Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hang on to your hat.

So I'm reading Chuck House's eBook - HP Phenomenom, on an iPad using the Kindle app, in bed, in Sydney. The story of HP, business, technology and humanity. I think, boy, there is some really good stuff in here about running a technology business. So I shoot off an email to Chuck in California. It's night here, early morning over there. I continue reading. Bing! Email arrives from chuck. He has included another attached essay. Great stuff about General Radio, HP and Tektronics when they were just 'hitting their straps'. Chuck was an engineer at HP Labs. His stuff allowed us to see Neil Armstrong's foot hit the moon.

Reading in bed, So what? Well, if you were born when I was born, or moreover when Chuck was born, and you were reading his book, on an iPad and sending email at the same time, in bed nice and warm with electric blankets you might stop and think, wow, when I was a kid I didn't dream of this.

When I was a kid, I'd read in bed, but the electronics magazines were paper. I'd dream of getting my hands on enough components to build stuff. Software or 'programs' was an abstract notion. What was the point of flowcharting and writing a Fortran routine when getting on a 'computer' was like getting to the moon. I read the press releases and articles on LED and LCD display inventions, TTL logic designs and microprocessors on a single chip. I was stuck with crappy old valves and stuff from dead TVs. Later I could salvage transistors from dead radios, but integrated circuits were a distant dream. Years went by and with the help of Tandy and Dick Smith stores, overtime, I built a frequency counter. It cost me a fortune, but I was engrossed. It was the same effect that drove Steve Wozniak to design and build his first computer. How he found the money I'll never know.

So here I am in bed, in the erie glow of the iPad, and I recall being in bed with the glow of the fluorescent display of an opened up sharp calculator. Wondering at the display, the chips, the logic. I think back on all my dreams and projects. The thrill of unboxing each new device or computer (micro-computer). Hunting down the serious documentation on the chips and architecture. The wonder of being 'immersed' in the complex inner world that was the operating system and ROM code. Burning the midnight oil writing programs in assembler for 6502, 6510, x86 etc.

Now I have customers using accounting Software and specialized systems I have developed.

The iPad I'm using now, reading Chuck's book, sending emails and writing this blog, makes a mockery of my dreams, and yet in many ways is the fulfillment of them.

What an astonishing and magnificent ride.


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