Saturday, March 19, 2011


How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time...

I recently took a personality survey. I typically don't take such things unless forced to, as I last was twelve years ago at a leadership seminar. That particular survey had been the Myers-Briggs, a survey focused on personality traits that [supposedly]indicate leadership ability. The Holland survey I took the other day was specifically designed to help students select complimentary careers, and I took it in support of a Chicago Public School's student I'm currently mentoring. I mention all of this because the result of the Holland survey, "artistic", was somewhat ironic when taken in the context of this morning's events. You see, this morning I recycled a significant part of my past... A past founded in Information Technology (IT), which some might argue is anything but artistic.

I once wrote a blog entitled "Career Day", wherein I detailed how my first computer, a Coleco ADAM, set me on a path that eventually led to my career in IT. Everything in that past blog was true, though I omitted certain finer details not related to my ADAM. One such detail relates to another computer that also contributed significantly to my career path... My Atari ST.

After graduating from college so deeply in debt I was unable to do my student teaching, I worked in several 'blue collar' jobs, the last of which was as the rental manager for a Bobcat tractor dealership. That job was an extension of my college job as an appliance parts clerk at Sears. I started at the Bobcat dealership as a parts clerk, then accepted a promotion (of sorts... A salaried position with no overtime) to rental manager. Unrelated to the new job, I'd also bought a new computer while working at that Bobcat dealership... An Atari ST.

The ST, like the Commodore Amiga, was based on the same microprocessor as the original Apple Macintosh, a Motorola 68000. Unlike the Mac though, it had a color display... And, unlike the Amiga (at least initially), the ST had both a Mac and a DOS emulator. It was via my ST that I learned how the Apple System/Finder operating system (OS) worked, and also how to use common DOS commands. Such knowledge built upon the CP/M OS experience I'd gained using my ADAM, which then made me the de facto 'go-to guy' for system administration tasks at the Bobcat dealership where I worked. If a problem arose with the DOS-based Melroe DealerNET PC, I fixed it. If new devices needed to be configured/defined on the dealership's IBM System/36 mini-computer, I took care of that as well. I even gained my first network cabling experience there, learning how to solder connector pins onto IBM Twinax cables.

In other words, my experiences were recycled. My early experience with multiple operating systems provided the basis for my later understanding of Unix/Xenix/Linux, OS/2 and Windows. What I learned while networking the System/36, I built on to learn and support Netware, OS/2 LAN Server, NT, LocalTalk, Arcnet, Ethernet, Token Ring, etc. Each experience provided me with the 'raw materials' with which to build an understanding of the next technology... And then the next. And many of those experiential 'raw materials' were learned, or 'mined', on my second computer, my Atari ST.

Which brings me to the sad events of the day. Unused and collecting dust in my den, my ST was but one example of the mountains of clutter I've accumulated over the years... Old and obsolete monitors, hard drives, cables, expansion cards, PDAs, joysticks and mice... Boxed and bagged up in the basement or otherwise taking up space on desktops or in hutches. And old computers lacking basic Internet connectivity aren't exactly in high demand. Which is why today I packed up all the boxes and bags into my Civic, along with the system that gave me so many hours of enjoyment and provided me with experiences I'm still building on to this day, and drove all of it to the Village's recycling center.

I know it was the right decision, a small but significant bite out the suffocating 'elephant' of clutter that surrounds me. Though my trusty old ST still functioned perfectly after all these years, it was simply an obsolete, inanimate object after all. I still can't shake the feeling of guilt I've carried with me all day though, ever since a recycling center employee dumped my ST into a bin of other electronic flotsam and jetsam, like so much old garbage... Which, again, I realize most people would rightly consider it to be.

Logic aside though, I still feel like I've killed an old friend... A friend who helped me become who I am today... And a friend I'll never, ever forget.

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