4683.

I don’t know the people in this photo. This is a screen cap from a 1991 video about EPCOT Center, the second theme part to open up at Walt Disney World in Florida.

The reason I snapped this photo is because of the IBM 4683 Point of Sale terminal in the foreground. When my husband and I visited Disney in 1997 I noticed these terminals, and they’re younger siblings the 4693, 4694, and 4695 scattered all over the parks. This was not surprising, you would find IBM cash registers like this anywhere back in the day.

The IBM 4683 was the first cash register made by IBM that used fairly standard PC components, though many of the peripherals were connected through proprietary connectors. When they first came out in the late 1980s they ran on an operating system called 4680 OS which was based on FlexDOS. Like MS-DOS (which folks were running on their PCs at the time), FlexDOS was a PC-based variant that included special multitasking powers. Typically, in modern installations, there’d be two IBM PCs running in the store somewhere powering the IBM 4683 terminals you’d see at customer checkout stands.

I had a brief stint tailoring point of sale software for the IBM 4683s running General Sales Application, which was the primary software package used in non-grocery environments back in the day. It’d probably be surprising to younger software developers, but the code we wrote was in BASIC. Yes, the same commands that you entered into your PC were used on these terminals.

10 PRINT "Hello!"
20 GOTO 10

Looking back it’s amazing what we could do with the IBM 4683 given that onboard memory was still measured in kilobytes and they didn’t have a hard drive. The later IBM 4684 was more robust and could operate as a stand alone register. That’s when the DOS variant of retail software was introduced and it was called “Retail Application/PC”. I did a little work on that as well.

When I worked at Hills Department Store over one holiday season the store was converted from older NCR 255s (installed in 1978) to the IBM 4680 GSA system. Our registers looked identical to the one pictured at EPCOT Center, but we still didn’t get scanning. We’d enter the Department, SKU, Quantity (if more than one), and price of each item. Contrary to modern belief, we did not key in the UPC numbers from the back of the item’s packaging. The registers didn’t know the price back then, but they did know if the price was too low or too high for that particular department. The limited memory onboard the registers didn’t have enough room to know the price of individual items but it did know the range of the entire department the item belonged to.

It’s been years since I’ve regaled a modern times cashier with this information when they roll their eyes because an item won’t scan.

It wasn’t too long ago that I saw an IBM 4683 still out in the wild. It might have been in Canada and it was pressed into service with newer equipment. It seemed to be keeping up with the Joneses.

2100.

During my daily walk this morning I came to the realization that children born today will most likely live to see the year 2100, assuming the planet is still inhabitable by humans by then.

I definitely will not.

All of my life I’ve focused on the future and life in the 2000s, and here we are. I guess I never considered 2100 and what life would be like because I knew I wouldn’t be around, in this lifetime at least, to see it.

Thinking about where we are today, where we are headed right now, and what history has shown us, makes 2100 seem like a long time from now. But it’s less than a lifetime away. This gives me a new perspective on what lies ahead and if anything, it drives me to do what I can to make the world a better place.

Granted, 2100 is just a number. But it’s also the future of the children of today. Isn’t that a great reason to make the world the best it can be?

Let It Whip.

In 1983 my Dad decided to get a little bit ahead of the technology curve and purchased a VHS VCR for our 19-inch television. The TV was a vintage 1976 Zenith set that sat on the bookshelf in the Family Room and was our main television. It would be a few years before cable television snaked its way out our road from town, so we relied on a rooftop antenna with a motorized rotor that allowed us to tune in various stations. We generally stayed with the “basic four” of the era, NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS. However, living close to Lake Ontario I could get that antenna on the roof swinging around and we also received CKWS from Kingston (CBC) and CJOH from Ottawa (CTV) clear as a bell. Once in a while I could tune in more distant Rochester and for some reason during one particular thunderstorm I flung the antenna around enough and I could grab the NBC station out of Orlando, Florida for a few moments.

The VHS VCR was made by General Electric, could handle both VHF and UHF channels, and looked a lot like this guy, albeit with a cover that flipped down over the channel selector on the right.

It was just this evening that I discovered Panasonic actually made this VCR for General Electric. I never knew that while growing up, but I can tell you the very first show I successfully recorded on it was the premiere of “Jennifer Slept Here” starring Ann Jillian.

There were no video rental places in town yet, but our local Rite Aid offered video rentals for $0.49 (49 cents) a night. I discovered a video featuring “Stars On 45”, the studio musicians that made medleys of older songs to a relentless four-on-the-floor beat-clap-beat-clap rhythm track, occasionally interrupted by Stars On 45 Jingles and interludes.

The Stars On 45
Keeps on turnin’
In your mind
But we can work it out
Remember ‘Twist and Shout’
You still don’t tell me why
With no reply..y…y…y

The video had none of the singers that were on the tracks so popular on the radio at the time, but was rather a one-off stage performance that featured the famous medleys and a whole bunch of other songs.

I remember my sister moaning and groaning when I decided to monopolize the only television in the house to watch the video, so I decided to wait until the next day, while Mom and Dad were at work and she was off doing whatever she did after school.

Towards the end of the performance the singers did a mash-up of Devo’s “Whip It” and The Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip” with a bunch of dancers moving along in very 1980s choreography. Chains and batons were flung around, people moved seductively, feathered hair waved.

When the three (at the time) scantily dressed guys came out I discovered a wonderful feature of the new General Electric VHS VCR made by Panasonic.

It had a PAUSE button.

My sophomore year had just kicked off, I had all these wild thoughts going on in my head, whereas I just knew I was suppose to be pausing on the (at the time) scantily dressed girls but I was really grooving on pausing on the (at the time) scantily dress guys.

Worried someone would come home while the VCR was on PAUSE, I quickly finished the video. I then decided to Be Kind and Rewind and then went up to my green painted bedroom with blue, green, and black plaid carpet and decided to think about what I just PAUSEd about.

I’ll let your imagination fill in the details that could evoke a blush.

While I was working today I found myself singing “Let It Whip / Whip It, Whip It Good” and realized it was from this video I hadn’t seen in 37 years. I was happy to find it on YouTube.

No need to PAUSE, I’m not a sophomore in high school.

A New Era.

Microsoft ended Extended Support for Windows 7 yesterday. This means if your computer is still running Windows 7 you will no longer receive updates for the once popular operating system.

As of two months ago, 28% of traditional PCs were still running Windows 7.

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was watching the “Windows 7 Host Your Own Launch Party” video, introducing what was to be an incremental upgrade to Windows. The goal was to make the masses forget Windows Vista as quickly as possible.

Just today I’ve seen several computers running Windows 7. Folks fell in love with the operating system and have been hesitant to switch away. After all, why get rid of something that works?

Even folks are rapidly moving toward a “mobile first” platform when it comes to personal technology, there are still plenty of PCs around, especially in business.

I guess it’s beyond time for businesses to make the decision, Windows 10, Linux, or something from Apple.

I don’t think there’ll be any Launch Party Guide Videos to help users make the transition.

Technology.

I talk a bit about how sometimes it feels like advances in technology are basically destroying our society as we know it. My primary belief to support this is because technology is advancing faster than society’s capacity to handle this growth. The population hasn’t evolved quickly enough to keep up with the new technology being released to the masses.

This being said, I am fully amazed and appreciative of the fact that I am able to watch the latest NASA spacewalk at the International Space Station in real-time from my desk at work on a second monitor while writing code. The signal is coming from over 350,000 kilometers away, being pushed to Twitter and Periscope and instantly available on a computer the size of a 1/3 of a pizza box but more powerful than anything that was even dreamed of when we first started exploring Space.

This helps me maintain my sanity and faith in humanity. We’ll get through this and the disparity around the technology-people connection will eventually balance out (though it’s taking way too long).

We need to move forward. We have a whole big Universe to explore.

Features.

In the earlier days of the World Wide Web we’d all have our pages set to a “home page” or “start page”, which was usually a portal that included little snippets of information. You’d find things like the weather, the latest news headlines, and updates from your favorite Geocities sites.

Web browsers today tend to steer us toward a blank or search page upon initial load in today’s Modern World. Apple in particular would rather we use apps to garner the information we used to grab through a web portal.

At work this morning I fired up Google Chrome, since that seems to be the dominate choice for web browser at the company I work for and since I write applications, including web applications, as my livelihood I should probably use the browser everyone else is using, and I went to Google News. It hearkens back to the old style “Start Page” quite a bit with headlines, local weather, and a couple of other little bits of information one would presumably like to see at the beginning of the day.

Two things stuck out at me this morning.

Not only does the Google News page have a section dedicated to checking the facts, but they also let one choose their default temperature of Celsius, Fahrenheit, or Kelvin.

Metric goodness is always appreciated. Notice I have it on Fahrenheit at the moment. I’m switching it to Celsius today.

Privacy.

Growing up we had a standing rule at the supper table. Beyond the basic manners of not playing with our food, sitting at the table, and at least trying a little bit of everything on the plate, the television would be on, supper would be served as close to 6 p.m. as possible, and we wouldn’t talk about politics, religion, or homosexuality. It wasn’t that my Dad believed these things shouldn’t be talked about nor did he have any negative or hostile feelings on the subject. My dad believed meal times should be enjoyed and a pleasant experience and discussions on these topics detracted from those pleasantries. I think as a kid there had been screaming and crying at his supper table and he didn’t want to repeat that experience with his family.

When the woman mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry approached me with her “You Need Jesus” t-shirt, eyes locked with mine in an attempt to engage in a conversation, I simply told her “Nope” and motioned for her to cease whatever she was trying to start. You see, like my father, I believe conversation should be pleasant. There is a time and a place for debate and in the middle of Starbucks is not that place. In addition, how dare this woman presume to know what I need and furthermore, how dare she try to imprint her “need for Jesus” on me. My religious or spiritual beliefs are none of her business and honestly, I strongly believe her religious beliefs are none of my business.

If your religion tells you to convert everyone around you to your own thinking, it’s not a religion, it’s a cult.

I’m happy people find a path that fulfills them and makes them feel whole and gives them the will to continue living in this crazy, screwed up world we live in. But your path is not my path; you have no idea what’s going on in my life, my head, or my heart. And unless I tell you, it’s none of your business. Where and when I grew up this was part of the societal contract. And I’m determined to stick to it.

I know, I should practice what I preach. Yesterday I was probably in one of the worst moods I’ve experienced in many years. Lack of sleep, worry over work, exposing myself to too much news, all of these contributed to my sour mood and I let that mood dictate reactions, both private and public, to things I was reading, especially on Twitter. I lashed out at trolls and/or bots and did nothing to contribute in a positive manner to a political conversation around the man I firmly believe has absolutely no business leading a corporation, let alone the United States of America. The cult like following of his supporters is frightening, but telling them how stupid they are is not helping the situation.

Unless it’s damaging to me, their stupidity is really none of my business nor any of my concern.

I was once handed a Bible by a co-worker who was trying to save me from hell. The Bible was tattered, had the word “JESUS” written in pen along the outer edge of the pages, and had several passages, mostly in Leviticus, highlighted in yellow. I got the message and I chose to ignore it. I found the treatment of the Holy Book, with it’s tattered pages and pen markings and liberal use of highlighter, to be offensive. Sacred teaching should be treated sacredly.

But it’s not my job to tell her that. To each their own path. Do unto others as they would do unto you. Do no evil. Live and let live.

Chill.

Truman was mostly chilled out at the vet today. It was his annual checkup and shots and he did just fine. He’s gained some weight and we have to watch the kitty calories (don’t we all!) but otherwise he’s in good shape and a healthy three year old.

He’s asked me not discuss the numbers from the scale. Just keep the kibble coming. And treats.

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CLOSEd.

I’ve posted this image on Twitter today.

Back in the days when cash registers had 7-segment LED displays, this is how they spelled out messaging indicating that particular checkout lane was closed. I always thought this was quite the nifty way to relay a simple message and I like the retro look to the message.

I posted it on Twitter because I’ve checked out of the dialog for a little while. A minute? An hour? A day? A week? Who knows. After seeing tweets praising Trump for posting photoshopped images of Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi in Middle Eastern type religious garb, insinuating their conspiring with terrorists, I came to the realization that Twitter hasn’t learned anything, despite the PR claims of being a better Internet citizen. Trump can post outright hate speech and Jack Dorsey and friends will never do anything about it.

Why should I contribute to any dialog on the platform, let alone lending my response to any political discourse.

I’m often too emotional in my responses to political discussions and debate. I am emotional because I’m passionate about doing the right thing in and for society. Belching and barking on Twitter isn’t going to change anyone’s mind and it just feeds the trolls.

So I’ve checked out. I’ve closed my lane for a bit. I’m on break.

Nope.

Yesterday I went for a walk through the neighborhoods and ended up at a Starbucks I had never been to before. On the edge of Boystown, this location was rather small with only a couple of tables and some stools along a counter, which was up against the window. At the time the window was all fogged up with moisture, making it difficult to see inside or outside, depending on where you were.

I picked up my order at the counter and found one seat at the counter available if one was playing by the “every other seat” rule so typical these days. I got situated with my iPad and I started perusing through some blog entries and the like. I was getting in the mindset to write a blog entry.

I realized I didn’t have a napkin so I turned from the window and stepped toward where these things were stored and a woman locked eyes with me. She was middle aged, rather disheveled looking but had a gigantic laptop in tow. She started walking toward me with an engaging look on her face. I knew she was going to talk to me. Her t-shirt proclaimed in very large letter, “You Need Jesus”.

I maintained the locked gaze, raised my hand in a signal of “wait”, and simply said, “Nope”. I maintained gaze for a second or two and she returned to her seat in the corner.

Settled back at my seat in front of the fogged up window, a large man sat down to my right. He was accompanied by a smaller man and they began talking loudly. There were lots of sounds of complaint, exasperation, and resignation coming from the both of them. Determined to settle in my space, I focused on whatever I was doing at the time.

It was then the man started receiving text messages.

I knew he was receiving text messages. Everyone in the shop knew he was receiving text messages because his phone would make a startling and very loud screeching noise each time someone sent him a message. There was no vibration. There was no ping or ding. It was a loud, clacking, banging, screeching sound.

What I would have done for silent mode. I would have even welcomed the comforting ring of a Western Electric telephone. But this noise was too much and I had already put the brakes on one person in the store, I didn’t need to bring down the rest of the population so I did the reasonable thing.

I picked his phone up and smashed it down on the counter. It was so easy to just reach out, pick up the phone, and using all the rage I was feeling at the moment, just slam the phone down so hard that it broke. The cheap Android phone shattered and I felt vindicated.

I didn’t actually do that, but I fantasized about it and I’m fantasizing about it again right now as I think back on the experience. What I actually did was pack up my stuff, put on my jacket, recycled my cup, and headed out the door.

I glared at him on the way out. He was too busy listening to his shrieking phone.