Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2000   by Andrew Ross, Editor

Spring Thaw


As spring dawns there are a number of regular routines that take place in my life. While I won’t bore you with the domestic details, the start of the Formula 1 season is my personal equivalent of throwing out the first pitch.

The Daytona 500, despite its entertainment value, is just too early in the year for me. To continue the baseball analogy, it feels sort of like spring training and the grapefruit league rolled into one.

Springtime rites aside, what I wanted to talk about was not so much the racing, but the fact that I “watched” Australian Grand Prix qualifying not on a television, but on a computer. No, it wasn’t some streaming video feed; it was timing and scoring. Updated minute-by-minute, I watched the notes scroll for an hour: Five minutes in, no cars on track; Ten minutes in, still no cars trying to qualify. This continued for about half the session, then “Alesi on track.” And then continual updates as other competitors entered the course laying down times, jockeying for grid positions. Now, I’m the first to admit that I’ve always enjoyed watching timing and scoring when I’ve had the opportunity during a few stints in the broadcast booth, but doing the same at home was a first for me.

And it was more exciting than watching it on television. I didn’t have to put up with the inane chatter of commentators filling time and I didn’t have to worry about walking away at the wrong time and missing some important event because the notes stayed on the screen.

The whole thing got me wondering about the nature of information and how the Internet is going to change the way people seek it out, and the way they have already changed. It also had me thinking about the things it won’t change. After all, when the time came to watch the race, I still made my way to a friend’s house, cracked open a beer and watched the race on television with a dozen other like-minded friends.

In this small example, the Internet didn’t really displace another medium, it served as an adjunct. Considering the reason I used it to keep informed on qualifying–that the cable channel carrying it had put it on tape delay–you might even say that the television broadcaster displaced itself, which is another subject for another time.

As the spring and summer of 2000 rush up as rapidly as the bottom of this page does right now, it’s important for all of us to realize that the “Internet Revolution” will change the way many of us do business. What it will not do is eliminate the need for people to conduct it, and the human need for people to be part of their community.

I’m not so naive to believe that it will lead to some kind of Utopia where people no longer have any toil in their lives. The evidence from other industries suggests that a counterperson might find his ability to remember the part numbers of the common applications to be less important than his ability to advise the customer on options or repairs. Run-of-the-mill orders would pass by unseen.

It would not, therefore, eliminate the need for a top-notch counterperson, or an accurate stock picker, or a good personable driver, or a competent, progressive manager any more than my ability to “watch” a race as a series of notes eliminated my need to get together with friends and usher in the spring.

NEXT MONTH

The lowdown on the new players and where they fit in, summer maintenance products, and the ever-important brake market. Plus, special AIA convention coverage.


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