Thank you, Dad, for tech and Trek

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Chasing Wisdom

Saturday morning, while sipping cappuccino and enjoying the rural view from my living room window, I found myself sorting through Facebook posts from friends. Like everyone else in the modern world, I get hit by an abundance of targeted ads, most of which are off-target for an eclectic aging philosopher. This morning I found something worth clicking on.

No, this is not a product endorsement disguised as a column. Just bear with me for a moment.

The Kano Computer Kit is tagged as “a computer anyone can make.” The 2017 edition ad had a picture and read only “Make a computer. Learn to code.” It is meant for kids six and up.

When I was roughly the age this little kit is marketed toward, my father built a Heathkit H8 computer and an H19 terminal on our dining room table. Remember Heathkit?

The Heath company used to sell electronics kits from which you could build your own radios, televisions and, starting in 1977, what they called “hobbyist computers.”

It was a massive thing – both the project spanning months of his spare time and the computer itself.

Time was not a friend. My father worked alternating 12-hour shifts at Eli Lilly and worked on my grandfather’s farm both on his days off and many of his days on. To make building cutting-edge late-70s tech even more challenging, it should be noted that my father was colorblind. My only real contribution, at five years old, was helping identify colors when he was stringing ribbon cables and sorting components.

Now there is a do-it-yourself computer kit that is, in the words of Bones, from one of the worst Star Trek episodes ever, “So easy a child could do it!” (Bonus nerd-points for anyone who correctly identifies the episode.)

Thanks to Kano, I was struck by a strange moment of nostalgia for a childhood I have almost forgotten. It was partly because of the computer kit itself, and partly because I was seeing it on a handheld device that bears a slight resemblance to a Star Trek communicator. Oh, how my father loved that show!

People gave my father a hard time about his 1978 project. I remember that, and I remember him telling me that everyone would have a home computer in 20 years.

Thank you, for giving me both my love of tech and my love of Trek.

Who’s laughing now, Dad?

Rest in peace.

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