Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Primary Knowledge of Computers

"In September [1964], the General Electric Company sponsored a Digital Computer Course...Twenty-five students and seven faculty members attended the twelve weekly sessions of ninety minutes. Under the direction of E.D. Reilly, manager of the Digital Computer at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, participants gained a primary knowledge of computers and the field of programming."

Reading the caption under a yearbook photo, I am stunned to realize the opportunity that I had let slip by. Because of my aptitude for Math, I was among the students chosen to participate in this programming class, surely one of the first in our region. I remember being warned "garbage in, garbage out" as we worked in teams to construct a logical sequence of commands. I remember the cards with punched "slots" that recorded our instructions in a computer-readable format. I remember the computer, worth a million dollars or more, filling the entire basement of a building at Siena College. ONE computer!

I didn't touch a computer again for over twenty-five years. I wasn't ready, didn't understand the possibilities.

Over the past year, I've had an epiphany of sorts. Three decades later, I'm ready to "see something wonderful".

"I do not regret my not having seen this before, since I now saw it under circumstances so favorable. I was in just the frame of mind to see something wonderful, and this was a phenomenon adequate to my circumstances and expectation, and it put me on the alert to see more like it."
-Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist


Clay Burell said...

Okay, what's your secret for finding just the right quote for your posts? A life of reading, or a secret widget?

It's uncanny. Love it.

diane said...


A "life of reading" is part of it. So is a knack for coming up with an endless string of key words and phrases. And dogged perseverance when searching.

I'm working on a post about Jesse Stuart's book, "The Thread That Runs So True"; I first read the book as a teenager, MANY years ago. All I remembered was the fact that it was about teaching in rural schools, and the title.

My daughter and I enjoyed, but were ultimately disappointed by, the final Harry Potter book. The deciding factor for me was that there were no memorable quotes. I hope to go back to some of my favorite novels ("Emma", "Gaudy Night", "His Dark Material" trilogy by Pullman) and retrieve some items to use here in my blogs.

(I tried to backtrack my thinking process for a colleague once; I'm not a linear thinker, though there is some logic involved.)

"A great man quotes bravely, and will not draw on his invention when his memory serves him with a word as good. What he quotes, he fills with his own voice and humour, and the whole cyclopedia of his table-talk is presently believed to be his own."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

diane said...

Maybe my retirement/next career can be as a quotation widget! (If you read Bill Slawski's "SEO by the SEA"
you'll see that ChaCha Search is looking into the idea of "using human search guides who can ask you specific questions about what you are looking for, and who will help you find answers."