When I was a teenager, I was interested in electronics. I liked listening to AM radio broadcasts from all over the country. I read Popular Electronics magazine. I built small electronic kits and took apart old inoperable television sets for their parts but mostly to learn how to solder and desolder.
When I was in my first year of college Popular Electronics published a construction article on how to build your own personal computer. I had always been intrigued by computers and avidly read science fiction books and watched science fiction tv shows and movies. I wanted a computer. But the $600 price tag was way beyond my meager student finances.
I found a Plato terminal in the library and obtained an account on it. Plato was a time sharing system that provided computer based instruction in everything from psychology, physics, literature, and even computer programming. In particular, there were lessons on the Tutor language, the computer language in which all of the instructional material on Plato was implemented. I pursued it with great relish and wrote short animated presentations with it.
Time passed. I got married. We were extremely broke students. Inevitably my wife got pregnant and I had to look for a job. It was during a recession and I had no marketable skills. I decided to remedy that situation and spoke with an Army recruiter. I told him I wanted to enlist for the longest school that taught computers. I figured that they wouldn’t spend any more time than necessary on training and consequently the longest school would have the most content. I was right.
For the next year I learned every circuit in the commercial minicomputer that served as the ground control computer of the Pershing missile system. Along the way, I learned a little bit about programming from my course work and a lot about programming from magazines like Byte, Kilobaud, and Compute! to name just a few.
I tell this story to explain that my perspective on computers has always been two pronged. That is, I have an appreciation for both the hardware that comprises the computer and the software that runs on it. Most people in the computer business specialize in either computer hardware or computer software. I decided early in my career that I liked to write software but I also enjoy understanding how the hardware works so that I can make the computer do things that other people might not imagine that it was capable of.
Another of my long term interests has been in Artificial Intelligence. But that is a topic best left for another post. Dinner and the weekend beckon and I have managed to fulfill my daily writing goals early today.
Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.