What do you do?
March 19, 2013Posted by on
I am often asked, what do you do? I typically respond, I am in computers. I have no idea why this is an appropriate response but in the beginning it was quite literally true
I learned beginners programming (BASIC) in 1977, where the Dec-Writer was king and the ribbon was always broken. You literally got your hands dirty if you wanted to get anything done. I then took an after school job at Oliver Office Equipment Company, an original typewriter repair company that sold and delivered office supplies.
The ugly part of fixing typewriters was crawling around the basement of the store to find a replacement part from the hundreds of broken buybacks. I was just beginning to learn how to repair the IBM Selectric (with its million or so unique parts) when the first shipment of Kaypro II computers arrived. As an employee, I got the 50% discount and my first real box for about $850.00. I still have this computer on my window sill and it still works (although half of the 360K, 5 1/4″, single sided, single density are de-maged). Taking that bad boy apart and putting it back together was alway fun.
Then there was my work study job at Syracuse University with the campus computer services department. Day 1, I was given a cool briefcase full of tools and handed a bunch of trouble tickets and sent out to fix terminals. About half of the tickets were to replace ribbons on old Dec-Writers around campus and the other half was reseating video cards in volker-craig terminals. Then there was the day where a friend of mine tried to replace a card on terminal where he had inappropriately grounded the static discharge. And calling the ambulance after he flew across the room convinced me it was probably time to get out of being in computers.
So what do I do? I read, I write, I hack, I invent, I think and I teach. Creativity is a part of who I am. As an mathematical artist, I find beauty in music. I love its patterns and symmetry. I am interested in the layers and complexity that I hear and feel effortlessly. The math of technology is harder for me. I love simple logic, truths, repeatable certainty. I am fearful of complexity in that it can be a huge distraction. I am a fan of good field position, keeping your eye on the goal, and getting it done and while I dispise the notion of “good enough”, as an adult I understand it. The essence of Zen is on not identifying with one thought or its opposite, it is about getting to the awareness that is behind the thought.
I leave you with this thought: A distraught man approached his master. “Please, Master, I feel lost, desperate. I don’t know who I am. Please, show me my true self!” But the teacher just looked away without responding. The man began to plead and beg, but still the master gave no reply. Finally giving up in frustration, the man turned to leave. At that moment the master called out to him by name. “Yes!” the man said as he spun back around. “There it is!” exclaimed the master.