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IT Hippy Breakdown

There have been moments these last months where I could do nothing else but look back on the last couple of years of the previous century. Back when I just started my career in the whole, what is now, the internet industry.

You tech guys probably know what I'm talking about, those days when ideals still had a big part in the whole Internet game. Sales people crying because they didn't get what they wanted from the tech department, as most of the time what they wanted was just unethical. In those days we often functioned as a firewall ourselves between the money making machine and the users.
When I had some time left to kill in between calls I read Userfriendly, browed Slashdot and checked out the latest WindowMaker themes. In 1998 I was doing customer support for a small ISP (Internet Service Provider) located in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). 
When a call came in I often felt the need to bang my head on the table top, complicated dial-in script and novice users could make for long support calls. By today's standards you really couldn't blame the guy on the other side who was struggling with windows 95 and a PPP script. These days the support guys you get on the phone don't even know what PPP is, which is probably a good thing.
Come Christmas time our friendly sys-op had xsnow scheduled so one morning you would log-in to your workstation and friendly snow flakes would slowly grace the top borders of your terminal windows with a layer of snow. You m$ Windows guys have no clue what I'm talking about right now, that's okay you really don't count ;-)
Which passionate IT guy doesn't miss those days! The feeling of pioneering and making computer history with a healthy dose of humor. Sure there were the occasional chat room dramas and BBS nightmares. It all just added to the flavor.

But how the days have changed. Money still doesn't even come close to being a motivation factor in the work that I do, Pink Floyd sang it best when they sang it's a crime. Sure, I don't want to worry
about bills, but I never implemented or build something faster because of it.
The sales guys pretty much remained the same thought, they still cry and still what they want most of the time is unethical, but now they usually get their way.
The left or right side (or both) of the webpages we visit look like the unwanted brochures that try to sell you all those things you don't really need. We get drowned in unwanted information that sometimes it's even hard to find what you're really looking for.

Most IT companies lost all ability to admit to mistakes and say sorry (smell the unethical here) and rather put up a firewall which they call customer support, really more for their own support than that of the client.
In short there's hardly any room left for ideals, dreams and similar forms of (technical) motivation.

So over the years my motivation and joy in my work slowly grinned to a halt. Until one day a started asking myself the question, why am I doing this work. I couldn't even remember what attracted me to it in the first place. I desperately tried to find surrogate passions. Which to some extend I have found in photography.
A couple of months ago I finally realized that what I loved was the pioneering, the ideals, the technical challenges and of course sharing those very things with people of similar mindset. With that realization came a small panic; I can't do this work without those ingredients... I tried once to get a job which provided everything a boy could want, nice lease car with a turbo charged engine and the (much needed) gas card to go with it. But honestly, when I came back I needed to shower for 45 minutes and rinse my mouth with industrial strength alcohol. Needless to say that's just not me, I just couldn't sell my soul to the man so I respectfully declined.

Alright, so let me just come out and say it, I'm a complete and utter hopeless IT hippy! Worst
yet it took me about 10 years to realize it.
Now that I'm over the first hump of my geeky IT breakdown I realize that for me to keep doing this job and start enjoying it again I'll have to get back on the path. Sure there're some obstacles to over come (they're obstacles certainly not challenges). Try telling your boss that you're not in it for the money but for ideals and tech challenges and he'll stare at you as if you're a martian. You all heard the reply "but our customers pay your salary!", they don't they pay the company there's some smart guy making a budget and there's another guy that based on the budget hires people. I'm not standing in the supermarket telling the cashier to be thankful to my boss as he payed for my groceries.

So! All is not lost. There are loads of good things internet has brought us and can still bring, there might still be room for IT hippies. First step is to find a fun project to work on in my own
time, who knows I might even join a fun Open Source project.

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