Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Picture of High Tech LIfe....

I've been looking at this photo I took of my office at NetQos in Austin.

The picture is from 2007, so it's the beginning of my last year in high tech. (Although digital video offers plenty of "high tech" to mess with too.)

It's not a beautifully crafted, elegant kind of thing, although it is sort of lean and simple. It was taken with a cheap still camera (a Canon Powershot of some ilk).

Here's what I'm seeing in this image.

First, there are the two cans of Diet Coke. Anyone who has worked with me on set will recognize those.

Second, there is the vintage laptop. It's an IBM laptop from the era when IBM made laptops. It even has that cute and clever little joystick in the middle of the keyboard. My friend David Fair went from being the product manager for the Digital Equipment Corporation Alpha chip (the most powerful processor at that moment) to being the product manager for the 4-bit controller that ran the joystick. (Or maybe it was the in the other direction; either way a large change.)

Third, the image on the computer screen is iconic for my time with NetQos: an American Airlines boarding pass. I still lived in Durham but I spent approximately one week out of three in this office in Austin.

Fourth, if the computer didn't date the photo, the flip phone on the desk ought to. The iPhone had been announced about three months before this photo was taken and my flip phone would be replaced by the iPhone within the year.

Fifth, the small amount of books in the bookcase suggest that this was, indeed, my "away" office, not my "home" office. I do tend accumulate reading material in my travels.

Sixth, the lovely view out the window, not very well rendered in this photo, suggests a little bit of the terrain of Austin: hills, greenery, bright skies.

Those are some of the elements visible in the photograph. When I taught photography, I often used the expression, "invisible jackrabbit" to talk about the difference between what is actually in a picture (for example, bushes) and  the remembered experience that is not in the picture but which is evoked by the picture ("there was this big jackrabbit behind the bush").

As a "snapshot" -- that is as a personal reminder of things only alluded to by the image -- it's a rich set. I can remember the amazingly sane policy of NetQos that everyone got a real office. Of course, there are my many former coworkers. There is a memory of being in this office at 7AM in the morning when it was quiet and the stillness helped me think.

There is the memory of a small company better run than virtually any other company I ever worked for (large or small). And one of the roots of the script I'm writing about a man who loses his job and has to find the work that really suits him. I had a great time in high tech, but some did not and as NetQos was savvy enough to understand, people are good at different things. My story is fundamentally about a guy who really isn't that good at the job he's been doing and unemployment forces him to figure out what he can be good at.

And there's the memory of my exit row, window seat on the flights from RDU to Austin and back. A good look at a swath of America.