Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Yo, Yo, Yosemite , Yay, Yay!

Before we get down to it, a little brief history of computers-is-me.

I go back a little ways with this auto-computing stuff, at least as far back as 1959, which is 56 years back when life was theoretically simpler, but not the computer world.  If such a contraption was ever mentioned during my public school years, it was only in passing, and probably was a brief reference to the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer. It was never called that, by the way. It was only known as ENIAC. ENIAC came out in 1946 and was hardly a desktop job since it weighted 30 tons. It was kind of big, 30 ton big,  news for a while so maybe somewhere in my grade school days it got a blurb in My Weekly Reader. Beyond that, no one used the word computer.

The name Babbage was bantered about in my senior year, but this was Richard Babbage, a stage
Producer of Shakespeare's plays, not Charles Babbage, who is credited as the Father of Computers. He didn't actually make the first modern computer, but he did design it some where back around 1820. His Babbage Machine, or Difference Engine No. 2, was not really built until 2003. It wasn't exactly a desktop model either, weighing 5 tons and being 11 feet long. Charles is pictured to the right with his Difference Engine No. 2, all 8,000 parts of her, in the background.

Well, computers were still giant machines used by the few, mainly large and wealthy corporations, when I trod off to IBM School in the summer of 1959.   I didn't actually trod off. I rode a Reading Railroad train to Philadelphia and then walked a couple blocks up Market Street. I guess that short walk would qualify as a "trod", so I trod off to Florence Utz IBM School. 


But they didn't have a computer either. What they had was all the galaxy of auxiliary hardware that moved a piece of cardboard from a blank rectangle to a punch card of square holes to a printout reading of the said data manipulated by programming onto control boards.  This included keypunches, sorters, interpreters, collators, reproducers, accounting machines right up to a big gray box called the 604 Calculator. Basically you programmed these machines through the use of a whole lot of wire plugged into a series of boards. But it was a start on the way to those handy desktops and iPads and tables of today. 

Anyway, I learned all of that, graduated at the top of my class and went on to other things for a number
of years and I did stay on the periphery of technological change, being involved along the way with a Mag-Card system that I guided into fruition and took over operation of for Lincoln Bank, and then in 1976 becoming manager of the computing department of Welded Tube Co. of America, which began with an IBM System 3 and then a Sperry Rand BC/7, both of which used RPG-II programming.

In '78 Welded Tube decided to move all its operations to Chicago and I moved along to the Mercy Catholic Medical Center in Darby as Budget Director. This was a pen to paper shop, but I discovered one of the other departments had a Wang Word Processor and I persuaded them to let me utilize it for the Budget Department as well, thus getting some automation going there.

It was sometime around 1980 I got my first home computer. It was an Atari 401. It was pretty good at games, but labor intense for most anything else. Storage was to cassette tape and you had to write any programs in Basic. It had no screen; it plugged into the TV. It also didn't have a printer. But it could sit on a desktop. And as I noted, it was pretty good with games.

It was also in 1980 that I left MCMC and began a 21 year run at Wilmington Trust. I was hired into Deposit Services for a newly created job that no one there really knew how it would work, Operations, Methods and Project Manager. I got to invent it. After a couple years I began to agitate for our department purchasing a desktop computer, this kind of new geeky just-on-the-market-a-few-years gadget. My boss would list it on our wish list, but his boss always crossed it off. "Gimmick," he called it, "a toy." He didn't see a future for it. He was a mainframe man and so we would remain a mainframe company because "these little boxes would never do what the big box could do".

Tired of being put off, I went out and bought one of these "gimmicks" for myself. It was an Apple IIe. Man,
was it worlds away from that Atari 401. It had a monitor. It still didn't have internal storage, but it didn't use tape cassettes. It used these things called floppy disks. It came with one floppy disk drive, but I bought an extra. This allowed me to save and use data without changing disks because the operating system ran off a floppy, too. I also bought an impact printer. I thought I was in heaven. I could write my stories and correct them if I misspelled a word without having to retype a whole page. There were also no more carbon papers smudging up the house. I could simply printout copies. 

Then my bosses' boss, who must have decided maybe these "toys" might have some worth, opened a department called Office Automation as an experiment. It was stocked with four Apples and you could use them on a time share basis; that is, any one of the 1,500 employees in the building could sign up for some time on the machines. I was down first thing grabbing as much time as I could. The new manager of the new department, Gail, swore the business world would be filled with Apples in the years ahead. I said to her, "Let's see what happens when the big boys get in the game." I meant big boys like IBM.

IBM did indeed jump into the market and had initial success, enough so that IBM set the standard for PCs (Personal Computers, and although Apples were also personal computers, the world eventually became a contest between Apple and PCs of any other stripe). But the company that came to dominate the PC world was Compaq, which in more recent times became part of Hewitt-Packard. 

Those four Apples soon disappeared at Wilmington trust and were replaced by Compaqs. I didn't care, I was still getting as much time on them as I could. I believe the first programs offered were Word Perfect and VisiCalc. And to cut a long story short, eventually Wilmington Trust had Compaq Computers on almost every desk, although I was one, if not the first, to get one for my own use. I was to be something of the PC Guru there for many years. I was to go on to build database systems for WTC as well.


Meanwhile, as much as I loved my Apple IIe, I left it for a series of Compaqs during my tenure at WTC. Why? because I wanted something compatible with what I had at work so I could also work at home. In those days Apples and PCs did not play well together.

Nine years agoI finally had it with all of Microsoft's nonsense when a fairly new HP PC crashed. I went back to the user-friendly, more reliable world of Apple and bought my first iMac (I'm now on my second). It's been a fine romance, although I worry about its future ever since Steve Jobs had his last blue screen. One of the horrors of Gates and Allen's world-dominate beast is the constant updates and sudden quicks. It didn't seem I could power up my PCs without a tangle of updates and warnings. It gives me shivers now when I get an update notice on the iMac, fear that it may turn down that all to familiar annoying Microsoft path.

I have told you all this history for one purpose, to build my street cred. I am not a neophyte to this stuff. I am not computer illiterate nor particularly afraid of the beast. But I am out of the game for a while now and in the technology world way too much changes in "a while". I am not a guru anymore so cut me some slack on what is to follow.

In recent years there have been a number of OS 10 upgrades. (OS 10 is the Apple operating system.) In the nine years since my first iMac I have been through several big cats. My first was Leopard, then Snow Leopard, then Lion and for the last three years I have been riding on the back of Mountain Lion. I had upgraded every time they introduced another, but the other year they left behind the felines and announced Maverick. I was hearing a lot of negative vibe about Maverick, enough to scare me off upgrading. Then last June they announced another upgrade called Yosemite. Again I was hearing some complaints and I ignored the regular offers for a free upgrade. But here it is the cold of winter and cold reality has set in, and I have upgraded.

I did hold off and then waver back and forth. Perhaps age is catching up to me and making me hesitant to go for new things. I don't know. During my working years I was always pushing others out toward the edge, always wanting to try to go beyond the boundaries of what was known and safe, always trying the thing everyone else said wouldn't work. So, maybe I have aged and become set in my ways on what is comfortable and safe. Thus, you ask, what made me upgrade to Yosemite?

It was a conversation with my friend, Ronald. He, too, had resisted any update to Maverick or Yosemite, but he had recently began having issues with his iMac. After all, it was aging as well and he had it stuffed with photos and videos, even much more than I. He had reached the point where he would buy a new machine. However, he hadn't don't this yet, but it did come up in our talk. What hit me was some info he passed along about others who wanted to upgrade their computers. It seemed they had ignored doing such a thing for quite awhile and now this caused them problems in getting the newest version, because the company had ceased support of what they retained years ago. (I will note, these people were running Microsoft systems.)

It made me wonder. If I linger much longer will the opportunity for a clean upgrade go away? After all, Apple had stopped supporting Snow Leopard a couple years ago and I read that they were no longer offering security updates to Lion. Lion was the generation behind me and using Mountain Lion put me two generations behind Yosemite.

Time to act. I went on the Apple App Store, selected Yosemite (a free upgrade) and with eyes shut clicked the download button.

Nothing seemed to happen. I stared at the screen for a few moments until I saw the tiny rectangle where I selected Download now read Downloading. But that was all it did and all it did for a long time, relatively speaking, because you know a watched pot never boils and a watched Downloading never downloads. There were no turning pinwheels, either in color or black and white, no bars filling with blue; no flashing lights or dinging bells, just nothing.

I was to discover this would be the situation throughout the process. Eventually the screen changed to a box with a circled X in the center and another wait. There were a screen or two asking something, I think, and then a screen with the circled X and a statement that it would complete in 22 minutes. Well, it took much longer than 1 minute to go from 22 minutes to 21 minutes. The blue line in the bar was microscopic. 22 minutes might be 22 hours.

I went into the other room and did my exercises and came back and it said 18 minutes to complete. I did this and that and somewhere during the afternoon that screen did go away. 

There may have been one or two other screens after that before it said it was restarting my computer.

The restart started and then another screen with a circled X and a bar with a blue fill that moved like
molasses. This bar filled to halfway and seemed to stop. I stared at it. Was it moving? Don't know. I got my magnifying glass and looked at it. Couldn't tell. I stuck a Stick-um note over the blue line, right to the edge and stared at it to see if anymore blue appeared. It didn't. I listened and heard no hum. I gripped my computer and felt no vibration.

I called Apple, because now I was in a panic. Where of where did my operating system go? The new one wasn't popping up like Old Faithful, but then what did I expect. Old Faithful is in Yellowstone, not Yosemite. Meanwhile the help line is ringing and then one of those recorded voices answered welcoming me to Apple, then telling me "volume was higher than usual", which is the usual statement you get when you call anywhere anymore. In fact, higher than usual is USUAL. Ronald had told me Apple was taking longer to respond anymore. He had to wait 16 minutes last time he called, but 16 minutes is fast in the cyber world when you need a human.  

I had to wait 2 minutes.

Ronald must have called on a bad day.

I had a nice lady, who spoke American, which isn't so usual these days. FiOS use to be this way and easy to get, but the last time I called them I got a sub-continent accent so thick I couldn't understand him. But she I could understand and I certainly understood her when she said even though my service contract had expired there would be no charge because I was upgrading. She had me do several things, beginning with turning off the computer. In between while we waited for some action we chit-chatted about our cataract operations. Apple people are like the neighbor next door who stops by to help start your car or something. You gossip about things a bit. She resolved the problem and while I had her on line I tested out various things. Yep, my data was there. Yep, my iTunes was there. Yep, iFilm came up. Yep, my mail worked. I thanked her and said goodbye.

One thing I saw a lot of complaints about was "the flat look". Actually the look is quite nice appearing to me. Things look cleaner, plus I picked up several new features I really like and several things got easier to do. 

I was happy, but then I noticed my iPhoto icon was very dim with an x across it. Huh? I clicked it and no iPhoto came up. Oh no, where were my 50,000 photos? Had they become lost in translation? I don't know what I did next, except I did get this message that iPhoto had to be updated in order to work with Yosemite, did I wish to do so now? Yes, I did.

So now I have Yosemite. I like it. The only problem I have experienced is with Photo Booth. It kept cutting off after 27 seconds when I tried doing a video. This is not such a big deal for me, I can live with it. My guess is my computer memory is probably less than ideal, but then again, so is mine.









1 comment:

Ron said...

Larry,
Again, an excellent narrative of your past computer experience and your most recent computer experience. I now have both my iMacs up and running with their own Time Capsule backups. Took some doing though with the help of a heavily Indian accented ("Julliette") Apple support person. I haven't yet (but may) upgraded my old Apple computer to Yosemite, I like the three dimensional icons and other screen features. But I also like the clean look of the new, "flat" icons and features on my new Apple computer.
For the past few days I have thoroughly been enjoying my new iMac computer. Like you, I will never, NEVER go back to a Windows based computer. I remember those days of long ago when a new computer in the banking department (Compaq where I worked too) was a thing to behold in wonderment and time sharing. Even then I knew the bank management was behind the curve (they are mostly old stodgy men after all) and one day would have to get caught up with the modern world. Even now at the hotel where I work they're still using the SAME computers and operations system (Windows XP) as when I started eight years ago. But I hear they are changing. They have to change. I wonder how different our life would have been if this technological age, which we are so dependent on now, happened during our formative years. I wonder what people will think of us and our "computers" fifty years from now. Interesting thought that.
Another excellent post my friend.
Ron