What Mike meant to me...

Mike was a friend to me early on. When I was a youngster, eight years old, my parents bought me a TI 99/4a computer, and being that it was 1980, there was little to do with it that didn't involve programming, so I learned to program. Starting from scratch without a teacher might seem like a daunting task, but I didn't know that it was daunting, so I just did it. Luckily for me, our neighbors' son Mike was a computer genius, and he was friendly and willing to share what he knew, and answer what must have seemed an interminable array of moronic questions about basic programming, early on.

I used to hang out with Mike on a fairly regular basis, getting together once a week to talk about computer stuff, to play role-playing and board games, and to talk about science fiction and comics. Mike got me into all of these things, and I felt like I was in my element. Mike loaned me books and comics. When Mike replaced his aging Osborne 1 Portable computer with a Macintosh, I bought it from him, and had my first taste of serious programming in real languages - Mike's computer came with Turbo Pascal and an assembler. It also had a Lisp environment - amazing, for a 64K computer - but I wasn't ready for that yet. (Whether I'm ready for it twenty years later is still a question for debate!) Later, I followed Mike's move to the Mac, getting one myself.

Mike was the Unix Systems Administrator for the Computer Science department at Southeastern Massachusetts University, now UMass Dartmouth. My mother got her psychology degree there, and when I'd go down with her to her classes, I'd inevitably visit Mike's office. I remember his setting me up with a terminal into the SMU Apollo and VAX systems and obscuring an Empire process so I could play the game during restricted daytime hours without being noticed. I remember Mike turning me on to A.K. Dewdney's Armchair Universe, which got me into Core Wars and John Conway's game of Life and other programming projects.

Mike was brilliant. He'd always have an answer to any questions I'd have, and I had a million questions. I don't hope to ever be as smart as Mike, but perhaps I can turn my life to some good purpose and let the world know that Mike is responsible for some of it. Mike is already responsible for my choice of careers - like him, I have chosen to be a Unix Systems Administrator.

I miss Mike. I wish he were still here with us.