Saturday, 1 November 2008

A Blast From the Past.....

I opened my desktop email as I do every morning and on seeing the ‘Receiving Mail’ message kick in on the task bar at the bottom of my screen, I waited for the usual mix of round-robin jokey mails that mostly I can live without because they are about as funny as lacerating your piles on a broken glass; couple those with the odd spam about enlarging my penis, (nope I don't have one in case you are wondering), to the length and girth of a Jedi Knight’s lightsaber, (imagine that girls – massively erect, lit up in the dark and being waved at you from five feet away; you could probably have the orgasm of your life followed by a quick hysterectomy and superb cauterisation to minimize the bleeding, come to think of it you could probably have a fairly successful tonsillectomy into the bargain and not even be in the same room as your well endowed lover); add to that a selection of pointless marketing shite about everything you will never need in this life like a fake Rolex watch with an X Factor winner’s face on it and of course besides some wee thieving arsehole trying to con you out of your Abbey savings account balance there is always the ultimate in emails – the fecking death threat chain emails promising you great suffering from the relatively simple boils on your arse infliction to a total wipe-out of your family, business and life as you know it threat if you don’t forward it to 3.2 million people in the next 5 nanoseconds. Like I give a rats ass about them but it does cheese me off that people perpetuate the fear factor and forward them to people they profess to love and care for – oh yeah? So how come you’ve just sent me an email promising torture of unimaginable proportions if I don’t send it on and then you finish off with a salutation of:

‘Hope all is well with you,
Talk soon,
The mental case that just sent this’.

So erm, how does that work then eh?
But hey, all that crap aside, you might just get lucky and eventually get a golden nugget of an email from family, good friends and old acquaintances that are a joy to read. Lets face it, for all its misuse, email when used for its intended purpose can be magical. It is quite simply the naughties version of the love letter and has encouraged millions driven apart by circumstances to put pen to paper or at least key to document and articulate things they might not have thought of saying in our time poor society.

Well anyway enough pontificating, bugger me, there I was last week firing up the desktop to welcome this array of communication excellence into my home whilst I sauntered off to brush the old gnashers in readiness of having a smile here and there or at the very least a grimace at some old crap that I had to delete - actually if I could get my hands on the wee sods that think I am stupid enough to send them all my bank and family details ranging back to the early 19th century so they can perform an online mugging of my bank accounts I would gladly pull their teeth out one by one in the style of the dentist in the Marathon Man movie where poor old Dustin Hoffman doesn’t look much like he’s enjoying it. For feck sake, that movie set back dentistry about thirty years, as if it needed it. Personally I like to cling to my dentist’s nuts with a tightened bulldog clip whilst he insists on drilling into some deeply soft tissue and jaw bone with a piece of hardened steel that was last used on a construction site. We usually come to an understanding that if he hurts me then he doesn’t get off too lightly himself. Actually this is a piece of artistic license here because my dentist reads my blog and I want him to see it in black and white that I'll come after him and there is no hiding place in this world if he hurts me bad - ever again. It took him ages to find the blog - he kept looking for Genocaushaloldgag - well Christ he'd ask me what it was called when he had a whole fecking denitistry tool kit lodged in my open and by now three foot wide stretched gob - what the hell did he expect? Perfect enunciation whilst I was choking on my own spit?

Anyway, as usual I digress. Incoming email trickled in one by one and settled into a list of twenty or so. One caught my eye simply because it was so unique. ‘ Calling all LDCers’ was the title. My heart skipped a beat and I re-read the title before double clicking on it. “This is going to be interesting”, I thought and I was right. LDC was Sperry Univac’s London Development Centre from the early seventies through to the mid 80’s before it was then dismantled and moved to Milton Keynes. During that time, over 200 of us worked as computer software programmers, hardware engineers, analysts, designers, operators and a big support staff for one of the most exciting and innovative American I.T. manufacturers of its time. It was a place that housed such immense talent and skills and incredible personalities that it would be hard to replicate it today.


It was unique in its time in that the centre was at the forefront of technology, science and physics in inventing and developing the early I.T. systems that are the great great grandparents of the totally sophisticated desktops and laptops of today. Crikey, when we started programming we used Assembler, ASM, then Meta Assembler MASM, Plus, PL1 and eventually FORTRAN and COBOL, 1st, 2nd and third generation languages but then to talk about this technical stuff really is to bore for Britain and America about programming languages. But those with an interest will fondly recall having a punch room full of girls who translated coding sheets onto 80 and 132 column punch cards which were the programmes of the day. These soon gave way to the terminal – a green Cathode Ray Tube with a keyboard which allowed us to type our code into files and run them as a batch run. We were known as the ‘Green Tuber’ generation of I.T. and those green tubes, thanks to the likes of Bill Gates, evolved into the PC’s that we use today.


Sperry Univac being the multinational corporation that it was employed a plethora of cultures, nationalities and people from the very wealthy to the very poor but all had a lust for computers and a talent to match - I couldn't believe my luck being employed alongside these great people. London Development Centre, (LDC), had a reputation for excellence, working hard and playing hard and copious amounts of alcohol were consumed over at Charlie’s Prince of Wales, (POW), pub just a skip away over the road from the office. Just for a change now and again, we’d all head off to the Queens Railway Tavern, (QRT), to snort a few gallons of booze there. We firmly believed in keeping the local economy on an even keel and spread our embarrassingly large earnings between the pubs that let us partake of lengthy lock-ins to the extent you practically just rolled back to work the next day rather than go home first. Such was our reputation, people clamoured to get assignments to this place which was a grand melting pot and only language we needed in common was the programming languages we used and a common bond to create the best products in the world - or so we thought anyway!

Humour played a huge part in keeping us going on the long days we worked. Friendships were forged that last to this day. Relationships were made and broken and made again in the biggest dating agency going at that time. I married my first husband, divorced him, met and lived with my second long term partner then broke up and fell in love with another who was never going to be mine because neither of us was free at the same time - and all of them from the same work environment. This was typical of the environment as we all worked long hours and travelled a lot and we saw more of anyone from work than we ever did of friends and family. It was simply an extended university environment and we had some of the best years of our personal and career lives whilst working there.

I saw the world from that office in London Paddington. Both in terms of the differing cultures working there and on the assignments we were sent on overseas. No matter where you went on assignment there was usually someone based there that you knew and nights on the town were the order of the day. There are a thousand adventures I could write about but I won’t bore you with these right now.

And so, yes this email is a golden nugget, a real gem and one that makes having all the other old tat come in worth it in the long run. This email has generated a thousand memories, smiles, reflections on a time gone by and it’s raked up some deeply buried moments that are a joy to rediscover. The point of the email?.........There is to be a reunion next year. As I read through the list of email names it has been sent to, I felt the most immense joy at the thought of seeing so many of these people again. In particular, one name stands out - the second person that I fell in love with. He’s on the list, flew in from overseas for the last reunion which I couldn’t attend so will more than likely be at the next given the amount of notice we have been given this time round.

Will I attend? You bet I will but I think Himself will probably attend with me! He trusts me and is comfortable with me going along on my own but you know, I'd like him to meet some of the finest people that I have known that influenced me greatly in my most formative years; people that I have so much in common with, a shared history and a chance to renew those friendships that got shelved as our profession and industry took a battering and we moved onto pastures new.

And what of those death threat chain emails that I get sent? I usually email the sender and ask them not to send me these emails but if they ignore my requests, then I just send it back to the person that sent it to me.....Keeps them paranoid wondering what the hell to do with it now and I get a laugh out of it!