This is my thousandth Internet column. And for most of you, it will be even less useful than the rest. (Note the subtitle.)
I hope to make up for that, however, by making it very long.
In the past, at milestones, I have indulged myself with tasteless lawyer jokes (column #300), or flights of financial philosophy (#400) topped off with a tasteless lawyer joke.
I seem to have discontinued this practice with #500, my scheme for The Replicator. In the world I envisioned . . .
Every product, item of clothing, music CD, trowel, dish — everything we buy — would have an identifying bar code on its bottom. A great many of them already do. When you wanted more “copies” — more of the same shampoo, another identical trowel — you would merely swipe the bar code past the eyeball of your computer (a simple plug-in device that would soon be sold built-in ) and instantly get a screen showing the item. It would allow you to click size, quantity, and other options as appropriate (e.g., color). It would allow you to click on “competitors” to see what else might interest you. It would display alternative prices and availability times (it might be cheapest direct from the manufacture, but take a bit longer if that manufacturer were in Thailand); you would click your choices.
There would be several competing purveyors of this kind of universal shopping service. Amazon.com would be one. It started with books, would simply expand to . . . everything else. FedEx would be another. One assumes Microsoft would have an entry. You could flip your replicator eyeball scanner to any of these, setting one as your preferred one as your “home mart.”
You’d never have to enter your address (just click if you want delivery to an alternate address), never have to fuss with a credit card (it would just tot up the bill and debit whichever account you clicked). You’d have the option to set up regular deliveries (a quart of Tropicana every Tuesday and Friday), you’d have the option that amazon.com already gives you to have whatever you just ordered delivered immediately, or wait to be bunched with more items to reduce the shipping cost. You could set up a regular delivery schedule — with FedEx or some other carrier that got with this program, guaranteeing to show up at your home every Saturday morning between ten and one, for example, with whatever items you had ordered that week.
This system would not be great news for physical retailers or their landlords — shopping-center REIT holders take note — but it would be great for us baby boomers as, in our waning decades, we became too infirm to cruise the aisles for shampoo and trowels.
Marketers would flood us with samples, knowing that whatever we liked could be swiped past the scanner eyeball and a moment later the sale would have been completed.
Others would send you their cents-off coupons, complete with bar-code (or you’d find in your newspaper). To get the item you’d just — swipe.
L.L. Bean would begin to get orders for all those classics you and I both have in our closets . . . fraying, fading, but we love that shirt and just wish we could get another just like it. No problem! Just swipe its label. Running low on printer cartridges? Swipe. Want another of these cheap phones? Swipe. Friend come by and like that Spice Girls c.d.? Swipe.
This would actually be depressing. It’s more fun to go shopping — to be dazzled by the variety and have a chance to get out of the house. What am I proposing, A Clockwork Orange? But if you did want another bottle of this chamomile shampoo . . .
Look, too, for the advent of the refrigerated mailbox. New homes would all be built with a high-tech set of four mail chutes. The first, little one would be for . . . mail. The second would be for regular packages that would just thunk onto the floor, like the mail, when put through the (bigger) slot. But the third would be an actual refrigerator to keep your delivery fresh until you arrived home and the fourth would be, of course, a freezer. Just as “green” packaging now universally denotes healthy or decaf, so the distribution system would wrap your refrigerated stuff in orange plastic and your frozen in blue. The delivery guy/gal would slip your mail through the mail slot, your trowel through the package slot — thunk, thunk. The orange shrink-wrapped stuff he had for you would go into the orange door, and the blue into the blue.
To keep passersby from themselves reaching in for a snack, the orange and blue doors would have locks. The delivery guy’s “wand” would know all about your order and address, and so, passed in front of your mail chute’s eye, would confirm that he was the FedEx guy and that he had come to the right place, unlocking the refrigerator and freezer doors.
Yes, all this would add $1,000 to the cost of a new house. But so does a washer/dryer, and how many houses are sold these days without one?
As with the clickle, you heard it here first.
I will spare you #600 (Who Votes the Short Shares?) and #700 (a sad story about a woman named Linda with financial problems). I won’t go near #800 (“AOL – A Steal at 681 Times Earnings?”) And I don’t think 900 even is a round number, with 1000 all but around the corner. The hundredth column, from June, 1996, was a lot rounder than the 900th, but was just a bunch of reader mail. The 200th was, I thought, actually pretty good. It was about how I thought my bank had failed — I went to make a deposit only to find the huge iron and glass door closed in the middle of the day, no lights on, the morning’s newspaper delivery outside the door with the mail — and I began to panic, except that it was Veteran’s Day, and all the banks were closed.
But for the 1000th Internet column feeling nostalgic, I figured I’d go back to my tech era roots, and to the several of you who may have been “with me” since the days of the 160K-capacity 5-1/4-inch floppy disk. What fun it’s been to watch the pieces of this puzzle come together faster and faster. How astonishing the next decade will be, topped only by the one after that. (You will forgive me, or perhaps you won’t, when I suggest that Clinton/Gore and Bradley seem to get the significance of this astonishing time more than George W. George W. seems to be most fixed on huge tax cuts for those of us at the very top.)
To those of you in your twenties, it was an eternity ago that IBM came out with its first PC (two floppy drives but no hard drive), in 1982. But really, it was fifteen minutes ago.
And what fun it was, starting in 1982, to help build Managing Your Money. (The bulk of the credit should go to Jerry Rubin and his team — Spencer Martin, Andy Zaslow, Beth McClain, and so many others. One teenager we didn’t hire, if only because his social skills seemed all but nonexistent — or maybe we hired him for a few weeks and it didn’t work out — was a kid named Rob Glazer. Unless memory is playing tricks on me, in which case one of you will surely set me straight, this is the young fellow whose stake in RealNetworks, which he founded, is now worth a trillion dollars.)
MYM was designed to do just about everything I wanted to do on a computer — it even had a word processor built in — because, pre-Windows and large memory capacity, you would otherwise have to leave one program entirely, and put its disk away, and then get the other program’s disk and load it, in order to go from one task to another. MYM solved that — you had your checkbook and portfolio and word processor and datebook and calculator and household inventory and Rolodex (which we called your Card File) all in one program, working together.
I am yet to find any program that can match Managing Your Money’s DOS Card File. I use it 100 times a day. But so what? The world has passed us by. I think I will still use it for a long time to come. But what if you want to download your 2000 names and 6,000 phone numbers to a Palm Pilot, say? Or, as you’ll soon be able, to your cell phone?
Thanks to Mike Starkey, the solution is at hand. (It always was at hand, but it took Mike to make it so simple and clear that even I was able to handle it.)
And this is where all but a handful of you should politely push your chairs back from the table and excuse yourselves, because the reminder of this column — while momentous to me and seven others — is totally and completely useless and irrelevant to you. (Truly. This is not a joke. Have a nice day. Get lost.)
Still here? Ah: you must be a die-hard MYM-er too. Huddle ’round.
I asked Mike to figure out a way we could get our Card Files into Excel, since so many people have Excel. From Excel, we can then export to all sorts of other Windows-based programs. Surely any Palm Pilot worth its salt knows how to import from Excel. (I know I must have that manual here someplace.)
The only place Mike’s procedure fails, because of limitations in MYM, is in carrying over more than the first line of MYM’s “memos.” I have some memos that are 2000 words long! So I am a long way from abandoning MYM. But now I am also just days away from being able to use my Palm Pilot. (I know it came with a manual. Where did I put it?)
Mike has divided his instructions into two parts: Exporting from MYM; Importing into Excel:
I. Run MYM12
1. Go to Card File
2. Press F4 to Print
3. Mark just a couple of cards for now so you can see what’s going on
4. Press F7 to export these marked cards
5. Select the fields you wish to export
6. Press Action Key to export the records
7. Enter a filename for the report (I entered “Export”)
8. Press Action Key to export
II. Run Excel
1. Go to File and Select “Open”
2. Point to the filename you exported from MYM (“Export” in your dataset directory)
You’ll now be in the “Text Import Wizard” in Excel
In Step 1 of the Wizard
1. Choose the “Delimited” choice instead of “Fixed Length”
2. Start on row 1
3. Select DOS from the dropdown
4. Click on Next button
In Step 2 of the Wizard
1. Choose “Comma” ONLY in the “Delimiters” section. (All other choices should be unchecked!)
2. Uncheck “Treat consecutive delimiters as one”
3. Select “Text Qualifier” as double-quote (“) – mine is first item in dropdown
4. Click on Next button
In Step 3 of the Wizard
1. You can leave all columns marked as “General” for now. (Although most should be marked as “Text” so Excel doesn’t try to do any math operations on the column values.)
2. Click on the Finish button
TaDa! You’ll now have a spreadsheet with the contents of your Card File. Each column has a label and all the records fall below. Only the first line (70 characters) of your memo in MYM will come thru though. You cannot change the order of the columns in MYM but you can switch them once imported into Excel. You’ll be able to see the progress of the report as you go thru the wizard choices.
Tomorrow: Something Shorter
Quote of the Day
I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.~Harry Truman
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