A Tree Falls in Reston

yayaThere’s an adage I’ve heard repeated many times that on their deathbed nobody ever wished they had spent more time at work. Well last week right after telling me from memory her Social Security number and less than 24 hours before her final breath, my Mom did just that.

“I so enjoyed my career at the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” she said. “I wish I had worked there longer.”

My Mom, an economist and librarian who died on New Year’s Day, was a nerd.

She might not have identified herself as such, but she was definitely a nerd.

This lady took no prisoners. Ideas and words were important to her. Mastering concepts, too. At her dinner table you had […]

Scarface: He’s got Boris Yeltsin eyes

scarfaceLast Wednesday night I posted my most recent column, turned out the lights in my office, walked down eight stone steps, tripped and smashed my face into the side of our house with a thunk that brought everybody running. Ten stitches and two days later I took the picture you see here in which I look way better. So if anybody wonders why I was a no-show tonight at the Computer History Museum’s reunion for the Homebrew Computer Club, this is my excuse. I can’t see well yet and I sure as heck can’t drive. Woz didn’t make it either I’m told.

I wish I had been at the museum, of course. Those who were […]

Doug Engelbart, visionary

EngelbartGeniuses can be found on every street corner in Silicon Valley, but visionaries are much less common. Geniuses are good at completing tasks while visionaries are the first to recognize tasks that need completion. And of all the visionaries none were greater or had a longer range view than Doug Engelbart, who died last night at age 88.
To most people who recognize his name Doug Engelbart was the inventor of the computer mouse but he was much, much more than that. In addition to the mouse and the accompanying chord keyboard, Doug invented computer time sharing, network computing, graphical computing, the graphical user interface and (with apologies to Ted Nelson) hypertext links. And he invented all […]

Father’s Day

Mom & DadToday was Father’s Day in the USA and that white-haired guy in the picture was my father. It’s the last picture I have of him, taken a few months before he died, ironically on my birthday. I was expecting a call, just not that call. That was in 1991. I had an InfoWorld column due that day and I wrote it, as I recall, about him. They indulged me.

We men spend our lives alternately emulating our fathers and rebelling against them, a process I was surprised to see lasts long after death. They give us their faces: certainly you can see a lot of him in me, though his face is mooshed a bit from landing a […]

The nose knows

pew!We call it The Red Devil — a 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee V-8 I bought online earlier this year mainly to pull a trailer filled with airplane parts. But perhaps we should have named it Stinky, because that’s what this column is all about. When buying something on the Internet, how can you make sure it doesn’t smell terrible?

You can’t.

I should have known. The price was too low, the pictures too good, but the seller had sold hundreds of cars online and boasted a 100 percent satisfaction rating. So did I, but my 82 transactions had taken 13 years to accumulate.

When the car arrived it looked great but it smalled like a thousand mice had been camping […]