With a title like that I bet you think I am going to kick the “end of 2015 start of 2016” horse one more time don’t you? Well not this time, instead I wanted to use this space this month to reflect on how technology has changed and influenced me over my 40 years of life. Yep that’s right this month I turn the BIG 40! For me I don’t feel a day over 23 even though my wife hopes I am a little more mature now than I was when I was 23. But no matter how old I get I will always be amazed, inspired and sometimes distracted by technology. With that in mind please indulge me for my birthday as I look back and maybe forward on the technology that has helped me get to this point, distracted me over the years, and just might see over the next 40 years.
My first memory of a computer was a small handheld I think from Casio, might have been a TI, that my father had when I was probably around 6 or 7. It required programming to make it do anything. I remember the one thing that we got it to do was play a number guessing game. I wasn’t that interested or impressed with it and for the most part I was too busy playing GI Joe’s or WWF wrestlers to care about it. I think that was the point when I determined that programming was just too much work for me.
The first real computer we had in the house was an Apple II GS. I guess we skipped over the Apple II but I remember having to have all of those 5.25” and 3.5” floppies in boxes to run programs. We had things like Oregon Trails and an old text based adventure game where you “Wake up in a hotel room” and have to give it properly syntax instructions to move forward. I remember clearly the first thing was “Put on clothes” before you “Open door to room” to avoid scaring the maid outside. These games and later programs like Bard’s Tale had me hooked as a gamer from then on.
Now the First PC I had was a screaming fast 33Mhz 486 Leading Edge PC that I think my family bought on the home shopping network or some catalog. It ran DOS and Windows 3.1 and was the first time I got into messing around with how a PC really worked. Since you could edit things like the CONFIG.BAT file and settings inside of Windows. It was also the first time I opened up the machine itself to see all of the cards and chips. I always wanted to take them all out and see if I could put them all back but I am pretty sure my father would have killed me if I had so I waited until much later to do that with my first PC I had in college.
While these first devices set my foundation for understanding that computers were powerful tools and fun things to play with and work on it wasn’t until I got into my Junior year of college before my obsession with all things shiny really stated in earnest. At that time the first PALM Pilot came out and I was working part time repairing PCs and had to keep up with my time and hated having to carry around all of those paper service tickets. Wow how handhelds have changed since then. They have become more complex, brighter, bigger and smaller but at the end of the day they are all still basically the same thing in that they keep us on schedule and informed.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Bob Metcalf who is the Father of Ethernet and founder of 3Com. It is really because of the great work this man did that we have networks and even the Internet. When I worked on a router for the first time I saw the power in being able to either allow or deny communication between things. Being able to have a computer in one building talk with a computer in another was amazing. Even back then when we did it over 64K ISDN lines. From there we started working with people to setup network modems to allow entire networks to share blazing fast banks of 56K modems so that we were getting speeds over 256K. I can remember how you had to sit and wait for AOL to load and give you that awaited greeting “You have mail!”.
Since then we have moved a long way in the form of power and speed. We have gone from Centralize computing of the mainframe, I never had to work on one but got told stories about punch cards many times by those that came before me, to power PCs and now we are moving back to Centralized computing with the advent of the Cloud. We have gone from “renting” computing to purchase and back again too. Speeds continue to allow Moore’s and Metcalf’s laws of doubling and soon we will see GIG speeds to the Internet at homes and businesses at the cost of what we have today.
So what does the future hold for us all. I wish my crystal ball was clearer on this but what I hope is we continue to find ways not just to communicate and be social with our technology but also find new and better ways to take all of the data we are generating to make new connections and discoveries that allow us to do more faster, live longer and better and in the end be happier. How we get all the way there is what still keeps me getting up in the morning. You never know what will come next.
To all of you that celebrated a birthday this year before me and still have one to celebrate after me, what about technology inspires you? Oh and Happy Birthday.