the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Seems like old times...

This post is being created from a newly installed Linux platform.

Back in the day... I was fascinated with computers. My first taste of a computer was when the company I worked for purchased a brand new IBM PC. The one with no hard drive and two 5 1/4" floppy drives. The thing had 64k memory. I was not permitted to use the computer during work hours but could use it on a first come first serve basis after hours. I decided to go into the office on a Saturday morning when no one else would be there. I had that baby all to myself. You may not have been around in 1982 to remember this machine. The CPU laid flat on what would be it's side by today's architecture. The monitor sat on top of the CPU. The on/off switch was way in the back on the right side hidden in a depression in the box. I spent the first hour just trying to turn the thing on. When I finally did get it on, the thing booted up and there was the screen, black, and down at the bottom was the cryptic A:> and a flashing cursor all in green. I spent the next hour looking at the blinking thing and nothing happened. I went home disappointed. But a fire had been lit in me that has lasted to this day.

A friend had an old Timex 2000 computer that he loaned me then finally said I could have it. Wow! My very own computer. OK, it wasn't much of a computer. Cell phones and cars have more powerful computers in them now days. But it was mine. It was about 8"x6"x1". There was no monitor, you hooked it up to your TV. The keyboard was built in and had chicklet style keys. It had no storage system, you had to hook up a tape recorder to save anything. The operating system consisted of a BIOS which performed a self test when you turned it on. If you wanted it to do something you had to program it. The processor was a Zilog 80 chip which was a major competitor for Intell's 8080 chip. I found a small paper back book that provided some instructions on how to program it with some basic programs all written in assembly language. The machine did not understand assembly language however. So I bought a Z-80 manual which gave the actual binary code for the assembly code. I became a programmer, writing out my programs in assembly and translating them into binary, then entering the binary code one byte at a time into the computer before I could run the program. Debugging was by trial and error, mostly error. But I was hooked.

One day I decided that my little computer was way to childish. I needed a professional looking computer. But, alas, I had very little money. I bought a metal box from Radio Shack. Then I took the mother board out of the Timex and installed it in the metal box with jacks and connectors to hook up the TV and the tape recorder. I found an old surplus Unix keyboard and modified it to match the design of the chicklet keyboard and connected it to the mother board with a ribbon cable. My very own professional(?) looking computer. A programmer was born.

Finally I advanced at work to the point where I could afford an IBM PC Junior. I learned command language. I learned basic. I learned Turbo Pascal. I created an assembler in Lotus 123, imagine that. I was a whiz with the IBM DOS command terminal.

Then came windows. I hated it. All the fun was gone from my world. Windows did everything for you. No longer did you have to think, much less think in hexadecimal or binary. My hobby went by the wayside.

Now, 20 years later, I have discovered Linux. How the heck to you make this thing do something? The old juices are beginning to flow again.

Happy computing :-).


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