tick…tock…tick…tock…

23 07 2011

queues at Versaille

Remember the Commodore 64?

Yes OK, maybe you weren’t born then. So let me tell you about the beginning of the home computer…it was a different world. Previously computers had lived in warehouses in massive stacks with tape reels on the front, whirring and whizzing, doing important stuff. An entire warehouse of computer probably had less capacity than my i-phone now has. But at the time, the idea of a computer in every house and office was still somewhat unreal.

So the Commodore 64 was relatively affordable, and small enough to fit on your desk. Computations took ages but we still thought they were amazing.

Even the early days of Windows, getting the computer to do something took…well, MINUTES! And we waited and thought how much faster it was than doing it ourselves. And when it flashed up on the screen, we were thrilled.

Now if the download takes more than two minutes, I walk away and get a coffee (yes, that is quite some caffeine addiction I have going). If I press a button I expect it to happen instantaneously. I am frustrated at how long it takes to load photos into Facebook. I can’t plan ahead long enough to download a tv program from the internet to watch it (hence I watch less TV – not a bad thing) and the “buffering” in u-tube videos means I rarely watch an entire video.

OK, so I am exaggerating for effect. I am not quite that impatient. But not far off it.

So a recent study conducted by parcel delivery company myHermes stating that most of us lose patience after 2 ½ minutes is – unsurprising. Citing a number of different situations, researchers found that people start to get cross after waiting in line for 60 seconds. After five minutes, they walked away. Clearly this study was not conducted at Disneyland, or any of the French tourist attractions I visited recently.

Other instances of impatience included slow traffic and traffic jams, slow internet connections (see above), queuing for the public toilet and friends who were always late.

The pace of life has increased considerably. If you will indulge my reminiscences again briefly – when I started work desk-top computers and pre-email, I would receive a handful of letters every day. I would draft responses by hand, send them off to the typing pool to be typed up and then send them out maybe a few days later. This amounted to maybe ten decision points per day.

Now I might receive 80 to 100 emails a day. Some of them are just chat – people saying “thanks” for something I have sent, documents being sent to me, meeting invitations and the like. But there are probably between 40 and 50 emails a day that require serious thought and a response. 40 to 50 decision points and responses within a day or two, all within the same 7 ½ hour day (yes OK I am kidding myself, it is a 9 hour day at best). And 40 or 50 yesterday and another 40 or 50 tomorrow.

No wonder we are so impatient.

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