Confessions of a onetime technophobe-turned tech savvy who can give young techies their run for money

By Ismail Mahomed

When I worked as the Artistic Director of the National Arts Festival Makhanda I was the least IT savvy person in the office.

No, correction!

I was the least IT savvy person in the organisation.

All I could do was switch on and off a computer, work on WORD, do EXCEL and produce the occasional kak PowerPoint when I really needed to make a presentation. I seldom did presentations to partners and funders. We were in the same headspace. I was an old fashioned paper, pencil, hard copy files and charts on my wall type of guy; and it worked for me.

If my computer screen hit a sudden blank I’d shout for help rather than just check if the plug had dislodged from the socket. I could count on the tech team staff and particularly on Ryan Bruton, to respond even faster and more efficiently than 911.

When the team spoke about bytes I was thinking about food. When they discussed bandwidth I was looking around to see who was growing the biggest waistline in the team. When they discussed storing documents in the cloud I was like thinking, “climate change, wtf!”

At the sound of the word cookie I would think of either teatime or a Boksburg damsel who had come to visit. Each time I heard the word desktop I was thinking about how much more fun a festival could be if, like Hollywood, we did auditions on the couch.

Each time I heard the term human firewall I was grateful that I was not going to burn in the fires of hell. I tried to live a life doing good so that I can be assured of my forty virgins in heaven.

I hardly knew what they meant by IP address. I was quite stressed out with trying to remember my physical address, postal address and email address. I always thought that anyone who had too many addresses was a traveling salesman. Or, as you’ve now discovered a Tinder Swindler!

When I heard anyone after a night out or a weekend away talk about a Mail Server and Microsoft not performing I was often tempted to offer the person a viagra pill.

When they spoke about phishing I was thinking about seafood. If anyone said SAN I would think about Khoi.

Thinking about it now how often they spoke about a virus but they never once mentioned Corona.

And now after Corona has almost come and gone I’m finally familiar with all these terms that they were talking about. After two years of Corona and producing 8 successful online festivals I can now Import and Export files. I can work on Google Docs. I Zoom like nobody’s business. I still hate Microsoft teams. Word and Excel is old hat. I can jump between one programme to another. I can sync my phone and my laptop. I can do what most 5 year old kids do better than most old folks. There’s easier ways I’ve discovered to make work light.

I’ve discovered that virtual festivals are great in that you can keep prima donna artists under the hypnosis of the “remove participant” icon on Zoom or you just “buffer” when you chat to them. The digital world has invented buffering as a remarkable way of saying lots but letting the other person understand or hear zilch! It’s a new and wonderfully easy way for gate-keeping. It’s just not called gate-keeping.

You can get away with lots by just saying “I’m not connecting to you because of poor Wi-Fi. I’m not in your WAN (wide area network). ” Or you could just say, “your application went to my SPAM box. Check your Username. It’s dump magnetic”.

The virtual world allows festival producers to now traverse comfortably between gatekeeping and Social Engineering. And to avoid direct engagement you can just refer people to struggle and find their own way around a HelpDesk until they get fed up and give up. And interestingly you can do all of this simply by having an Alias. This is our new Domain.

I now know almost everything about IT that I should have known then. Two years of Corona has taught me what five year old kids learn so naturally when they play with their parents Smartphones.

But jirre… do I miss that smelly perspiration of actors rehearsing and sweating it out on stage? Do I miss those warmly enthusiastic actors who on their once a year sojourn to a festival want to shake hands with their sweaty palms?

Corona, Delta. Omnicron is all just about fokking off and soon we’ll be able to hear the joyous and inspiring shouts from the rehearsal rooms. We’ll be able to once again smell those sweaty bodies again. And good Lord … we’ll be once again able to shake hands with those sweaty palms. You won’t find this in any IT manual or virtual festival guide but It’s one reason why we might as well keep some of those sanitiser bottles stashed near our keyboards.

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