college

The Macintosh Came Out 30 Years Ago

Byte Magazine MacIntoshUnlike the first-generation iPhone in 2007, I wasn’t there for the introduction of the first-generation Macintosh in 1984. I was in the eighth grade at John Steinbeck Middle School in San Jose. According to the girls at school, I came from a “poor” family because my parents couldn’t afford cable TV to get MTV. We were too poor to own an Apple II. My parents gave me a Commodore VIC-20 for the Christmas the year before. When I informed my teacher that I got a computer, I got laughed out of the Apple II programming class in the seventh grade because he called the VIC-20 a toy (which it was).

A real computer, I learned, requires big bucks.

As my interests in computer programming and electronics developed in 1984, I read everything I could get my hands on. Byte Magazine was my primary source of information, where I first read about the Macintosh. The two most influential books I read that summer was a technical book on the Motorola 68000 processor that the Macintosh used, and “Hackers: Heroes of The Computer Revolution” by Steven Levy. I felt frustrated because I didn’t have a real computer to do anything with and the computer revolution was marching on without me. Never mind that I was only 15-years-old at the time.

I got a Commodore 64 for Christmas that year. Although a toy compared to the Apple II and Macintosh, this Commodore 64 was the first of three I would use for word processing, programming and video games over the next ten years. The Commodore 64 got me through the four bad years when I stayed home from high school and four good years at San Jose City College when I got my associate degree in general education.

The first Macintosh computer I used was a Macintosh Classic II at the SJCC library. English literature instructors demanded that all papers be turned in as either typewritten or laser-printed. The near letter quality (NLQ) setting on my dot matrix printer was barely tolerated. I would print out papers at home, re-type the papers into the Macintosh at the library, saved the file to a 3.5″ floppy, walked over to the checkout counter, insert the floppy into the Macintosh connected to the laser printer, and printed out the pages at ten cents a page.

As I worked in Silicon Valley, my experience with the Macintosh was touch-and-go in the Windows-centric corporate environment. Every time a co-worker taught me how to do something new on the Macintosh, I would get laid off from work two weeks later. Recruiters always teased me about Apple jobs but never submitted my resume because my work experience was—and still is—predominately Windows.

After I started earning the big bucks, I got a Mac mini in 2005 and a black MacBook in 2006. I later gave the mini to a friend who needed a Mac more than I needed an extra system. I’m still using the MacBook eight years later. Although suitable for word processing and web browsing, it’s no longer suitable for compiling programs in the background. I’ll be getting a replacement system later this year to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh.

The Apocalypticism Of American Politics

Hourglass on the duneAccording to this article on The Daily Beast, the Tea Party is practicing a self-destructive form of American politics.

They believe America teeters on the brink of destruction, and hold as an article of faith that liberals, gays, Democrats, atheists and the United Nations are to blame. This “end-times” world-view is a foundational precept of the evangelical movement, from which many of the so-called Tea Party favorites spring. Scholars call it apocalypticism.

Does this sound familiar? It should.

I became a member of an evangelical Christian church in college during the early 1990’s that had the goal of setting up a church in every major metropolitan city in the world before the end of the millennium. That happened with six months to spare in 1999. But the years 1999, 2000 and 2001 came and went without incident. If the rapture did happen, we were all left behind to read the “Left Behind” books and endure the Florida vote recount in the 2000 presidential election. Now that’s hell.

Being an observer of people, I noticed that the church message changed during those years. We went from “being faithful to the end” to “being faithful to the end of our lifetimes” (emphasis mine), which meant the same thing for most people in the church. But some people in the leadership noticed that the spiritual goal posts got moved from the end zone to overflow parking down the street. The church founder that everyone put up with for 30 years found himself out of the church in 2001, as no wanted to put up with him for another 30 years until the end of their lifetime.

No rapture, no job.

The worldwide church movement I joined splintered into regional churches that no longer had a unifying cause with each other. The San Francisco Bay Area church muddle through for several years while looking for a new mission statement. I allowed myself to get kicked out of the church in 2004 after I got too tired to fight the good fight, started questioning the motives of the leadership, and said “no” more often than “yes” when the leadership demanded something from me. In short, I was no longer a team player.

I went on to become a writer, which I always believe is my true calling from God.

The Tea Party cannot exist without numerous enemies (i.e., a black president in the White House, Hillary Clinton and Establishment Republicans), a manufactured crisis (i.e., the government shutdown and a threatened debt default), and sympathetic media outlets (i.e., Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the Internet). If all that goes away, the Tea Party becomes nothing more than a group of angry white people still stuck in the 1950’s—or the 1850’s for those in the Deep South—who can’t accept that the world has moved on without them. Worst, they delude themselves into thinking that God is still with them. Meanwhile, the rest of America continues to suffer because of them.

The Ho-Hum Sticker Shock of College Housing

Hand towerThe San Jose Mercury News wrote that the cost of campus housing exceeded the cost of tuition for San Francisco Bay Area colleges. A quick back of the envelope calculation for my college years as a young student (early 1990’s) and an adult student (early 2000’s) shows that housing was always more expensive. Other than the sticker shock that parents are going through at this time of year, I’m not sure why this is news in Silicon Valley. Being a starving student was never an easy task.

After dropping out of high school three months into the ninth grade and three days into the tenth grade, I stayed home during my high school years and taught myself from books, newspapers, magazines and public television. I worked with my father in construction for several years after I turned 18-years-old, decided that I didn’t want to work in construction for the rest of my life, and checked out the local adult high school program. They turned me away after I blew out their evaluation exam, saying that it would take me five years to complete my high school diploma, and sent me over to San Jose City College to earn a general education associate degree in four years.

My parents never supported me going to college and expected me to fail like I did with high school. For the first year, I lived at home with them for free. But each day I looked for cans and bottles in the campus garbage cans to earn the $250 USD I needed for classes and books each semester. My father and I took my mountain of recyclables in his truck to the recycling center each month. After I got a minimum wage job at the campus bookstore, I worked 30 hours a week for the next three years. My parents conceded that I wasn’t a total failure when I graduated from community college.

After I joined the campus ministry to become a Christian in 1992, I moved into a five-bedroom Victorian that was a former frat house in Downtown San Jose with 12 guys. The monthly rent was $200 USD each. That lasted three months before four of us got our own two-bedroom apartment that still cost $200 USD each. Three months of rent was what it cost to go to community college for a year.

Not long after we moved out of the Victorian, the city of San Jose restricted the number of garbage cans for pick up to three. A household of 13 guys put out seven trash cans each week. Like basic cable TV, no one wanted to pay for a dumpster. The last guy to move out called the landlord in the Midwest to inform him that all the original tenants on the lease moved out a decade earlier.

When I went back to college to learn computer programming as an adult student, I worked 60 hours a week as a video game tester, paid $1,000 USD per month for a studio apartment and Uncle Sam paid for my second associate degree with a $3,000 USD tax credit to retrain for a new career. I even made the dean’s list for maintaining a 4.0 GPA in major courses. The cost of housing has exceeded the cost of tuition.