Event: Microsoft FY04 conference: A story of Potential
Script: 05 – The Customer's story – Simon Smith
Following an introduction from the storyteller and the walk up music from the Four Poofs, Simon takes his place at the lectern and starts to speak.
I'm here today to talk to you partly about connections.
But not the electronic kind.
Mobile phones, the internet, and text messaging
are all phenomena that go to show just how much we want to be in touch with
and touched by the presence of others.
We're all communicators, and we're often involved in communication,
even when it feels like we're on our own.
So that in every syntax of programming, every spreadsheet and word document we create –,
all these things are in the service of communication.
Now some of you may have thought when I came on stage just then that I was going to fit neatly into the ‘computers help the disabled' slot.
[pause] No I am here as a communicator and a multi level computer user
And if anything else I'm partly here today
to give you a taste of just how difficult it is
to pigeon hole your customers.
You see, I do have a disability, and I use computers
but that's as far as it goes in my opinion.
I feel that part of learning to see what's real
is realizing that there's so much
that cannot be seen or understood easily.
Sorry I can see that I'm beginning to pigeon hole myself into a disabled Zen computer
master, when in fact I'm just a DOS-abled PC user.
[audience groans hopefully]
Now I don't like to call myself a computer expert because such a term is so relative. There are plenty of people here that would make me look like a beginner.
But I have always been a bit of a gadget man,
and computers for some are just that,- only gadgets.
To me though, there's something far more powerful within the relationship
between humans and computers, than say, a new TV or car.
The difference is that computers have the ability to provide
access and enhance communication between humans.
I believe that it's important to remember that we are not human doings,
we are human beings.
We are social animals and we mainly love to be with others throughout our lives.
So within this context here's my story.
My first serious contact with computers was back in 1982 when I got hold of a ZX81.
I learnt basic and spent time studying machine code, but then I was off to Art College ,
where I was the only student on our course who had a computer.
I did some work at the time with animated graphics and computer drawings,
and in 1987 I stepped up to an Atari 1040.
Now some people buy software to help them with the projects they're already involved with,
however, it's often the case that software lead us from a linear pathway to new exciting
and interesting places.
Now the Atari had an inbuilt facility to control electronic musical devices,
and because an opportunity arose for me to buy a keyboard,
which I could control using the computer, I started to write and record songs.
Since then I have written a great number of songs,
and although as you can probably tell, I've not become a pop star,
I have been able to create things which I would never have been able to
without a computer.
But music, like love rarely pays the bills,
so when it came to meeting mortgage payments,
it was time to put some of that knowledge to use.
So I then got involved in computer sales and support.
[Pause and look slightly aggrieved]
I'd just like to tell you that I have a bit of a bone to pick with you lot on this front.
Ever since Windows XP I've hardly had any calls asking for me to sort out people's computers.
Please put some bugs in otherwise
‘Me and the kids are going to starve guv'.
Now, as you're beginning to see, just like most of you probably, I use software on many levels.
So far we've covered art, music and work. But I also use computers for many other things.
For instance I also use them for creative and journalistic writing
quick plug here –
If you could take a look at Simon's diary.com later you'll be able to see some of it.
And whilst I'm into personal promotion I'd just like to mention that I wrote the Microsoft Christmas card poem this year.
You can say “ooooh” if you want to
There are other obvious things like using the internet and email,
but I'm also a web site designer.
You know, art plus computers equals web designer.
And I write an online travel diary –which is also at Simon's diary.com
For the last few years now there's been less and less work because Windows is working so well,
so my main business has become tutoring.
I mainly work with adults, both in adult education centres and in the community,
including work with homeless people, and Silver Surfers.
I cover areas such as introducing people to computers, learning how to use office, the
internet, email, and general topics like computer graphics, music and writing.
And this can be from people who want to dip their toes in to the ICT pond, to those who
want to get qualifications and work in it.
Tutoring has been one of the most fun jobs I've ever done.
People come from all walks of life, and different backgrounds and it often feels like a
social event rather than work.
Now I'd like to be able to say that I build up people's confidence, break down their fear of technology and all that stuff,
but really it's just the communication I have with all these different people that ticks my tock.
Like I said earlier, it's all about communication.
In the past, not only were there very few people who had access to information,
but of that group, there was only a small percentage who had the incentive to change
the way the world thought.
Nowadays, hundreds of millions of people have access to information,
and of them, a far greater proportion want to change the world.
There's one little snag.
I can see it in some of your eyes…. You're addicted aren't you?
If that's true, then like me, you love computer games too.
Now I've got three kids
and computer games are a fantastic opportunity for us to get together
and share some common ground
They're into computer games, especially Halo on the Xbox, and if any of you know that
game you'll know that it's possible for two players to play on the same team against the
computer. Now it's been very interesting watching them play together as a team,
although occasionally they do end up killing each other, “virtually” that is, just for the fun
I myself love playing online interactive games, especially as part of a team. You see I
wasn't first in line to get picked for teams when I was a kid but now with the anonymity of
playing online I can get selected for my skills rather than what I look like.
The experience of being part of a team was new to me at first and may not have been
something I'd have known without computers and the Internet.
The thing is with online computer games, there's far more to it than just playing games –
Through them you can build up relationships with other “real” people you play with,
well at least they tell me they're real
So whether it's work, fun, art, writing music poems and books
For me the potential of the PC lies in it's ability to aide and enhance communication.
And on a more personal note I suppose the best thing about Microsoft software is that
it has given me the ability to communicate with so many people and make connections
in ways which weren't ever possible before.
Including speaking with you today
I guess that's what achieving potential is all about.
Perhaps I could finish by giving you a quick example.
Recently I was in an internet café in Atlanta airport and I was talking to a woman who
managed musical artists over there.
I told her that I wrote music and she was interested to know more,
now because I had my laptop with me she was able to listen to some of my songs and
watch a pop video I'd made.
She asked if I could send her a copy, but as I had a blank CDR with me I burned a CD
for her there and then.
She later emailed me to say that she was so impressed that she wanted to promote it.
Now I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for THAT CALL,
or give up my day job just yet, but the thing is with connections,
they have a life of their own
and who knows what may come of that meeting.
Likewise it's the same with the connections you make to customers.
It's hard to overestimate the profound effects your connections are having on peoples
You see, somewhere in my communication with you today lie connections that many of
you have made with me without either of us knowing a relationship ever took place, but