A little Hx

Hx is the doctors standard shorthand way of writing ‘history.’ Part and parcel of the cloak and dagger stuff the medical profession are so wont to push ‘out there’ onto all and sundry. I have to admit though that even I was prone to this ‘holier than thou’ attitude especially way back when computers were such enigmatic entities understood by only a few of us ‘wizards.’ But all that has changed now with patients no longer accepting what their doctors tell them until they themselves have googled the terms, protocols, diagnoses and prognoses and satisfied themselves as to the veracity of what they’re being told. And that attitude now pervades ALL of life with so many people wanting to figure out for themselves what is going on and how to assure themselves that whatever it is really is happening to them and the cause of it.

So, if we go back a ways we come to 1977 and a 17-year-old me reading an article in Popular Science magazine. The article announced the arrival of a cheap computer that one could buy in kit form, assemble it at home and plug into the living room TV, in the process getting a prompt and being able to start programming in a language called Sinclair BASIC. I was beside myself. I could hardly sleep and yet I knew I’d not be able to buy that machine as I had nowhere near the £50 being asked for it. I read the article over and over again until the magazine, tattered and torn, finally gave up the ghost and had to be consigned to the rubbish bin.

So, there was no other way out … I had to put my nose to the grindstone learn by reading and experimentation and build a computer from the ground up. Fortunately I knew a lot about electronics (it being a hobby of mine before the advent of computers) and though what I didn’t know caused my fledgling computer to crash and burn I did not give up, I just headed back to the drawing board and started over. Tenacity ruled the days and weeks and finally I had a computer that could add a 1 and a zero together!

Curiously, many years later Ben Eater created this playlist on YouTube and it very closely mimics the process I went through. Ben though is an expert while I burned and crashed a lot emerging out the other end of the tunnel after much heart and head-ache but much learning too. And in the end I had that machine that I’d always wanted … a computer!

Then a few years later I went on to found two IT colleges one of them the first internet based training institute in Kenya and the first to run what we now call a MOOC. I taught hundreds of students what I know in this very special way you are about to find.


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