3.171 depressed; olden days; Sunday drive

Sunday 05/22/2022

Never turned on the TV last night. Once I’d opened the old UK diary and found the very first entry answered Dennis’s question, I didn’t stop reading, but kept on to the end. It got pretty spotty after the first year, so it only took until 9pm to finish the whole thing.

And woke up this morning feeling… “depressed” is a word that casts a wide net, but what I felt is somewhere in it. We always said that the almost three years we spent in England were a peak experience, a great thing, and we were always glad we’d done it. And I would still say now. Indeed I believe, as an older person speaking to a younger one, the best life advice I can offer is to get out of the USA, live in another country for a spell, you will always be glad you did. (As recently as a decade ago, I’d have said, “go live abroad for a few years.” Today I’d say, “and don’t rush to come back.” You’re better off in any other first-world country, or in many a developing one, than you are here.)

Just the same, going through that diary made me sad in ways that are hard to define. One was a sense of “we could have done so much more.” Except that’s really not true; we did a lot, saw a lot, all while working fairly demanding full-time jobs.

Just the same, we were in a suburb of London, a half-hour train ride from Picadilly Circus, and, so far as I can remember or the diary mentions, we never went to a single art gallery, not the National, not the Tate, none of them. We went to the ballet exactly once. We went to no plays in one of the great theatrical centres of the world. We went to no concerts of any kind of music, at a time when British music was at its peak. We visited the V&A, the Science Museum, and the British Museum just one time each; and after each of those museum visits we actually noted how we saw only a fraction of what was to see, and should go back — but we never did. Truly, I saw more of London’s cultural life in my ten-day visit in 2020, than I saw in two years back then.

And, also, the diary gave me an extended look back at how we related as a couple… We were good together, but in hindsight it could have been so much better. I could have been so much better a partner, which would have benefited both of us. But that’s how I, and we, were, and there’s nothing to be done about it now. But it makes me sad.

Well. Here’s another thing that seems truly remarkable in hindsight. We both worked in a relatively small IBM group, the Data Center Systems Support Center (DCSSC) in Feltham, UK: 25 or 30 people who provided software support for IBM’s commercial data centers in Europe and Africa. (IBM had been forced to give up its data center business in the USA by an anti-monopoly consent decree, but these centers were still an important revenue source outside the USA.) So this group, a dozen programmers, a few tech writers, managers, and secretaries were in a single building and we all used — drum roll, please — ONE computer. It was a 360/50 running VM/CMS, a time-sharing system tied to maybe three dozen, type 3270 CRT terminals.

Think about that. A whole department including programmers, writers and editors, managers and support staff, working from one computer. It didn’t seem unusual at the time. That’s how everybody worked. When THE computer went down, everything stopped.

And the computer did go down, for a month. I don’t know any details now. It was a planned outage, some kind of major upgrade or move, but for a month our entire group had no computer. What did we do? Well, there was a larger IBM location half an hour away in Sudbury Hill. We could use their (one and only) 360/50, but only after 5pm. So for a month, everyone who needed computer time was on a split shift, working from 2pm to 5pm at their desks in Feltham, then driving half an hour to the IBM Ed. Center in Sudbury Hill. We would have supper in the cafeteria there, then use their 3270 terminals to do programming, writing, or whatever until 11pm or so, and go home.

Just think about a world in which it was a half-hour drive to get to the nearest other computer. (OK,the nearest one we could use. There were probably IBM and other makes of computers in businesses scattered along that route.) Nowadays, when are you more than six feet from the nearest other computer? Probably it is on your wrist.

So I decided to do the NYT puzzle out, at a coffee shop. (My diet is over; my weight has been at 163 for 3 days straight, and I can haz carbz again). Drove to the old place in Midtown. After, looked up and realized it was a lovely day, far to nice to go back in my room. So I took a long drive, up and over the Coast Range to Highway 1, up to Half Moon Bay, and back by Hwy 92. Got out of the car a couple of times at scenic spots.

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