20 Years In The Blink Of An Eye

So today is my 3rd daughter, and firstborn's, 20th birthday.


20 years!

Philips PR747
Philips PR747

I remember sending about 20 texts to friends and family “It's a Girl!! 7lbs 6” that morning on my Philips PR747 GSM Digital Mobile Phone. I couldn't afford the ubiquitous Nokia 2110 so got this one, actually an OEM of the Nokia for £10 on a contract. Ironically I worked for Nokia at the time, but this was before companies, even Nokia, issued mobile phones to staff. Before people considered using mobile phones for work.

Amanzi's labour was all fits and starts, false contractions alternating with long periods of 'nothing to see here.” So the hospital sent me home after visiting hours. About 10 minutes into my 40 minute drive, they called our home number and left a message on our microtape powered answering machine. WTF! So yes, I had to drive the 40 mins back to the hospital.

Sony Discman
Sony Discman

Amanzi was born to the strains of White Heart's “Desert Rose” played on a Sony portable CD player. We had a stack of about 20 CD's that we'd listened to over the 2 days spent in hospital. MP3's were around, of course, but only the geekiest 'connected' people listened to them, and then on a PC. At the time 'audiophiles' were raging about the loss of audio quality on CD's compared to Vinyl. They were oblivious to the 'lossy' MP3 format that was going to disrupt the music industry.

Talking of PC's our home machine was a Dell Dimension XPS P120 with the original Pentium processor running at 120MHz. Fully specced with 16MB (yes, that's megabyte) RAM and a whopping 1GB (yes, that's gigabyte) hard drive. It came with a 17″ CRT monitor that itself weighed over 15kgs. I installed Windows NT 3.5 (pre 3.51) because I didn't trust the consumer Windows 95. That first family computer cost £5000, most of my inheritance.

Newborn Amanzi
My newborn

Photo's of the happy event (well immediately post the actual birth) were taken on a Minolta SLR camera on 35mm, 400 ISO colour Fujifilm. These took a couple of days to be developed and shared with friends. In an album. Each photo on the 36 shot roll came to about 50p – £1 depending on how many shots were actually worth keeping. But typically you'd pay about £20 all up for film, processing and printing.

I didn't buy my first digital camera until almost 2 years later. But later that year at work we did get a Casio QV-10, which took shots natively in QVGA resolution (320 x 240 or 0.08MPx) or interpolated up to VGA 640×480 (0.3MPx).

We had no way of digitising photos at the time. Scanners were expensive corporate devices. It didn't matter too much. Apart from a couple of business people at work, very few of our friends were connected to the Internet, let alone had an email address. We actually had copies of photos printed and posted these to relatives overseas.

In fact there was no “plug and play,” no USB. To even connect a peripheral, like a printer or joystick, you needed a parallel (printer) or serial (most other devices) port on the computer. You also needed the drivers on a floppy disk or it simply wouldn't work.

Talking of the Internet, at the time I had just changed from Compuserve, to AOL, to Force9 for my ISP. I had a 56k modem, and Force9 offered a 1800 “dial-up” number that saved me the cost of the phone call when connecting. In the UK calls were billed by the second. In those days, if someone picked up the phone in the kitchen, it would knock the sole PC in the house off the “Net.”

There was no 'Social Media' of course. Some of us more dedicated techs would scan the Alt.News sites, a precursor to forums (and post dialling into BBS 'Bulletin Board Services'). I was proud to have memorised my ICQ ID, a 9 digit number, that allowed me to have 'real-time' chats on the platform. ICQ an early Instant Messenger client, and precursor to Yahoo! Messenger, then MSN Messenger. This was a decade before Facebook.

VHS had won the video format wars, and there were consumer video cameras. All of these were massive, clunky affairs, that recorded natively to VHS or to 'Hi-8' 8mm tape cartridges. Video editing was an analog linear process, computers simply didn't have the power to render and edit video at the time. So we have no video from those early days. In fact we don't have any video of our wedding either, as we decided it not worth the £5,000 copyright licence to cover the songs in our service.

USRobotics Palm Pilot Professional
USRobotics Palm Pilot Professional

Amanzi was born about a year before I picked up my first Personal Digital Assistant, or PDA, the USRobotics Palm Pilot Professional. The 'Professional' had 1MB of memory, instead of 512k. But by the time Charis was born, almost 2 years after Amanzi, Lucy would take a digital photo of her then email it to me in hospital at the time. I would dial-in to my email account on the Palm Pilot, with a clip-on modem, and show the 2-bit monochrome image to the medical staff. Futuristic stuff indeed.

In fact as early as 1998, just two and a half years later, we took all the ID photos for our migration to Australia, on a digital camera and printed them at home. We researched and arranged the purchace of our new car, and organised the move all online.

Today of course, you'd do everything on the computer in your pocket. Your smartphone.

It's laughable to think of an event that isn't shared online. Hardly anyone apart from enthusiasts bother with buying a still or video camera. When last did you wait to get online? When you bank, look for a house, buy a car, have a party, book travel, check-in for a flight, or a hotel, or simply catch-up with someone, you do it on your phone.

What difference the next 20 years, er, blink of an eye?


A Wife of Noble Character, who can Find?

The following comes from Proverbs 31 (edited somewhat by me) and somehow, a chance, fluke, brought a wonderful woman that meets this description almost 20 years ago into my life in 1994. Needless to say, I married her.

941203 Wedding

Lucy turns 50 today, and I want to “honour her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise…”

Happy Birthday LuIMG_4051

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies (cars, or computers).
11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax (cotton and polyester) and works with eager hands (shops with an eagle eye).
14 She is like the merchant ships (lorries and trucks), bringing her food from afar (Aldi & Coles).
15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. (not to mention the dog)
16 She considers a field (vintage) and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard (heads to First Choice & Liquorland).
17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. (and she cleverly uses food processors, blenders, washing machines and dishwashers)
18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp (computer) does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers (thanks Bernina, Elna, & Singer).
IMG_603620 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet (& live in Sydney).
22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. (Jay-Jay’s, Jeans West, Forever21 have something to offer here)
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate (respect may be a bit strong), where he takes his seat among the elders (Technologists) of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.(or, teaches for NSW Dept of Education and independent music students)
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.(sometimes she has to, hysterically)
26 She speaks with wisdom (except when it comes to high school maths), and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. (Low carb diet)
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (Glad that her beauty hasn’t fled Hot smile)

31 Honour her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (on your blog, Facebook and Twitter)

It’s been a fun, wild, adventurous ride. But I for one, and our girls, thank God for all you are.

Happy Birthday Darling.

Brief Respite

Project 2012: Day 275

The thing about these multi-city holidays in a country like the US, is that you just never get a chance to stop. At least I don’t.

Every morning I wake up, I feel this pressure of having to go and do things. Why? Well, they’re there, and you don’t know when you’ll be this way again. If ever.

So, it’s rush, rush, rush, to stand in long queues, after frantic commutes, to get see and experience the “attractions.” Have you ever noticed that you’re loath to spend money on doing things in your home town, that you would spend overseas?

Then there’s the inter-city travel. We left our apartment in San Francisco at 2pm, got into our friends’ place in San Diego at 9:30pm. We could probably have driven it in about the same time, without lugging bags across terminals, paying for luggage, or enduring the humiliation that is US airport security.

The family (apart from me I guess, as driver) would be more rested, better fed, and Facebook updated Smile And we’d probably have hired the car for less than our luggage cost…

But that’s the mistake of booking everything beforehand. Immovable dates, and non-refundable flights.

It’s also the price you pay for holidaying in so many cities in a country as large as the USA.

US-290Planned breaks

So, it was great staying with one of my oldest and best friends, Heinrich & his family, Bryn, Ava & little Johann.

So, what did we miss

  • The world famous San Diego Sea World
  • The world famous San Diego Zoo
  • More time on the beach

But we figured we have Sea World here in Aus, and have been to uShaka in South Africa, not to mention scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Aus, and Sodwana Bay in South Africa; we’ve been to London, Taronga, & Dubbo Zoos, not to mention 7 days of chilling at Zebula Private Game Farm in South Africa.

What the family needed was rest more than attractions.

US-289Staying with Heinrich and Bryn was just perfect. No pressure to be up at any time to miss traffic, or get somewhere. No need to be dressed up for the occasion.

And they procured a birthday  Birthday cake Open-mouthed smile

Also catching up with Clare & Bill for a “let’s lose the car keys” BBQ was an adventure…

Of course, it’s not like we didn’t get out. There was the USS Midway, hitting the beach, Crazee Burger, oh, and that day at Disneyland Hot smile


The more we see and do, the more I realise that it’s better to stay longer in one place, and build in rest days.