Escape Hatches


Yesterday, driving around, we noticed a street named after a telecom company.  We’re not extremely familiar with where the telecoms were, partly because we lived in the Springs at the time (yeah, there were a few there too, including MCI that Dan worked for) but we suspect the (tiny) road was built to accommodate headquarters for the company, like, you know, Walmart being on Sam Walton’s rd. if they can get away with it.

The company, which was never one of the big players is long gone and in fact both of us had to wrack our brains to remember it.

And it brought to mind a beautiful day circa 1996, when Dan and I had left the kids with a babysitter and were out for a spin in his old mustang convertible (much like yesterday night.  Well, except the babysitter part.)  We were driving around, not up to much (I think we got ice cream, ate it outside the store and went back home) and Dan said “you realize that in tops 10 years, but probably 5 long distance will be worth nothing?”

I thought he was nuts.  Sure, we had cell phones (actually we didn’t, for another few years.  We had walkie talkies, because we lived in a tiny mountain town, and we could communicate with the kids from their jaunts downtown to home with a walkie Talkie.  It seems like yesterday the unit crackling on my desk, and Robert’s voice “Baby bird to momma bird.  Come in momma bird.”)  And those often had free long distance “in the tri-state area” (remember that?) But we were still paying a hefty every-month bill for my weekly one-hour conversations with mom.  And I thought “Dude, how?”

It’s twenty years later.  Long distance is still here, but it’s not a money maker for anyone.  I now pay an additional $10 fee a month for those conversations.  Only, frankly, because we’re so cheap that if we were merchandise we’d be out on a bin with “ten for a dollar”.  So our base plan is cheap as heck, and excludes international call.  We added it on to my phone only, because with my parents in their eighties it wasn’t feasible to NOT be able to call at the drop of a hat.

Twenty years.  The telecom companies got absorbed into bigger ones, and then different ones.  the landscape changed. Today only street names remain as the bones of great bit creatures that walked the Earth and vanished when conditions changed.

They collapsed… not gradually but invisibly.  Most people had moved on, and didn’t notice when they disappeared.

I predict we’re in for a wave of similar extinctions in the next five to ten years.  The first wave will take out publishing, a lot of the print media, a lot of written entertainment, some art.  They won’t disappear, mind, but what’s been happening with Indie will have completely replaced it, in anything that matters.

I’m not saying that book publishers will stop existing, but they’ll go more bestsellers-only, perstige-editions only, hard cover only.  It’s already happening in fact.  It’s sliding more that way every year.

I am predicting next will be schools.  I already have a friend making most of his living of what you could call “Indie school”.  It’s full time online tutoring to compensate for awful schools.

The tutoring to compensate for what the schools will not do is not news to me.  In most Latin countries, Portugal not an exception, schools have gone so bad that the only way to make it to college is with someone else teaching you.   (Not me, of course, because, well, we didn’t have the money.  So, uphill both ways.  I learned my own self, the best I could.  There are still weird holes.)  No, like publishing, I doubt schools will ever be replaced, or not for 20 years or so, but the revolution HAS started.

Look, it’s not just books.  It’s anything that’s information, including education. It’s cheaper on line.  It’s more convenient.The costs of delivering a lesson to new audiences is the cost of storing it on a server.

It will only take long (unless a catastrophe of some sort intervenes) for it to die because education is so regulated.  That’s all.  Mathematically, economically, technologically it’s already dead.

Movies… well, that’s harder and further off, because the tech is not quite there yet.

The movie industry is, however, doing to itself what publishing did to itself back in the nineties, so… when the tech is there for small companies to produce very professional, competitive movies?  It will be swift and terrible.


The economy is getting better (thank heavens) but don’t be lulled into complacency.  The better the economy, the faster things will change.  It’s a catastrophic technological revolution.  It hits things no one even thinks of.  I just realized when writing this that I haven’t seen a walkie talkie for sale in years, because… well, who needs them?

If you’re in an artistic or communication industry, or one of the subsidiaries, you’re going to get hit.

Keep awareness of what is happening at all times.  Learn what others in your field are experiencing.  Prepare an escape hatch.  Ideally, prepare several escape hatches.

Learn to do other things, or to do what you do in different ways.  Be ahead of the change, not behind it.  For is it not written “Keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark”? (RAH, PBUH)

Build under, build over, build around.

Stay alert, stay moving.

And be not afraid.


250 thoughts on “Escape Hatches

  1. This reminded me of an interview I recently watched-the writer for Fauda (Netflix Israeli action show) who said their show 2 seasons long was cheaper than one episode of a Hollywood show. Not sure if he was complaining or bragging but although the show is not perfect it is more entertaining by miles than shows like Homeland, or 🤮the recent 24 reboot.

    1. Homeland is also based on Israeli show, Prisoners of War, that we enjoyed more than Homeland after it’s first season. I had not heard of Fauda until you mentioned and it looks like show we would enjoy, will have to take a look.

  2. It’s happening all over. The ease of production and dissemination of information of all sorts is sounding the death knells of the former gatekeepers of information. Not just publishing and video/cinema, but games, journals, and all sorts of information. The smart and agile gatekeepers will carve out some kind of niches for themselves to continue to exist in some form, but the majority of them will die unaware of just what killed them.

    1. Some in Hollywood are now certainly destroying their properties on purpose because they think they have something too big to fail. Well, the purpose isn’t the destruction – because they think they are too big to fail, and have something that will keep on selling simply on the force of its name – it’s education. Or maybe propaganda. Changing minds anyway, to what they deem as the right way to think. Add virtue signalling. Creating what they think is better while missing what made the older stuff good.

      End result: driving away paying customers, and the fans who originally created the phenomena. Some may be able to limp on on the strength of what new fans they can get, and what old fans who either like the new versions or are too attached to abandon their fandom even if they are no longer getting quite what they used to from the actual produce.

      So yep, they may have some years left, but the second it does become technically possible to create indie which rivals their produce also with looks, (so pretty much GCI, today – it’s not just for creating starships and dinosaurs, it already is used to replace something like costly shooting in hard to reach foreign destinations or places where film crews are not allowed, not to mention something like your basic back street…), not just storytelling, and they might be even completely gone in a few years because what they have is pretty expensive to maintain and if the money dries up… most of those dinosaurs will NOT have the sense to adapt. It will be Sunset Boulevard redux for most of the older stars and directors at least. Maybe Meryl Street gets to play Norma Desmond. She’d deserve it.

      1. End result: driving away paying customers, and the fans who originally created the phenomena.

        It drives me NUTS!

        They could be printing money, and instead… garbage.

        1. They drink their own ink, amd only talk to others of their ilk. They think the Fen will LIKE a bisexual Lando, or a female Thor. And they completely lack the storytelling chops to make up a new, engaging character that fits the checkbox they want, or to develop an existing character who already fits into a major player.

          (Seriously, what’s wrong with giving Sif some spotlight time? Or Freya?)

          And they will be replaced by people who CAN write interesting new characters, and maybe even characters that fit their obsessions with gender, etc…..but come from a creative heart, not the heart of a bunch of cultural vandals.

          1. Like the Ghostbusters thing, where in an hour we came up with an idea that could’ve been funny and respectful of the fans– but it wouldn’t have been nasty enough to men, because gosh guys don’t watch comedy movies, do they?

            1. Also see Magnum PI – they’ve had perfectly good stories to tell carrying forward the established characters while introducing new ones that Tom Selleck and Donald Bellisario have been pitching to studios for years, and at one point they even had a deal for a theatrical release movie with Tom Clancy writing it, but that fell apart due to corporate hijinx.

              And now they are rebooting Magnum PI for CBS TV, with (from the previews) nothing of the charm of the original.

              We’ve gone back and are watching the original series (it’s available on STARZ if you have that) and it still holds up really well. But no, they can’t tell more stories about the characters people have investing in, they have to start over and repeat everything without any of what made it all popular the first time through.

              The lack of any originality in Studio Hollywood is only more striking as time passes. But as Sarah notes, it’s getting cheaper and cheaper to produce professional product. The creativity applied to indie film production just keeps getting higher caliber. All it will take is one home run movie to turn the tables, especially after what they studios are doing to bury their tentpole blockbusters. And they will be happening in the next few years.

              1. It seems to me that Hollywood (or Whollyodd, if you prefer) has never been all that original. Oh, there’ve been occasional geniuses, like Buster Keaton, which Hollywood tends to drain dry and spit out, but what tinseltown has been good at is polishing. They take rough work from elsewhere, and give it a hollywood gloss. SEVEN SAMURAI is a work of genius, but it is in many ways foreign to the American mainstream, and limited by the technology available in Japa when it was made. Hollywood took it, transposed in into another,so to speak, key, and made THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. They did it so well that it it ALSO a masterpiece.

                What they have forgotten recently is that that which was already a polished jem is something they can only dull. They see something that is great on its own merits and catch only that it hits some mondern day sensitivity tripwires….so they remake it with the tripwires out, the polish smudged, and all the charm gone.

                It isn’t inevitable. Disney’s MALIFICENT was a clever re-imagining. Admitedly, the ideamwasn’t original; they stole it from WICKED. I don’t demand origninal. I don’t demand that political correctness be eschewed. I DO demand to be entertained. MALIFICENT entertainned me.

                Another thing to keep in mind is (if I may blow my own horn) Schofield’s Law of Popular Entertainment; we remember the popular culture of eras past so fondly because, mercifully, we don’t actually remember all that much of it.

                Sure there are a lot of stinkers coming out every year. But that has always been true; we just don’t remember all the stinkers from, say, 1956.

                1. I think Malificent suffered from being too closely tied to the Disney Sleeping Beauty, rather than putting it to a generic version of Sleeping Beauty. We know King Stephan wasn’t a bad guy, so the attempt to make him so rings false. But a generic unknown king would not have that problem.

                  1. Yes, Sleeping Beauty is my favorite fairy tale and Disney cartoon so I was annoyed at the reversal of victim and offender there.

            2. Or now Oceans Eight, a reboot of the ‘Oceans’ franchise with progesterone instead of testosterone. While I would generally pay to watch Sandra Bullock read a dinner menu, I think I’m gonna pass on this one.

              1. From what I’ve heard from tough reviewers, it’s actually good; came up as an example of “see, it’s not actually impossible.”

  3. From your lips to God’s ears about public schools mostly being abolished. Between Khan Academy and documentaries or lectures on youtube, public school teachers are now superfluous but they are good at indoctrination which is why they will linger for awhile yet.

          1. Self-taught guy is more likely to have useful knowledge and less things to re-train out of him… and a greater appreciation for what he doesn’t know.

            1. I’m thinking more about guys who are garage tinkerers and patent clerks coming up with radical new theories and tech. While there’s a lot to be said about corporate/industrial research and development; there’s also a lot of patents on new tech coming from lone developers who learned things the hard way.

              1. If you want to know the esoteric theories and finer arcana of law on how your criminal case may play out, hire an Ivy League lawyer. You want to actually win your court case, hire a night school graduate lawyer. – Gordon Graham (paraphrased)

                There is a lot to be said for the guys trying to put all the stuff together in their spare time. They tend to do what works on a budget rather than follow rabbit holes. Ain’t no one got time for that!

              1. And will also be more likely to look snootily down their noses at the more experienced senior techs, and state that they have a degree from (insert university here) and thus ‘more recent and updated’ knowledge, and THAT is why everyone else should listen to THEM not the guys who actually DO the work…

                Now go and pile those hard drives out of raid array order in that box over there!

                (I’m no tech, but I cringed when I heard that story.)

                1. yep, and in my segment i have seen guys with IT degrees look at a build i specc’d and say “Why would you build a PC like that?” because they only know how to build servers and generic office machines, and occasionally gaming boxes.

    1. Public schools aren’t going anywhere. Sorry. They’re a government program, and to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, that’s the closest thing to immortality we have in this world.

      Between Democrats who count on the reliable votes, volunteers, and money from the teacher’s union, and Republicans who are terrified of the “you’re against the children! you’re against education” ads, the public schools are safe no matter how much the technology changes.

      (Note that I don’t blame the Republicans for being terrified of those ads. Even if the “new learning” catches on, those soundbites will still be effective with those who (a) only listen to soundbites, or (b) don’t have any current stake in the public school system but have vague happy memories of Miss Smith teaching them to read back in first grade.)

      1. Oh, they are. They can retard it, they can’t stop it. eight years ago, when I put son in dual college/high school program you could count on the fingers of one hand the number of his classmates (out of about 100) who weren’t mostly homeschooled, and for whom that school wasn’t their first public school.
        Yes, self selected, small group, highly motivated, yeah.
        BUT I also homeschooled for a year. You can DO all of it with just a warm body nearby to watch the kid. He did all his work on line.
        Public schools WILL go. Oh, they’ll persist like the helium fund, and cost the Earth while teaching three kids per city. But they will go. It will just take a long time, as it trickles through from highly motivated to “I can’t take this anymore”.
        Like working at home, and helped by it, it is coming.
        It will just take time.

        1. Oh, I’m not saying that won’t reach the point where almost all kids who learn anything are homeschooled or otherwise privately taught. But the public schools serve three essential functions: (a) they represent “free” babysitting for parents who don’t want to deal with their kids for 8 hours a day, (b) they represent a jobs program for the education majors who don’t know much more than the 10-year-olds they deal with and aren’t qualified for anything else, (c) they represent the breeding ground for the teacher’s unions, which in turn represent money and volunteers for the Ds. None of that can be replaced by online videos.

          Barring a government overthrow, I’m guessing the public schools will stick around at least through our lifetimes. They certainly won’t disappear invisibly.

          1. You might want to read Higher Education by Jerry Pournelle. In this book, the public schools are babysitting warehouses, and if the students learn anything, it’s almost by accident.

            As a result, asteroid mining companies have set up their own schools on Indian reservations and other bits of land where the regulatory burden is much lighter. (And those who do well on the ground finish their education in space.) The mining companies scout for students, and often find the most promising students are the troublemakers thrown out of the public schools.

            1. Michael Flynn’s Firestar (and sequels) deals with private education and private space exploration. Public education does not come off well.

          2. Great Ghu’s Gadolinium Guts, Zsuzsa! I want to know where you live that you can consider public schools to be “free” baby sitting. Or maybe I should send you my tax bill instead.

            1. Having paid for both at the same time, before kid was old enough for school, & still paying it, even without a kid or grand kid in school: Yes, if not “free” then a whole bunch cheaper daycare. Not that I thought of school as daycare; kid was there to learn, even if we had to supplement & tutor. Better options for home schooling now, lot better.

            2. Zsuzsa did the quotey-finger thing, too, Mike.

              It’s not the reality, it’s the perception. It’s like the new County Commissioner in Athens, Georgia that I read about just a little while ago. (Took the oath of office on the biography of Malcolm X, while holding up the Black Power Fist. Yes, really!)


              Her campaign platform was chock full of things like free public transit, putting sidewalks on every street in the town, etc. Oh, and all without raising property taxes…

              Some years ago, Arizona had a provision that, if you bothered to get the form from your landlord, you as a renter could deduct the property tax that you were paying through your rent. Obviously, that was taken out of the revenue code when more people became aware of it (both because they were seeing what they were paying, and because the landlord could not deduct the tax for those who claimed their portion of it).

            3. Anything free is paid for by someone.

              Since you’re charged even if you don’t make use of the “educational” option, it’s free babysitting.

                1. If the culture these days wasn’t so toxic, and we weren’t so aware of it, I’d be tempted just because we have nobody close enough to give an hour or two off for sanity’s sake…but oh well.

                    1. Hell, you and my mom both! I’ve been informed it’s a side-effect of being a human that has even an iota of introspection.

        2. Keep the helium, dump the Government schools. We need the He for industrial purposes and Lighter-Than-Air platforms.

          1. In the Traveller universe, I’ve been proposing for years that commercial fuel-scooping of Hydrogen from gas giants has Helium (and Argon) as important by-products. I peep, rather than shout, so no one I know has picked up on the idea. I’m sure there’s a SF story in there somewhere.

            1. I vaguely recall a story in a ’60s Analog issue that revolved around scoop ships diving into Jupiter’s (or some similar gas giant’s) upper atmosphere to collect and sort out the various gasses for the off-planet economy. The cover probably illustrated the story.

              It wasn’t Niven’s Becalmed in Hell, although there were some similar elements.

              1. One of the MegaTraveller sourcebooks, Hard Times, described lower tech systems cobbling together spacecraft to go to local gas giants and scooping needed gases like hydrogen and “propane rains” from their atmospheres to provided needed resources.

                Also had rules for use of much less fancy drives for those systems as well. Ion drives were pretty good for interplanetary travel due to their fuel efficiency.

            1. Can we keep them off the street? I don’t care if it’s in a warehouse or in jail. A large number of those unmotivated illiterate students are a menace wherever they go. Sarah what happened to young punks in your village?

              1. 90% of the males in my generation ended up frequent fliers in the local jail. But there’s reasons for that, including erosion of regional culture and devaluing of agricultural/unskilled labor.
                Also, my generation, defined as 4 years either side of me seemed full of wrong ‘uns. Not sure why. Possibly because so many children were lost in small pox epidemic that parents spoiled the ones who lived.

    2. The Public Schools will hang of for a lot longer than we might hope because of the political muscle of the teachers’’ unions. The colleges are in deep doo doo NOW. They expanded all out of proportion to society’s needs as the Baby Boom passed through, and have been pulling all kinds of cons to keep going at that size ever since. The politicsl jabber one hears about ‘for profit’ colleges is a desperate attempt to distract from the cold fact that most ‘non-profit’ colleges give lousy value for money too. Probably worse, on average, though I bet getting the data to prove it would be a trick and a half.

      If somebody breaks the backs of the teachers’ unions, all bets on publc school survival are o f f off.

    3. Yesterday we learned that son is considered ‘the go to IT guy’ at his elementary school, simply from stuff he’d picked up at home just using the various OS-es that have been put in front of him (Windows of different types, MacOS, Debian) – apparently other folks have trouble navigating or looking up programs without ‘messing up somehow.’

      So he’s getting taught some IT learning now, because we figure, if he’s gonna learn, he may as well learn from one of the best. Baby steps first – ‘How to install Windows without screwing up, because apparently people still do.’

  4. “Keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark”

    Yes Virginia, there’s a reason Mike Houst still folds his laundry and puts it away in the drawers the same way he did in the military.

  5. I’ve been in the communications field for nearly 50 years, mostly radio, but some newspaper and magazine as well. The changes technology has wrought in the industry is unbelievable. Remember back in the ’70s, there wasn’t even cable television! “Cut and paste” was actually done in newspaper publication, as for tape recordings? What’s an audio tape?

        1. Some years ago an acquaintance was talking about when a friend of his pulled a cassette at random out of the console and stuck it in his car’s tape player. Only hissing and chittering came out of the speakers.

          “What’s that?”

          “Workbook for Linear Algebra, I think.”

          “Oh. Sounded familiar. I think I have that one too.”

      1. I lived through the end part of era, and I’d have a hard time trying to write a mystery novel where everything has to be done by landline phones and going to the library and digging through local newspaper’s archives. Because I have gotten so used to what we have now that I just plain don’t remember what that world was like, not in a detailed way.

        1. Have to admit old near-future science fiction stories do often read a bit funny now, though. 😀

          Far future or colony stories are actually better because I can always imagine that there has been some sort of catastrophe between that era and our era, and they had to rebuild from scratch or from several pieces missing from what they had left.

          1. It was really funny when I was reading Heinlein the other day, Space Cadet, and it took me till well past the cell phone scene to realize that had been a stealthy bit of fiction on his part.

            1. Off hand that is the only place where I remember anybody predicting cell phones, unless you count something like the flip communicators from Star Trek.

              1. And the *only* one who predicted how they’d be used (early on, anyway).

                “Aw, cripes! Mom again? Why didn’t I pack my phone in my suitcase?” 🙂

              2. The Mote in God’s Eye. My word, Niven and Pournelle hit that one out of the park with the pocket computer.

                1. Yes, but mobile phones were already a concept in the early 70’s, the first prototype seems to be from 1973, so as Mr. Pournelle was into computers he might have known something about that, as well as of the early attempts to develop smaller personal computers, although, yes, a very good jump from that to pocket computers.

                  Heinlein’s Space Cadet is from 1948.

                  Although Heinlein did not use the idea of pocket phones as a plot point anywhere, as far as I remember, just as one of those off hand remarks to create a feel for a changed world.

                  1. Dr. Pournelle was tied into the trends on computers – it was fairly easy to extrapolate that they would continue to get smaller (although maybe not as small as a smart phone with more raw power than supercomputers had when I was a young ‘un).

                    RAH was, of course, aware of what the BIS (British Interplanetary Society) was advocating – and Arthur C. Clarke had proposed communication satellites as early as 1945. Bit of a leap from that, of course, to everyone being untied from the wires.

                    What fascinated me was the “3D cams” from the juveniles (which were more than a throwaway in Rocket Ship Galileo). I’m not sure whether those ever came to be – searching for it now gives me 3D cameras and computer automated manufacturing. (Huh. Speaking of everything being on-line these days, that search popped up free online courses for using CAM and CNC machines. Now all I need is a few thousand dollars…)

                    1. I haven’t read RSG in decades, but 3D cameras and viewers were around in the 1950s. Looks like they’re still on the market, still with the View-Master name. (Film format, set up on a disc with 7 stereo images.) We had one when I was a kid; lots of travelog disc, if memory serves.

                      I don’t recall seeing 3D still cameras in real life, but they were on the market as a specialty item.

                      Small scale CAD machines are on the market. See Sherline for an entry level machine.

                    2. CAM machines, you mean? (That few thousand, by the way, includes somewhere to put it, plus, ahem, spousal compensation for yet another machine tool…)

                      “3D cams” in RSG were mechanical linkages that had navigation courses machined into them to set the attitude jets, acceleration, etc. – the course was changed by moving to a different part of it, or a different cam. Or so I gathered…

                    3. Ah, oops. Cams, not short for cameras. (Posting before coffee==missed key words.) I have a set of mechanism books and some would have almost fit that description. My favorite stuff was the robotic widgetry in The Door into Summer, though the Thorson(?) memory tube was the key bit of handwavium to make it work. If ony it were that easy.

                      I’ve been following Ed Nicely at softsolder dot com. The CNC router he’s working on is sort-of affordable, though given my druthers, I’d love a CNC conversion for my mill-drill. Not likely to happen soon, if ever, though. Beyond the columns (Digital Machinist, not sure where else), he makes handy things for around the house. As he puts it, most things he makes on the 3D printer resemble a bracket. Some really useful ones, at that.

                2. They had to know what was coming down the pike. They lived in California and interacted with Silicon Valley folks. I miss Jerry’s input on your columns. Biggest was that Jerry was a columnist for BYTE magazine.

                  1. I used to love BYTE magazine. In no small part because of Jerry’s Chaos Manor columns.

                    Stuff that you suddenly miss when it gets mentioned, and people, eh?

                    1. Me too. I had a brief discussion with him on cataract surgery before he had his stroke and talked with him a little bit when he was doing a tour for Footfall.

        2. Heh. I was one of Those Kids who were born at the cusp of the big tech shift (1980, actually). So I remember the days before home computers (well, no not really, because my father was a computer nerd from the start, and we had a home computer as early as it was remotely affordable–a Commodore 64, and then for several years an Apple IIe), I remember floppy disks. I used microfilm and microfiche (though I don’t think I could remember how to do it now). I mean, I didn’t really start using the internet or get an email address until my first year of college…and now I can’t imagine NOT having just about anything I want to know a few keystrokes/clicks away…

          1. 1982 here. I remember our first computer. It was a Commodore 64 and my favorite games were Moon Patrol, Jumpman, and Impossible Mission. My parents would charge the neighborhood kinds a penny to play it.

              1. our first was a Commodore Vic 20 that came as a sales gift for buying a sofa. 20 KB ROM + 5 KB RAM, 1.02 MHz ( because it was hooked to an NTSC TV for the screen) and used tapes like Milady Hoyt used to save her novel.

              2. Don’t get me started, or I’ll start telling you about the real old days, when we had knapped-flint read/write heads and hand-carved wooden circuit boards…

              3. I remember a line from a film “… when Fortran wasn’t even 3Tran.” Also something about 96 baud. I’ve got Frank Hayes’ disease. I’m blanking on a lot of stuff.

                1. My job had me doing a lot of work with minicomputers controlling test hardware. Some of those used Teletypes for input/output, and those ran at 110 baud. Even I could type faster than that. It was a shock when I changed jobs and went from a terminal at 9600 baud back to Teletypes. Fortunately, that got upgraded shortly.

              4. Remember when the IBM PC had 64K of RAM? I had one of those. Inherited it. So amazing, at the time.

          2. My first home computer was a Heath H8, purchased in 1979. Twin floppy discs, separate terminal, and a dot matrix printer. That cost me $3000, as did the HP touchscreen (15MB hard drive), and the HP Vectra PC-AT clone. I didn’t drop below a $3K system until 1991, when I got a Mac Classic II, ($1000 or so) and in ’93, when HP had a sale on already-obsolete servers. (Employee prices FTW!)

            Communications speeds ranged from 1.2kBaud (I skipped the acoustic modem and 110 Baud era, barely), with stops at 14.4kB and 56kB and now satellite broadband. The last laptop cost under $400 and has more RAM than the Pentium 2 system had disc drive space.

            I played a fair amount of text adventure games, starting with ADVENT at work, and a bunch of the Infocom games. The last game I bought was either Riven or 11th Hour. Myst and 7th Guest were unplayable on Windows 7, and I didn’t hang on to the CD ROMS. (Kind of wish I kept Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, but that got unplayable early on under Windows.)

            I’ll open the dictionary every few months. Actually, the most opened book is one of the Bibles. Never got comfortable with Bibles in eBook format.

          3. Whippersnappers, all of you. My first computer (first owned, anyway) was a TRS-80 model 1, bought used in 1977 for $700, with a whopping 16K of RAM and a cassette tape recorder for data storage. No OS, just BASIC in ROM.
            My actual first computer was and IBM 1620, which filled a room and was orders of magnitude less powerful than the smartphone in your pocket (this was in 1969 or so). Oh, and we didn’t even have 1s and 0s in those days, we just used twigs and pebbles…

            1. I think we’re tied with first computer. NCR Century 200. The high school replaced a Burroughs (8K core memory) with it, the B had a quartet of tape drives, while the NCR used a couple of bog-slow 5MB disk drives.
              It took 5 minutes to read and assemble a smallish (70 line) program in the NEAT/3 assembler.

              The new machine was bleeding edge; a systems analyst from NCR was on campus most of the school year. I think it had 32K main memory, and a rack holding 64K additional RAM.

              OTOH, the EE computer at U of I was late-50s. It used Fortran II, and a different keypunch (model 26) than the more modern machines. So, part 1 of the exercises was finding a Model 26 that a) was working and b) was free. Yes, the code for non-alphanumeric characters was different between that and the far more common Model 29.

            2. My first computer was the PDP-1 at Harvard. In 1966-67, when I was about 5. My Dad would occasionally bring the family in to play SpaceWars. The _only_ buttons I was allowed to touch were the SpaceWars controls; if I touched anything else without permission I wouldn’t be sitting down “for the rest of my life…”. 😉

              Or, if you prefer, I can truthfully say that I’ve been on the Internet continuously since it had 4 nodes, total. Stanford, MIT, U of Utah, and BB&N, IIRC. And I may not RC, because I was pretty young then.

              Hey you kids! Get off MY LAWN!

      2. We used mag tape for small computers at work until the early ’90s. IIRC, you could get 25MBytes on a large reel.

        I still have a Revox tape deck, but it hasn’t been powered up in, er, 20 years.

        Landline phones are still a thing in rural areas; the nearest cell tower is on a mountain about 8 miles away, and trees block it. We used to get long distance phone cards (3 cents a minute), first from MCI, then Verizon, than IDT. When my MIL passed away, we got her stash of phone cards. Those finally ran out, and we switched our local phone service to the package; unlimited US long distance, and it costs $5.00 a month more than the old plan.

        FWIW, walkie talkies still exist; looks like hunters use them, partly because good hunting areas are even further away from that cell tower.

        1. And those walkie-talkies are being replaced in some cases by a device called a goTenna which links to your phone via Bluetooth and gives you the ability to send texts to a friend or family member where there is no cell service, plus GPS functionality. The latest iteration actually creates a mesh network with any other goTenna Mesh units in the area to allow you to reach someone who would otherwise be out of range.

      3. Emily i worked on a compute system in 1992 or so that still used reel to reel tape for bulk storage, and a tape in a cassette for near-line storage

    1. We were still literally using cut and paste (hot wax and all) to put together technical manuals in the late 70′, it was still the way that the illustrations were placed in the camera-ready copy as late as 1985-ish; and that at Sun Microsystems. I think we were still using whatever text editor you preferred (emacs, vi, etc) to write the text, with .man (and .me? I disremember) macros inline for the typesetter. A little later we went to FrameMaker, and it was like leaving the neolithic for, well, the Bronze Age, at least.

      1. I work at a small publishing house (denomination owned); we junked our old camera (huge thing; negative must have been 2×3 feet or close to it) last summer and outsourced that. We have gone all digital now. We do still have two, 2-color presses; they need a little work (Solna 225) and some associated equipment (folder and stapler). Hurry before the junkman returns.

        Oops, sorry. Didn’t mean to place a want ad. 🙂

      2. My father was a relatively early adopter in academia, because he had written several books back when cut-and-paste was not a metaphor. I vaguely remember him transposing sentences and paragraphs that way in (I believe) MECHANISM AND MATERIALISM.

        Even in his last published work (Joseph Priestly, in two volumes) he and Mother collaborated on the index, because he found computer generated indexes infuriating. They list every goddamned mention, even if it’s trivial to the point of time-wasting.

        I’ve always been sad that he was too old to learn how to do good multi-media work. It would have been perfect for presenting his contention that style permeates all of a culture; when you have Baroque art and Baroque music you will have Baroque science too.

        1. Indexing is a non-trivial process; most automated “indexing” functions turn out concordances instead of indices. It still takes a lot of work on the part of the editor, if not the author as well, to pare one down to being actually useful. That, or requiring the writer to embed index markers throughout the text.

          1. Bingo. I love a lot about the information age, but I do get weary of people who think computers can perform tasks that require nuance and judgement.

          2. a) almost none of the readers will actually use the index anyway, either because they’re lazy, ignorant, or they’ve found it a waste of time too often before

            b) the handful who *do* use the index will expect it to suck, so they’re not likely to complain anyway

            c) judging the usefulness of an index isn’t an easy task, and it’s one that the creator of the work isn’t often able to do well.

            Asimov pwned indexers in one of his Foundation books. Sure, a lot of them are a waste of time… but so are many of the works of slightly-rearranged-and-rephrased word salad they’re indexing… yes, it was still an aside in a work of fiction, but it’s so wrong that Asimov, who was surely a user of indexes himself, that I can’t tell if it was some blind spot or if he was trolling someone.

    1. Moore’s Law no longer matters. Software capabilities drive things now…and when was the last real improvement in MS Office? A decade ago?

        1. I keep hoping somebody will come out with a word processing program that doesn’t try to include (inadequate) forms of sound editing, video, and gods alone know what else.

          Bonus if it runs on Mac, but I’d just like to see a racehorse among the elephants.

      1. Windows 10 has -finally- made ethernet networks as easy to use as Sneakernet for the home office. When Win 10 came out and all the computers actually showed up on the network thing in file manager, that was a pretty good day.

        So they finally got to where Samba has been for a pretty long time. Win 10 still won’t see phones, tablets, Macs etc. but that’s because marketing. Maybe someday they’ll finally give that up.

        1. it never required much networking knowledge for us to have all the computers visible from XP on. Win 7 does it fine too.

          1. I agree that IF you had -all- the PCs on the same release of Win and you had all the permissions set juuuust right, it would work. Mostly. I managed it occasionally when I put my mind to it, but it would always drift into a broken state thanks to updates, new PCs etc.

            Getting all that to happen at the same time in a home environment, where there are old PCs, smart TVs, Macs, and so forth, I never found it easier than copying files to a stick and plugging it in to the next computer. Because at home the point is not to have a working network, the point is I’m doing something I need to get done Right Now.

            With Windows 10, its the first time they FIXED IT so it is easier than moving a USB stick around. I can actually transfer files between PCs when I need to get something done Right Now. Very satisfying to have all my writing backed up on 3 boxes and a bunch of sticks in different locations. Or even move a file from my PC to my laptop because I’m going out. That is handy.

            Way to go Mickeysoft. Took only 20 years to get to where Samba was in 1998.

            1. And i disagree. We’ve had a mixed PC network for ages, and the machines all see each other, and saw the iMac just fine when we had it up, and right now on my Win 7 machine i can see most o f the other machines, and if i can’t i can search for them fine. Move files between machines all the time, and I haven’t used sneakernet since the old house where the switches we were using just didnt like multi-gig transfers.

              1. You’re probably better network-fu than me. I’m no expert, just a long-time user/sometime tech grease monkey. I do what’s the easiest for me right then.
                I -did- get an SGI Octane working as a network-hosted audio box in the barn, glorified MP3 player, but that was years ago, and just to prove I could. Lately there’s a Mac out there doing it. My Mac-fu is weak, I used a USB stick. ~:D

                1. I was never able to reset the password on the SGI O2 i acquired and it and the Indy i got were left in the house in CA.

                  1. I think a Raspi 3 has more speed than an Octane 2 these days, and an O2 is slower. I used to have an O2, gave it to some relative’s kid as a project I think. Really solid machines, but now pieces of computer history to amuse the kids with.

          2. We had the “machines will randomly not show up” issue, too; a couple of times I think I tracked it down to security issues….

            1. Right? Its a thing. They don’t stay fixed either. You fix them, and nobody changes anything, but one day they’re not there again. So annoying.

  6. My medium sized city is in process of being plumbed for fiber optic, not just to switchpoints, but across the board to the end user. Gig speed once the bugs are sorted out. High speed internet to the desktop, and the cable companies will simply rent bandwidth instead of having to run their own lines.
    As for education, politicians and the teacher unions will fight tooth and nail the inevitable takeover by net based schooling simply because it’s not really about education but about indoctrination and control of the masses. And preservation of the current system with all those lovely white collar jobs for those unable to qualify for STEM work.

    1. My neighborhood STILL doesn’t have fios fiber. It stops a few streets away. We’re stuck with the crappiest DSL (literally – we can’t even get the “good” DSL in our neighborhood) unless we call the cable company. And I’m not really in the boonies, just not the neighborhood with the nicest houses in this area.

      Verizon :p

      1. I was in the city limits of Burleson, suburb of Ft Worth, and had nothing. Cable lines on the poles were dead, Charter couldn’t keep enough customers to pay upkeep let alone upgrades. As late as 2005 I had a landline so I could dial-up to get email. Got lucky, as when I went broke, and dropped the line, the RV park section had a t1 line run to their office and offered free wifi to those renting, and I had a converted satellite dish that allowed me to get it.
        In Alvarado I was told I couldn’t get DSL though the two other tenants had it, and their lines ran past my house. The tech who was doing work on the house across from me guessed they knew it would likely be even slower if I also got a line so they said “unavailable”. ATT DSL said call uverse, uverse said nope, lines stop at the railroad tracks, dsl was showing available, call the dsl people.
        Finally I was able to get a somewhat reliable wifi via Skybeam, who sold out to Rise? and another Weatherford based company put towers and locations that had better line of site for me and few a few bucks more 60mbps down or the same 40mbps I had for a bit cheaper, but I moved up here to Michigan so I never changed over.
        Here in Menominee, it was Time Warner or ATT (possibly their fiber optic, never checked if it runs by my house) and TW, now Spectrum (Charter TW and another merged, iirc) was what I went with because it was fastest where my short term rental was. Charter was wider spread up here where it was, but they took over already fibered lines from Bresnan cable, TW isn’t much out of the city limits here, and the smaller towns near by actually have faster cable based net, but it is a small company (Packerland) so they seem more nimble but limited in spreading out. I just did a speed test and got 70mbps down, 5mbps up.

    2. Out in the sticks where I live, we have “extended DSL” and we have been told that the cable provider from the county seat (12 miles or so away) plans to have fiber optic in the area next summer so we are sticking it out. Our DSL isn’t too bad until you’re trying to download something over 1 GB; it can take more than one attempt to get a 2 GB software update to successfully download—how much of that is the phone company and how much is the fruity computer company.

      1. The last time I looked, we might have DSL within a couple miles of the town’s switching center. If so, it might cover a couple hundred people. Maybe.

        If people have line-of-sight, they can use Verizon cellular broadband, but we have too much stuff (trees and a hill) in the way. Satellite is it, though rural broadband gets mentioned once every election cycle…

        I figure we’ll get fiber optic when the phone company decides that copper is too expensive to maintain. I’m guessing 10 years.

        1. one of the puzzling things about Skybeam was their towers were in low spots instead of atop hills, so even though we were atop a hill, the towers near us were so low, we were just able to get enough signal to make it worthwhile. They had one, well out that was quite high, but the transponder pointing at me broke, and those using it got fobbed onto other towers. Another company came along and got locations atop hills and the city water tower. I would have swapped as I could see the whole tank of the water tower from my yard, let alone the mounting spot on my roof line. Around here, there are some systems using the silos for service. I think Packerland has some, and a few

          1. A friend of mine owns and operates towers and high-rise transmitter locations in the Minneapolis-St Paul area. For a long time, his bread and butter was 2 way radio, but he started doing quite well when cell phones took off.

            We have a couple of good high spots; one holds the cell towers, and the other the emergency services repeater (of which there are several in the county). Unfortunately, there’s a hogback between us and the tower, and lots of pine trees too. I could get the 150MHz emergency signals, but cell traffic is hard to pull off. The neighbors who live on either side of the NS hogback have no problem. We just don’t have enough people (rather, people with money) to warrant redundant cell towers.

            1. West Virginia was much like that. if you had signal, you had great signal. But within yards you went from 4 bars to no bars. Of course, there, I think you’d need to at least triple the number of towers to ensure full coverage. Maybe 4 times or more.

    3. Heh. Although I live in absolutely Nowhere Wyoming (seriously, my town is an Official Ghost Town), we got amazing internet a few years ago because the Rich Folks ™ who live in the same valley wanted better internet when they show up in the summer/fall. And true, it isn’t terribly cheap…but it is affordable, and it was miles better than the internet my best friend had–and she at the time lived less than an hour away from Silicon Valley.

      The irony is that if I moved to a ‘larger city’ I’d have to put up with crappy internet–and a good deal pricer–because there’s apparently an agreement between the little phone/internet company that gives us our internet out in the sticks and the Big Companies, who get the population centers, such as they are. (It’s Comcast, I think. Blech.)

      1. if one looks at the “well served” cable areas that have the highest numbers of Dish and DirecTV customers, Comcast covered areas are very high on the list.
        When I did installs it was about a tie between Comcast and Time Warner, for numbers, with percentages Comcast and Cablevision just pipping TW with Charter crowding them.

      2. It’s still that way here actually in Silicon Valley – If I could pop up 500 ft or so I could see both the Apple spaceship and the Googleplex without magnification, but all we have available is fiber-to-switch, and then they ride the old 1963 copper twisted pairs to the house.

        I’m actually expecting one of the coming generations of cell service to pass up what we can get via hardline, basically because the municipal governments around here are too busy spending money on banning vaping and building free tiny houses for the homeless.

    4. The politicians and the teachers’ unions will fight tooth and nail because it’s about campaign money, and their goddamned jobs. Indoctrination only really matters at the higher, teaching theory, level…and those ivory (ok, celluloid imitation ivory) tower twits don’t really have much pull.

  7. Walkie Talkies are still for sale in our local Big Box & Hardware stores. I suspect there are two reasons
    1) Cell service often goes out in hurricanes, so it’s a preparedness supply
    2) For boaters in the Gulf of Mexico – you get 20 miles range over water with the walkie, but cell service often disappears 5 miles out.

      1. I’ve seen a couple grades; one good for 25 miles, and expensive, and one good for a few miles. Both are marketed to hunters/fishers.

        Ham radio walkie talkies still exist, but that’s another level of specialized.

        1. Walkie talkies are still widely used in large commercial operations like big-box stores, convention centers, lumber yards, construction sites, and so on. I see them at SF cons to this day. Motorola used to make most of them, but that business has now gone to the Chinese. Baofeng makes a unit that costs ~$13 and will easily cross a full mile without intervening obstructions. This is not hearsay; I have one. Better models, from Baofeng and other Chinese manufacturers, will go five miles without trouble and maybe a little more, and still cost only $35-$50. Although I’ve had a ham radio license since 1973 (now K7JPD) there are business and personal licensing programs like the Family Radio Service that require no technical knowledge at all. Carol and I use Baofeng talkies when we’re working on opposite ends of our (large) lot, or if I’m up on the roof. The concept is very much alive.

          1. When I volunteered for a rural fire department, I bought a Japanese Icom radio. Right now, it’s set up to take the NOAA weather channels, with transmit disabled. 🙂

            I’m pretty sure it would work at 2 meters, but I haven’t been motivated to get an appropriate license. Not sure there would be any local traffic.

            My first walkie talkie was a Knightkit C-100 that I got used at a hamfest. Had a few other CB units and used one when my folks went to a National Campers and Hikers Assn Campvention in southern Illinois in 1968.

    1. Funny thing is, this past January when the temperature dropped to record levels (below 10 F, maybe down to 0F), it was that landline that went out, and the cell phones worked. Not everyone had that problem.

    2. Hunters, too.

      My family does “caravans” where we have walkie-talkies so that even though there’s only one adult per vehicle, we’re driving “with” a big group and can chit-chat.

  8. You can still find the two-way handheld radios for sale. But it seems like a niche market of some construction and outdoorsmen. The rise of cell phones has changed so much in our lives.

    When I first started in my job 20 years ago, phone directories were paper. We didn’t even have a computer to access. EVERYONE called the campus operator because their was no handy website to access. I was answering the campus operator phone half of the time, and the rest was split between campus police phone calls, communicating with the officers over the radio, and dealing with parking issues. Now, there are probably 100 phone calls/day whereas before there were close to 1000. Everyone uses their cell phone to access the directory. Parking is a separate office altogether not involved with our department. The radio traffic is more, but not overwhelmingly so. What has increased the most is the number of alarms we monitor. 20 years ago we had maybe 1000 alarm points that might ring in. Now we have individual buildings that have that many.

    1. I am commenting from my cell phone, which is useless as a phone if I’m at home.

      Works fine as a pocket computer until I put too many of the house I-beams between myself and our wifi router.

      There are still pockets and even big swaths where cell phones are useless because of lack of towers. A dozen neighbors and we have no cell service because the canyon is too deep and they won’t bother-any company-to put in a tower for just a few households plus a ton of National Forest and BLM property.

      I suspect as long as the free market has anything to say about it, we won’t have cell service. I’m pretty sure the only reason we have electric and land line is the government’s involvement-the natural gas company tried to talk the neighborhood into installing gas lines at over $20,000 per house a few years ago. Everyone laughed. We’ll stick to propane and wood heat out here.

      1. I have been shocked at how well my wifi works out in the garage and yard for my phone. My house was stuccoed well after it was built in 49, and has the expanded metal mesh lath nailed to the old siding, and storm windows with aluminum screens, and the router resides in the basement.

        1. My new phone picks up our house wifi quite well out in the garage and yard. My old phone would sometimes pick up wifi in the garage, but step onto the grass and there was no joy. And we have a crappy 24″-on-center wood stud house with vinyl siding. The only metal in it is the nails and the eaves troughs.

    2. I’m seeing a lot of 2 way radios in largeish stores. (Not Home Depot; they’re cell based; the big farm and ranch store uses them extensively.) These seem to get used for stock and price checks, and a customer-assist situation.

      2 way radios are still a must for emergency services, though after 9/11, there was a push to go from the analog systems to encrypted digital. It makes sense to have a system somewhat independent of cell services in a nasty situation.

      1. Daughter Unit One works at Target – they use their in-store WiFi for employee communications. (Somehow, it also turns on my specifically-left-off stupid phone WiFi whenever I go in there, too – I always have to get back out of their “guest” network when I want to make a call or send a text anywhere around there.)

      2. I doubt we will give up our portables for a while, given the relative simplicity and robustness but since 2010 every department I’ve worked on has done text page on cell phones as well as audio. Others using MDT don’t use it but still a two method process. Comes in handy when memory is as bad as mine.

      3. I think everyone around here is now digital. It took until about ’08 to get the last of the State Radio towers upgraded to digital. Usually the only time we encrypt is for burglar alarms and if SWAT or one of the Task Forces is doing something. We still officially have 10-codes, but outside of a couple of special calls we all use plain language these days.

    3. The flip side of that is that when my work dumped paper phone directories, the old ones were cherished for YEARS. Because they listed functions, not people. Provided a functional directory that the new lookup system lacked.

      1. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve been able to ignore the paper phone book. I think we got the last one in 2014, but yp dot com seems to have discovered south central Oregon, and the listings are actually usable. Considering some of the businesses around here have a halflife of 3 years, it’s a relief. Protip: small scale used car lots and beauty parlors seem like a good idea, but that 3 year halflife is a stretch for them…

        1. the house across from me still is listed as a tanning salon on YP, Google etc, It was abandoned when I moved in (HUD/Bank owned but not on the market, I tried to make an offer. big garage, second building for a shop, and the house plus it is on the river and a bit over an acre) and now a guy has moved in. the previous owner was listed California, and the guy has Cali plates on his Beemer so I guess he either got it back, or this guy just happens to be also from there. He moved in, and left all the boxes in the drive. been almost a year now. He is doing some work to it as today he got appliances, a kitchen table, and an AC unit delivered by a trucking company.

      2. We probably still have some directories around from back when the police had an unlisted number. As in, after 911 service arrived locally in 1986, the *only* number printed in the phone book for anything police, fire, or medical emergency related was “911.” So if you wanted to enquire about a burn ban day, or report a stolen bicycle, or whatever, 911 was the only way to get hold of anyone by phone.

        Meanwhile for a couple of decades they ran TV and radio announcements begging people not to tie up the 911 service for non-emergency calls… but they still didn’t put the direct numbers back in the phone book.

        A few years ago the direct numbers finally reappeared, and so did all the various city numbers, which had collapsed into a single “city services” number about the same time the police number went away…

        1. The police in San Jose had a non-emergency 311 number. It was divorced from the 911 system, as I learned in a situation that was moving between “neighborly dispute” to “call for armed response” to “he’s sobering up”. Him hearing me rack a shell in my 12 gauge had nothing to do with him cooling off, no sir!

  9. On movies/TV Shows. RBWY and crowd. Small studio, limited equipment. There’s more and more of them every year. And some of them are teaching the newbs like me. Not a lot in the places I’ve found, but slowly.

      1. I believe the company is called “Rooster Teeth” the show is RBWY (pronounced Ruby, I may have flipped the B and W) They’re selling just fine via Amazon last I checked…

        1. It’s RWBY pronounced Ruby based on the initials of the main girls. Ruby, Weiss, Blake, Yang.

      2. A web series with epic food fights… (okay, that only happened once, but it was epic.)

  10. It will only take long (unless a catastrophe of some sort intervenes) for it to die because education is so regulated.
    Not so much “regulated” as subsidized. It’s the public money that will keep them alive (the regulations will keep them “full” for some value of “full”).

    I just realized when writing this that I haven’t seen a walkie talkie for sale in years, because… well, who needs them?
    Same with CBs. Which is a shame, because walkie-talkies/CBs don’t require the infrastructure that cell phones do – making them ideal for certain locations, and certain situations.

    1. And good luck finding a payphone. Few and far between and outrageously priced—jails come to mind as one place that applies.

      1. I got a cell phone in 2005 because I couldn’t find a phone booth in the city.

  11. // I just realized when writing this that I haven’t seen a walkie talkie for sale in years, because… well, who needs them?//

    We have the small hand-held ones. Gets used couple times a year. Was used regularly from 2000 to about 2010-ish. Great for car caravans, Scouts, can communicate with all vehicles as long as within 5 to 10 miles. Hubby still uses our one remaining one for group golf trips. Better than the cell phone.

    Also national parks & wilderness areas out west, where cell phone coverage is non-existent. Not going to have contact 100% of time, but enough that come time for end-of-trail pickup you can be in the neighborhood, but not baby sitting trail head for guesstimate pickup time that may span an hour or two. Locally, Costco occasionally has them, sells them in pairs.

    1. Go out into roam-land and suddenly using the cellphone costs money, while using the radios is free.

      In my state, once you’re out of sight of a highway, you’re probably not going to see any cellular service either. For that matter, along a lot of the more rural highways there isn’t any service.

      1. Yes. Us too. Any pass going over either mountain range, coverage disappears, even sections of Hwy 101 along the coast. Hwy 97 N/S along the high desert, looses coverage in spots. Heck my grandparents, just outside of Drain, has spotty coverage based on which carrier you have. Scout property not 15 miles out of town has no coverage (sits in a hole), without hiking to the top of a ridge. We don’t need the radio regularly unless we are traveling with someone, which rarely happens now. But we do carry it for emergencies when we know cell coverage is going to be non-existent; might get lucky.

  12. By any chance, do you have the three volumes of Heinlein letters that are part of the Virginia Edition? I’ve been reading them just now, and I was struck by the letter of 6 April 1968, which sounds as if it could have been written yesterday, perhaps by you:

    “Not only SF but a very large part of the entire writing and publishing business is filled with custardheads who have ‘no enemies on the left.’ I’m surprised that you and I have ever managed to make a living at writing, here and in this age. (I think it has to do with the crap that most leftwingers write under the guise of telling a story. . . .”

      1. I’m reading the copy from the UC Riverside library. Not the Eaton Collection of science fiction, which will only let you read things in the special collections room, but the volumes that are on the general shelves, which they let me check out. I can’t imagine ever having enough spare funds to buy the VE.

        But I thought that Heinlein’s letter was interesting in that it showed how far back the situation went, and how little it’s changed.

  13. It occurs to me that another change over the past few decades is that people are no longer expected to have careers.

    When I was in grade school, the assumption was that we would prepare for a job, get hired, and work for that employer until we retired. My problem was that there were so many things I was interested in doing, it was very hard for me to pick any one to spend the rest of my life doing.

    I think nowadays, people are better off learning to generalize, and realizing that they will probably work in many different fields over their lifetimes.

    1. That is frightening. If it is YOU changing the career that is fine but when it is your employer doing it, it can be a disaster. Especially when employers want to hire the young and new (and cheaper).

      “work in many different fields over their lifetimes.” And NOT get to good salaries in ANY of them!

      Nobody in their right mind should get into software today. Between H1Bs and Companies wanting the NEW and the Young. After working a few years putting in those 80 hour weeks for a 40 hour paycheck just doesn’t seem worth it. But the Young, they will do it.

      And don’t bring up those software billionaires, it is like telling ALL high school basketball players if you practice enough you can make the NBA and become another star. It is possible but unlikely to even be a College Starter.

      1. You can have a career in software…IF you’re a U.S. citizen and keep your nose clean. Then go to work for a defense contractor at a job that requires a security clearance. They can’t fill those with H1B imports.

        1. That is also why so many RA and TA grad students are foreign nationals. An American citizen is wise to get the BS, find a solid job with a clearance, then have that company pay for add on certifications and graduate degrees.

          1. Yup. Although it troubles me that the MS has become today’s BS. When I graduated (Virginia Tech, ’85), an engineer could find work with a BS. Today, everybody seems to want a masters…I suspect it’s a reflection of the HR Mafia.

            1. WAY too many places require a degree these days where the work doesn’t call for it. And if you work for a government entity (at least around here) it’s worse. Pretty much any position at a college requires a 2yr Assoc. degree, 4 yr Bachelors preferred. The only reason I even qualify for my position anymore is years of service. Why does a janitor, grounds keeper or file clerk require a degree?

      2. “That is frightening. If it is YOU changing the career that is fine but when it is your employer doing it, it can be a disaster. Especially when employers want to hire the young and new (and cheaper).”

        Yes. If you loose your job in Software & you are 45+, expect to hear: “Went another direction.”, “Over qualified.”, “You are second on our list.”, “Don’t think you’ll want the salary we can offer.” I’m sure others can add some more. Everything short of “you are too old.” It is possible. My last job I got when I was 48 after just short of 18 months not working, took a heck of a pay cut, but worked for the next 12 years, retiring from the company; but I was done playing games & “putting in the hours”. When I was replaced, one of the new hires was 50+, but through a retraining program to place individuals who were injured on job & could no longer return to that career, state comp was paying 1/2 his salary & benefits for a year after hire. All 4 of the new hires were fresh out of school. Small company. Very low salaries even for non-silicone/Seattle area.

        “Nobody in their right mind should get into software today. Between H1Bs and Companies wanting the NEW and the Young. After working a few years putting in those 80 hour weeks for a 40 hour paycheck just doesn’t seem worth it.”

        University makes it extremely difficult for student to get into the Computer Science level degrees. Which lets the employers state they can’t find enough candidates without the H1B’s.

        UofO & OSU – known requirements: Start as pre computer science major. Must take medical level calculus & discrete math, as well as intro computer science classes. Must maintain 3 GPA over all, & 3.5 GPA in math & computer science lower division. To be even considered entry to degree program as a junior. Must have a minor. Most give up before applying.

        I contend I forced my way in.. When applying I was working as a software developer/programmer already. Had a bachelors of science already (just not anywhere close to CS), and a computer programming AA degree, plus local employer who wanted an employee to get the CS degree. My problem? Missing most (oops, ALL) the math, & my over all GPA was 2.99 (AA degree, was at 3.999, will leave the math to others as to my GPA from my first degree, it was over 2). Overall GPA with all 3 degrees is about 3.5 now (age & knowing how & what to study, what to ignore).

        1. I was one of those suckers. I *loved* computers. And I found people who’d pay me to play with them. Yee-haw!

          Many years later I read Tracy Kidder’s “The Soul of a New Machine”, about how Data General used engineers and programmers like toilet paper, and realized I’d been the same type of sucker. The management types must have laughed their asses off at us, working 60 hours a week for 40 hours of pay…

          At least I simply wound up putting in more work for less pay than I expected, one of life’s ‘learning experiences’, as opposed to the people who worked themselves into breakdowns.

          After that I started asking my own questions at interviews. “How many of your projects are late, right now? Do you expect programmers to work late and weekends to take up the slack? How does your company generate a specification for new software? What are your standards for source control and documentation? Who is responsible for code maintenance?”

          I thought I was asking reasonable questions, but in retrospect, that’s when I was suddenly unable to find further employment in that field. The questions were probably a big flashing red light, “TROUBLEMAKER – DO NOT HIRE.”

          1. On the other hand, you could have a career in Navy flight test. We’re always looking for people who are willing to flip over the rocks. 🙂

          2. //probably a big flashing red light, “TROUBLEMAKER – DO NOT HIRE.”//

            Probably??? Surely you jest.

            Granted I was going to get cut eventually, company was being parted out due to bankruptcy, but I know darn well my 40 hour week, not killing myself, was definitely a factor. Taking 18 months & a huge pay cut for the next job was also a factor. I too had the same flashing red light hanging over me. With all the “new” company’s faults, the one it didn’t have was working their programmers to death. We were expected to go home after 8 hours. Now did that mean none of us got hyper focused, came up for air, & it was well after 5? Have you met programmers? 🙂 But no deadlines, period.

            1. programming isn’t the only industry that does that. VFX and animation does as well. Several acquaintances that used to work in the industry, worked themselves into serious health problems.

      3. I’ve changed mine several times. Was supposed to be a carpenter/construction worker but the contractors I was with were spotty, and the 80’s economy was still not going great guns for us in New Orleans (oh, and I had to move from the U.P. to NOLA to find work), then I was a bicycle mechanic, but it paid too low, though I could still do it if needed, then I did auto parts delivery, then sales, then shipping. Quit when I got too busy and wasn’t getting the help I asked for. Was happy to see they needed 3 people to do the job after I left. I then ended up out at the airport, fueling planes. Quit in 2004, after a buyout made it too stupid to work at. Moved to Texas to do DirecTV installs, and was warehouse manager after another buyout, and again buy August ’04, it got too stupid for words, so I left.
        I then had trouble getting work for the first time, and ended up at a temp agency (People Express) who sent me to some place putting stuff into drums. Sadly suffered yet another buyout, but although I have come close, I and still doing it, though now I am living in Michigan once again. 10 years ago I likely would have quit, even though I would have gone broke doing so. I have twice warned them that getting too stupid will cause me to walk away, even though I would kill off most of my retirement doing so. Not bragging, they need me more than I need them. I am the only person who knows what I am doing, or how to do what I am doing, and not just in the chemicals side of things. The don’t need a second full time person doing it but the really need me to train someone to do this stuff. I kick the bucket and a multi million dollar job will no one who can do it right for a very long time. possibly terminally long. The engineer might be able to get someone up to speed enough to limp by, but he is still picking up my side of the job.

    2. There are people who MAKE their careers. I knew a young fellow who was majoring in Political Science and Arabic Languages. There’s somebody who will be in demand his whole life, unless he does something catastrophicly dumb. But he may well be an independent contractor for most of it.

    3. I think the only job security will be in flexibility, adaptability, thinking ahead to the future, and preparing skills for contingencies.

  14. About walkie talkies, years ago I remember that some cell phones could communicate without going through cell towers. They would act as walkie talkies. I haven’t heard of that in many years. It worked well over maybe a couple miles. It is a real pain that the cell companies stopped allowing that.
    In disasters and such could be a real help.

    1. The technicians at the HP plant where I worked all used walkie talkies for emergency work. Around 2000, they dropped the ‘talkies for cell based systems (partly because they were supporting a plant 100 miles away). I figured that if Sweet San Andreas did its thing, they’d have zero emergency communications beyond loud shout range.

    2. Those walkie-talkie/cell phones still went through the cell towers. It’s just that they were programmed so that when several of them were set up in a common “talk group”, they simulated a walkie-talkie and could access each other without having to dial a phone number.

    1. I still think I could get some viewers for my show proposal. It would cross “Survivor” with “C-SPAN.” We’d drop members of Congress onto an desert island equipped only with a few cans of Spam, a pallet of cream soda, their Blackberries, and random copies of the Federal Register. After a month, the survivors would be allowed to bring their bill up for voting…

  15. For schools the first real test is going to be eBooks for all schoolbooks. Much lower costs. Easy to fix errors, have different textbooks, supply much more information, full on simulations and animated illustrations, etc.. With laptops for the students and school networks.
    Tests on the laptop, test questions taken from a database of questions for that level of test. Many teachers supplying questions and answers. No cheating possible because the test isn’t created until the unique test (for that level) is downloaded to each students laptop. Timed by the laptop. Graded by the network servers and then returned to the students. Showing what they need to work on.
    This is ALL off the shelf besides some routine software. Could be done today with the SAVINGS from NOT having to have real BOOKS.
    But it isn’t going to happen, where is the chance for graft with that system.
    And the students MIGHT actually learn something besides propaganda.

    1. Meh. Look at what text book publishers are doing at the college level with ebooks as ‘textbook rentals’. It actually qualifies as evil.

      Costs the same to the student, yank the book off the device at the end of semester, if the student had to drop or retake the class, bill them again for the book when they need it.

      1. Yes. ^^ This ^^

        Been 11 years now since the kid graduated from college. But eBook text books were available then, but not required. Carefully reading the small print, kid & us, said, heck no! Not only can you not use the same book if you drop the class, but you can’t buy used; always sold as new, always loose any notes highlighted in the margins. Plus any class that might allow limited open book (notes & book), won’t allow it if on computer. Kid still has some of his books. Heck we still have some of our Forestry books (okay they are the plant identification ones, but still) & they are 40+ years old.

        Kid despised the math lab classes that required everything was online. Couldn’t lookup prior information or keep crib notes easily. Kid has been on computers since he was born (or near to it). I wrote software for a living.

        Started with Apple IIe (1983 – last I heard kindergarten classes were still using it) before he was born & moved to Window based afterwards.

        1. There is a HUGE legal earthquake coming with ebooks. Indeed, with all downloaded content. Somebody (a lot of somebodies) who thought they owned a copy of a book (or film) that the provider thought they were leasing is going to sue, and there will be a lot of contrary decisions about the old ‘first sale’ issue, culminating in a fine donnybrook before the Supreme Court.

          The film industry tried to choke the video rental business in its infancy, and got told “not a chance; you sell a copy, you no longer own that copy. Period, dot.” by their lawyers.

          1. My eBook is backed up, & twice on Sundays, or more (yes, I have backup’s of my backups). Plus I unlock eBooks. I want to be able to read what I buy on whatever eReader or Device I want, not always the app where purchased; plus when sites go away, I still have my books. Don’t share except through the locked accounts that are mine, which is legal (it has happened, twice). I just turn off their access to purchasing; require the account to get password to purchase content, PIA to me. Allows my 84 old mother to read the same books she’d borrow from me either way.

            1. I turned the wifi off on my Nooks because every time B&N pushed out a new update they’d break something else.

              And yes, I back up my eBooks (unlocked) so that when whichever company I “buy”/lease them from goes out of business I still have access to them. My physics teacher in High School used to put nifty little sayings up on his chalkboard. One I remember was The First Rule of computers is back up everything. The Second Rule of computers is back up your back up to another location. Another one of his quips was along the lines of “short of physically demolishing a computer, there is little a user can do to it that isn’t fixable.”

          2. Most actual practicing working-as-engineers I’ve encountered had their old college textbooks near to hand for convenient reference. The textbooks were part of their working tool set.

            1. Yes…though most of the stuff I use is in pdf format. There are high-end platforms for which the NATOPS Flight Manual runs over 1,000 pages. Digital distribution makes a hell of a lot of sense. Cheap to make, easy to distribute…and for an unmanned aircraft, you can load the whole thing into the ground station.

          1. About half of my undergrad books (circa 1970-74) could be found used. I’d keep some and sell the rest if there was a market. For my MS in 1987-91, no used books were available, but the work/study program reimbursed the costs after the course. I had to get a B- or better, but that was quite doable…(One key factor: the MS program was much smaller than the undergrad. I think the BSEEs at University of Incorrect outnumbered the total MS students at Politically Correct University. The bookstores at U of I had leverage. And incentive.)

          2. That’s nice when you can do so. I know that for a relative’s textbook, the publisher decided to go eBook-only with the latest edition, and there are substantial revisions from the previous edition.

            1. Back in the 90s one of my professors told me that the difference between two of the editions of a textbook that he had helped write was basically just punctuation and new illustrations. Everything else was the same. But the school insisted that students buy the new version, which got “updated” every other year.

  16. Frankly, Star Wars‘ creators have been insulting their audience since the fourth picture, and some will argue since the third. Ewoks – pfui!

    Star Wars Writer Chuck Wendig Insults his Audience
    By Sarah Hoyt
    Some of you might remember Chuck Wendig, the author who got the job (and the hype around) writing the novelizations for the rebooted Star Wars.

    I don’t know what his precise major dysfunction is, but people assure me he could write before that job. Perhaps, like many other writers before him, he thought write-for-hire was beneath his dignity and sabotaged his own work, because “those fools will read anything.” (For the record, and anyone reading this, I don’t care how exalted and artistic you think you are or how much you detest “selling out.” If you’re given a job and accept it you do it, with all you got and to the best of your ability. In the early oughts, I did a bunch of work for hire. Not media and most of it stuff I can’t talk about because it was ghostwriting for successful authors who had hit a bad health patch or something. Was all of it what I wanted to be writing then? None of it was. But sons needed shoes and books, and I was paid. I did my best to give value for value.)

    Anyway, his first Star Wars book became an internet sensation overnight, in the way all of us who labor in words hope and very much pray that none of our books become a sensation.

    There is a reason the fans were mad. Go ahead, read the sample. I dare you.

    Chuck Wendig reacted badly to it then. One of my friends wrote about it. Note what my friend, Cedar Sanderson, says about being a writer, and a writer’s duty to his fans:

    1. Idea! There should be a Utoob public service announcement video where various people chime in that they are not a shield for bad writing.
      Seriously, this plague of trying to mask sloppy, bad, and unfunny writing under the shield of leftwing virtues has got to stop.

    2. I’d say Star Wars has been insulting its audience ever since Lucas recut the first film so that Greedo shot first. But YMMV.

    3. Ewoks. And the idiotic walking robot things.

      “Oops, our ten billion credit DeathMaster 4000C just stepped into a hole and broke a leg…”

      “Sorry, all the field repair units are working 24/7 already, maybe we can slot you in for next week.”

  17. Regarding movies (and all video entertainment, really): the tech is already there for anybody to *make* their own movie. You can make a movie with your cell phone if you want. The limiting factor is skill, not technology. The sticking point is distribution. How do you get your work in front of eyeballs?

    We can see from the YouTube shenanigans that a different model is necessary. Once you get past that choke point, the exhibition space is in your hand. Theaters are struggling because of that reality, and it won’t be much longer before they change the relationship they’ve had for decades with the big distributors. It’s that or go out of business. Either way, someone with a different deal will take over that exhibition space, if the demand for a big screen is there.

      1. Which is why the successful indie movie distribution model will not include YouTube.

        1. but it will include some kind of casting/streaming, promotion, etc network. Having your own little movie on your own little site has been tried, and failed. Video quality has improved, but using a streaming API that doesnt have the server backing of Google or Akamai isnt going to handle that well.

  18. I think we’re in the middle of a communications revolution similar to Gutenberg or Marconi. You can write and distribute a book yourself – no publisher required. Make videos – YouTube’s antics notwithstanding (Google is begging for antitrust action). Feature films? Close…and I keep thinking of the original Star Trek. Cheesy effects, not too complex props and sets…but the scripts were the work of just about every writer who would be up for a Hugo or Nebula in the 1970s. Plot matters.

    It’s amusing…because I’m using this gimmick in the SF novel I intermittently work on. The hero has built a reputation as a student of ancient naval history, and makes videos on the subject.

    1. There was a guy who got his hands on Gutenberg’s press through a lawsuit. Then he took it to Paris and had to defend himself against charges of witchcraft. How else could he make the letters so similar?

    2. I remember realizing, after getting my first cellular phone, that there was a basic difference between a land line and the cellphone: land lines are station to station, and cellphones are person to person.

      Remember the not-so-good old days, when the phone would ring until someone got tired of hearing it and picked it up? And then they’d reluctantly go off to try to find the person you were trying to get hold of? Maybe they’d find them, maybe you’d just watch the timer racking up long distance charges until you had to hang up…

      For a while, at least, you could just call someone’s cellphone and they’d answer. That seems to be not-a-thing now; I know several people who *never* answer their phone. They only use them for texting and voicemail.

      1. My wife only answers recognized numbers. Checks the voicemail of unrecognized. Then either calls back legitimate calls or blocks spam numbers. So much phone spam.

        I hate being woken up in the wee hours when overseas with urgent messages about my extended warranty. I drive a 20 yo truck and a 54 yo car.

        1. What’s really annoying is when the “spam calls” have spoofed phone numbers.

          I’ve gotten “call-backs” from people wondering why did I call them. 😦

          1. I had a close call a year ago. Phishers were calling, acting as Dish Network employees, with a story about problems and needing to redo the firmware in the receiver. (It had been a tough day, I was tired, and started to fall for it.) About the time they were asking for credit card information, the red alert bells went off and I terminated the call. They were spoofing the number, so it looked like Dish. They must have had some success, because Dish put out a warning later on. (The bastards tried calling a couple more times, until I told them to sod off.)

            We’re occasionally getting spoofed calls; our exchange has a couple series of the last four digits, and the bogus calls are outside that range. They never leave a message…

            I don’t know what we’d do without caller ID now.

            1. I ALMOST fell for this when we were paying utilities on TWO houses and hitting rock bottom, before the last house sold.
              In my defense, I was working 10 hours on house, coming home to write for three, and SP III had just gone wild. Oh, and I had major surgery just a couple of months before.
              So I get this phone call saying we hadn’t paid our utilities and they were going to cut off electrical.
              I freaked, as the address was the house undergoing inspection to sell.
              And then they let slip they thought we were a people-visiting type of business. I.e. store, restaurant. Not just the dear old little family press “Goldport”. (We still get furniture and such catalogues. Dear Lord.)
              Then I was on my guard and noticed all sorts of crazy things. So I called Dan on the house phone and said “Can you have forgotten to pay utilities on Weber to the tune of 2500?” He’s like “The house is empty. It’s like $50 a month. HOW would I do that?”
              Turns out it was a scam that AIMED at foreign born business owners (which makes me wonder HOW they know that. It’s not like it’s obvious from my name.) It gets you to drive money out to a random address, to “keep the lights on.”
              Mostly they get small Mexican restaurants and pizza places.
              I talked to the police a long time on that one, and was told to get an address if they called back. They didn’t.

              1. > (which makes me wonder HOW they know that.

                There are data brokers who will tell them for pennies per name.

                Facebook, for example. Google. Equifax. And all the smaller fish.

        2. Back a few decades ago a company called DAK sold an answering box. It simply picked up the call, asked for a passcode or “extension number”, and passed the ring through.

          The wonderful things were a) the stupid thing didn’t ring and wake you up when you were working night shifts, and b) if the passcode got spread too widely, you just changed it to a new one.

          I foolishly didn’t buy one, and they went off the market, and I’ve been looking for something like it ever since. People keep pointing me at answering machines, which are not what I want.

      2. The problem with answering your cell phone is that people wil, call you 24/7. There appears to be no developing etiquette regarding when not to call, and while people will tell you “Oh, just leave your phone off.” You will see them giving large rafts of excrement to those who actuall do.

        Thus, I do not HAVE a cell phone. I have an iPad, which has no phone ablity, though it connects. And whe people tell me I really ahould get a cell phine (for their convenience, ususally) I say “If I wanted to be in contact with you 24/7, I would have married you.”

        1. $SPOUSE and I both have TracFones. They’re basic as hell; flip phone, and you can text if you want to do the 44 666 777 7777 33 manure trick, so not much texting. 🙂

          They get limited use; emergency calls, road trips, and if I’m over the Cascades for medical purposes. The medical people will call at unusual hours, though seldom after 8PM. The fact that we don’t get cell coverage at home 95% of the time helps us to keep the phones OFF.

          1. I also use a Tracfone. I just upgraded actually to a newer smart phone. For years I had the basic not-even a flip phone where any text messages came out of talk minutes. Last year I upgraded to an LG smart phone, but the battery kept dying after about 8 months, so I upgraded again to a Samsung smart phone. Even with buying the phone and a bunch of talk/data/text I spend much less than my wife who has a monthly plan through Verizon.

        2. After about 7:30, my phone is answered with either “if someone isn’t dead or dying, they are going to be” or “who is dead?!?” — depending on how late it is and the phone number. Ditto for phone calls before about 5AM; from about 5-7, if it’s a business type call, I tend to ask if they have any idea what time it is.

          Don’t get many calls at that time anymore.

        3. We used to not get good reception with our cell phones at our house (in town, no less). I got pretty peaved at a couple of service people one year because they wouldn’t stop by unless someone answered the phone first to verify someone was home. But they kept calling the cell phone which didn’t get answered at the house, instead of the land line which we specifically said was the number to call. Since they installed more towers and get good reception we dropped the land line.

      3. Hell I don’t tend the landline any more. Not with 90% of the calls being one sort of tele-harasser or other.

        Were I running for office, one plank of my platform would be a flat prohibition on robo-calls…and on cold calling. If nothing else, you’d have to buy a license for an automatic calling system…the tax is $1 per number dialed.

        I do NOT have any mercy on those bastards. Not when I had to completely disconnect the phone for several years, only plug in to make an outgoing call. Which meant really limited contact with my parents.

        Then they died.

    3. JourneyQuest, season one came out in 2010, one two and three are on Prime, they’re not BAD production at all.

    4. there’s no reason for the VFX to be cheesy or non existent. There are plenty of talented VFX people who dont want to live in CA or Vancouver, or would gladly use working for you for a few years as a bridge to doing so. There’s no need for the VFX business to be centered in CA.. Vancouver is a different matter, as that is tied up in the Canadian tax credit scheme.. just like, the average boutique VFX studio doesnt need a renderfarm anymore, not when you can use Amazon EC2.

  19. > Movies… well, that’s harder and further off,
    > because the tech is not quite there yet.

    The tech is old hat. I mentioned this movie the other day: (there are higher resolution versions on bittorrent and their web site, but YT is convenient…)

    It was made by some Finnish Trek fans as a hobby project. Watch the first few minutes. That bridge scene? None of those actors were in the same room at the same time; they did their scenes separately in front of a blue sheet thumbtacked to an apartment wall. The whole bridge is CGI, rendered by a bunch of used computers under Torssonnen’s kitchen table. The CGI and editing software was common off-the-shelf stuff.

    They finished it in *2005*. And it’s better than most of the “official” Trek movies…

    Torssonnen got substantial backing to do “Iron Sky”, but alas, it suffered badly from “too many Chiefs” syndrome…

    1. You could sell books on smashwords for years, and they were clunky, etc. but until the kindle and “I can format my own book, and I’m not techie” it didn’t present a real challenge.

    2. Keep in mind that the VFX crew for Iron Sky was a bunch of professional animators, many of whom were imported from the US.

  20. I work in advance telecommunications, mostly in the engineering side of the house. The technologies are changing so rapidly that we can barely keep technicians trained. This is especially harder on both the older boomer generation workers who are just trying to make it to retirement, and the youngest workers. The change of pace takes a constant effort above and beyond just putting in 40 hours a week.

      1. To be fair you’re a lazy slug and procrastination is your byword.
        This motivational statement brought to you by your kindly old Uncle Lar who loves you dearly and so cracks the whip on occasion.
        Besides, Greebo needs kibble.

    1. This retired boomer has that issue. I have a couple of temperature dataloggers with a bug/quirk. If you tell them to use Fahrenheit, they’ll put out Celsius raw data, while setting a ‘F’ flag in the header. The Windows program does the conversion, but the open-source code that does it on my Linux system misses the conversion (the code was developed by a Japanese guy, and I think he didn’t consider that case).

      I looked at fixing the code, but it’s in Python, and I just can’t readily wrap my head around it. I programmed in C and Perl, but object-oriented code was never something I needed.

      I found I could do the C>F conversion in the plotting program, so I’m leaving the Python code alone until I get really bored. 🙂

      1. Tell me about it. In order: RPG, rBase, Cobol, dBase, Basic, C, C++, Visual Basic, Delphi (Pascal wrapper), Embedded C, & C#. I did get into the object oriented stuff, & I could learn the newer stuff but just can’t get the motivation. Its the client server web & App stuff I can’t get my head into. To be fair, being retired, really haven’t had a reason to. When I retired, my skills were 20 years behind in development tools, because of the tools my company worked with, & I only worked with for 12 years (figure that one out). Other than Embedded C & C# on Symbol Barcode data collectors, but only worked on them about 3 months each over the 12 years (Simple program that needed transfer from C on DOS to C++ Embedded on Embedded Windows to finally C# on Win10 as the Symbol units evolved. Easy. To be fair my job between 1996 – 2002 was ‘Universal Program Generator’ which allowed non DOS programmers to write Apps for Falcon, Symbol, & Intermec, Barcode data collectors, so the little I did from 2004 – 2016, was a cake walk.)

        My first 2 major employers were willing to keep skills updated, if I could prove to them the skills were needed & would be used (makes sense). Even then you can’t keep up with everything that is out there. Last employer, nope.

  21. I came late to this party, but here’s $0.02. There literally has been no difference between local and long-distance phone calls within the continental U.S. since before I retired from Lucent in 2001. All calls are done by packet switching, invented for hardening the communications system in case of war, and what route the individual packets take is determined by current conditions, which change by the microsecond. Calling across the street (this works for cell phones as well, though the packets will be going from cell tower to cell tower), one packet may go directly, while the next is routed through California and back because that’s the best route immediately available. They get arranged in order at the destination, 8000 per second. Since there is NO dedicated route to any far-end receiver, there is no difference in the calls. That doesn’t mean the phone companies didn’t charge more for “long-distance” as long as they could get away with it; they charged a luxury tax on long-distance phone calls up to a few years ago that had originally been instituted to pay for the Spanish-American War…

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