible. The milestones are well documented, but not the steps between. From the legions of unsung programmers who developed the systems we take for granted, to the effects of social media that are both private and collective, IT is a complex swirl of the good, the bad, and the mistaken.
Since hindsight lends itself to clarity (albeit flavored with arrogance), let’s start with the mistaken. The grandest of all IT prediction fails belongs to none other than IBM’s legendary Thomas Watson. Back in 1943 he opined that, “There is …Read more
December 12, 2022 Victor Rozek
Recently, the Department of Labor announced that worker productivity fell to a level not seen since 1947. Like the proverbial fart in the elevator, it got everybody’s attention but no one could identify its source. Economists, CEOs, and government officials were all frantic for a fix but, speculation aside, nobody could identify the precise reason for the precipitous drop.
All the usual – and some unusual – suspects were trotted out. The pandemic, the shift to working from home, the Great Resignation, quiet quitting and, when in doubt, blame the wobbly work ethic of Gen Z. But these unusual factors …Read more
November 7, 2022 Victor Rozek
If a thousand people were asked to complete the sentence: “The world could sure use more …” they would doubtless come up with a variety of thoughtful and compelling answers. But I’m willing to bet not one in a thousand would say “cockroaches.”
Nonetheless, advances in technology and miniaturization all but guarantee robotic roaches will be part of our supporting cast in what is rapidly becoming a sci-fi-esque future. Apparently, researchers have long had a keen interest in what insects do and how they do it, although one would think what roaches do shouldn’t be much of a mystery. They …Read more
October 31, 2022 Victor Rozek
For all its transformational benefits, technology has an undeniable downside which regularly produces a range of disagreeable outcomes from annoyance to overt threat. As a subject, technological disfunction is a target-rich environment, but my word count limit – not to mention a reader’s attention span limits – prevent a full accounting. So, I’ve chosen three illustrative examples.
On the annoying spectrum, is the near-complete destruction of customer service. These days, reaching an actual human being on the phone requires the patience of a monk and the persistence of a mosquito. No matter who you call, be advised their menu options …Read more
September 19, 2022 Victor Rozek
For all of you who must discover,
for all who seek to understand
In having left the path of others,
you find a very special hand
— Christy Moore, Bright Blue Rose
It is among the most common of human yearnings: the desire to see oneself as special and distinct from the herd. Individualism, coupled with exceptionalism has long been ingrained in American mythology. The model endures, even as it evolves over time, as each generation rebels against the prior in an attempt to create its own unique identity.
But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to claim uniqueness when we live …Read more
August 8, 2022 Victor Rozek
The five-day workweek is generally attributed to Henry Ford, although it actually originated some 18 years earlier. In 1908, a New England cotton mill adopted the practice so Jewish workers would not have to toil on their Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Ford, who ironically was a virulent antisemite, not only embraced the idea but made two notable improvements: His five-day workweek was limited to 40 hours; and, employees did not suffer a decrease in pay.
At the time Ford was paying $5 per day, which doesn’t sound like a princely sum, but his employees were actually able …Read more
July 18, 2022 Victor Rozek
Decades ago, I was sent to Taiwan and met a colleague there to install a computer system in a silicon wafer manufacturing facility and provide necessary training to the staff. I took a cab from the airport to my hotel in Taipei and recall marveling at the extraordinarily generous freeways that served surprisingly light traffic flows. In many places, six to eight lanes stretched for miles in both directions supporting traffic that could have been accommodated by no more than two.
I became curious and finally asked my driver if he knew why the roadways were so incongruously wide? It …Read more
June 6, 2022 Victor Rozek
Organizational change is always a bastard. Getting hundreds – if not thousands – of people rowing at the same speed in the same direction is about as problem-free a proposition as . . . well, nothing. Getting people to agree is never easy. But they like to be employed, too, because eating is a good habit.
Companies generally have a stated vision, imparted goals and formal policies, but they tend to morph over time or are superseded by regime and marketplace changes. Alternately, they are simply ignored. Although desired behavior and motivation are outlined in job descriptions and employee handbooks, …Read more
May 3, 2022 Victor Rozek
Elon Musk sifted through his couch cushions and found $44 billion in pocket change, so he bought himself some barbecue with a side of Twitter.
Elon managed to make a lot of money while the economy tanked during the pandemic years, and there have been rumblings of discontent from mere mortals suggesting that perhaps he, and his billionaire brigade, should actually pay their fair share of taxes. But while Americans are disinclined to begrudge a man his good fortune, these days, middle class realities are rife with rising costs and resentments. To put things in perspective: the average American would …Read more
April 18, 2022 Victor Rozek
Over the past two years, as many of us sequestered, masked-up in public, dodged strangers, and kept friends at arm’s length, our socially distanced conversations shared a common, oft-expressed yearning: “I just want my life back.”
Now that we’re in a lull between variant fronts, millions of us are anxious to reclaim our old, comfortable and predictable lives. They may not have been perfect, but they were at least manageable, set in a world we knew how to navigate.
Beyond familiarity, our old lives were even more central to our identity. As sociologist Anthony Giddens notes: “A person’s identity is …Read more