Living in the future

I actually wrote this some time ago on a blog hosted at IBM’s developerWorks. Now that I’m doing my own site I thought it made more sense to live here. I hope it’s still useful to you.

Dejayu3_400I feel like one of the “old guys” when it comes to computing.  I cut my teeth on the Applie iie that we had at school.  (A friend of mine had one too, so I got to experiment and explore outside of the curriculum.)  My own first computer was a Commodore 64, where I discovered a lot about computing, assidiously typing in programs from the back of computing magazines.  I also managed to purchase a 300 Baud modem and got into the world of Bulletin Boards and finding information that was available on university computers throughout the world.I did DOS on an 8MHz computer.  I did Windows 1.x, which was mostly needed to run Excel.  However, I usually used Lotus 123.  I used Microsoft Word 2.x, which came on 5.25″ floppy disks which I had to swap in and out to use the spell checker before I got my fancy 20MB hard drive installed (more space than I would ever need).

I connected to the Internet through dial-up and Windows 3.1 and eventually found the browser for the first time.  Explorer was cool, but I ended up being more of a Netscape guy.  (I was working on the phone support queue for a company called CompuAdd at the time.)  Later I was a technician for a Value Added Reseller (VAR), where I got deeper into networking and all of the different integration issues that businesses.  I learned about Novell Netware (2.x) and many of the strange ways that small businesses used computing to try to get through their days.  I even did some OS/2 and some Token Ring!

I could go on and on, further alienating myself from the under-30 crowd and get someone looking to get me some prune juice and a cane, but I’ll cut to the chase:  Out of all the advances and innovations I’ve seen in computing over my life, we are in the most exciting time that I’ve ever seen.  The expanded utility of the Internet is creating connectivity and functionality that was largely unimagined in my Archie and Veronica days.  (Look it up!)  Everything really can be connected to everything else.  Virtual computing, multi-platform computing, cloud computing have all changed the landscape.  Mobile phones, video game consoles, navigation devices and more all play in the mix now.  It’s all amazing!  And it’s not just the realm of the biggest companies and the super-geeky.  Anyone and everyone has a piece of this puzzle.

Most exciting of all is what is freely available.  When I first got into the technology world there weren’t many options.  You either had to work for someone who had big technology or pay an armload for it.  Free software was not largely available.  It was all pretty serious business.  But look at it now!  Linux, open standards and open-source have created more opportunity than there has ever been for someone who, like me, was just curious about everything, to learn and grow.  It’s just waiting.

In these ponderings I’ll be talking about some of the cool choices that are out there and how I use them every day.  I’ll also talk about resources to learn and grow with technology, some of which will be of use to students and teachers.  Next I’ll talk a little about why I became a Linux user.

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