Letter Re: Banksters

Dear HJL,

Regarding the letter about “Banksters”, I spent a few years in banking. I was the guy that ran the computer department. I have never found anyone more clueless about computers than bankers. Every teller had a paper tape calculator in front of them. They had to do all the calculation, then enter the computed values into a computer terminal. Their constant question to me was, “Why do we have a computer?” That did not endear me to the management. A senior VP of operations came to me telling me, he wanted to run a manual test for backup to the computer. I asked him where he thought this could be done. He said accounting. I asked how many bookkeepers would be required to process the quarter of a million transactions every day. We decided there wasn’t a building big enough in the city, nor enough bookkeepers. There has not been a great deal of improvement in the thinking of bankers. They are in the business of collecting money, not spending it, to protect their customers. Well, that’s true, other than the required insurance, which will not cover enough. Humans are short-sighted critters. They rarely learn from history or the experiences of others.

I moved on from there. I discovered there is more widespread ignorance about computers than knowledge. – DCJ

HJL Replies: It seems that there are a number of industries that are incredibly distrustful of computers, even though they use them daily in the actions of the business. It is also a individual “people” problem. People do not like to change and will not learn new technologies unless forced. The educational system in our country seems to be in the same boat. The children in the classroom will often be able to run circles around the teachers and administration with electronics, yet the teachers are expected to prepare them for industry.

Of course, the students need to learn how to function without a calculator, too. Contrast your experience with the next time your local Walmart has a power outage. Rather than run the registers manually, they just shut down because the clerks usually can’t count money. I used to have fun with my students who worked there by deliberately going through their checkout line and purchasing something under $20. I would hand them a $20 bill, let them ring it up, so the computer told them how much change to give me, and then hand them some additional change so I would get a different return of change. I would then often have to help them count the proper change out.