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August 26, 2011

Reunite the eggs of the 3000, pre-chickens

You are a social group. When I have tried to describe what’s unique about the HP 3000 world, the eyes roll as I begin with “computer people.” I stop. I explain that you’re a very social bunch, unlike most of the wizards and experts who tend to computers. “They’ve known each other for years, some even decades,” I explain. The stories I’ve heard and told are at least as much about people as their beloved machines.

So a reunion is a classic event for your social group. Many of us have attended reunions, usually from high school because as they say, “high school is never really over.” My only reunion before this fall was a 30th anniversary of the Class of 1974 at Central Catholic High. I hadn’t seen my former schoolmates in three decades, and hoped I’d reconnect to remember. I was disappointed at the small turnout that didn’t include my cohorts, or a lack of goofy awards and name tags with yearbook pictures like in the movies.

CCHS Reunion04 Then I walked into the gym alongside the class president and homecoming queen. We stood together in the quiet with the lights shining off the high gloss of the wooden basketball floor. Those years, the failures and triumphs and the curious notoriety of life as a nerd rushed at me. In that room my classmates heard a favorite teacher report at graduation assembly, “He’s an alternate to West Point, and he’ll keep trying until he gets in.”

Only a small bit of that impossible challenge came true, my Army enlistment. But the experience of a setting with more than 100 people, all who shared those rows of blue lockers where the freshman got stuffed and the chat-ups with our steadys went down, that was special. I took pictures of the setting and the characters on hand. In less than an hour that reunion touched me. “I’ve come this far, learned that much, become someone better through my mistakes,” I thought on the flight back from Toledo. Talked as an equal with the class president and the queen, woo-hoo.

Your Reunion, four weeks from today, celebrates that same kind of journey. The characters in the rooms of the Computer History museum will remind and refresh you about what you have learned in 15, 20 or 30-plus years of 3000 experiences. Some of that knowledge and experience serves you today, maybe like the ability to fix poached eggs remains with my partner and wife Abby.

Abby was a cheerleader at Great Mills High in Maryland. After an all-night football practice, the cheerleaders made the players poached eggs for a breakfast, a skill she retains to this day. Some of those boys had their heads shaved as a coach’s punishment, she remembers, proof of days learning how to win.

Standing among your social group filled with that kind of common experience, you might call up stories of late night reloads or datacomm disasters or a world fueled by business cards with private numbers scribbled on the back. It’s possible, in just a few hours, you’ll meet someone you’ve never seen but relied upon to improve your skills. You might even talk to that person who first showed you how to poach some egg of DP promise and magic.

The durable lessons, like those from high school, didn’t always come off the blackboards, mimeographed handouts or vendor training. They also came from the people we knew, who knew us well and still do, or the ones who’ve slipped away during too-busy days.

07:39 AM in History, Homesteading | Permalink

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