Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The road traveled leads - where?
When you walk a path, sometimes you have no idea where it will lead. It just looks interesting, so you walk down it. Wouldn't you walk a ways along this forest path? I did.
However, sometimes it's not clear where the path will take you. There are no promises. It's just that it intrigues you. Your curiosity has caught you and you just follow it somewhere. Hasn't that happened to you?
Have you ever looked into an old window and wondered what's inside? Did you just follow your curiosity?
I received a Kindle for my birthday this week. This is a milestone for me and my curiosity. A Kindle, if you don't already know, is an eBook reader. A book is electronically stored on it for you to read. My Kindle already holds about 20 books and can hold many many more. I am intrigued by it. Looking back, I see a path through my life that leads to the Kindle and my eBooks.
What seems like a very long time ago, but was probably in the late 1970s, I was introduced to a preliminary form of eBook. The final product was on paper, but I worked on it using a computer. If you remember the computers of the 1970s, you remember that Microsoft had not yet invented Windows. There was no Word program. It was pretty basic.
What caught my curiosity was that I had to code my books using a program called Cande. A programmer had been curious about whether she could write a program to create documents and I happened to be using this program to publish company documents. With Cande you had to tell it what to do. There was a code for headings and one for paragraphs and wonder of all wonders, there was a code for making lists. When I wanted to print the document I had to run a compile program that took two hours or more, depending on whether the company wanted to use their computers for anything else at the same time. Once the compile program was done, I would print it by sending it by telephone lines about 40 miles to another company facility that owned a high speed printer. They would print it overnight on big pages with holes on the sides and green lines running across the page so you could keep your place. A messenger would bring the copy on his regular run between our facility and theirs.
When I first was introduced to HTML (hypertext markup language used for creating web sites) I saw the similarity to coding with Cande and pretty much gobbled up the learning curve. No problem. I knew the applications and was more than willing to learn. At the time, HTML language was growing so fast you could barely keep up with it. I did because my curiosity had me. I wanted to try it and see what I could do with it.
You may think I was a programmer. In a way I was, but only because I was writing and publishing documents, and later web sites using this simple programming language called HTML.
Jump ahead many happy happy years of programming documents and find me talking to a new company with a new boss about the what was the most exciting thing in publication then. I enthusiastically said HTML. They hadn't even begun to explore what you could do with it.
I told them I thought we should write books just for the web (I hadn't imagined eReaders then). I thought they could have flexible endings. You would reach decision points in your reading, and depending on your input you would have this story or that one. You could read it many times and have different stories because of your choices. Well, that hasn't proved financially interesting yet, but I did go so far as to have a web site of my own where I posted stories for my grandchildren and any other child who happened to find it.
They hired me to - you guessed it - create documents, including books, that would be printed later, but while I worked on them, they were programmed in a more sophisticated code that was still similar to HTML. Were they ever going to get around to eBooks? Was that such a bad idea?
Here I am joking around on Halloween at this company, while in truth, showing someone how to make flow charts. Graphics were such a pain in markup language.
Still it all progressed and now I have my Kindle. I absolutely adore it. While I had nothing to do with developing it, I saw the ability to do it growing right in front of my eyes. I feel a connection with its e-ness. Try out an eReader and see how it goes for you.