[vcf-midatlantic] history, was Re: Vintage Computer Federation at Lehigh Valley FAST 2016

Dave McGuire mcguire at neurotica.com
Fri Sep 16 13:07:43 EDT 2016

On 09/15/2016 12:24 PM, Dean Notarnicola via vcf-midatlantic wrote:
> You have a much better idea of where you are going if you know where 
> you've been. This is why I encourage my kids to explore it in order 
> to obtain a deeper understanding of modern technology.

  This is the main reason I'm so strongly interested in old technology.

  I started out with PDP-11 systems when they were more or less current;
I had no particular affinity for "classic computing" other than the
simple fact that, as a teenager, older computers were available more
affordably than current ones.

  Later, as my professional activities grew, I began to see that there
was a lot of wheel reinventing going on around me.  I started studying
very old books on algorithms for software, and found them to be a
treasure trove of fantastic information and techniques that are so
fundamental as to be completely timeless, yet most "modern" programmers
dismissed them as being "obsolete".  They were, of course, fools.

  Today, it seems half the people on the planet write software.  Many of
them are better suited to flipping burgers, and a lot of the stuff they
churn out is trash.  But back in the 1950s and 1960s, only the very best
and brightest had any sort of access to computers.  Their relative
unavailability and the narrowness of the field were barriers to entry.
There were very few drooling morons producing stuff like the mounds of
garbage that we see today like "systemd" in the Linux world, or, well,
pretty much all of Microsoft Windows.

  I believe that understanding the engineering techniques of the past
makes me a more effective engineer in the present.  I don't take the
"passenger" approach that is so popular with today's lazy people. "Let's
see where technology takes us!"  No thanks, I see where I can take
technology.  As someone participating in guiding where we're going, I
want to understand, as you stated above Dean, where we've been.

  One of my favorite quotes, written 110 years ago by Spanish poet
George Santayana:

 "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness.
When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no
direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not
retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot
remember the past are condemned to repeat it."


Dave McGuire, AK4HZ
New Kensington, PA

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