[vcf-midatlantic] Not quite so linked lists (of books)

Adam Michlin amichlin at swerlin.com
Mon Sep 14 19:16:44 EDT 2020

Hi Herb,

I'm afraid I do not have good answers to your good questions.

My day job is as a teacher, so I spend most of my time trying to decide 
how to introduce subjects to students who, by definition, lack 
experience in the subject. What I've learned in decades of teaching is 
that there really is no perfect way to introduce a subject and my way of 
successfully introducing a subject might be very different that another 
teacher's method.

Such it is with any lists of books. There will never be a perfect list, 
but maybe I can develop at least one so-so list. To me, the best way to 
create such a list is to get recommendations from a wide variety of 
sources and have a back and forth conversation, at least to some extent, 
about why each person has selected their particular book and how it 
might introduce a subject to someone new to vintage computing and what 
our theoretical average person without experience might be interested in 
learning. Quite selfishly, I also get recommendations for books for my 
own personal education, but I can live with that because so does 
everyone else reading this list.

Alas, I well appreciate that no hobby will ever agree on one single 
list. My list will be rudimentry and flawed, but will at least be an 
attempt, ever so imperfectly, to answer the question of "OK, I'm 
interested in vintage computing, whan can I read that will help me 
decide what I want to learn more about?".

Guilty as charged for the sin of being vague and not only do I 
understand why you would choose not to participate, I think absolutely 
nothing less of you for doing so.

Best wishes,


On 9/14/2020 5:48 PM, Herb Johnson via vcf-midatlantic wrote:
> Pardon me, Adam, but I'm a little challenged by your proposal and 
> discussion and how it's progressing.
> First - it's so open ended and vague. What kind of vintage computing, 
> do you want these book-readers to be interested in, or become 
> interested in? What do you want them to do with that interest? What is 
> the audience, what people, do you want to reach with that interest - 
> who are they, what experiences or age or knowledge do you expect them 
> to have? And what's your goal, your end result, your benefit, and for 
> whom?
> Remember, you aren't just some person asking for books to read. I 
> presume you have goals for VCFed Incorporated, or the museum at 
> Infoage, or maybe something you personally or professionally are 
> working on. But I don't know!
> and, pardon me - I have decades of computing experience. There's 40 or 
> more years of "vintage computers" around from my own life; and older 
> computers still.  Plus all kinds of uses they were used for, ways they 
> can be used now, things people do with them. Or they make their own 
> vintage-class computers. Or they repair the old stuff, or hot-rod 'em. 
> For each activity, there's some kind of entry point, something one can 
> read about and get interested.
> That's point one - I don't know your plans, your interests, except as 
> you tell people why their books won't work for you. Or any other 
> details that inform me about a list YOU want for your purposes - as 
> you seemed to indicate.
> Someone suggested a book with technical content; you said it would 
> "scare off the average person". I'm of two minds about that thought.
> My initial reaction, as a technical person myself, is to be rude and 
> say "scare off average persons? *good*, weed them out early". I'm not 
> average. Many of the people I know in vintage computing, are not 
> "average", many of them have extraordinary skills or interests, or 
> enthusiasms.
> And: are the people in those suggested books, "average"? Are they 
> doing "average" things? NOt at the time, that's why there's a book 
> about 'em! And is working with old computers now, an "average" kind of 
> thing?
> And: If you are looking for readers, to do things or be interested in 
> things, or at least be interesting - why target books for *average 
> persons*?
> What's up with "average"?
> Along those lines: knowledge of Windows 10 and OS X as a kind of 
> credential? That's essentially a license to steer a modern computer. 
> As soon as such a person sees a command line, or a program listing, or 
> a computer chip - do you expect them to be particularly comfortable?  
> I find, quite frankly, I have to talk people *out of their Windows 
> expectations* as they deal with problems with their vintage computers. 
> What they expect, isn't what happens, isn't how they work.
> Finally: there's people of all kinds of ages and skills-sets, that may 
> want to look at vintage computing in some way. A particular book, may 
> be a point of entry - depends on that person, and the book's content 
> and context. IF that's your goal.
> This "average person" thing, and what you think "vintage computing" is 
> about, and what you want some book to accomplish for someone - that 
> all leaves me perplexed.
> But of course, the museum at Infoage attracts all kinds of people who 
> visit it. Many of them are "average" in some way - or seem that way. 
> Maybe you are trying to do some outreach, some kind of educational 
> thing. Or maybe you want bland-non-technical books about great heroes 
> in technology - gripping narratives that will hold the interest of 
> most anyone. I dunno!
> So I'm back to square one.
> If all you want is a conversation, well, be fair about that and say 
> so. Anyone can have some favorite books for some particular reason, if 
> they want to chat about both. And Adam,  if you have real goals and 
> intentions, and specific interests, be clear about them when asking 
> for a list from me. Then I can decide if I have some books worth YOUR 
> interests to read, and my interests to write about.
> Regards, Herb Johnson

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