My first computer was an ATARI 1200XL
I was in seventh heaven! I can still remember the smell of the plastic when I opened the box,
(it was used, but still in the box) and I remember the sound that 5-1/4″ floppy would make when it was seeking.
I had an INDUS GT drive (which was pretty fancy for its day) and I had an ATARI tape drive as well. The tapes were fun, you were supposed to use ‘real data tapes’ because they were of higher quality, and would retain the data better, but I never could afford them: so I just used erased music tapes. (which never lasted very long)
I would spend many hours up at night laboriously typing BASIC commands, and learning how to write programs myself. I had a few books, and some old Atari magazines to go on, but a lot of what I learned was by experiment.j
I would craft this work of art, and then when the last line was done, I would pause a second, and then type: RUN, and press the return key……………..
That moment of expectation, and the (often unpredictable) results is an aspect of computing that I miss. Now I am grounded in expectation of what a computer ‘should’ do. I don’t modify my experience; I don’t create new programs.
I do use the computer to create, and to code, but on another level; in a more sanitized operating world. Sometimes I miss that wonder and amazement from executing my program just to see what it would do.
My job requires me to make house-calls.
During my work day, I meet people. Old, young, and everywhere in-between, I know all kinds. Most people fit firmly into the center of the bell-curve of society, but there are those that stand at the outer edges of ‘normal’. These people can range from the mildly out of place, to my favorite: the ‘Eccentric Idea People’. These are the wild-eyed ones that tell you that they know that there is an alien-brain-reading-cosmic-ray trained on their houses. They believe that they have a deep insight into things that no one else can fathom. I like these people very much.
I take care to listen to their ideas, and even try and ask deeper, more pointed questions, to get at the root of the idea. I don’t want them to think I doubt the sincerity of their thoughts; and truthfully; I don’t. I know that they really believe what they tell me, and I am fascinated in their stories. If for no other reason, than to comprehend how the brain works at the edges of reality.
Today (2010) I met such a person; for the sake of the story, we will call her ‘Barbara’.
I arrived at her apartment to install an Internet connection, and after asking where she wanted her connection, I began my work. Generally; I make light conversation with the customers, And I began by telling her she had a nice view, and asking her if she liked the sun streaming through the windows in the morning.
She said she did, and then abruptly turned the conversation: “I am an author”
“What kind of books do you write?”
“Advanced Quantum Physics Books” she said.
Now this was a first, I have met some authors in my life, but never one that wrote Physics books. I am very interested in Physics, and not doubting the truth of her statement, asked:
“Do you think that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will find the Higgs Boson?”
She hesitated, and then said:
“I study Quantum Brains”
I noted that she skipped the question, but chalked that up to a lack of knowledge in particle physics, perhaps not uncommon to be so specialized in a single field of Physics as to lack knowledge of the LHC. I assumed that by ‘Quantum Brains’ she meant the theorized Quantum nature of Consciousness, and the idea that the brain does not work in ‘Newtonian Physics’ but requires the Uncertainty inherent in Quantum Mechanics to function.
“So you write about how the brain works, on a sub-atomic level?” This sounded interesting!
“No, I know how the brain moves up into the Quantum, and this is called seeing God. There is a helmet on the brain, and it blocks the Quantum, but when the brain moves up,” -here she made a fist, to stand for the brain, and cupped it with the other hand, to symbolize the skull, and moved the brain-fist up to show it nearly touching the top of the skull. “The quantum can get in, and it is seeing God. I have it copyrighted.”
WOW! I walked right into that one!
She continued to tell me how she has done work for the government, and they owe her billions, and that she is the only one who knows these things. She told me how she has insights into the inner workings of the mind, and how she writes papers all the time for the local university. (I checked, and can’t find her name anywhere.)
Once I finally got out of there, and had the chance to really think about what happened, I came to the conclusion that we need people like this in society. For if it were not for the audacity of a patent clerk named Einstein, we might perhaps still be fighting to understand the universe with Newtonian Physics. If not for an eccentric Telegraph operator ‘Thomas Edison’, you might be reading by candlelight.
We need the people that live at the edges of reality, and insist that they have an insight into the murky waters of our world, or perhaps out brains.
99% of the time they are just what they appear; but once in a while someone steps out of the darkness, and gives us all a bit of light.
Sitting on a rock in the cold sun.
The wind comes up from the sparkling river and whispers of a future spring.
There is yet a core of warmth in the twisting wind, a hope of dog starred August days.
Winter has for a moment lost the thread,
Lady frost is searching for clear moonlight, for razor pinpoints of light on hoarfrost frozen fields.