Look at Eric’s Shoes!

Sunday, March 28th, 2004
Last week's blog entry: Is the Chicken Cooked? now has wings of its own. Within days, bloggers all over the world were linking to it and several people even wrote me e-mail to share how the story resonated with them.  (Michael Sampson, Dennis Kennedy, Libby Ingrassia Schwarz, Skingery, to name a few)  As a result of your encouragement, I will share another important lesson that I learned early in my career; but first, I would like to share some good news....  

After posting my blog entry about cooking chickens, I looked up Jim Hill and gave him a call; I wanted to personally thank him for the lessons he had taught me so many years ago. To my delight, Jim was home and when his wife told him I was calling to thank him for something, he said "you must be referring to cooked chickens...." We had a great conversation and agreed to get together in person soon.

Now the lesson:  In the early 1980's, at the ripe old age of 20, I began one of my first consulting assignments for The Air Force Flight Test Center, at Edwards Air Force Base, California.  My assignment was to help the communications squadron deploy some of the first microcomputers in the U.S. Military. (see below) Part of this deployment involved an initial presentation in the base theater with 750 people in attendance, along with a live video link to Hill AFB.  General Pete Odgers, who was the commander of the Flight Test Center at the time, talked about how microcomputers would revolutionize work at the Test Center, and then for the next hour and a half, I gave a presentation (using Harvard Graphics - sorry, no PowerPoint in those days) about how the technology worked and how we would be equipping the people to use this new technology

I worked for six months to develop a series of technology seminars for the 2-letter chiefs and their civilian counterparts as well as the base personnel to bring them up to speed on the capabilities of the new microcomputer technology.  One of the seminars that I developed, was a 3-day computer management course for senior managers.  Keep in mind that while I certainly knew my stuff, I was still the "young" computer wiz -- probably about 1/2 the average age of my audience.  I wanted to make a good impression and I worked hard in preparation.

The seminar began at 8:00 AM each day, and I drove up each day from Los Angeles, which was a few hours away. On day two of one of my seminars, the managers began passing around a note while I was speaking; this went on for much of the morning while I presented.  Finally, curiosity got the best of me and I stopped my presentation to ask what was so important.  

A person with a sheepish grin held up the paper for me to see:
Image:Look at Eric’s Shoes!
I looked down at my shoes and this is what I saw...
Image:Look at Eric’s Shoes!
Apparently, before I left Los Angeles at 5:00 AM on that dark morning, I grabbed two similar but different color shoes from the closet and headed off for my presentation a hundred miles away.  It was too late for me to do anything about it so I smiled, quietly took off my shoes, placed them on the floor next to the podium, and gave the rest of my presentation in my socks which were fortunately the same color.  

At the end of my lecture, I was presented with the note that you see above. I have kept it as a reminder for these past 20 years, and as a result, I have never repeated the experience.

Needless to say, it was a very valuable lesson.  Fortunately, it did not hurt my presentation, and I continued to successfully deliver services to the base for another 10 years after that event.

Lesson learned: Whenever I pack for a seminar, I always check the color of my shoes. Twice.


For those of you who are still reading, this is the actual computer I used for my work at Edwards.  I keep it on a shelf in my office.  It's a Zenith Z-100: a "powerful" Pre-IBM PC dual-processor 8085 and 8080 2 megahertz design with a whopping 64K RAM!  Sorry, no hard drives in those days.  There wasn't much to fill them up with anyway.  A typical word-processor, WordStar, only needed 32K (that's kilobytes) of RAM, and could be run from a floppy. The was also before the days of the 300+ megabyte MS Office installations. No color either.  A green screen CRT was state of the art at the time.  When Zenith called it a desktop computer, they were not kidding. You needed a desktop to use one. Still, it was better than using punched cards, but that is another story for another day.
Image:Look at Eric’s Shoes!

Discussion/Comments (1):

Don´t forget, Z-100 was Tempest compliant!

I ran my whole consulting business on a Televideo 820 with two five and a quarter floppy drives. I would use WordStar in non-document mode for my program editor with WordStar, a "C" compiler, assembler and linker on the first floppy. The second floppy would contain the source code and final executable program which did not end in ".exe" but ended in ".com". I could have put it all on one floppy with room left over, that's how little space files took back then.

Then there was the whole problem that none of the floppy drives on the CP/M computers of the day were compatible with each other.

Thanks for the ease we have today.

Posted at 3/28/2004 11:00:21 PM by Tanny O'Haley

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