01001101 01111001 00100000 01001100 01101001 01100110 01100101

You might be asking yourself, What the heck does that blog title mean? It is binary and translates to “My Life” (without the quotes). This post is about computers and how they have affected my life (and yours). I thought it was apropos (if not a bit geeky) to make the title in binary. BTW – If you recognized the three disks in my article graphic then you’ve been in computers for a while too.

In my lifetime (I was born on April 12, 1967) we have seen the computer appear and grow exponentially beyond man’s wildest dreams… I know that the computer was technically invented way before that. Most consider the ENIAC, unveiled in 1946, as the first computer. However, controversy (and a lawsuit) has uncovered that the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) was created in 1942. Even before that (circa 1941) the Z3 was invented in Germany but destroyed shortly after during a bombing raid. All of this is moot though… Because if you look further back, all the way to 1801, you will find that binary was actually used via punch-cards on the Jacquard loom. And, technically, that even used technology based on earlier inventions by the Frenchmen Basile Bouchon (circa 1725). Ready to have your mind blown? Blaise Pascal invented a simple calculating machine back in circa 1642. And, finally, the Sumerian abacus (a math calculating machine) first appeared sometime between 2700 and 2300 BC!

If you wanna continue being amazed, checkout my article on communications.

Suffice it to say the computer has been around a LONG time! That said, we really are living in the information technology age and the computer as we know it today was invented in our parent’s lifetime. It took nearly 4,000 years and the invention discovery of electricity to get us where we are… Thousands of inventors have been involved and millions of people have been part of advancing the computer. I’m one of those millions, and this is my story:

I was first introduced to the computer by my father, Julien Kim Ripley, circa 1977. He would bring me into his office, Rodgers and Associates, which was a land surveying company. They had a PR1ME 300 mainframe computer, and it was incredible to me. Instantly, I saw my future and destiny. Dad and his company used the “beast” for CoGo (Coordinate Geometry), and I used it for PRIMOS, FORTRAN IV, and even some assembler. On top of very rudimentary programming, I also used it for two text based games that were loaded on it. One was Star Trek and the other was Adventure (Colossal Cave). Adventure changed my life. Some of you might recall this:

YOU ARE STANDING AT THE END OF A ROAD BEFORE A SMALL BRICK BUILDING.
AROUND YOU IS A FOREST. A SMALL STREAM FLOWS OUT OF THE BUILDING AND
DOWN A GULLY.

The epiphany for me was beyond anything I had ever experienced. I mean, sure I had been playing Pong at home for about two years, but this was different. I was on a machine… With a keyboard… Typing commands… Controlling it… I was the master, it was the slave. It did my bidding. And, I quickly learned that it would do anything I wanted.

Then, in 1979, my grandmother bought our family an Apple II+ home computer. Since then, I have owned an Amiga, TRS-80 Color Computer, Commodore 64, Atari, Apples, IBMs, and every brand of IBM PC clone.

After Fortran and assembly language, I taught myself BASIC. Then GraForth. Then machine language. Then Pascal (Turbo Pascal). Then C (again Turbo). Then COBOL and CICS. Then C+, C++, VisualBASIC, Java, C#… I think you get the point. I immersed myself. Along with programming languages, I studied every operating system I could get my hands on.

In 1983, my high school created its first computer class. The teacher was actually a history teacher and really did not know much about computers. I quickly became the teacher’s aide and before I knew it, I was teaching the class.

My Dad brought home a 300 baud modem (baud is similar to bits per second), we quickly upgraded to a 1200 baud joker. To put this into perspective, you are probably reading this article over a 10mbps (or faster) internet connection. That equates to over 10,000,000 baud. Ain’t technology grand?

Then the movie, War Games, came out… This changed my life again. Inspired to get even more involved with technology and communication. I started hacking (white hat only – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). I started using several BBSs (bulletin board systems) to share and gain information.

Next, I found databases. I started programming and database administration with FoxPro back in 1991 (before Microsoft bought them). From FoxPro, I worked with Access, DBase, and then Oracle. I was hooked on yet another way to utilize the power of the computer. During this time I climbed the technology ladder and over three decades rose from data entry clerk to chief information officer.

My first experience with Unix was in 1992 with Sun. In 1993 I installed a little known operating system called Linux. Starting with Slackware, moving to S.u.S.E. and then later Red Hat, CentOS, Fedora, Debian, and lately Ubuntu. By far, Linux and Unix (I have worked on and tried more than two dozen varieties) is my favorite environment and operating system (even twenty-three years later).

Before I knew it, the internet and email was here. Each of these things continued to motivate me to enhance my computer knowledge. I taught myself HTML and SGML (later Java, JavaScript, Rails, Ruby, Faces, Grails, and a few others).

These days, the only programming I do is SQL for databases, and C script for system administration work. I also dabble in mobile apps on my smartphone.

Writing this blog article was actually eye opening for me. It was fun to dig into the depths of my memory and come up with a timeline of computers in my life. When I started with computers I was using punch-cards (and then tape cassettes) to save my programs. My first program was only a few lines of code. Today, most of my programs are stored on a solid state drive (drive made of random access memory) or even on the cloud.

I think about the fact that computers came mid-childhood for me, and my seven year old son knows more about computers, smartphones, and tablets than I can imagine. I hadn’t even heard of the computer when I was seven! Xander is already learning to program via some very cool apps and tools for young children. What is the future (and his generation) going to hold for us? I bet it will be exciting!!! At the very least, I believe that computer will do some amazing things in the medical field and help us cure many things that are killing us early. They will also continue to powerfully impact our transportation and we will soon see flying cars as a regular occurrence. Mostly though, for better or for worse, I think that games will get better and better and more realistic.

What was your computer introduction like, and do you remember your early experiences? Got any predictions for the future?

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Communication Timeline

Since the dawn of mankind, we’ve been communicating in some form or another. One thing that fascinates me is the fact that when communication first started it took thousands of years before the next level was invented. During the information age (the time-frame after the industrial revolution), we have started inventing new forms of communication much faster. It is now to the point where we essentially come up with several high-level new forms each year!

Here’s a list of many of the forms of communications along with their approximate introduction dates. Notice that I said “many” and “approximate”… I simply created a list of many of the more important communication thingies and some of the dates were tough to track down. Therefore, I did my best job in compiling this list. Don’t use it as the end-all be-all, but it should be good enough for government work. Most of these invented ways to hold discussions have patents, but several came from a time before patents!

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Communication Technologies Through the Eons

  • Talking (circa 100,000 BC)
  • Writing (circa 3,200 BC)
  • Courier (circa 2,400 BC)
  • Smoke signals (circa 150 BC)
  • Mail (circa 9 AD)
  • Chinese Print the first book (1100)
  • Gutenberg Printing Press (circa 1450)
  • Morse Code (circa 1836)
  • Telegraph (circa 1837)
  • Fax (circa 1865)
  • Telephone (circa 1876)
  • Radio (circa 1893)
  • Commercial Flight (circa 1913)
  • Airmail (circa 1918)
  • Television (circa 1927)
  • Cable TV (circa 1950-ish)
  • Modem (circa 1950-ish)
  • Computer Printer (1953)
  • Modern Fax Machine (circa 1964)
  • Instant Messaging (circa mid-1960s)
  • Satellite TV (circa 1967)
  • CompuServe (1969)
  • Email (1971)
  • Mobile Phone (1973)
  • BBS (1978)
  • Cellular Phone (1978)
  • AOL (1985)
  • Satellite Phone (1988)
  • World Wide Web / Internet (1993)
  • IP-based Cam Chat / Video Chat (circa 1990s)
  • Geocities (1994)
  • On Demand TV (circa 1994)
  • Voice over IP (1995)
  • Blogging (1997)
  • Google Search (1998)
  • Social Media – Friends Reunited (1999)
  • Wikipedia (2001)
  • Google Gmail (April 2004)
  • The Facebook (2004)
  • Twitter (2006)
  • Apple iPhone (2007)
  • Google+ (2011)
  • Google Hangouts (May 2013)
  • Google Glass (Available in early 2014)
  •  

    What’s next? I’m not sure if it will be next, but I seriously believe the “brain modem” is coming. This will read our thoughts and convert them to digital information that can be transferred to others. The scary part of this technology (to me) is the capability of government and others to hack into our very thoughts! Think about that for a minute!!

    Regardless of what you believe is coming, know that it is not only coming, but these technological advances are coming faster-and-faster each year. As I alluded to above, it took us nearly 2,000 years to go from mail to the telegraph. Yet, we managed to go from the telephone to the radio in fewer than 20 years! These days (with the advent of the computer), we manage to make technological leaps at least every year.

    What do you think will be the next major technological invention in the communication timeline?

    Last note: Did you notice that Google has been banging out the last several on my list? Interesting??!!

    Thanks for reading,
    Vaughn

    Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

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