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Editor's Note: Christmas, The Moon, and The Future

Dec 24, 2005, 13:00 (15 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Rob Reilly)

By Rob Reilly
Contributing Editor

Here we are at the end of December 2005.

The holiday season is in full swing at the Reilly house. My wife has all the red and white candy-cane candles set out, along with assorted festive figurines and decorations. After the annual pilgrimage to "the Christmas Tree patch" with the kids, our tree is now in place, with lights and decorations meticulously hung.

It's a happy season and I'm looking forward to spending time with my family. I still get all starry-eyed this time of year.

I remember Christmas 1968 as a 10-year-old kid.

My father was going to law school in Philadelphia and I was in a brand-new high-tech elementary school. Dad's day job was as an engineer at GE, working on aerospace stuff. Mom worked hard to keep an eye on my brothers and yours truly.

Christmas Eve brought the televised message from the crew of Apollo 8 as it circled the Moon. Andres, Lovell, and Borland each recited a passage from the book of Genesis. Borland ended the message with "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you--all of you on the good Earth."

The multi-user/multi-tasking computer program Multics was having a bumpy time, apparently because it consumed a lot of cash and people didn't understand it's relevance. AT&T luminaries Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson were involved with the project. Their Multics' descendant Unix was a year away.

A similar hero, Linus Torvalds would appear the following year, as well.

The US and the world were flooded in innovation and promise. Aerospace, big-iron computers, electronics, and inventing dominated high technology. Enormous amounts of money were spent on research and development. People were both fascinated and inspired.

There was a war on too, in a far away land. Just like today, the troops wished they could be home with their families. Many would not return. To the men and women in the US military (past, present, and future) and our allies, keep up the good work and thank you, for your dedication to freedom. Then as in now, you all don't hear "thank you" enough.

And there I was back in '68, with my new Heathkit electronics project board with three transistors, lots of resistors, capacitors, and other components. I was up at 4:00 AM Christmas morning, hard at work on the task of assembly, anticipating the success of my first project. The future was bright and unlimited.

I had no Earthly concept (couldn't resist that pun) of a PC, Unix, or Linux. I would have never dreamed of networking applications, multi-Gigahertz processors, ridiculous amounts of hard-drive space, and a world wide web.

All I knew was that a brave new world lay ahead and I was going to be a part of it.

Today I'm reminiscing about a childhood Christmas, long since passed. Hopefully an overwhelming number of Linux Today readers are having a similar time-warping experience right about now.

What About Today?

And, here we are in December 2005. Zapping ahead 37 years, we're counting our blessings and making our way in the world.

Thousands upon thousands of those kids from my era have contributed to the progress and prosperity of life today. Many have become involved with Linux and Open Source. Others are in any number of high-tech industries, living out their dreams. The starry-eyed optimism lives on.

That twinkle, is also shining brightly in today's youth, teens, twenty/thirty somethings, and beyond. Sure, sometimes it's masked behind a video game, a cell phone, an iPod, or a laptop. But, it's there.

While we may not have three men circling the Moon for the very first time... the curiosity, fascination, and dreams of the future are all around us.

Even the spirit of the old Heathkit has mystically reappeared. Curiously, it's in the form of a Linux CD or a Linux ISO file.

Will today's 10-year-old wake up at 4:00 AM on Christmas morning to a brave new world of opportunity, anticipating the success of an early project? You bet they will.

So, how many Linux DVDs are sitting under your tree?

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and best wishes, to all.

Rob Reilly is a Linux Today contributing editor.

[Another Editor's Note: Linux Today will shut down its newsfeed now in observance of the Christmas Eve and Christmas holiday here in the US. The newsfeed will restart at 8 a.m. EST (1300 GMT) on Monday, December 26.

I would like to thank Rob for filling in with his recent Editor's Notes, and his coverage of the site next week while I take a year-end vacation.

To all our LT readers we extend our best wishes for all the holidays coming up this weekend: Constitution Day (Micronesia), Santuranticuy (Peru), Bain de Noêl (Haiti), Children's Day (Congo), Constitution Day (Taiwan), Family Day (Angola and Mozambique), Quaid-e-Azam (Pakistan), Death of Tsongkapa (Tibet), and the first night of Chanukkah. Diverse celebrations, indeed. But then this is a diverse community, brought together by lines of code shared freely throughout a diverse world.

For the rest of us, Merry Christmas.

Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor]