Friday, July 11, 2014

The Computer and me.

It occurred to me the other day that my experience with computers may be quite different than other peoples. For example:

  • I got the idea that one could build one's own computer when Gordon Hughes, a high school friend, built one for a science fair in 1954 or 1955. (Gordon went on to invent the hard drive for computers.)
  • I first programmed a computer in 1958, the SWAC at UCLA, in binary. That was taking my first computer course.
  • I got a summer job as a computer operator in 1959, and was a teaching assistant in the Berkeley Engineering School computer lab that fall.
  • I did computer simulations of a pattern transformation device and a perceptron in 1962.
  • I taught the Basic computer language at UC Irvine in a class in 2004 or 2005.
  • I worked in the computer facility of the Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria from 1965 to 1967. During that time a taught a Fortran course and wrote the first Fortran manual in Spanish in Chile.
  • I taught a course in Linear Programming at the Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso, Chile as a Ford Foundation Consultant in 1967.
  • I verified the accuracy of the logical design of a digital computer in 1968 or 1969. It was later built and worked.
  • In the early 1970s, working in a WHO health planning research project in Colombia, I  did a some computer analysis of health systems.
  • In the 1980s, I managed a project to produce four monographs on the use of microcomputers in developing countries[ tens of thousands of copies were distributed. My office also procured the first personal computer purchased by USAID and used it to automate records of its grants program. We also funded the creation of the Internet backbone for Costa Rica from that office, which later became the backbone of the Internet for Central America.
  • During that time I also bought a very inexpensive home computer, programmed it for my young son to learn arithmetic, and also used it for statistical demonstrations in a course I was teaching.
  • I bought my first serious home computer in 1997, using it for my home office and consulting activities.
  • I served as a consultant to the InfoDev program and the Development Gateway program of the World Bank in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The first of those sought to make small grants to organizations in developing countries to promote innovative uses of computer technology. At the Development Gateway I was involved as a consultant to a network of computer research and training centers in developing nations.
  • Now retired, I blog, tweet, use Facebook, and manage a couple of groups on Linked In. I sit before a computer screen for hours a day.

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