Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How I Invented Texting in 1957

[Right now the AC 767 has just taken off, en-route to San Francisco. Then, on to Hawaii. Figured this was a good time to write a blog post. Hope you find it humourous. It’s true too!]

As early as eight years old, I was fascinated with “two-way radio”. Back then, the pace of technology was slower than today. Dick Tracy had the best tech – his two-way wrist radio was what every boy wanted. This was in the days of vacuum tubes, before transistors, and way before integrated circuits. There were some “miniature” vacuum tubes, the Dick Tracy unit was way too small for that. My dad showed how two tin cans, when joined by a taut string, could function like a “walkie-talkie” provided the two kids on either end had the time and imagination. Since this was also before anybody on my street had television, we had plenty of both.

Around that time, the local store had a neat toy in the window. It was a control panel sort of thing, with a microphone / speaker and a second such mic. One of us could play “dispatcher” and the other the cop or maybe air traffic controller and pilot, or … . The control panel had lots of knobs to turn and switches to flip. None of them actually did anything, you just had to imagine they did and what they did. Come Christmas, there it was, under the tree. Great present!

By twelve, I had discovered electronics. First was Radio Control for airplanes. You had to build them, as the manufactured stuff was way too expensive. And, this was one-channel stuff too. Rudder control only. Basically, you could use it to keep the powered glider in the same field you were in so that when it ran out of gas, it landed near you!

Next was Ham Radio. Morse code and real speech too. I recall talking about this to a school chum, expecting him to be impressed I knew about this stuff. But, he said he knew all about it, his neighbour was a Ham operator. Then, he fired the big guns, saying “He even has Teletype machines connected to his ham radio and talks to people that way.” My eyes must have been huge and my jaw must have dropped a mile! This was way beyond my knowledge and I had not even imagined it. But the idea stuck in my mind… .

At the time, my seventh grade school teacher was Mr. Mooney and he was pretty progressive. He had the idea that he would have some students at the upcoming Parent-Teacher night to join in a discussion normally between him and the parents only. We had a class discussion about what to say to the parents. At the end, he picked a few of us who had the most to say to come that night. I was one of the kids chosen. This was seen as quite an honour and got my mind racing. Since it was not long after hearing about the Teletype the ham radio guy had, I sort of combined the two.
I figured that if each of the four kids had a teletype machine, we could exchange messages to each other while the parent-teacher meeting was going on. I was not too clear on what we would say to each other and how it would make the discussion better, but it was a great and exciting idea. Today, this would be called texting of course, and since just about every twelve year old has a smartphone, it might be hard to not have the kids exchanging messages during the meeting!

So, that’s how I invented texting back in 1957.

I should say a few words about how impractical this idea of mine was back then:
1.       Power – teletype machines were motorized and ran on AC. I doubt you could run four of them from one outlet and I doubt a classroom had more than one outlet’s capacity (15 Amp) and maybe not that!
2.       Noise – At the time, I may have seen one of those machines on our relatively new TV, but I had not heard one up close. Noisy! And that’s a vast understatement. Having four of them chattering away and typing on paper while the adults talked would have been ludicrous. And, they made noise even when not typing. Typing just made it worse!

3.       Typing Skills – Hm, back in Grade 7, my fingers had never touched a keyboard! If someone had said “QWERTY” to me, it would have made no sense all. It would not be until I was in Grade 8 that I used money from my paper route to buy a portable manual typewriter and spent hours learning to touch type on it. So, back in Grade 7, any use of a teletype would have been painfully slow. Peck…peck…peck.

So, I guess my claim to have invented texting might be a little flimsy. I did have a social context in mind, something useful, sort of, but really, it was the technology that excited me.

In the end, I did get a degree in Electrical Engineering, and in 1968, I did work in the then beginning world of computer time-sharing. That did have me learn more than I really wanted to about teletype machines. [That’s when I invented China to Canada timesharing, but that is another story.] This was before “Glass Teletypes” and before Personal Computers. There was lots still to come.


I wrote this blog post mostly for my Granddaughter Emma. At 3 she told Dianne “Yes Nanny, this computer does play CDs, Mommy puts them in a slot on the side of the screen.” and pointed to the slot in one of the first kitchen style PCs. Over Christmas this year, Emma defended me about claims of being a Dinosaur, given my age, and I wanted her to have some insight into how it was to live in the dark ages of technology, when Dinosaurs invented texting.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Remembering Bob Leong




It has been quite a while since my last blog entry. I returned from my trip at the end of July, and have been very busy with things other than writing and blogging. One of the most significant things was learning that my friend Bob had passed away.

A fellow blogger, Dar, was very kind in advising me that she had learned that Bob had passed away while on his trip with Yvonne. This was news that made many bloggers and many motorcyclists and many photographers who knew Bob very sad indeed.

I started reading Bob’s blog sometime in the latter part of 2011. I enjoyed his words about motorcycling and photography. At that time he was also writing a lot about food. So much so, that I thought he must be a chef. I was wrong about that, but he wrote about food with as much detail and technical accuracy as he did about motorcycles and photography. Since those are both hobbies of mine as well, I eagerly awaited his new posts.

He lived in Vancouver, and I live just west of Toronto, so I knew it would be a while before we met. In the meantime I truly did enjoy his blogs.

In January 2012, we almost met in Hawaii. It turned out that both of us and our wives were on the island of Maui at about the same time, and who knows we might a pass each other on the street. Then, as luck would have it it turned out that we were all on the big Island, but again we never did meet. Later that year, I made my way to Duncan British Columbia, via the US, and on my return, took the ferry to North Vancouver and went directly to Whistler and points north and east. Another opportunity to meet Bob was missed.

That autumn, Bob’s blogs occasionally turned towards the planning for his next trip which would be to come east all the way to the East Coast. I made a few comments to him about possible routes in Ontario and mentioned to him that he was more than welcome to stay at my home should he take a route that allowed that to happen.

He in turn suggested that I might meet him at a campground in Pennsylvania, along with other bloggers from Ontario and Qu├ębec and the United States who were going to meet him there. I thought it was a great idea, and was looking forward to doing so. Unfortunately that did not happen either. In March of that year I had a serious case of pneumonia, and at the time that Bob was in Pennsylvania, I had not recovered enough to make even that short trip. Bob and others continued east and readers of his blog will know that he had a very successful trip to the East Coast. Fortunately, his return trip West brought him to Mississauga, and my home.

From all accounts, Bob enjoyed his couple of days with us quite a bit. I’m not really surprised, because my wife Dianne treats guests about as well as they are ever going to betreated by anyone. Bob thought the room that we provided farm was pretty neat, liked the food just fine, and particularly enjoyed being able to have his uncle Sherman and his wife for dinner at our house. We were delighted to have all of them with us.

In the evening, after dinner, Bob and I talked about a number of items, including how much electronics to take on a trip. He told me about some neat electronic items that I had never heard of that would allow me to connect my iPad to a portable disk drive. He certainly impressed me with his technical knowledge.

In the morning Bob was off heading west. I rode with him for a couple of hours out to London Ontario and bade him farewell. Off he went on a very successful ride home.
We continued to stay in touch over the next months, particularly as I was planning a second trip to the West coast and Bob was very helpful in helping me plan the trip. I had determined to take the Lolo Pass through the Rockies down into Idaho, but then really didn’t know what to do after taking the pass. Bob certainly had some good suggestions, and I’m very grateful that I accepted them. I ended up encountering some spectacular switchbacks on Highway 129 down to Joseph Oregon, and from there headed north to Anacortes and from there over to Vancouver Island.

After a very nice visit to my friend John on the island, I took a ferry to the south of Vancouver, and followed Bob’s direction right to his house. He and Yvonne made me welcome. Bob had taken the extraordinary step of taking extra vacation days in order to make my visit to Vancouver a huge success. If you check out my blog entries regarding my stay with Bob, you will see that as a tour guide he was totally expert. He gave me a ride in the Corvette, showed me all around Richmond, and extensively drove me around North Vancouver, which is an incredibly beautiful area of the city. We went down to the sea and up to the mountain. We visited Granville Island. We had a great time. I told him he should consider retiring and take up being a tour guide. I don’t think I was the first person to make that suggestion.

On my arrival Bob introduced me to some of his Corvette club friends when we went out for dinner to celebrate my birthday and his birthday, his on the ninth and mine on the 13th. Afterwards we went to the local Night Market which was a very colorful and interesting local event.

When it was time to leave, Bob insisted on riding out of town with me. I’m very glad he did. There are new roads newly opened that Bob claimed would save me a couple of hours of time in getting out of the city. Indeed, in a very congested city, the route he took was basically effortless.

Finally, it was time for us to have a final coffee at a McDonald’s, and we both headed home. I headed east to my home, and Bob headed west to his. Regretfully, I will not be able to ride with Bob again.

Bob had been planning another trip East in 2015. He was going to swing by my place and we were going to head east together, likely picking up other bloggers along the way, heading for Newfoundland.

I’m thinking I might do that trip in Bob’s memory. More about that in coming months.

Although we did not spend all that much time together, there are some people that you meet and instantly like. Bob was one of those people. Over the past month or so, I have thought of Bob on many occasions. He was a person who was full of life, smart, knowledgeable, a real people person. He was adventurous. He told me that whatever he was out in his car or on the bike and saw a road he wanted to take that road and see where it went - and he must’ve taken most of those roads. That I think is something that I should learn to be much better at.

So, Bob, thank you so much for teaching me that, and other things about motorcycle camping, and lots of other things. I know I’m not alone in saying that I shall miss you.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day 31 - Blind River to Home

Day 31 - Thursday, July 24 - Home Safely

It was a 553.6 km ride from Blind River to my home. Basically uneventful. There was virtually no traffic as far as Parry Sound, then traffic picked up steadily as I rode down the 400 towards Toronto. This is normal.

No videos today.

Home safely.

Thanks to all of you who hosted me on my adventure, and thanks also to those who commented. I am going back to recent posts to make sure I replied to your comments, so if you asked a question, have a look now.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 30 - Nipigon to Blind River

"Ya Takes the Shot Wot God Gives Ya"

Ok, I took some videos. Please forgive the fogging that provides an unwanted vignette effect. It's not as bad as I thought it would be. I rotated the camera to ensure it was on or off and noticed the moisture inside the waterproof housing. It was cold and foggy this am and some moisture got trapped inside the housing. As the elevation and temperature changed, the fogging got better or worse. Sigh.

North of Superior

Yes, I know this is not an original title. But, it conveys the idea of being on the north shore of Lake Superior. Two years ago, I did this route for the first time and wished I had a video camera on the bike. Now I do. I just don\t know how to use it professionally...

And tomorrow, Home!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 29 - Dryden to Nipigon

Ok, only 451.7 km...but there are reasons. First, in ON, the speed limit drops to 90 kmph, maybe because of the curves, but who knows.

Wore the heated vest this day, and was glad of it for most of the way, at least to Thunder Bay. After lunch, the sky was blue, sun was warm, but it changed. And, there was something new to me...

Vicious cross-winds. Left mostly but violent shirfts right and then back to left. The bike responded really well and did not change direction, but leaned left and right violently. Had to hang on. Scary. Tiring. The sky darkened and I decided to find a motel around Nipigon. Found one with a Tim Horton's and a restaurant next to it. Worst room I have ever had. Glad to have it.

Nice dinner at the resturant. Had  Caesar with Chicken Breast. Then, back to the room.

By that time of course, the storm had passed. So, maybe I wimped out. I think I did the right thing, and it may not affect my time of arrival back home, just adjust where I stay.

The bike really behaved well. You likely never encountered such vilolent left to rght wind reversals. A lesser bike would have been a crash situation.

Here is a video. The wide angle actually minimized the leaning of the bike. You may see some if you look carefully.

Also, look for the guy who was passing and pulled in just in time in front of me....



Tomorrow's goal: east of Sault St. Marie, or close.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 28 - Brandon, MB to Dryden, ON

A gorgeous weather day, easy ride, uneventful, 574 km, 8:31 hours..

The prettiest section was Kenora to Dryden. I took 3 videos, which are being uploaded and will be added when done.

K to D 1

A rather straight ahead view of the road.



K to D 2

Turned the Go Pro a quarter turn to the left.



K to D 3

More of the scenery.


Lots of beauty in Northern Ontario.

Comfort Inn, Dryden

I stayed here two years ago and found it expensive. I vowed to find a less expensive place. So, why am I back when it is even more expensive?

Because I remembered it has a carport-like shelter at the front door. Why is this important? Because in Brandon this morning they were forecasting hail near here. Environment Canada says it is tracking a storm with Quarter to Loonie sized hail. I will have a look later and may throw a bed quilt over it if the shelter is not enough.

I figure the higher price is some cheap insurance. Hope it works!

New info: storm is 25 km south of the Trans-Canada, at the MB border, eastbound at 70 kmph. Should be ok here in Dryden...

TV just quit ... likely the storm. Desk clerk can't say whether the TV is satellite based, but the sky is dark, some rain, some lightning.

I'll update the blog if anything worse happens.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day 27 - Sunday, July 20

A nice ride to Brandon, MB. Now on Central Time, only 1 hour difference to Eastern. And, the map is showing good progress, when I can update it. Seems not every wifi connection supports location services, so the dropping of a pin can be a problem.

Dianne remarked my videos show a lot of road and not much of the scenery. So, I tried to do better today. I turned the camera to the left side to see if I could do a better job. I am not sure I succeeded. Still, I tried. Also, I was able to catch up to a train and pass it. Long train, as you will see.

So, here it is:



Tomorrow, I am going to try to get to Dryden. Last time, I left Yorkton, took a long delay in the city of Winnipeg, and still made Dryden. I'm closer to Winnipeg and will take the bypass, so it is doable. Kenora is a likely fall-back. Or, I may run across a nice motel on the highway. We will seel.