3.232 tech, fopal, writing

Monday 08/01/2022

Took the standard walk first thing; all good. Soon it was time to set up for an event in the auditorium. I almost got everything right. Speaker was interesting, famous historian Professor Andrew Roberts on his biography of King George III. I got the zoom meeting started right and all, but I made a wee mistake in the audio so that the zoom attendees were not able to ask questions back to the auditorium. Simple stupid oversight that I figured out five minutes after the event was over.

Then off to FOPAL where I found 8 boxes of donations, which yielded about 1 box of saleable books. While there I spoke to Janette, the boss of it, asking for help setting up for our sale at the Vintage Computer Fest this coming weekend. She later sent an email to several people which I hope will get the help I need.

Today was the first Monday which is mixer dinner day. If you go down in time (there are a limited number of tickets) you can draw a number that randomizes you to a table of other residents. The idea is to dine with people you don’t ordinarily see. I get the next to last ticket, and dined with some people I didn’t know that well.

Tomorrow is the writers group and the topic is “technology and you”. Obvs. I can’t pass that one up. Here is what I wrote in about 90 minutes. Read to the end, I’m quite pleased with the punchline.

In truth I think I am just a tiny bit onto the edge of the autism spectrum, if that can be allowed as an excuse, if not an explanation, for a lifelong fascination with things, accompanied by a lifelong disinterest in people. Physical things, and how they work, have engaged me from earliest childhood. Here I am fascinated by a thing at age 3.

I have brought that same focused attention to things ever since. From this age through high school my favorite things were automobiles. I learned everything there was to know about them. Each month the school library would get a new copy of Car and Driver and I would be the first to read it. I disassembled cars and sometimes reassembled them successfully. I had a small motorcycle that I completely rebuilt. (I never had the money, the access to tools, or the mentoring needed to build a proper custom vehicle.)

I never stopped caring about cars, but I added electronic devices to my interests. I mastered radio and hi-fi amplifier circuits, first with vacuum tubes and then transistors. When I dropped out of college I took a year of electronics vocational school, in order to pass the Federal Communications Commission exam to operate broadcast transmitters. (If you have a transmitter with more than 1000 watts of power, I’m your boy.)

While in fact I never laid a finger on such a transmitter, that license got me other jobs, first with the telephone company — which had buildings full of quite boring things in which I quickly lost interest — and then with IBM, which had a wide range of absolutely delightful things, endlessly complex yet logical, some mechanical, like keypunches and card sorters, and then the electronic ones, the computers.

And then I realized that the computers were only the physical arena for a vastly wider, near-infinite, array, of entrancing mental things called “Software”. You may imagine me as a 30-year-old peering into a CRT terminal with exactly the same intensity as 3-year-old me stared into that headlight.

I’ve never thought of “Technology” as something separate from me or from life. Life is really all the things, mostly interesting, some boring, all connected by common principles, one interest leading to another. Oh, sure, there’s people too. They’re important. You have to say that, so they’ll stop bothering you and let you get back to your things.

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