Chapter 5: Staying Alive
Footnote: The Tools of My Trade
My computer is the basic tool of my trade. Without it I would have no means of keeping my skills up to date. My institute memberships are my credibility. Their absence would make it even more difficult to get work. I would then be left with no prospect other than to retire gracefully into permanent poverty.
Before I became unemployed I was self-employed for 15 years. I had no employer to provide me with a computer, office accommodation and the other necessities for doing my work. I had to provide them myself. The positive outcome of this was that I still had these things available when I became unemployed.
Computer technology changes rapidly. Now as a long-term unemployed computer professional, I could not keep my skills up to date without my computer. So if I am ever to work again, I must maintain a fully up to date operational system.
A personal computer should give at least 5 years of trouble free service. However, it will probably only remain current technology for 3 years. Unlike most things, personal computers have dropped in price. A professional level of machine at the time of this budget cost £1,500. I had to minimise cost. I would therefore have to forego replacing my machine just because its technology became obsolete. I would have to use it for the whole of its operational life. To do this I would have to set aside £300 a year.
As a programmer, my computer is the one vital tool of my trade. Failing to keep it functional would be like chopping off the hands of a skilled craftsman so that he could eat while unemployed. I would from that point onwards become rapidly left behind by technical development with little prospect of ever catching up again.
Before I became unemployed I had membership of three professional institutes. I was forced to give up my fellowship in one of them specifically to save money. Another one kindly allowed my membership to be regarded as dormant until I got back on my feet again thereby saving me the cost of the subscription.
However, I kept up my membership of the third. This was the one I considered to be of the greatest value as regarded credibility within the area of work I hoped to re-enter. The subscription of £80 a year therefore appears on my survival budget. Nevertheless, since we still could not make ends meet, I eventually had to let it lapse.
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© July 1994 Robert John Morton