To keep things fresh and interesting on this site, I thought that I would start a blog to supplement some of the material in my book Crash Course in Technology Planning.
I’ve almost always had an interest in computers and technology. My very first computer was an Apple IIc+, which my parents scrimped and saved in order to afford. It was, of course, the family computer, and for a time I just used it to play the educational games such as MECC’s Oregon Trail that were available at the time.
My world changed however, one day when I was digging through the computer cabinet and discovered a pack-in manual for the IIc+ called A Touch of Applesoft BASIC. I suddenly discovered that computers weren’t simply just a device that you wound up and let go to do whatever it was computers did; you actually had control over what the computer did and when and how it did it. I quickly picked up the BASIC programming language, which stands for Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. These early text-based versions of BASIC live on today in the descendants such as Visual Basic, which is a common language for writing programs on Windows machines.
The short version is, I was hooked. From then on, whenever a computer was available, I wanted to have my hands in it or on it if at all possible. In college, I discovered the wonderful world of “junking.” People would leave computers and parts of computers by the side of the road in the vain hope that the trashman would pick them up. Usually, a college student such as myself got to them first. These devices provided me with ample chance to experiment with computers, to assemble and disassemble them, to see what worked and what didn’t.
I was fortunate enough to have friends in college who knew even more about computers than I did; who walked me through the process of making my primary computer dual-boot between Windows and Ubuntu, and simple networking. I also had one friend in particular who was interested in the inner workings of Windows and would obtain (I don’t know how) pre-release copies of future Windows versions to try out. I remember specifically previewing Windows Vista (Longhorn at the time) and wondering why anybody would ever move away from XP.
After college, I decided to go to graduate school at the University of Missouri – Columbia. My other love, besides computers, was research, and so I figured a graduate Information Sciences degree would be a good choice for an undergraduate English major with no real job prospects. The track I ended up taking was to get the emphasis in Library Science, which is recognized by ALA as effectively a Master of Library Science degree (MLS).
In graduate school, I got the chance to experience some new technologies, such as Apple Mac computers running Bootcamp, which allowed them to run Windows, which is what the majority of the students were used to. I also took an excellent information sciences class in which the professor spoke at length about both the past and the future of computers and technology. Knowing that many of us were on the Library Science track, he made specific efforts to point out that computer systems, some we couldn’t even think of yet, were going to be the future of information. He didn’t insist on the death of the print book but rather pointed out that the delivery mediums were changing.
Part II tomorrow.