The Early Days of Computers

I’ll never forget getting my first computer. I didn’t start in the real early days, even though I’d been working for IBM for years and had seen every flavor of computer that had been invented in the early years. I remember the first computer game that I ever played. I think it was part of a system called the 1100 and it was at Brigham Young in the engineering lab. We would sneak into the lab after hours and play this game. Esentially, this is what you did. You were in change of a cannon. You could make the cannon point at different angles and you could vary how much gun powder you used. So, you would type in a angle, then set the gunpowder (and maybe adjust the wind speed – I don’t remember all the details). This you entered a “Fire” command and the cannon would fire and a cannon ball would fly across the screen and, hopefully, hit a target. If it missed, you could try again.

This was even before Pong came along and I remember thinking this was about the greatest thing I had ever seen. Look what we have today. Even the games of the eighties seem primative and simple compared to what we have now.

But, my first computer that I owned was, of course, an IBM. They got into the personal computer market in the early eighties and as soon as I could afford, I bought one at an employee discount. It had a small green screen with absolutely no graphics. In the beginning, I don’t think we even had Windows, just DOS. It had, I think 256 Meg of storage and two diskette drives to enter data into the machine. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven. We were able to talk to the world through a phone line, so when the computer was on-line, no one could use the phone. We talked by sending messages to something called bulletin boards. If you were lucky, someone would write you back.

The internet didn’t exist in those days. Yet, we thought it was great. I remember David and I joined a game club and traded games that played on the computer as well as on the Atari game system. He also had an early computer that he got somewhere (a Commodore, I think) and he traded games for that, too. David still downloads games almost every day. Nothing really changes.

Some people have had the vision to see where the computing inductry was going and took advantage of that and are millionaires, today. I was always just happy with what I had and never really looked to the future, too bad.


David’s problems

I wasn’t sure how much detail to go into about David. I don’t want to embarass him or make him feel bad. So, first I asked him if it was OK to talk about him and he said it was. So, the following is just a summary of about 3 years of dealing with his increasing illness. If any of you think this is a bad idea and want me remove it, I will and I will understand why.

David began to have problems when he was about 15. The first thing I remember was when he came home from school and told us that he had been sitting in class and looking out the window. He saw someone walking across the school grounds toward the school and somehow he knew the person really wasn’t there. He also began to hear voices.

We had a program with IBM called Employee Assistance where you could go see a therapist if you were having problems. So, we signed up Dave for a visit and he went in and talked to this guy. After the appointment, the therapist told us this was more than he could handle and suggested we talk to the people over at the Mayo Clinic and St Mary’s hospital where the psych ward was.

I don’t remember the sequence of events, but David was going through a lot more than we realized. He became suicidal. He ran away several times. I remember him disappearing and I would drive out on the road to St Charles and find him riding his bike out in the middle of nowhere. I could never get him to tell me what what going on (at least, not then), but the voices were telling him to do stuff and as his father and mother, we just didn’t know what to do.

I asked a brother in the ward to give him a blessing. I guess I was thinking it was like the exorcist and he could be prayed healthy. But, that didn’t work. Things got worse and for his own safety and the safety of the family, we had to have him put in the hospital.

The first time they put Dave in the psych ward was for two weeks and we were not allowed to see or talk to him for that period. He went to the psych ward several times over the next couple years and even spent a few weeks at St Peter, MN where the state mental hospital is. They finally found a treatment that allows Dave to live a life that comes as close to normal as he can get. Things will never be normal, and while I doubt if David would agree with me, I think David is a very special individual. I’ve seen him do things that regular people would not think of doing. I love him very much and wish with all my heart that he could live a normal life, (he’s officially retired) but if that is not to be, then I’m looking forward to a life hereafter when he will be treated like royalty.


Going to See Elton John

I’ll never forget the time Mike Sveen and I went to see Elton John in St Paul. I had heard that Elton John was coming and this was when he still dressed up in the outlandish costumes and really put on a show besides playing the music. I’m not sure why Mike went with me. Maybe Karen didn’t want to go or else I was giving him a present or something, don’t know. But the two of drove up to St Paul to a big concert center they have there and saw the concert.

It was great. We didn’t have the best seats, but they were good enough. Elton did his thing and we could sing along to every song. I wouldn’t mention this trip at all except for what happened after the concert. We left the concert and drove toward the freeway to head for home. Just as I’m entering the on-ramp to enter the freeway, that car stopped. We coasted over to the side of the road and the car was dead. It would not start. Now, it was, like 11:30 at night and nothing was open. There was no such thing as cell phones, so we left the car and walked back to a nearby street until we found a payphone.

Mike knew some people who lived in St Paul. People who worked at the local radio stations. So he called one of them. I think he got them out of bed. But they agreed to come pick us up. We rode back to their house and they were nice neough to let us stay there for the night. Mike slept on the couch and I slept in a recliner chair. The next morning, the lady of the house said they were happy to help, but I could never come to their house again. It seems my snoring kept them all awake all night. I didn’t understand. I told them I didn’t snore, but they just laughed.

We called a mechanic to come get the car. It was still parked on the on-ramp. Luckily, no one had stripped it yet. They towed it to a local garage and after looking at the problem, told me I needed about $600 worth of repairs. Well, I had to leave the car while they did they work. We got a ride to the bus station. I had called Karen and told her everything that had happened. So, Mike and I returned to Rochester on the bus where Karen picked us up, We took Mike home and then a few days later, we returned to St Paul to pick up the car. All in all, one of the most expensive concerts I have have ever attended. Really good memories, though.


Thanksgivings in Quincy

The other three days of each week we spent in Michigan were usually spent in Quincy. Karen should write her own history and talk about her childhood on the farm. I know she has lots of cool stories that I can remember her telling during our years together. We always spent Thanksgiving with the Rupp’s. They would rotate among the brothers as to who would host the dinner. The only two who didn’t have to take part in hosting was us (since we lived in Minnesota) and Larry (who also lived a long ways away – not sure exactly where he lived during this time period, Columbus, I think, but he eventually ended up on the east coast somewhere, Karen can tell us exactly).

After I got to know the Rupp’s, I usually looked forward to going to the farm. The Thanksgiving dinner was great, no matter what house it was held at. Once they got to know me, they always asked me to say the blessing on the food. I thought that was peculiar. We always spent the day on Thanksgiving watching the Detroit Lions play a football game. The husbands in the TV room, watching the game and the wives all in the kitchen or dining room talking about something – the husbands, probably.

The days we spent at the farm were good ones. I always felt like I was really on vacation there. There was little to do and no pressure to run out somewhere. We could read or watch TV or just sit around. Life was good.

We especially liked Grandma Rupp’s cooking. I’ve never had noodles like hers since then. Another specialty of the farm was banana cream pudding, although Karen did make this now and then. Grandma always had ice cream in the freezer so we could have a dish in the evening. For breakfast, I can remember standing over the stove cooking my eggs and “smokey links” as grandma called them. She was always prepared for us with the things we liked. I have only good memories of the Rupp farm.


The Flood

I guess there are three things I remember about going to Michigan. The last is one year, we went at a time other than Thansgiving. I think it was in July, but not sure. We were in Battle Creek and one day I got a call from Paul Day back in Rochester. “You’d better come home, right now,” he said. “We’ve had a little rain.” We cut our trip short and all piled in the car and headed back for Eyota. Yes, it had rained. We arrived home to find that we had had four feet of water in our basement. I was told that at one time, the water was shooting up out of the toilet bowl in the basement like a hugh hose. I think the Curret’s lived next door to us at that time and Allen Currit had had the presense of mind to come over to our house and look through the basement window. (It may have been Andy Anderson from across the street that raised the alarm, I’m not sure) When he saw the water, he called the church.

The guys came over with a sump pump and somehow broke into the house and started pumping the water out of the basement. By the time we got home, most of it was gone. There was just a couple inches left. Needless to say, we had a mess. We literally lost everything that was below four feet, which included just about everything in the basement. All of our food storage was gone. The kids had a neat little area down there with a bunch of toys that they played with. All ruined. The washer and dryer were down stairs. I’m pretty sure they had to be replaced. Some things could be dried out and used, but not much. The TV was a total loss. The couch and chairs. I noticed after a few days that the paneling on the walls was buckling for the bottom four feet or so. So, I got some help and we ripped out all the paneling in the basment.

In the space of just a few days, we went from a furnished, completed basement which we used a lot to an unfinished basement with no furniture. It took us a long time to get the basement back to where we could use it again. I think the church bought us a new washer. The governor of Minnesota had declared Rochester and some of the out-lying towns as disaster areas. So, we were supposed to get some assistance. I don’t remember if we actually got any money or not, but I do remember going into Rochester and standing in line to get assistance and being given a pail and a mop and a couple other little items. I thought that was pretty bad when what we needed was real help.

It was interesting to see the effects of the flood in Rochester. The whole SE section of town had flooded. Since the church was in the SE section, we were naturally concerned. It turned out that that flood waters came to within just a couple feet of the door of the church and then stopped. The building itself was fine and no water got in at all. Heavenly Father was looking out for us. I think Mayo High School just across the street from the church did have water in the building that had to be cleaned out. Since it was July, they could get that done before school started in the fall.

But, we got through it. I never did put the paneling back up. A couple years later, we had another smaller flood, so maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t. When we sold the house, it was with an unfurnished basement. Just another of my failings.


Tragedy in Michigan

We would also call my Dad and try to go visit him while we were in town. He lived in Battle Creek at first and that was easy to go visit him. He still lived in the house I lived in when I went to live with him in High School. But, then he moved to Kalamazoo and so we had to drive over there to see him. We never spent much time with him, just a couple hours. We were never very close and you run out of things to say very quickly. They always seemed happy to see us. Dorothy would jump up and go get us a plate of cookies or treats of some kind and a drink. The kids always liked that. I tried to stay as close as possible to my Dad, but it was hard. I think he wishes things would have been different. One of highlights of the holidays was getting the Christmas check for the kids from Grandpa Hoag. For a lot of reasons, I think I have turned into my Dad.

Two things which really stand out for me while we were staying at my Mom’s house. One was when Kimmy fell off the porch railing and hit her head on the cement below. She and Katy were playing on the porch of the trailer and Kim went backwards off the railing down to the cement to crack her head a good one. Boy, were we scared. We took her to the hospital emergency room and had her checked out. One or two of the men from the Battle Creek Ward came to the hospital and gave her a blessing. I think she had a mild concussion and she had to take some kind of medicine for several months after that, but eventually she didn’t have any long term effects. (Of course, those of us who know her might disagree with that.  🙂  )

The other incident was when David asked to go a nearby grocery store for some reason and I let him go. He had to cross the busy Columbia Ave to get to the store and on his way back, he just walked right out in front of a car. Cars were moving at 35 miles per hour or better, so he got hit pretty bad. The first we heard about it was when a cop showed up at the trailer to tell us he had been taken to the hospital. Well, that ended the vacation. We didn’t even get to Quincy on that trip. David had his leg broke very badly. So bad, that they had to put a metal rod down through the center of the bone to hold it all together. He still has that rod in his leg today. Makes flying a little more interesting. For some reason that I don’t remember, we had two cars on that trip. David spent the trip back home stretched out in the back seat with his leg out straight. It took a long time to heal.


Current: Had an Epidural Today

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. I looked up the word epidural on the web and it seems to just apply to pregnant women. Since that isn’t me, maybe it was another word. At any rate, I spent most of the day today at the hospital getting a needle stuck in my back. I was scheduled to go in at 2:15. They called and told me to come at 11 instead. Then they made me wait in the little room for two hours before they took me into the operating room.

They lay you face down on the operating table, then they inject stuff in your IV for pain. Then they inject something they called “like valium” except without the side effects. This was intended to mellow me out, but that is the last thing I remember as I’m pretty sure I fell asleep or passed out or something. Anyway, the next I knew I was being rolled back into the little room where Barb was waiting for me.

While I was out, they injected cortisone into my spine. I think this is the same drug that athletes take to improve their performance. I had it in my mind to ask the doctor before they injected me if this meant I’d never be able to play professional ball again, but I passed out so fast that I forgot. I think it would have been a good joke, though.

I am home now and for a short while after the procedure, I felt really good. I think that was the drugs talking. I told Barb maybe I need to become a drug addict. I’m totally down now, but I think it’s working a little. My legs are still numb when I walk, but they don’t hurt near so much. We’ll see how long it lasts. I think I’m going to need more than just a shot for long term relief. I’ll keep you all up to date.

Love, Dad

Fun in Michigan

We’ve been talking about attending Education Week. We also took vacations in the other direction. About twice a year, we would all head for Michigan. Usually in the spring and then again for Thanksgiving, we would make the trek to Battle Creek and Quincy. We would normally spend 6 days in Michigan, three with my mother and three at the farm with Karen’s mother. Karen’s Dad died just a few years after we got married, so most of my memories of the farm do not include him. I do remember the first time I ever met her family. I think it was a Thanksgiving, then, also. We had had our first date in September and I had left to go south in January, so it makes sense that I would have attended Thanksgiving with her family.

I can remember going up to the door of the house and being let in and introduced to everyone. I think they were watching a football game that day (they always did on Thanksgiving), If I’m not mistaken, Gene was the first brother I saw that day. At least I remember him the most. The day went well. At least, they didn’t kick me out and tell me to never see their daughter again. I think it took them awhile to accept me as a member of the family, but they did eventually.

So, every year we would travel to Michigan to see the grandparents. We  usually stayed the first three days of the week with my mother. She had moved to a trailer by this time and we crowded in. I don’t remember where we slept. I have memories of us using a fold-out bed and the kids sleeping on the floor. Not sure how accurate that is. I don’t think we could afford a motel, so we must have stayed with grandma.

There were times in the early days when Marty and Laura lived with Mom, but I think they had pretty much moved out by the time we visited. So Mom was alone much of the time. She was always glad to see us. She had lots of medical problems and wasn’t shy about telling us about them. I used the time we spent in Battle Creek to run around and see old friends and go to the library to try to do geneaology. We took some trips to surrounding towns like Eaton Rapids to see if we could find records of our ancestors. And, we did find a lot.

More on Michigan tomorrow…


More on Education Week

A couple more things I remember about education week before we move on to other things. There was one summer when the “New Kids on the Block” boy group came out with a new album. They were really hot that year and my kids (especially the girls) loved them. This was in the days when cassettes were still popular and so, just before we left to go west to education week, I bought the latest album on a cassette. Big mistake.

We played that cassette over and over as we travelled west. I’ll have to admit that I never really got tired of it. I liked New Kids also, but I’ll bet we played that cassette 15 or 20 times during that vacation.

Another stupid memory I have of education week was the year I decided to grow a beard. I think we have pictures somewhere of me in a full beard. I got a lot of comments at work and church about it. Beards are funny things. They are a real pain to grow, but after you have it for awhile, it’s not so bad and you actually start liking it. I don’t think I kept mine very long, but one summer, I had one when we went west.

I attended all the classes as normal and than, I think it was on Friday afternoon, after classes were done, we stopped at a store in Provo to buy some supplies for the trip back. This stranger came up to me in the store and asked me how I had liked Education Week. I had never seen her before, so I asked how she knew I’d been to Education Week. She said I had been in a couple of her classes and besides, I was the only guy attending Education Week who had a beard. I thought that was cool and it inspired me to keep the beard a little longer than I probably would have.


Current: My Latest Medical News

It’s time to bring you all up to date on my medical problems. I am finding it harder and harder to walk these days and finally decided to go back to my doctor and complain. I told him if this was the way it’s going to be the rest of my life, then OK, I will live with it, but if there was any way to fix it, then I wanted to do that.

I have, basically, two problems. My legs go numb and then start to hurt after I’ve been on my feet for more than a minute or so. The back surgery I had last year was supposed to fix that but didn’t. It really had no effect at all. The second problem is that I get out of breath just crossing a room.

So, my doctor started working on the first problem by sending me to an imaging service to get a MRI. I had that done last week and the results came back saying I have two pinched nerves in my back. This is certainly causing me the back pain I feel and may be causing the leg problems also. So, they want to start by giving me a cordisone shot in the spin. They did that last year and it had no effect. But, we are going to try it again. I am going to have that done next Wednesday, October 22. If that doesn’t help, I may need surgery again. We’ll see.

I also had an appointment this week with my sleep doctor who is interested in my sleep apnea and how things are going in that respect. So, while I was there, I asked him about the shortness of breath. He said that shortness of breath can be caused by my conditioning (overweight), but more likely it was caused by some kind of heart problem. The heart is not delivering enough blood to the lungs or something like that. The lungs are not functioning properly and I can’t breathe when I have a little exersion (like walking or getting out of a chair)

So, I have to go back to my cardiologist and get another test on my heart. The doctor said there are medications I can take to fix the breathe problem. So, we’ll see what happens. It sucks to get old. I just don’t want to spend the years I have left felly miserable all the time if it can be helped.

I will try to keep you all up to date on what’s happening. Thank God for insurance. Talk to you again.