Friday, April 1, 2011

Time is Money

I can remember the day when all of our televisions had antenna and our telephones had cords. Today, of course, this has switched. I don’t mean to date myself (I did enough of that in High School – hardeee har har). I’m just saying that we used to operate under different paradigms, and I sometime reflect on those days.

Dial-up modems were all the rage in our household in the ‘80’s and early ‘90’s. Long before the internet, gophers, and frames, we used bulletin boards. Ah, the days. I used to be able to type BBS commands into the terminal faster than the screen could scroll. Compuserve was a major telecommunications provider and everybody at some point had a Compuserve user Id like 9047381968732. Mine was 3.

So I’m sitting at the computer when my wife asks me about company expense policy and whether I could be submitting for reimbursement of long distance business telephone calls. “Why”, I ask? “Well there appears to be a long distance phone call on our bill” (with wireless cell phones today, I don’t remember the last time I saw a long distance charge).

Hmm, I ponder, “What’s the area code?” “It’s 303”, she replies. 303? … Who do I know in area code 303. I jump up and get the telephone book. A telephone book is a large, densely printed, um, er… well it has all of the numbers, um…. Nevermind – if you don’t know, just TXT your BFF, maybe they’ll tweet you back.

Area code 303 is in Boulder Colorado where the National Institute of Standards and Technology resides, or more to the point, it’s where their dial up servers were located that could be used to set the time on your computer.

Now this is cool. By using your modem to dial up NIST, you could set the time on your computer to the exact millisecond. You had to download some software, but the really neat part was that the synchronization process even accounted for the lag time resulting from your computer’s distance from NIST.

My wife was not all that impressed, so I decided to use a time honored husbandly method of advancing the conversation – diversion. “I could not have been online for very long, how much is the phone charge?”

“13 cents.”

“Seriously? You seriously want me to submit a business expense for 13cents. Don’t you think you’re being just a tad ana… er, um persnickety?”

“Possibly”, she says leaving the room. “But then again, I’m not the one who had to have his computer call Boulder Colorado to have the clock adjusted to the correct millisecond.”

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