Archive for the ‘History’ Category

The Science Fiction League and Hugo Gernsback

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Frederik Pohl has a nice article about The Science Fiction League. I found an original SF League membership card on eBay and I made copies of it. I put a high resolution copy of the card into a standard printer business card template so you can print your own cards.

WARNING: this is nigh onto 30 megs of download and may take a while.

Print your own Membership Cards: Download Science Fiction League Membership card Template

Thanks to a reader, Dennis McCunney, there is a zip of the adobe PDF version that is a much smaller download of the Science Fiction League cards.

Here are the the images of the card.


The Way the Future Blogs, an online memoir by science fiction writer Frederik Pohl » Blog Archive » Let There Be Fandom: The Science Fiction League.

COBOL turns 50

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Happy Birthday COBOL

COBOL or Common Business-Oriented Language was invented in an attempt to standardize a language for the Department of Defense. One of the inventors of the Language was Grace Murray Hopper (the woman who invented the term “bug” to describe programming defect.)

COBOL code survives to this day, although there are many fewer COBOL jobs. It is estimated that as much as 75% of all computer programs running today are written in COBOL. COBOL runs incredibly fast compared to all modern languages. It is used in large applications like banking and airline reservations systems.

The first program that I wrote as a professional programmer was written in COBOL. I learned how to code it from reading books and looking at the code of other programmers. A programmer named Charlie Hannes had taken classes where he learned Structured Programming and I was greatly influenced then and even to this day by his clean style. I learned the tricks from another programmer, Vinnie DeLuca, who wrote “old style” spaghetti code. He learned to program as a CIA analyst on computers that had less than 10,000 bytes of RAM. He did things like write initialization routines using the input/output buffers where it would be erased when files were read, but after they had done their work. I used such trick extensively in my career as an assembly language coder.

I taught COBOL for 20 years at several colleges, until the last college dropped COBOL from its curriculum.

I wrote my final COBOL program at Lockheed about 1988. COBOL is probably the great Mother Tongue of computer languages and has influenced modern programming even more than other ancient languages such as ALGOL or FORTRAN.

COBOL has been good to me. It kept me in beer and cat food for half of my life and since then, the lessons that I learned from COBOL programming have kept me fat and padded my 401K.

Today, if you find a moment, and there is a bar within walking distance, stop and raise a pint to the COBOL programmers. Most of the original ones have retired or died at their green screen terminals. COBOL programmers are becoming a legend of the Iron Age of computers when bits were stored on magnetic rings and program lines were written by punching holes in paper cards.

COBOL turns 50

A True Ghost Story

Friday, October 31st, 2008

The Clarkstown Cemetery next to my house is one of the oldest in the U.S. and has had its share of spooks. My Dutch ancestors lived in the area granted to them by William of Orange back in the 17th century. They came here, as did many early Americans seeking religious freedom.

Although the Dutch settlers kept their own customs and even spoke a dialect of Dutch well into the 19th century, they could be very tolerant and some of them had a reputation for scholarship and freedom of thought.

Back in the 1700s, a prominent citizen of Clarkstown died. (Clarkstown was sometimes called Clarksville and later has become known as West Nyack.) This citizen was an atheist, but his family had a family plot and his ancestors had been buried in the church yard for over a century. The grave was dug, but there was some controversy as to whether or not he should be buried in sacred ground.

On the night before his funeral a white shape could be seen over the freshly dug grave. It seemed to leap out in the darkness from time to time as though it had taken over the grave and would prevent anyone from putting the atheist’s body into the churchyard ground.

In the morning the story got around and a group of people went to stop the funeral. The casket was brought from the church after the funeral, but the people would not let the pallbearers carry it to the grave. There was an argument where the story was told of the mysterious spirit that hovered over the open grave during the night.

Just as the argument turned to yelling there was a loud sound of an animal in distress and a white ewe jumped up from the grave trying to escape. It had fallen in the night before and could not get out. The spirit was the sheep that was trying to escape the grave.

The crowd was embarrassed that they had thought that the sheep was a ghost and did not prevent the burial.

True story.

Clarkstown Graveyard

Friday, October 31st, 2008

We don’t get trick-or-treaters. It is partly because we live next to one of the spookiest cemeteries in the county.

I went over and took some pictures just as the sun set. The flash pictures came out, but the long exposures are often blurry because I could not hold the camera still enough. I wound up setting the camera on a gravestone and using it for a tripod.

Graveyard Gallery

Sunday Walk to The Hook

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

I took a whole load of pictures when Erica and I spent an afternoon on a walk from the Upper Nyack village hall to the Hook (Hook Mountain if you are not a native).

From Walk to the Hook

I used to go to the Hook to play in the sand when I was very young. The river is not really clean enough to go swimming anymore, but it is much better now than it has been.

I discovered that the images from my blog, when I use Windows Live Writer, go to a Picassa.com Album. I stopped using Picassa a few years ago because it was buggy and wanted to control all of your images. I am trying it again because I took 67 pictures and I need a good place for them. Uploading the images was a snap and you can view them by clicking the “walk to the hook” link under the picture.

The pictures are of the mansions along the way, like the Fokker mansion (German Airplane maker) and some of the houses that I have been in. There is a beautiful wrought iron willow gate and other interesting things, including views of the river and Sing-Sing, the famous prison (up the river from New York, hence the phrase sending someone “up the river”).

Upper Nyack was always know as Goose Town or Van Houten’s Landing. It was named Upper Nyack to associate it with Nyack in the early 1900s, when Nyack first started to be a fashionable getaway from NY.

We only saw one cat. It was down by Peterson’s Boat Yard.

Married many, many Years

Monday, August 11th, 2008

As an anniversary present, Erica bought me Through Space to Mars from 1910 by Roy Rockwood. It is the story of boys who build a rocket in their garage and pilot it to Mars. Before there was Science Fiction there were boys books.

Roy Rockwood was the house pseudonym at Cupples & Leon publishers for its boys books. This book was written by Howard Roger Garis, best known for the Uncle Wiggly Longears books. He wrote many of the original Tom Swift books under the name Victor Appleton, and many of the Bobsey Twins books.

It is a great present and I will be reading it soon. I only had to buy her expensive jewels. I got the better of the deal.

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Nine Legendary SF Authors Speak

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

This, via SFSignal, is a video of 9 great SF writers. It dates from the late 1960s to the late 1970s and has some of my favorite writers explaining why SF is important.

A nice quote from Asimov:

To those of us who remember the golden age, we are now living in a Sciencefictional world, and one which Campbell’s Science Fiction did significantly succeed in creating.

It is unfortunate that, even in 30 to 40 years ago, these writers are speaking as though Science Fiction has completed its function in society. They speak about fulfilling a promise, as though Spec-fic is done deal and the future is now.

4th of July Quote

Friday, July 4th, 2008

I am a big John W. Campbell, Jr. Fan. As a person, he seems to have been a jerk, but as an editor, he created modern science fiction. As a writer, he was mostly readable. He’s  known mostly for writing Who Goes There?, which has been made into a movie called The Thing, twice.

History doesn’t always repeat itself. Sometimes it just screams, "Why don’t you listen to me?" and lets fly with a big stick. – John W. Campbell, Jr.

Grafton Historical Society Antique Show

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Larry and I came home today, saying goodbye to Cape Cod. Part of our vacation strategy is get lost and find new things. We went down the coast of Cape Cod and hit about 20 garage sales, as we randomly took promising turns.

The Mashpee Flea Market was now a mall and had been for years so we headed north to the Saginaw bridge and started back home. After an hour of riding, I got off the main highway and turned south at random to see what we could find in the way of garage sales. We stumbled on the Grafton Antique Show.

The Grafton show was high end antiques, well out of my price range. One of my marching orders was to find antique samplers for Erica. The ones that I saw were all hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but I took some quick pictures for Erica.

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These were the gatekeepers.

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Larry and Keith’s Cape Cod Adventure – Day 1

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

We went up to Cape Cod, stopping by Plymouth. I tried to take pictures of the Standish Sampler for Erica, but the pictures didn’t come out. I didn’t take many still pictures, so here are the videos.

I uploaded these to Vimeo, a video service similar to YouTube, but easier to use.

First is us taking out across the TZ bridge


Cape Cod Vacation 1 from jt30guy on Vimeo.

Next is Plymouth Rock.


Larry and Keith at Plymouth Rock from jt30guy on Vimeo.

Last is Larry explaining about the Mayflower.


Larry and Keith at the Mayflower from jt30guy on Vimeo.

Pictures from Mom’s House

Monday, May 12th, 2008

I Went over to Mom’s house. I had the camera so I took some pictures of stuff on the wall while I was waiting for her to get off the phone.

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This was Larry and me. I’m around 6 and Larry is about 4.

Next is a picture of my Great Great Grandmother, Fanny Fay Mansfield.

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And here is a picture of the Nyack Semi-Pro baseball team some time in the 1890s. Alexander Galbraith, my great grandfather is the only one without a mustache.

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Click on images to get a larger view.