Princess Muse

Monday, August 22, 2011

Musings on Being a Tech Goddess

At least, that's what Ken calls me...

It all began (as almost everything good does) at FSU.  Back in the Days Before Internet, there was PLATO.  PLATO was actually developed at the University of Illinois, but there was a PLATO system in Tallahassee.  Somehow, one of my roommates got involved and the next thing I knew, I was an Author.  There were 3 or 4 levels of logins for PLATO:  Student, Author, (*something*--I think Admin or something like that) and SysOps.  Most of the people I knew were Authors.  Really, they were the ones writing the programs for the Student levels to use.  Most of the Students were Math (*ugh*) Students (*double ugh*).

The PLATO keyboards were pretty much like all keyboards are, with one exception:  there was a blue button with the word "next" on it.  On the screen, there was a command that said "Press NEXT to begin."
Oh, how we used to laugh at the students who would come into the library to do the module.  They'd sit down next to us, stare at the screen, glance at the keyboard, look desperately at us and say, "What?1?"  We'd lean over, point out the BIG BLUE BUTTON and say, "That's the NEXT button."  Then we'd snigger at them for a good five minutes or so.

PLATO was really the precursor for the Internet.  We had logins (mine was elf/crest (which is read as "elf of group crest"), and pennypriddy/banzai (in honor of Buckaroo Banzai), finally, melissa/shelter), "notes" (bulletin boards), and "p-notes" (aka personal notes, or what's known today as email).  In addition we could *term/talk* which was instant messaging.  Did I mention that I had all this in 1984?  Remember when AOL came out with instant messaging?  I was excited until I realized it was just *term/talk*.  Pah...

Every morning, I would sign on and send out a p-note just to wish my friends a good morning.  I started with just 3 or 4, but by the time I was graduated from FSU, I was up to at least 20, including the SysOp, Pete Schow.  (I didn't meet him til '87, but word got to me that his feelings were hurt that he wasn't getting a 'good morning' message. sometime in '86.)

Arlyn and I started a "notes" section....we turned into Story Time.  It was called "Chance" and we had all sorts of people writing a wild story about the Pirates of Plato....I managed to get a print out before I was graduated, Ar....I'll have to see if I can dig it up....

Every now and then, I'd get to meet some of my online friends.  There were some guys who worked in 'Bama on our PLATO system and they came out to Tally.  I came in, signed on and started term/talking with one of them ... Jan (who is a guy, by the way), "said" "Turn to the right and say, 'hi'"  I almost fell out of my chair.....and how he laughed at me.....

Once, the Admins were desperate.  They needed someone to run a group for one of the Chemistry classes. They were so desperate, they were going to bump me up a level and run the group.  I'd been taking the tutorials on TUTOR (the programming language PLATO used).  I couldn't do much, but I could write little programs.  Luckily, somebody came to their senses and someone who knew Chemistry and TUTOR was able to run the group.  But, I was ready.

And, I took a class in PASCAL, which no one uses anymore.  I learned a lot about programming.  I also improved my French.  The instructor was a grad student from some Arab nation.  He spoke pretty good English, but I discovered that I understood him better in French.  Go figure.  My French is now non-existent, and I couldn't program in PASCAL if you put a gun to my head, but I did learn that being a programmer would've make me crazy....

The Programmer’s Blues
by Robert J. Woodhead
(Cleaned up by Dr. Megabyte)
with apologies to Glenn Frye
There’s trouble in the data now, I can feel it in my bones
I had a premonition that I shouldn’t code alone
I had the new DOS loaded but I didn’t think it’d fry
Then everything exploded and 2 weeks work blew sky-high
So, baby, here’s a printout and a keyboard for your hand
And here’s a little floppy, now do it just the way we planned
You debug for 20 days and I’ll pay you 20 grand!
I’m sorry it went down like this, but some chip had to fuse,
It’s the typing of the language
It’s the Programmer’s Blues…
Programmer’s Blues….
Coder’s and the Analyst’s, Hackers and Sysops,
Bad comments and strange bomboffs, and the bugs nobody copped,
No matter if it’s Pascal, Basic or Cobol
You’ve got to carry manuals, there’s no online help at all!
It’s lots of rotten coffee, and lots of lousy food,
Every variable name is dangerous, it might have been pre-used,
It’s the lure of relaxed typing, it’s so easy to be crude!
Perhaps you’ll understand it better when you see my tools,
It’s the ultimate enhancement, it’s the Programmer’s Blues!
Programmer’s Blues…..
You see it in their memos, you read them every day,
They say you have to fix those bugs, but they just don’t go away,
No matter how hard you work, it just won’t run OK,
You bury them in the subroutines, but you know they’re here to stay!
You hope that no one’ll notice them, but they always seem to do,
You beg for Beta testing, maybe one will give a clue,
Down from the office of your manager, you learn the heat’s on you….
Heat’s on you….
It’s a losing proposition, but one you can’t refuse,
It’s the policies of debugging, it’s the Programmer’s Blues….
Programmer’s Blues….

Well, it's getting a little late....go find some way to aMuse yourself....

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