In the time of COVID

It’s odd that in the time of COVID, a time when I hardly go anywhere and have tons of time on my hands where I used to have commitments, that I have fallen off the blogging wagon.

2021 was a rough year on many fronts. My job evaporated at the same time the house needed a new roof and, while I landed pretty quickly into my third tour of duty at Pfizer, working on COVID-related systems, and while we managed to keep Swamp Meadow Community Theater alive (thanks to fun and weird Zoom and Podcast projects), I never found the time to write. Maybe not going out also meant not having new experiences about which to write. But that’s not true, one doesn’t need to go into the world to find sources of inspiration. I think I just saw it as one-more-thing that I had to deal with.

Besides, last weekend we spent an amazing day with friends in Boston where I took this picture and I am only now writing about that.

Anyway, hello world. I’m still here. And I have read a lot of really interesting books lately, about which more, later. Or not. We’ll see how much time passes between this post and the next one…

BASIC at 55

I recently found this post in my drafts and realized I had never published it. Five years later, here it is.

After I graduated Dartmouth College, I worked at the college for six years. Somewhere in that time, I was backing out of a parking space in downtown Hanover when I backed into a car I didn’t realize was right behind me. I got out and began apologizing. I saw an older man getting out of the car and I began looking for damage while continuing my litany of apologies. I could see no damage and the man was saying that everything was fine, no worries. Then I glanced at the license plate. It was a New Hampshire plate that read, simply, “BASIC” I looked at the man again and realized, in a moment of mortification, that I had just backed into John Kemeny’s car. Kemeny invented the programming language BASIC along with Thomas Kurtz (who I’d met as an undergraduate when he was part of a competition to design a futuristic technology, my roommate Serge and I invented something we dubbed, “The Internet” not knowing that The Internet  was an actual thing (we would within a year when Dartmouth connected to it)).

Kemeny assured me that everything was fine, gave me a genial smile, got back into his car and drove off. And that’s how I met John Kemeny.

BASIC turns 50 on May 1 [Like I said, this is a five year old post] and Dartmouth is planning a series of events to mark the occasion. BASIC was my own introduction to programming. I taught it to myself in high school on a friend’s Atari 400 and, later, my own Atari 800XL. My senior year of high school I wrote my own Mandelbrot Set generator. It took 24 hours to generate a single 384×192 picture (something my iPad can do in a fraction of a second today). As a freshman at Dartmouth College, I took my first Computer Science course using Real Basic, an update to BASIC. Soon afterwards I graduated to Pascal, 68000 assembly, and, ultimately, C. But it was BASIC that started it all. So, thank you Kemeny and Kurtz! And Happy Birthday BASIC!