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Avoiding the IBM Selectric Repairman Syndrome

By LeaderTalk Contributor — July 18, 2010 1 min read

Here’s a story: In my earlier years, I did all of my papers on an IBM Selectric Typewriter. I wrote all of my papers in longhand and then typed them up on the trusty IBM Selectric. For those of you who are digital natives, here is a link to what it looked like and how it operated—IBM Selectric. I thought it was quite effective—I could change fonts, simply by changing the type ball. It was powerful and it didn’t have many technical issues. On those rare occasions, I would take it to a person who could repair it—the IBM Selectric Repairman.

Five years later, I learned of this really cool thing called the computer. I did my graduate papers on a word processor and thought that it was a REALLY big deal to have my work stored on 3.5 inch discs. It was beyond my means to think of something like a hard drive, much less those that we have today with voice recognition software, mobile computing, and more power in our smart phones than we had less than 10 years ago.

I sometimes think of the lonely (and now likely extinct) IBM Selectric Repairman. The repairman did a terrific job—he repaired the typewriter quickly and efficiently. He was good at customer service, he charged a reasonable price, and he did everything that he could internally to ensure that he was helpful to all who needed their Selectrics repaired. Yet, the IBM Selectric was obsolete due to external changes. Trends outside of his business made shifts to what people needed. Even though he looked internally, the demise of the Selectric was due in large part, I think, to the outside environment changing.

Are there trends we need to be aware of and act upon to ensure that we do not end up like the IBM Selectric Repairman?

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