Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Archive for July, 2016

Leaving the main grid for a while

Posted by Trixter on July 31, 2016

This is my 32nd year online.  I used CompuServe and DDials in 1984, sent and received email on BBSes for the next 8 years, and switched to an internet-connected unix shell account in 1992.  I’ve seen the birth of the web, the rise and fall of Usenet, the widespread adoption of online commerce, and the rise of social media.

I’m overwhelmed.  Global communication has been one of the most transformative technologies ever created, giving voices to those who have none, and bringing people together.  It has also become the new Eternal September.  When everyone has a voice, the end result is cacophony.  Social injustice, political blathering, personal melodrama — I’ve had enough.  I can’t selectively filter any more.  I can’t “just ignore” what’s in my feeds because 90% of it just makes me feel bad about the world, myself, or both.  (Even from well-intentioned people who are just trying to post good news about their family or achievements; it’s not their fault, but their good news reminds me of what I haven’t accomplished.)

In an act of self-preservation, I’m going off the grid for a while.  My online communication will be limited to email for the forseeable future.  I’m uninstalling facebook, twitter, youtube, instant messaging, and newsfeeds from my phone, and likely won’t reinstall them before the end of the year.  Some of my most proudest accomplishments were achieved before all of this noise existed; I’m hoping reducing the noise will increase the signal.

If you need to reach me, contact me.  Email, phone, or texting is all fine.  (I also highly encourage you to come see me in person at this year’s Vintage Computer Festival Midwest, September 9-11th.)  Just don’t expect me to be scanning the entire world listening for your voice; it’s a drop in the ocean, and I’m drowning.

 

 

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Milestones

Posted by Trixter on July 21, 2016

2016 holds some interesting anniversaries for me, of events that have defined my hobbies, my persona, or both.  Some fun and notable ones:

  • 45th anniversary of me being on this planet.
  • 35th anniversary of the IBM PC, MTV, and the Space Shuttle.
  • 30th anniversary of my adoption of the online handle “Trixter”, which I initially used for illicit activities but now use For The Greater Good(tm).
  • 20th anniversary of the Abandonware movement, something I’m not totally thrilled about how it turned out, but is notable regardless.  My involvement in the birth of Abandonware eventually led to the birth of MobyGames, so there’s a happy ending.  I should probably write about my involvement someday.
  • 15th anniversary of the MindCandy series, which was a fun experiment in the days where creating an indie DVD or Blu-ray was uncharted waters.  I’m proud of each of them for different reasons.

Much less notable: 10th anniversary of starting this blog.

I got the idea for Trixter looking at some subway graffiti.  That graffiti is long gone, but thanks to qkumba and a another demoscene friend (whose name escapes me, sorry!), we have some lifelike simulations:

trixter_grafittitrixter_grafitti_second_small

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We’ll take it

Posted by Trixter on July 10, 2016

I am the father of an autistic son, Sam.  One of the challenges of helping an autistic person get through life is the unknown:  How functional will they be?  Will they be able to communicate?  Will they be able to socialize?  Will they be able to live independently once my wife and I are gone?  A few times in our lives, we’ve gotten some answers to these questions.  Even if the answer has been negative, it still feels like a great weight has been lifted — not knowing is always worse than bad news, so we’ll take bad news over no news.

Every 5 years or so, we get some good news.  I’d like to share some examples with you.

When Sam was 20 months old, he started talking.  Two months later, he started losing his words, until he spoke “cat” on his 2nd birthday and then stopped talking completely.  By age 4, he started performing echolalia.  (This is something all children do when learning a language, but for an autistic child, it is usually the harbinger of bad news, a sign that the child is going to be low-functioning and unable to communicate effectively — think “Rain Man” repeating the station call ID.)  Six months later, Sam was repeating dialog on a Spot program playing in the basement:  “Where’s Spot?  Where’s Spot?  Where’s Spot?”.  My wife Melissa was in the kitchen when she heard, “Where’s Spot?  Where’s… Mom?”  Then again, urgently:  “Where’s Mom?”  Melissa flew downstairs and found Sam looking directly at her, and motioned for her to do something.  That one-word change signaled the beginning of Sam learning functional communication.

When Sam was nearly 9, he and his little brother Max were riding in the back seat while we ran some errands.  For a treat, we decided to run through a Dunkin Donuts drive-through to get some donuts, and we made a mistake while ordering and got a dozen instead of half a dozen.  When Sam saw the large box come into the car, he turned to his brother and said, “Max, we’re rich!  RICH IN DONUTS!”

Sam is currently 19 years old.  Tonight, my wife and I were watching a show in the basement when Sam called down the stairs to ask if we had gotten him some cream soda, something he mentioned to me before I went shopping.  I’d forgotten to get some, but as I apologized, I had the idea to turn this into a life skills exercise:  I told him that maybe we could walk down to Casey’s together, a local grocery store located about a 15-minute walk away with some other stores, like a drugstore, barber shop, Trader Joe’s, etc.  We could practice navigating there, going through a store, making choices, and paying for our order.  I told him we could practice that two days from now, my next opportunity to get home from work early and go over everything with him.  He agreed, and left us to our show.  45 minutes later, as our show was ending, he called down the stairs again:  “Casey’s was closed, so I went to Trader Joe’s instead.”

Being impulsive, he bought only snacks.  But we’ll take it.

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