Saturday July 4, 2015

Lifetime Achievements

I was born in January of 1960, in central Pennsylvania. I grew up in State College, a University town dubbed a "statistical metropolis". It was (and still is) a pleasant and progressive place to grow up.

A lot has happened in the past 50+ years, not just for me but for the world.

I grew up with a maximum of 13 television channels, a daily county newspaper, and a radio, which we didn't listen to very much. We watched the world go by in the News.

Unlike many people at the time, we had cable television, but it wasn't what people think of today. Cable was simply the way to get broadcast signals to a town surrounded by low mountains.

We could watch the local (University; news and weather) station, one of the three major networks, or any of 4 independent stations out of New York (running plenty of reruns and great classic movies). PBS was introduced in 1970, although we had a public station before that. AccuWeather, headquartered in State College, was founded by a Penn State graduate student in 1962, so we always had access to excellent weather reports.


I have very vague memories of hearing about the Kennedy assassination. I first really noticed (some) national news in 1964, when Hubert Humphrey was Lyndon Johnson's running mate. I named a home-made stuffed sock doll "Hoobert Humpy". (I was, after all, only four years old.)

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, but I wasn't paying attention. The Selma to Montgomery marches took place in 1965. I was in first grade and didn't notice.

In July 1969, my family watched the first manned moon landing on television. (I paid attention to that!)

In the Fall of 1969, Sesame Street premiered. Although I was older than the target demographic, I fell in love with the Muppets and have been a fan ever since.

Also in 1969, the Stonewall riots took place in New York. However, I didn't learn about them until much later.


Historians are now calling the 1970s, a "pivot of change". I spent the decade in school.

HBO premiered in the Fall of 1972. My family got a subscription and we enjoyed being able to watch more recent movies at home.

In 1972, I visited New York City with my aunt, uncle, and cousin. We had lunch in the UN Delegate's Dining Room (my uncle had meetings at the UN) and saw 1776 on Broadway.

The US experienced an "oil crisis" in 1973. Year-round daylight saving time was implemented from January 1974 to February 1975. At our house, I remember keeping the thermostats low and wearing sweaters.

Richard Nixon resigned as President in 1974. In 1975, the Vietnam War came to a close.

Also in 1975, I entered a Bicentennial competition called "My America". My entry was a hand-designed, needlepointed picture. I won $5 in Bicentennial dollars at the local level and a check for $25 (if memory serves) at the county level.


Nationwide contest for primary school children; state-by-state competition for entries in any creative media.

I found a pen pal through the competition (when we visited Harrisburg to look at the state winners) and I wrote to a girl my age whose poem was posted.

In 1976, in my Junior year of High School, I first learned how to program a computer, using Fortran on punch cards for an IBM mainframe. That class was the catalyst for my decision to try a double major (Biochemistry and Computer Science) when I started college in the Fall of 1977.

The Space Shuttle Enterprise was tested. Apple Computer was formed.

I very much wanted (but did not get) a TRS-80 Micro computer.

My High School graduation present was a TI-30 scientific calculator.

In College, I joined the Archery Team, studied Biochemistry (until I realized that it was too much chemistry and not enough biology for me and switched to Microbiology) and continued to learn computer programming. Although a few "terminals" were supposedly available in the main computer center, I still used punch cards on an IBM mainframe, in PL/C instead of Fortran.


In 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted in Washington. We watched from across the country. I know people who have some lovely glass vases made from volcanic ash.

In November, 1980, my mother walked into my bedroom and woke me with the bad news, "Jimmy Carter lost."

In 1981, I graduated from College. That Fall, I started a grad school program in Forensic Science. On my flatmate's television, we watched the Space Shuttle Columbia lift off on her maiden flight.

The IBM PC was introduced in August, 1981. A fellow student's husband ordered one of the first machines and talked ecstatically (and often) about it before its arrival.

I very much wanted (but did not get) a Commodore Vic-20 computer.

In the Spring of 1982, I left the Forensic Science program, returning to Pennsylvania for 5 months. In the Fall, I started a graduate program in Microbiology, in Maryland. I first met Rich (my spouse), shortly after I arrived.

I lived in the suburban Maryland / Washington DC metro area for two years.

In early 1983, Rich purchased a Sun Microsystems workstation, serial number 285. The Sun employee who worked with the Sun User Group once called him their "smallest user".

I learned Unix. I wrote my Masters thesis using awk, sed, troff, Sun's Core Graphics, and assorted software that Rich and I had created. We printed the thesis using an IBM I/O Selectric terminal and (for the diagram pages) a dot-matrix printer.

In January 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh and we learned "why 1984 won't be like 1984". Rich and I (and a few hundred of our closest friends) watched the Best Apple Commercial Ever one evening during the Winter UniForum / USENIX conference.

Rich and I talked about getting a Macintosh, but decided the Sun was more useful at the time.

In September, 1984, Rich and I moved to California. I got a Unix programming job at Genentech. I was working in the Clinical Research department when the FDA approved HGH and TPA.

The Domain Name System came into wider use. Rich registered

I joined Apple in 1986 as a member of the development team for A/UX, Apple first commercial Unix OS.

I got a Mac II.


Changes come and the world turns. The World Wide Web was debuted in 1991. I started using it (with the Mosaic browser) in 1993. I created a home page. I started a (Greymatter) weblog, but soon switched to Movable Type.

Also in 1993, The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Hawaii Constitution. In reaction, anti-gay forces amended the Hawaii Constitution to add exclusion.

President Clinton signed DOMA into law in 1996. In 1999, California became the first state to create a domestic partnership statute. Vermont established "civil unions".


Y2K came and went without the world-wide catastrophe many had predicted. George W. Bush was elected president. Apple shipped the first public Beta of Mac OS X.

The towers fell while Rich was out of town. Unemployed at the time, I spent the next week at home, with the cats, looking up into a sky devoid of aircraft and wishing he wasn't 300+ miles away.

In January 2003, Evan Wolfson founded Freedom to Marry. In November of that year, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the Massachusetts state constitution mandates the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. In May 2004, Massachusetts became the first US state with marriage equality.

No major events of biblical proportion were noted in the months that followed.

Facebook launched in 2004. I joined but mostly ignored it for the next 7 years. Twitter launched in 2006. I started using it a year later (and still use it).

Apple unveiled the iPhone to the public in January 2007, selling 6.1 million first generation units over five quarters. Google, which had acquired Android Inc in 2005, formed the Open Handset Alliance in November of 2007. The first commercially available Android smartphone was released a year later.

The California legislature passed a freedom to marry bill in 2005 (vetoed) and again in 2007 (vetoed). In June, 2008, the California Supreme Court determined that a state statute excluding same-sex couples from marriage was unconstitutional. To our ever-lasting shame, an initiative to overturn the court ruling (Proposition 8) almost immediately qualified for the November ballot and was voted in.

In November 2008, Barack Obama made history as the first non-white man to be elected president of the United States in its history. Notwithstanding Prop 8, the California Supreme Court ruled six months later that marriages between same-sex couples that had occurred in the four months between June and November 2008 remained valid.


Then things really started getting interesting. A District of Columbia "freedom to marry bill" went into effect in March 2010. A U.S. District Court judge ruled DOMA's Section 3 unconstitutional. CNN released the first public poll to show a national majority supporting the freedom to marry. The U.S. District Court of Northern California declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

President Obama and Attorney General Holder declared that DOMA is indefensible under the constitutional command of equal protection. New York and Maine passed marriage equality legislation. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the August 4 ruling that found Proposition 8 in violation of the US Constitution.

Protestors became louder and more desperate.

More states joined the march toward equality. President Obama publicly announced support. Various courts declared DOMA unconstitutional.

Momentum increased. The screams from the offended far right increased in shrillness.

On Friday, June 26, 2015, 46 years after the Stonewall riots and 48 years after Loving v. Virginia, "same-sex marriage" (like "inter-racial marriage" before it) is now just called "marriage".

Looking Back

So much has happened since 1960! So many changes that I never expected, never imagined, when I was in elementary school, high school, even college! It's breathtaking to just look back and see how far we've come.

I don't think we could have gotten to this point in less than 50 years without many of the other advances described above. Desktop computing (as well as laptops). The World Wide Web. Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, and blogging). Smartphones. A race-barrier-breaking president (although there is still much to be done in resolving racial discrimination as well).

We're not done yet. There's still so much left to do. I can only wonder at what the next 50 years will bring!

Lifetime Achievements ( in category Retrospectoscope ) - posted at Sat, 04 Jul, 17:19 Pacific | «e»

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