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The PReS Challenge

What is PReS?
PReS is a software package that I use every single day at my current position which contains several utilities that ultimately are intended to take external data and use it to create printable document files.  Included in this package is a script compiler which will turn a bunch of script commands into a compiled file, which is what actually creates the document files.  The rest of the utilities are just extras.  These scripts which contain a whole bunch of PReS-specific commands are what I spend a lot of my time creating and updating each day.
PReS Screenshot

PReS Screenshot

To get into any more detail than that would be cruel and unusual punishment for you, the reader.  The only other detail about PReS that you need to know is that it was built with the idea that it would be used a specific way, and therefore has functionality limitations as far as programming languages go.  There’s also some undocumented behind-the-scenes problems with the software that can produce unpredictable results which a programmer, such as myself, must keep in mind when designing a script that very well may have modifications in the future.

This leads me to my topic of discussion: The PReS Challenge

The challenge that I am speaking of is the natural ever-present task as a a member of the IT industry to create systems that are more efficient,  more robust, and age more gracefully than my previous systems using tools that never change.  The version of PReS that we use at work was created in 2001, and there has been no updates to it since that time.  Oh, there’s been updates released by PrintSoft, but we just haven’t invested in them for reasons that I won’t go into.  The bottom line is that while technology in general becomes more advanced over time, the demands of our clients become more complex, but the tools that I have at my disposal remain the same.  The only option that I have in order to meet the demands of my clients is to adapt my thinking of how to use these tools to be more out-of-the-box by forcing PReS to function in a way that it was never intended to be used.  It reminds me of the movie “Flight of the Phoenix”, with Dennis Quaid, where his plane crashes in the middle of the desert, and the only way they can survive is by building a new plane using parts from the wreckage.  You see now why I said that you don’t need to know anything else about PReS is because the situation that PReS presents to me is not specific just to PReS programming.  It can be applied to any number of situations in life where the number of options are finite, none of which solve a problem, so you have to turn to creative problem solving by using bits and pieces from each options to achieve the intended goal.

There’s a comment that I’ve heard a lot of people say about technology that goes “As technology gets smarter, people get dumber”.  That may be true in some cases, like auto spellchecking or complex calculators, but in other cases just the opposite is true.  Technology is a very broad term, and the advancement of technology applies the idea that technological tools are either enhanced or replaced.  But in the situation of my work with PReS at my day job, my technology is neither advanced nor replaced.  So as more common technologies do evolve while my tools remain as they are, I end up becoming smarter because I am forced to think more creatively.

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