Nostalgia

It has been a while since I last posted anything.  July 2017, actually, seems to be the last time I wrote anything here.  I could say that I was busy, which would be true.  But, I certainly had the bits of time – here and there – that would have allowed me to post something had I wanted to do that.  But, thoughts that I wanted share just were not there.

The back half of last year has two large events that standout in my mind.  Both personal, but only one that I feel like sharing.

I graduated.  It is not like I am at the top of my field or anything like that.  I simply happy that I stuck through my graduate program and now I can say, I have a masters degree.

With this task now behind, I have been mulling over many-things-computer lately.  Marveling at how, in the early 1990s when I was I becoming interested in computers, I never really thought much about what exactly I wanted to do or be when I grew up.  I simply liked to tinker.  It was not until I was nearly finished with high school that I thought I would likely pursue computer science.  I really did not know what that was — likely computer programming, I had hoped.  I liked computer programming.  I had first been introduce to computer programming on Apple IIe computers when I was in elementary school, in an after school program for kids who liked math.  I was one of those kids who liked math.  I give much of credit to June Hendrickson for introducing myself and a small cohort of kids in the early 1990s in Hibbing.  I do not know how or whether that after school program influenced the others, but it certainly left an impression on me.

Miss Hendrickson introduced me to polynomial algebra and what was basically a gateway drug for me: Apple BASIC.   It was simple and seemed sort of elegant.  Start your program with 10 HOME and just work your way down the file.  Need to jump back to the beginning?  GOTO 10.  Programming clicked, and it would be the thing I did when I got home school, and it was often the thing I was doing before going to bed.

As it turned out, there was something more visual than just Apple BASIC or QBASIC.  Microsoft, in 1993, released Visual Basic 3.0.  An older friend, who was off at college, picked  me up a copy from the campus bookstore.  A graphic user interface with BASIC?  It was great.  I honestly didn’t realize that it was not great, and there were more powerful programming pieces of software available.  Nonetheless, I spent countless hours making small utilities and other bits of software.  The most memorable thing that I made was a piece of software that effectively calculated Riemann sums for assisting calculations related to curvature of a ballistic trajectory.  Like every 12 year old, I had a fascination with the mathematics of projectiles.  Unbeknownst to myself, I had stumbled upon some foundational concepts of calculus: calculating the area under a curve on a graph.

After Visual Basic, there was Borland C and Visual Studio.  I eventually obtained a shell account with the local internet service provider.  This was my first introduction to Unix and specifically SunOS.  Linux was also, at this point, a few years old.  Slackware was the thing to get.  The same friend who had purchased Visual Basic 3.0 for me, also introduced me to Linux.

There has been more since.  A lot more, and yet, I still have those old habits.  Things computers and things software are often the first thing I think about in the morning, and often the last thing I think about before falling asleep.  Even though my occupation is that of Software Engineer.  I still recreationally program, too.  I still tinker.  That screen shot of Visual Basic 3.0 (above) is from my modern day, current MacBook Pro laptop.  It’s Windows for Workgroups 3.11 running in a virtual machine.