RAM and ROM

Late in the twentieth century, two best friends named RAM and ROM decided to start a document services business. Their friends and families warned them against it. Everyone thought their differences would wreak havok in a business environment. RAM and ROM ignored the warnings. They had been friends since childhood and absolutely adored each other.

In their new shop, they stored people's documents for them. Any time the people needed to see them or work on them. They also would keep several popular document viewers in their lobby, since the documents in those days looked like a bunch of gobbledegook to the customer's naked eye. They had a viewer for just about any kind of document you could make, and the viewers were equipped with tools to work on the documents.

Now, RAM was quite the social butterfly, so he really enjoyed interacting with the customers and handing them the documents they needed, and setting them down at whatever viewer was necessary for each document. However, he was also quite the scatterbrain, and as soon as each customer left, he couldn't remember a thing about them, or the documents he had provided them. He didn't even think to keep a copy of the documents he was giving people. And when they wanted to replace an older document with their revised version, it was as if he didn't even hear them. RAM just happily gave people whatever they asked for and let the organization of the office go to pot. ROM began to tease RAM for his erratic ways and pathetic memory, and told RAM his name should stand for "Random Access Memory." RAM didn't care. He liked things the way they were. The front desk was his throne.

ROM was of course very frustrated with his business partner. He got sick and tired of losing their only copy of documents because RAM never kept a copy of what he gave out. He also got sick and tired of having to clean up behind RAM, taking the time to file all the documents RAM left lying around, and trying to figure out which versions were to be kept and which ones were to be thrown out. He even got sick and tired of dealing with the customers, because he could never find anything they needed, and they always asked for RAM anyway, who was much more customer friendly.

As the days and weeks passed, ROM gave up trying to fix RAM's haphazard ways, and retreated to the file room where he could actually have a positive affect on something. He found it cozy and peaceful back there, and he could play the radio, turn on the fan with streamers tied to it, and tune out the chaos that RAM and his customers seemed able to work in. He bought a case of file folders, and set to work labeling folders, ironing wrinkled papers, and carefully filing all the documents into appropriate folders. He even made a few nice folders for RAM to keep on his desktop, so the front desk would look a little more professional.

ROM got so protective of his documents that he eventually did not allow RAM to set foot in the file room. ROM put a copy machine just inside the file room door, and whenever RAM needed to get a document for a customer, ROM would retrieve it from its file, slap it on the copier, and give RAM the photocopy. Then, he'd immediately put the original back in its place, never to be in danger of wrinkles or damage or change by haphazard RAM and his ignorant customers. And when a customer wanted to save a newer version of a document, ROM hurried out of the file room to get it from them, carefully put it in its folder, and burned the older version, never to be mistaken for the newer one and hence cause misinformation hazards. This arrangement was perfectly fine with RAM; that closed-in, quiet file room gave him the creeps. For ROM, however, the file room was his kingdom.

Sometimes a truck would back up to the fileroom's driveway, and ROM would have to get copies of the documents off the truck's floppy or CD or zip drive. He'd be oh so careful to clean the copier and get perfect copies, and place them directly in their appropriate folders. And sometimes he'd have to put copies of his documents onto a truck's floppy or CD or zip drive. It bugged ROM to do this because most of those trucks didn't use folders to keep the documents sorted nicely. And some of the trucks were even so dirty and junky that the documents would be lost or damaged on the truck. So ROM made extra sure to keep perfect copies of everything he gave out.

Sometimes customers wanted their documents to be destroyed. This was really stressful for ROM. He just knew they'd be back, crying about how it was a mistake, and they really needed that document after all. So instead of actually destroying them, he brought in a Recycle Bin and put them in it. Sure enough, just as he'd suspected, customers occasionally came crying for a second chance at a document they'd ordered a Delete on. Boy, did ROM get kudos when he pulled that document out of the recycle bin! He couldn't help but be a little smug about it.

Maintaining the files was a rather monotonous job, and ROM found himself peeking at some of the documents for entertainment. By and by, when he had the entire file room completely clean and under control, he'd pass the time by trying to get familiar with all of the documents he so carefully housed. He got pretty good at speed-reading the documents as he sipped his coffee. Some of the documents were pictures, and some were even music and sound clips. Those sure did brighten his day. ROM thought it didn't make sense to call the picture and sound things "documents," so he suggested they call all of the items they housed "files," since that's what he had to do with them. RAM responded, "Yeah, whatever." RAM started teasing ROM for his anti-social, bookworm tendancies, saying his name surely stands for "Read Only Memory."

By and by, RAM and ROM's separation of responsibilities turned out to be a winning combination. They learned to really appreciate and value each other's differences. RAM loved how reliable ROM was at always having the right documents, and the instantaneous way ROM gave him those documents. He marveled at how ROM was never missing anything, and how they didn't even have to wait for a customer to bring back a document if someone else wanted the same thing.

Likewise, ROM was very thankful that the customers loved RAM so much. Business was booming, thanks to RAM's friendly attitude and eagerness to serve the customers. ROM noticed that when RAM wasn't bogged down with inhouse organization, he was able to simultaneously service several customers at a time. RAM suggested they call each station a customer was working at a "Window"; he wanted to see just how many "Windows" he could have in use at one time. ROM responded, "Yeah, whatever."

ROM learned to stay out of the way while RAM helped customers work on their documents, but then he also learned to come running when he heard the word "Save," because he knew that word would never be in RAM's vocabulary. Sometimes ROM overheard customers praising RAM for his wonderful service. And every time, he could hear RAM saying, "Well, ROM is truly the wind beneath my wings. This place would be a useless mess without him."

That Christmas, the two exchanged gifts with each other. RAM got ROM a really cool viewer for his file room. ROM could sit in it, rise to the ceiling above all the shelves, and look through the viewer screen and see all of his folders, including their labels. He could even touch each folder on the viewer screen and it would open up and show him what's inside. ROM named his new toy Windows Explorer.

ROM, on the other hand, knew how much RAM loved his front desk. So he gave RAM a large set of decorative desktop themes, complete with wallpaper, sounds, and moving pictures. RAM could change the look of his precious desktop as often as he wanted to. He could even make one of his own pictures the wallpaper. Sometimes, he'd put a picture of a major customer on there, when he knew that customer was coming in. And he'd put his kids' artwork on there when he knew female customers were coming in.

RAM and ROM's shop is in your computer's CPU, the big square thing that you stick CD's in. The next time you get to look at a document (or "file") without digging through the card catalog and shelves and microfilm machine, thank RAM. And the next time you get to put a file away safely with the click of a button, thank ROM. And don't forget - when you're working on a file, you're working with RAM, who loses everything once you leave. You must use the command "Save" in order for ROM to come and make a copy and put it in the file. And every time you do that, he'll burn the old one, no questions asked. So watch your trigger finger.

1997