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A Blast from the Distant Past

I am a non-paying member of a website called Reputation.com. They search for occurrences of your name online and alert you when they find anything, and you can say 'No, this is not me' if, indeed, it is not you.

I was going through a recent batch and ran across my name in association with the word 'Eutaw,' which is my hometown (Eutaw, Alabama) . . .

But none of this is going to make any sense unless I give a bit of background.

The summer of my junior year—1982—I attended the University of Alabama's Capstone Summer Honors Program, during which I took CS 110, the University's then-lowest-level BASIC programming course. On a UNIVAC mainframe. When I got home from that, I begged for a computer and my parents got me a Timex-Sinclair 1000 ($99.99). It was a tiny thing with almost no memory. It had a Chiclet keyboard and was tiny. You couldn't type on it normally because even a third-grader's hands are too big to use it. And the 16K external memory plug-in was . . . less than useless, because you'd be typing along and suddenly, klunk! The memory would fall out of the back of the computer. Yay.

I quickly outpaced the TS-1K computer on what I could do with it, and seeing that my interest didn't wane, my parents then got me a Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer Model 1 (CoCo) ($399.99).

Of course, the first thing I did with the color computer was to write a game on it. It was a silly game I called Blip-Blam! but coding that game taught me all about graphics and sound, and it was just for fun. I used it for other stuff, too, of course.

Which leads me to my senior year's science fair. I wanted to do something using my computer. I don't remember how it came up, but I decided that I would do my science project on television violence. I got some statistics on TV violence from the now-defunct National Coalition for Television Violence, came up with a questionnaire, wrote a phone script, and then set about writing the computer programs I would need. I wrote a random phone-number generator for my hometown. This wasn't as trivial as it could have been because I knew that both Eutaw and Akron, Alabama, shared the 372 prefix, and that the only valid numbers were in the 3000, 4000, 6000, 7000, and 9000 range. Further, most businesses were in the 3000 range.

Armed with this and the phone script, I cold-called random people around Eutaw and asked them a series of questions about TV violence. I wanted their gender, age range, race, their favorite show, and what they thought was the most violent show. I forgot to specify that the shows needed to be current and not in syndication/reruns. I also naïvely decided that the values for 'race' would be 'white,' 'black,' and 'other' :) (Actually, at the time in Greene County, Alabama, that was actually a valid assumption for 99.9% of the population.)

So I made my cold calls (some 200 of them), sent my questionnaires to public schools for the kids to answer (400 or so more), and then wrote the code for the statistical analysis, storing all my data on a cassette tape.

It was clunky as hell, but it worked. It was also the only science project I ever did completely on my own with no parental input (other than building the backdrop and proofreading the paper).

It won first place, and I got selected to go to the regionals along with a few others.

Now, I have only vague recollections of the regional fair, but I do recall being given my slot and lugging the portable, 12-inch television set the CoCo used as a monitor, setting up my backdrop and getting all the wiring and such in place . . . and meeting the girl across the aisle from me.

She had a computer project, as well, you see. Only she built her computer. From the ground up. And then programmed it. In assembly language. Using toggle switches to manually key in the hexadecimal codes. Sure, it didn't have a cool color display, nor did she then use said computer to do anything so boring as a stupid ol' statistical analysis. But she built her own computer and programmed it using toggle switches in hexadecimal.

I tucked my blue-ribbon-winning big-fish-in-a-small-pond tail between my legs and got the heck out of there. I also recall that further down the row from me was a guy who had done something else really cool with his project. Everyone told me that he was lucky because his dad was a professor at the University, so he got to use the good equipment.

So when I saw the reference to me, Eutaw, and something in 1983, I was intrigued, so I clicked on the link. It's a write-up in the Tuscaloosa News from April 10, 1983 (the day after my 18th birthday) detailing the results from that regional science fair.

Michael Dudgeon is in there. He's the kid whose dad was a professor. He took first place. Ekandrea Delaine is also in there. She's the girl who built her own freakin' computer. She took second place. And I'm listed . . . as having come in third in the senior division of Mathematics and Computers.

I totally didn't remember coming in third! Geez! What else have I forgotten?

If you want to get some of your own blasts from the distant past, search for your own name in that database. Assuming you're from (near) a city with a paper that's been scanned, you might turn up some stuff you forgot. :)

Atheists Are People, Too  Antispam  


( 7 hisses — Hiss at me! )
Dec. 21st, 2011 12:06 am (UTC)
Really? They look like a spammer to me. Their email looks like spam or at least one of those robots that steals information. :(
Dec. 21st, 2011 02:46 am (UTC)
This is why I never sign up to anything using my real email. Not even LiveJournal. So far, so good.
Dec. 21st, 2011 07:01 pm (UTC)
How do you become a non-paying member? All their services look for-profit to me.
Dec. 21st, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC)
It's the barest of bare minimum. They just search for your name and send you hundreds of hits and you have to weed them out yourself. You can't get to the analysis part without paying.

I only tried reputation.com because either Money Girl or Get-It-Done Guy recommended it, and I did a kind of a check-it-out kind of a thing. I'm not overly impressed, but I keep it around in case they improve something.

Or teach me something. :)
Dec. 21st, 2011 07:43 pm (UTC)
Where on their site is that option? (Sorry, I really looked!)
Dec. 21st, 2011 07:49 pm (UTC)
So did I, and I don't see it, either. :-/ Perhaps I got in during some sort of special? Maybe I signed up using a 'MoneyGirl' or 'GetItDoneGuy' code? I don't know.

Sorry. :(
Dec. 21st, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC)
No worries, thanks. :)
( 7 hisses — Hiss at me! )

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