Never stop learning


 Like most first blogs, I would think that I should start at the beginning of my experiences in this “tech” world. It is apparent that the technologies and the abilities of the computer powered world are ever changing, faster than most other systems and methodologies in today’s world. In 1985, I acquired my first “PC” (from Dad). It was a 286 with a tiny HD (in today’s standards), a pathetic amount of memory (under a MB) and only one, very large internal drive (floppy). Honestly, I put the thing together, connected all the lines, turned the machine on, and then just sat there looking at the flashing cursor in the left corner of the monitor, wondering what I should do next. I think that I expected a list of commands that I could choose from (to do?). I don’t know, just something, anything than just a flashing cursor. God, it was like watching paint dry.

After several calls to friends and family it was determined that, 1 I had no programs installed besides the OS (DOS) and 2 I had no knowledge or understanding of computers or what they do. Lucky for me, I also received a book (MS-DOS) that came with the system and I had a close friend of mind, Mike, who had purchased his own computer about a year earlier. I proceeded to read that book from cover to cover, understanding only about half of it, and then I read it again applying the commands line by line (remember the command line, still in use). Once I completed that task, a glimmer of hope reared its ugly head only to dash my aspirations time and time again.

One favorite topic of discussion that my friend Mike and I would have on a consistent basis was breaking the 64K barrier. Believe it or not, the DOS OS loaded all of the program information and anything else you wanted to do into a 64 kilobit segment in memory. Yup, 64K that’s all you got to play with – inhumane – but true! So in order to use a program that required more memory than what was left after loading the OS and any drivers for the peripherals, you had to crack the 64k barrier or find a way to use that memory in a more efficient way. I was most fortunate to have another 128k in memory that could be used if I could only learn how. This was before the net and searching and mostly any other way of acquiring information except through word of mouth or print.

I did a lot of learning in that following year. I learned how to break my computer while installing a floppy drive; I learned the cost of repairing and upgrading my system to a 386 (and that’s another story); I learned how to use and configure this system to max out its potential and I learned the truth… that this glorified, gift from God, this miracle of modern technology, was nothing more than a switch. On and off, 0’s and 1’s – that’s all it did, that was all it was ever capable of doing, reading and interpreting data through a source (disk drive, hard drive, user input and whatever else you could throw at it) and that’s that, it is what it is…

At this point I started to get serious about learning. Back to school, to learn what is really going on with these “machines”. I had enough of the midnight discussions about this or that with people who knew as much or less than I did about a subject I had barely touched upon. After a couple of years, I had a good understanding of networking technologies and systems architectures but found myself heading in a different direction. I had consulted with several individuals and companies to configure and repair their systems, but was intrigued with what was the coming internet revolution. Previous knowledge of bulletin board systems and the application of what I had learned about networks led me to start building HTML sites (pages) and having them hosted online. I even posted a final project online for a course I was taking at the time (no one else was doing that, so what the heck!)

I was fortunate to have a couple of people in my life who needed my help in getting their website up and running when I needed the experience completing a project specified by a “client” who has expectations’ and a timeline of events. My brother Ken needed a website that promoted his business which offered top notch consulting advice from some of the most skilled professionals in the field. My lifelong friend Barry needed a website that would advertise his art studio and painting. I used HTML combined with a tables structure to complete the layout for both of these sites. I also used Javascript to add certain functions to each of these websites. As I look back on what I did then, I tend to think of the work I did to be a bit archaic. At the time it was all you had to work with, but since then I have learned about so many more effective tools to work with (many thanks to my son-in-law Chris). Now we have CSS, JQuery, Frameworks (I’m not there yet) and WordPress templates (yeah, this is a WP blog) just to mention a few.

Again, learning techniques, acquiring knowledge, and applying these concepts to produce the desired result seem to be the overlying theme in this blog. The point is, never stop learning. Acquiring knowledge is what will get you up in the morning looking forward to a new day.

Thank you for reading this blog and feel free to comment, it will be appreciated.

W.C.Merritt

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