A look back to the Future

I graduated from college in the spring of 1977. At that time, we wondered what the future would look like at the beginning of the twenty-first century. We imagined flying car, robot maids, and living like the Jetsons.  Life is now seventeen years into the twenty-first century, and few or our imaginings have materialized. Our only shot at personal flying contraptions is large drones, which we’d have to learn to steer by leaning and figure out a safe way to stop and land. Good luck with that. One of the reasons we don’t have cars that fly is because of all the questions they create. At what height would we fly? Would it be controlled by current air traffic controllers or would we need a whole new control set up? Too many questions without answers. I am still stuck on steering a drone by leaning.

How does this relate to the history that we were not taught in school? Well, it does in a weird sort of way. In a short blog, it’s impossible to talk about all the promises of the past and the few that have been fulfilled. So, I want focus on the computer world–where it was in 1977 and where it is today.

During my time in college, I took some college courses outside of my major subject, including computer science programing. We dealt with punch cards and, yes, sometimes hanging chads. To show you how smart I was, I took this class self-pace. At midterm I had done, well, little. Okay, nothing. Then I made a brilliant decision—I didn’t need to know about computers, so I would get someone to do my computer work for me. Brilliant. In hindsight, even though I didn’t become a computer programmer, it would have been wise to get ahead of the curve on learning about computers.

I got my first computer in 1986. It was a Tandy with two 6” floppy disk drives. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. I could type reports and edit them and save them on disks. I could even do spreadsheets—with the calculations done by a computer.

Within a year, I was hired to do a complicated report, so I purchased a computer  with both a 6” and a 3 ½” floppy disk drive. We could store twice as much on the smaller disk than on the larger one (which was still next to nothing in today’s world).  This allowed me to sit in my office and work longer hours. (We were told that computers would speed tasks up so fast that we’d have more leisure time.  That hasn’t happened yet.) Computers in that day would lock up on a regular basis. The screen came in one color—green. But, even with restarts and  lost work,  it was better than a pen and yellow pad and/or a typewriter.

Tandy 4020 SX Vintage Computer 80386 3 ISA Slots - AS IS

My wife told me about the computer room at the bank where she was employed. It contained what looked like four giant refrigerators with workstations attached to each. You had to wear a coat in that room because it was so cold. Each one of the “giant refrigerators” had big reels of magnetic tape whirling back and forth. Yes, data stored on magnetic tape was cutting edge at the time.

In the early 1990s, one of my client’s, a real computer nerd, told me that early in the twenty-first century, computer companies would virtually give away their computers because they would make all their money on software and license fees. At that time, you would pay around $5000 for a good high-end computer—and network computers were almost twice that. The home/office computer setup included a bulky monitor, a keyboard (sometimes attached to the monitor), and a large housing unit. Laptops were just starting to hit the market, but they were heavy and very inefficient, while pad computer technology was still on the drawing board. Now, home/office computers will soon be obsolete. Laptops are the driving force, with docking stations to plug in multiple monitors, keyboards, printers, etc. And those laptops have dropped in price. As to computer software—it is much more powerful, but it’s come way down in price due to competition. Annual licensing fees are where the money is on most Cadillac software.

Today, most computers have more ram than the second and third generations of internal hard drive computers in the 1990s. For that matter, thumb drives and cellphones have more storage space.

Finally, to show how computers have evolved they are more powerful than ever imagined in the 1970’s and I haven’t even mentioned the role of the internet, first starting in 1969 (called ARPAnet linking two remote computers). Sorry Al Gore. But the impact they have had on computers—and life as we know it—is beyond Al Gore’s wildest dreams.

So what stories do you have regarding predictions for the twenty-first century? How close were your imaginings to current reality?




The John F. Kennedy Assassination Documents

Like many individuals, I have spent a considerable amount of time studying the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I was thrilled when I heard that President Trump was going to release the secret files that have been sealed since 1963. I was hoping the truth would finally come out. Well, a large number of files were released last week. However, a few were still held back to be reviewed by national security personnel. That was disappointing but understandable—maybe. Supposedly, the redacting of documents was only to remove the names of all individuals still living.

It has been my long-held opinion that the Warren Commission was made up of officials with their own agendas; thus, information was overlooked and they arrived at their single gunman theory. Many still believe their conclusion: that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman who miraculously used an old Carcano (an Italian bolt action rifle) to fire three shots in under six seconds; the first of Oswald’s bullets was a through and through on the President’s neck; the second shot hit the curb to the left of the limousine and then the third shot—you know, the magic bullet— killed the President and wounded Governor Connelly. To believe this conclusion, Oswald was either the most skilled of shooters or the luckiest. I have watched a few documentaries where highly skilled marksman made these three shots in under six seconds and hit the 22 MPH moving target. This was to make the Oswald assassination story believable. Think about that.  However, all available information concerning Oswald’s shooting skills reveal he was not that good of a marksman. Did he sandbag when he was tested in the military? Did the Cubans or the Soviets or the Mexicans or our own CIA “train him up” when he was supposedly working with them? It doesn’t seem plausible.

Sadly, everyone with an agenda tends to look at the dreadful day with their respective slant on the facts. Admittedly, I am one of those individuals. I believe there was a conspiracy to assassinate the President. And, by definition, a conspiracy means there were at least two—probably more—individuals involved in the crime.

I have been to Dallas and I have walked around Dealey Plaza to see first-hand where the assassination took place. I can tell you, the area gives off an eerie vibe. I have read witness statements taken by the Dallas police and detectives. Many of these individuals were never questioned again by any other agency, nor was there any follow-up on their original statements. I believe there were more than one gunman at the scene. Now, I am not saying all the gunmen present took shots. The weakness of my conspiracy theory is that the conspiracy itself had to have very few co-conspirers, because it’s hard to believe everyone involved would have stayed silent after such a heinous act—especially after much time has passed.

Frankly, I was hoping the release of the documents would put “a bow on the package” of whatever really happened that day. But I don’t think that will happen. Earlier this week, I listened to an interview of FBI Special Agent Don Adams, who investigated Joseph Adams Milteer, who had made threats against the President. Milteer was interviewed on November 9, thirteen days before the assassination. Special Agent Adams claimed that after he filed his official report, his superiors asked him not to speak about some of the things he’d learned. Additionally, they ordered him to alter some of his original report. Adams believed that Milteer either knew about the assassination plot or was one of the co-conspirators, and that Oswald was set up to take the blame. Moreover, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover dictated a memo on November 24, 1963, saying: “The thing I am concerned about, and so is Mr. Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.” Hoover wanted the American public to believe Oswald acted alone.

Stories or interviews like those lead me to believe that the release of these files will do little to resolve the controversy. Some will review these new files and draw different conclusions. However, many on either side of this argument will not be swayed. Why, you ask? Because it appears that many of the real facts were either never written or were later altered, and are now buried in time. Will the American public believe that documents were not destroyed or altered? Some will say yes, many will not. All the release will do is create a conspiracy within a conspiracy.