This summer has been a season of celebration for me. I finished my first novel, Viral Times, and I marked 25 years of writing stories about the HP 3000. But between those highlights arrived the sweetest event, our first grandson. Baby Noah Seybold was born into his grandparents' lives on July 19. Noah, a marvel in miniature as elegant as any RISC chip design, is a chip off this old block, a generation I think of as Seybold 3.0. (From the left in the picture, there's Seybold 1.0, Noah, and Seybold 2.0, our son and new father Nick.)
Noah's beaming dad was not yet two years old when I started making HP my life's career. I might say that journalism has been my life's work, but the tender cries and hummingbird heartbeat of a newborn boy that I heard once again give me perspective. My partner Abby and I -- well, all grandparents -- might see their life's work as generating a legacy, improving one generation at a time.
Technology is as different in the birthing room as it differs in your computer room, comparing the mid-1980s (Nick's birth) with Noah's 2009 debut. Being born is improved in its integration of family (like your networking), where the whole clan of Noah's mom Elisha's folks and Nick's family could visit the little boy within two hours of his arrival.
There was the in-room warming table, the more precise monitoring (not an HP instrument anymore), the in-room staff chosen for emotional coaching as well as medical savvy. A midwife and a duola coach brought this boy into our world, with nary a doctor needed (but one on call).
After our glorious tears on Noah's first afternoon, Abby and I floated back home (a car was involved, I think) to embrace what sparked the pride and joy of the day. We brought up Nick with attention and ardor to hope for this day when a new generation would join us. Our lives have swelled with a new understanding of the word legacy, a word used as an epithet during the years of my career.
As leaders, creators and devoted humans we all strive to leave a legacy. It must be something of great value if so many pursue it. But as you may know from either grand-parenthood or a life working through change, a legacy must contribute to whatever follows. After 25 years of learning computing, and teaching it through stories, I understand how we build a legacy one bedtime story, program design or midnight support call at a time. Generations grow stronger when they're lifted onto an older shoulder. Older clears a path for newer, which enables the latest.
The meaning of accomplishments long past can elude any of us, until we grasp the long view. What sounds like Geezer IT Talk -- with fables of punch cards, tiny baud rates, or 11 platters to make up just 74MB of 3000 disc, is one kind of promise from the past to the future. We created those solutions, the veterans say in this issue, and you will solve similar problems too.
Perhaps as the grandparents of new tech we have some fundamental to pass on for consideration. Abby and I visit the tiny lad in his nursery and relieve his mom, change him with practiced hands. We believe his little cries will subside because we remember our own success with babies. The greatest legacy we can leave, it seems on those days, is the certainty that life will work out alright even when it's an unfamiliar puzzle to be solved.
Seeing a family into a fresh generation is more profound than carrying computing from into cloud services. Those machines don't have souls or hearts or dreams, except for whatever we vest them with while we grow wiser using them. In time, the technology advances on a pace outside our control, just as independent as any young adult seeking love and adventure through scrapes with trouble and life lessons learned. My generation and yours believes we started the life the world's youth will know. But in truth, we too grew from a legacy left to us from elders loud, stubborn or wise.
It was that word "wise" that made my voice shudder and my tears flow on our first afternoon in Noah's nursery. While he cooed and napped and stretched in my arms, I found a cherished story written by Margaret Wise Brown on his shelf. Her book The Runaway Bunny has never been out of print in 67 years, a continuing lifespan as remarkable as the HP 3000s. The story's simple words echoed while I read them to our grandson for the first of many times to come.
Words, the fundamentals of any storyteller as well as basic units of data in the earliest 3000s, connect legacy with life or technology just unfolding. Believe in the value of your ability to learn while you practice sharing what you know. Such faith might form the older, steady shoulder that can help newborns grow.