December 20, 2012: No More Magazines

This morning I got up at the same time as Dominica who had to work (from home) at seven.  She got a few hours in for her office before she got the kids ready and off to Houston for the Christmas holidays.  They should be down there by late afternoon and I will be going down to join them on Christmas Day.  This will be my first Christmas Eve not celebrating Christmas with my family, quite possibly, ever.  That is pretty sad.  And I realized today that the family left and we didn’t sit down and watch White Christmas together like we always say that we are going to.  We got from “Christmas is weeks away and it is too early to watch Christmas stuff” to “the family is heading to Houston for the holidays” so quickly that you never realize that the holidays are here.  We don’t decorate, listen to music or do anything related to Christmas here, that is all done down in Houston.  So we forget to do things here.  In fact, the wreath that we have kept in the garage for a year so that it could be put up easily never got put up.  It’s going into the attic now.

Before leaving I took several loads up to the attic this morning and brought down the Christmas tree and loaded it up in the Acadia so that Dominica can deliver it down to the Grices who are going to use it as their tree this year to make things simple.  Taking loads up to the attic is so satisfying.  That’s when we feel the house getting less cluttered.

Watson came over to the house late in the morning after I had already gone to work to see if there were any books that he was interested in.  He got probably eight books.  Barely a dent in the pile.  It is funny seeing all of the people talking online about my book collection and if you do a Google search on “epic library” my collection already comes up on the second page at the top.  I keep culling the library more and more too.  The number of books that I actually need to keep anymore, whether for historic, nostalgic or technical reasons is rapidly dwindling.  Reference books are all but useless today, especially as I need digital copies to go between office and home.  I am down to a fraction of the old library, even of ten years ago.  I have a feeling that the collection peeked in 2007 in Geneseo.  I will probably only buy about a dozen additional “in print” titles for the rest of my career.  A few prominent publishers that I like are still in “print” only but they too are switching now.  The era of paper books is over.  The last holdouts are fading away.  The need to store books in this fashion is problematic and expensive.

I worked through lunch today and came home at five. Dominica did not arrive in Houston until six thirty!  What a long day of driving she had.  Traffic in Houston was awful.  When they pulled into the driveway there Luciana was screaming “Cheka, Cheka!!”  She is very excited to get to go see her aunt.

I got home and set to doing more cleaning in the house.  I found at least a dozen additional books to remove from the library.  A dozen!  That’s crazy that after all of the books that I have already gotten rid of that there are still a dozen to be found to haul out.  I keep looking at the books on the shelves and asking myself, “Do I really need to still have that?”  And generally the answer has been “no.”

In addition to the books the library used to hold a lot of computer magazines.  A year or two ago I started clearing those out as well.  I’m down to a small fraction of the number that I had when I started and now I don’t collect them month to month but hand them off to Chris the moment that I am done with any new ones that come in so the collection stopped accumulating some time ago.  But some old ones, mostly from pre-2005, are still lingering.  I decided to just make these all disappear all at once.  I just can’t justify keeping them at all anymore.

My love of computers began in the summer of 1979 when my father sat me down and showed me BASIC programming on a Commodore SuperPET computer that he had been able to bring home for the weekend from Eastman Kodak where he worked.  I was hooked.  The idea that you could type instructions into a computer and make it do things was simply mind blowing.  This was what I wanted to do.

Much of my childhood, especially my younger years, was shaped by the continuing search for access to computers.  In the early 1980s access to computing resources was hard to acquire. None of my friends had computers at home.  We certainly didn’t have one at home.  We talked about it always but did not get one ourselves until my family got a Commodore Amiga 1000 in 1987.  So between 1979 and 1987 my access to computers was purely through means such as my father borrowing one from the office or having a friend of the family’s let me use theirs (this was how I accessed several original Apple Macintosh computers when they first released) or at places like the library.  My school did not have a computer until a few years after we had one at home and even then they put in a single 8-bit computer years into the 16-bit era (my middle school’s solitary Apple ][c computer sits on the desk next to me today as a part of my early home computing collection.)  Of all of the ways that I had to access computers during these years, and even into the era when I had the Amiga 1000 at home, was through magazines.

One of my more vivid early childhood memories is of taking two issues of Commodore Magazine with me one time when my mother went to the hair salon in York, NY.  The salon used to be down the street from our house but had moved and it had just opened in the new location and we had to drive down there so that she could get her hair done so I had nothing to do but sit and wait with my magazines.  The magazines talked about the popular Commodore 64 and the newly released, amazingly powerful Commodore 128 (both of which I own today) and showed off dot matrix printers, color monitors and 300 baud modems.  It had programs that you could type into your computer and actually run and it reviewed video games that sounded amazing.  I still remember that the particular issue that I read that day in what I would estimate was around 1987 because that appears to be when Commodore Magazine began being published but we got our Amiga later in 1987 so it was probably in that interim time.

Reading Commodore, Compute!, Byte and other magazines in that era were my bread and butter of entertainment.  They were great as historical pieces too because going back to them gave you a way to see where computing was at a moment in time.  What hardware, software, ideas, topics, games and predictions existed at the time that the magazine came out.  Since I kept a collection of computer magazines all throughout my childhood I always had this reference and I used it often, fantasizing about the day that I would have unlimited access to computers of my own.

Today as I go through my remaining computer magazine collection I notice that the magazines that I have held on to the longest, most notably Linux Magazine, resembles those magazines of my childhood in many ways.  While being nearly two entire decades more recent, Linux Magazine from circa 2003 is extremely reminiscent of computer magazines in 1985.  A bit more polished and quite a bit more technical there is something about the culture, the excitement that Linux had ten years ago that reminds me of the Commodore 64 era.  As I go through the magazines tonight as I send them out to be recycled in the morning I flip the pages and see “type in” scripts not unlike those programs in BASIC to play “Lazer Chess” on the Amiga.  I see adds for specialty software that is out of the mainstream.  Talk of games, glimpses at new technologies and hopes for the future.  I see a point in time glimpse into the exciting world of open source computing in its heyday when everyone was discussing if Linux was valid and if it had any hopes of success and how open source computing would change the world.  It was an era of hobbyist turning into professionals much as the 8bit era had provided for us so long ago.

It is sad for me to let these magazines go.  Not just because I am sorry that I threw out the magazines of my youth but also because these too mark a point in my history and in the history of the field.  Computing and IT are themselves bound up with my own history. I’ve lived my life running alongside the development of home computing.  The milestones in computing’s history coincide with changes in my own life.  Looking at where computing was at any moment reminds me of where I was too.  Looking at an issue of Linux Magazine on my desk right now reminds me of so much and looking at the shipping label on it reminds me that I would have received this magazine at my house in Ithaca just days before Dominica and I got engaged, just days before we finalized the details of buying our first house, six months before we would be married and while my mom was still alive.  In that era Mandrake Linux had just failed and gone bankrupt, Perl 6 had just released, Eclipse (the Java IDE was a hot topic) and PHP was all the rage.  And, of course, 2003 was declared “The Year of the Linux Desktop.”

Today is my last day of owning computing magazines.  Tonight will be the first time since I was probably six years old that I haven’t had some form of home computing magazine sitting around the house waiting for me to pour over and dream of what amazing project I will pursue.  I am entering a leaner, but less nostalgic era of my life.  Hopefully the computing world is ready for the change.

I kept cleaning all evening.  I kept finding more and more books to weed out and I found a whole box of additional magazines to recycle.  I can’t believe how much was hiding just in my office!

I got the teak bookshelf that Dominica and I got as part of our wedding furniture money cleared off and moved it into Liesl’s room where it is going to be her bookshelf for her books as well as the television stand for her little television that she has in there (that has not been set up for her yet) and the Nintendo Wii which we are going to let her use in her room.  She is getting so good at video games that we want her to be able to play a bit more often and we want her to have access to the Wii’s library of kid friendly games that we own but have not had accessible in a very long time.  She wants to play the Wii from time to time but we don’t have the space for it to be hooked up in the play room all of the time.  So having it in her room should make it that she can really get some use out of it and from time to time I’m sure that she will be happy to let me use it too.  That made quite a bit more room in my office too.  It is feeling a lot more spacious as I get stuff cleared out.

Load after load of stuff went up to the attic.  The garage is coming along nicely.  I can actually move around in there now which is amazing.  I wonder if it is physically possible to get enough cleaned out to make it so that the Spark would fit in there?  Nah, that’s probably impossible.  How would I get that much stuff cleaned out?

I stayed up till three thirty.  That probably wasn’t smart.  I kept putzing around the house doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  I like the occasional day or two to myself to get major projects done around the house like this.  Dominica is not going to recognize this place when she gets back home.  Hopefully I can get everything back to where it goes before she and the girls get back.  I do have five days now on my own so that is a ton of time plus I likely have almost as long next week before they return after Christmas.  I’m not sure what day they are coming back up to Dallas.

I will be in the office tomorrow and again on Monday.  It is going to be a lonely weekend for me but I am hopeful that a lonely weekend means tons and tons of work will be accomplished.  Fingers crossed on that.

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