Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The More Things Change

I remember back in 1981 when I started college and was mesmerized by this operating system called UNIX. The college had terminals running at 1200 baud connected to a large PDP-11 minicomputer. Throughout my college years, I sketched (but never built) several designs for a memory management system for a Z-80A microprocessor that I was convinced I would eventually have some kind of multiuser/multitasking operating system running on. I remember showing one of my peers my design and he said, "You just designed a virtual memory manager." I didn't know fully what virtual memory even was at the time.

Who would have thought that today, over 20 years later, I would be running a superset of UNIX (Linux) on a computer the size of a thick looseleaf binder that is surely more powerful and has many times the amount of disk space and memory as that PDP-11 minicomputer. Not only that, but it can manipulate high resolution graphics (not just 25 lines of 80 characters of text!) and has an integrated display and keyboard. I am using it right now, as I type this text. To think, this is what I dreamed of -- my own little multiuser/multitasking computer and operating system that could facilitate communications with people all over the world.

I wasn't able to afford a personal computer in high school back in 1979, and my parents didn't have that kind of disposable cash to buy me one. I looked in magazines and came up with a design for a simple computer, based on the SC/MP microprocessor (National Semiconductor INS8060B), which is closer to the microcontroller chips of today. My computer had 1K bytes of memory, and used an old calculator keyboard to program it. Two single-digit LED displays and a cluster of individual LEDs told me what the computer was doing. A few years ago, I decided to resurrect the parts I had saved (yes, the original parts!), clean up the circuitry a little, and bring the old computer back to life. It worked just as it did when I made it back in high school. I realized what I nerd I was back then, and that things haven't changed much as I have become an adult. I am still fascinated with technology. More importantly, it isn't enough to just look at it in action -- I'm not satisfied until I understand it completely.

So as I listened to the oldies music channel on cable tonight, I heard the song "Easier Said Than Done" by The Essex. I was and still am a big fan of the oldies (late 50s/60s music). As I built the computer in high school, having "crushes" on girls who probably never knew I existed, I heard that song and it somehow struck a chord (no pun intended) inside me. Basically the song is about being infatuated with someone and being afraid to tell them how you feel. For me, it was a lot safer to embrace technology than to do the same to a girl. As an adult I feel that the situation hasn't changed much. That song still holds true for me thirty years later.

Maybe the problem is that I am trying to understand a romantic relationship completely so I can feel comfortable with it, and to this day I just don't have that kind of understanding. Who really does? In the end, we're all hoping to be accepted by someone, and the fear that we'll try and won't be can be a devastating blow to the core of our being. Yes, Virginia, nerds do have feelings. Some of us, quite sensitive ones at that. The ironic part is that by not revealing our feelings to the object of our affection, we're likely missing out on the opportunity we seek. So the song goes...

I've thought a lot about some mixed messages I've received from one particular person lately. Several times I was close to revealing how I felt, but right before the words could come out of my mouth, she said something that effectively pushed me away. I truly felt she simply wasn't interested, so I purposely kept my distance affection-wise and maintained a friendship with her. Now I'm getting these signals for the third time, and now I'm really not sure what to do about it. She probably is convinced I'm flaking-out on her, and in some ways she'd be right. All you women out there take note: If you're going to expect guys to make the "first move" (and I know you do), then if you're really interested you need to be consistent about the messages you're sending. This is especially true if you're trying to attact that "nice, considerate, sensitive, stable" guy. Honestly, I probably am a "good catch," but the bait you need to use has to be tempting enough for me to overcome the fear of being hooked only to be thrown back (and this is as far as I'm taking the fishing metaphor!).

Definitely, easier said than done. Definitely, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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