Tag Archive | Microsoft

Star Wars

“I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This”

May 25, 2021

From the moment these words first scrolled up the movie screen – along with the dramatic opening chords of John William’s soundtrack – moviegoers were immersed in a fictional world full of drama, conflict, intrigue, good vs. evil, and – ultimately – a cliffhanger ending to the first of what was to become, arguably, the most successful franchise in movie history.

Star Wars: A New Hope was released on May 25, 1977. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“After a turbulent production, Star Wars was released in a limited number of theaters (snip), and quickly became a blockbuster hit, leading to it being expanded to a much wider release. The film opened to critical acclaim, most notably for its groundbreaking visual effects. It grossed a total of $775 million (over $550 million during its initial run), surpassing Jaws (1975) to become the highest-grossing film at the time until the release of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). When adjusted for inflation, Star Wars is the second-highest-grossing film in North America (behind Gone with the Wind) and the fourth-highest-grossing film in the world. It received ten Oscar nominations (including Best Picture), winning seven. In 1989, it became one of the first 25 films that was selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’. At the time, it was the most recent film in the registry and the only one chosen from the 1970s. In 2004, its soundtrack was added to the U.S. National Recording Registry, and was additionally listed by the American Film Institute as the best movie score of all time a year later. Today, it is widely regarded by many in the motion picture industry as one of the greatest and most important films in film history.”

It was, in many ways, the quintessential ‘cowboy’ movie but updated for an audience which had watched men land on the moon in 1969. It appealed to, particularly, the male need for adventure. Its heroes were simultaneously recognizable, yet also fresh, characters: Luke Skywalker – still a boy – who chooses to leave his boring home and seek out adventure; Obi-Wan Kenobe, the sage elder who takes Skywalker under his wing and teaches him the ways of the freedom fighting Jedi; Princess Leia who redefines the idea of a damsel in distress; and, especially, the bootlegger Han Solo whose swashbuckling antics left millions of women with serious crushes.

Rather than recount the plot of the movie for those who have never seen it, the Infallible Wikipedia offers a summary (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_(film)) or you can Google ‘Star Wars A New Hope’ which produces 24.9 million results.

Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher in their roles as
Han Solo, Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia.

Personally, I think every person should watch at least the 1977 movie through the lens of the classic American cowboy movie. The weapons and horses may be different but the formula is still the same.

I must also admit that I did NOT see the first movie that year. At 19, I thought the movie was for kids. In fact, I cannot say for sure when I did eventually see the film. The second movie, The Empire Strikes Back, arrived in theatres on May 19, 1980 and the third, The Return of the Jedi, on May 25, 1983.

All of this is mentioned for one reason. As far as I’m concerned, episodes IV, V, and VI ARE Star Wars. The original cast, the campiness, and the fun of those movies were not to be replicated.

By early 1983 pretty much everyone had seen the first two movies and eagerly awaited the release of The Return of the Jedi. The hubby and me were no different.

R2D2 and C3PO

Finally the day arrived. Of course it was a Wednesday and with work and jobs we were not going to be a part of a midnight showing. Instead we waited a couple of weeks for when Microsoft reserved the ENTIRE UA150 theatre in Seattle for an exclusive showing for its employees (of which I was one).

That’s when the hubby and I hatched a plan. Across the street from that venue on 6th and Blanchard in downtown Seattle was the UA70 which was showing both of the first two movies. On the day of the event, we arrived that morning – like at 9 a.m. – to view movie number one. We may have been two of only a handful of people present when the place opened. This was followed by the second movie and then, after grabbing a bite to eat, we joined the Microsoft crew for Jedi. Now, we were not quite as crazy as some of the Microsofties who arrived dressed in costume and sporting light sabers. Although some people thought the marathon Star Wars day was kinda nuts.

I still experience the event in my mind when, as soon as the iconic ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,’ appeared on the screen a cheer rocked the theatre. For the next hour and half the venue was filled with cheers and gasps and applause as our heroes eventually won the day.

The UA150 in Seattle during the 1980 release of The Empire Strikes Back. From the Seattle Times archives

We loved doing the Star Wars triple and learned a few things: Harrison Ford is much sexier than Mark Hamill; the line ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’ repeats multiple times throughout all three movies; the hubby can ‘talk’ like a wookie; and ewoks are cute but totally annoying.

Eventually we purchased VHS, and then DVD, versions of the three movies and introduced our kids to them. We also watched subsequent Star Wars movies in the theaters but, truly, it was never the same. After enduring the obnoxious Jar Jar Binks character we quit watching and were content to revisit the three originals from time to time in that galaxy far, far away from the comfort of our living room.

The answer to the Facebook question is: all three- Han, Leia, and Luke – said it at one time during the three movies.

Mousemania!

The Microsoft Mouse

April 20, 2021

The 1980’s was an exciting era in the world of computers. Where once only large corporations had such capabilities, the advent of affordable, personal computers heralded a decade of new products to make computer use easier.

Microsoft’s first mouse circa 1983

Until 1983 no one outside of engineering labs had ever heard of a computer mouse. Yet today, the device is an essential piece of a desktop computer set up.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The earliest known written use of the term mouse in reference to a computer pointing device is in Bill English’s July 1965 publication, ‘Computer-Aided Display Control’ likely originating from its resemblance to the shape and size of a mouse, a rodent, with the cord resembling its tail. The popularity of wireless mice without cords makes the resemblance less obvious.

The plural for the small rodent is always ‘mice’ in modern usage. The plural for a computer mouse is either ‘mice’ or ‘mouses’ according to most dictionaries, with ‘mice’ being more common. The first recorded plural usage is ‘mice’; the online Oxford Dictionaries cites a 1984 use, and earlier uses include J. C. R. Licklider’s ‘The Computer as a Communication Device’ of 1968.”

One company which saw the potential in the mouse was – at the time – fledgling software giant Microsoft.

They got on the mouse bandwagon early, bundling their version of a mouse with two of their software programs. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

Being a bit of rebel, I had a Macintosh computer for many years and had just such a mouse on my desk.

“The Microsoft Mouse is a computer mouse released by Microsoft in 1983. It is the first mouse released by the company, and it was bundled with Microsoft Word, Notepad, and an on-screen teaching tutorial for an initial price of $195.

Nicknamed the ‘green-eyed mouse,’ the Microsoft Mouse featured a pair of green buttons. It also featured a more curved body than the blockier designs more common of mice at the time. As with other mice at the time, the Microsoft Mouse used a steel ball for tracking.

The initial version featured an InPort ISA interface, requiring a Microsoft bus card to be installed in the computer. Later versions were available with DE-9 or DB-25 serial connectors. All versions of the Microsoft Mouse could be used with IBM-compatible and other DOS systems.”

In 1983, I was working for Microsoft in the telemarketing sales division. The company was small enough, however, that friendships developed with individuals across all departments. One such friendship was with one very enthusiastic National Training Manager who, one day, saw me walking down the hall and asked me to step into his office as he wanted to show me something.

The memory is crystal clear. Alan’s office is little more than a cube, big enough for his desk, chair, and a file cabinet. But what I most recall is that his office is an interior one and has no window (ironic for Microsoft, right?). Additionally, his overhead light is not on and all illumination is provided by the glow of his computer monitor. Again, computers and monitors in 1983 had no graphical interface, just glowing green letters on a black screen.

He sits at his chair and says ‘watch this’ and then proceeds to put his hand on a little box and push it around his desk while a tiny straight line cursor jumps all over the screen. The demonstration continues as he clicks a button on the device which locks the cursor in place, then types a few words.

A few months later, our telemarketing group had ‘Mouse’ day with the introduction of Microsoft’s version of the device. Product introduction days were always exciting as our group created ways to make it special and get ourselves motivated.

Two of my telemarketing co-horts, Sue and Susie, on ‘Mouse’ day.

Mouse day, it turns out, featured everyone wearing Disneyland mouse ears as we called every last buyer in every computer store in the nation. At the front of the room was a large white board where our goals were written. As the day wore on, we would add our sales to the list, and whoops of excitement echoed through the cube farm as we reached each new goal.

I don’t recall how many we sold that first day or in subsequent weeks, but the bundle was hugely popular as consumers embraced the technology.

Most memorable was a funny incident which happened a short time after. In addition to the telemarketing group, we also had a customer service division for people to call in and get help when their products had issues. Often those calls were directed to a crack group of the most patient people in the universe: technical support.

I can clearly see two of my tech support buddies, both of whom were always willing to answer our questions when a buyer would, inevitably, ask us some technical thing that we – as mere salespeople – had no clue how to answer.

I can’t recall if it was Clay or Dolores who told me this story; but one day he/she received a tech support call from a woman who was complaining that her mouse was not working correctly. The tech people always worked through a list of known issues first, asking questions to drill down in order to solve the problem. Most issues they’d encountered before and would either be able to get it fixed it or would send the person to customer service to start the order replacement process.

This particular woman was certain that her software had a problem because every time she moved the mouse around all she got on the screen were squiggly lines and gibberish text. So the tech person had her move the mouse, click the button, and then type something. On the call went for five, then ten minutes, with no known bug causing the issue.

Finally, the woman – clearly exasperated – yelled ‘my arm’s getting tired.’

The tech support person paused and then asked her to describe how she was holding the mouse. It turned out that she was treating the mouse as though it was a touch screen device. All that time she had been holding it up and moving it around on the screen’s surface.

Over the years I’ve had ‘Microsoft’ dreams – not quite nightmares but close – where I’m back working at the company. In these dreams, however, I’m not donning Mouse ears and calling buyers; I work in tech support and field calls from people asking me questions for which I do not know the answers. Talk about stress.

The telemarketing crew fall of 1983, goals on the white board and all in the ‘Mouse’ spirit. The author with her big 80’s hair is at far left.

I think of Clay and Dolores often and smile at the stories they shared which often made the stress of working at Microsoft in the early 80’s just a little bit less. Hats off to all tech support people everywhere, you are my heroes.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Mouse

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_mouse

Paul Allen

January 21, 2020

Microsoft Billionaire

When this young man dropped out of college, I’m sure it was a huge disappointment to his family. After all, he’d scored a perfect 1600 on his SAT’s and graduated from the prestigious Lakeside School in Seattle. But the world was changing rapidly in the early to mid-1970’s and he had bigger visions than attending classes and frat parties.

Of course, we all know his story. Along with a close friend, he went on to become a co-founder of one of the world’s most successful computer software development companies: Microsoft.

1981 Microsoft photo

Paul Allen and Bill Gates in 1981

But I’m not writing about Bill Gates. This is about Paul Allen, the less ‘famous’ of the Microsoft pair. And without whom Microsoft would never have existed.

If he were alive today, he would be celebrating his 67th birthday.

According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“He attended Lakeside School, a private school in Seattle where he befriended Bill Gates, with whom he shared an enthusiasm for computers, and they used Lakeside’s Teletype terminal to develop their programming skills on several time-sharing computer systems. They also used the laboratory of the Computer Science Department of the University of Washington, doing personal research and computer programming; they were banned from the laboratory in 1971 for abuse of their privileges there.

Gates and Allen joined with Ric Weiland and Gates’ childhood best friend and first collaborator, Kent Evans, to form the Lakeside Programing Club and find bugs in Computer Center Corporation’s software, in exchange for extra computer time. In 1972, After Evan’s sudden death due to a mountain climbing accident, Gates turned to Allen for help finishing an automated system of Lakeside’s entire class scheduling procedure. They then formed Traf-O-Data to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor. According to Allen, he and Gates would go ‘dumpster diving’ in their teenage years for computer program code.

Allen attained a perfect SAT score of 1600 and went to Washington State University, where he joined the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity.”

Allen was hired by Honeywell, located in Boston, as a computer programmer and left WSU. Gates, now attending nearby Harvard, and Allen reconnected. It was Allen who convinced Gates to leave Harvard, move to Albuquerque, New Mexico and form Micro-Soft (To combine the two terms microcomputer and software). In January 1979, the company moved to Bellevue, Washington.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The relationship became less close between Allen and Gates as they argued even over small things. Allen effectively left Microsoft in 1982 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, though he remained on the board of directors as vice chairman. Gates reportedly asked Allen to give him some of his shares to compensate for the higher amount of work that Gates was doing. According to Allen, Gates said that he ‘did almost everything on BASIC and the company should be split 60–40 in his favor. Allen agreed to this arrangement, which Gates later renegotiated to 64–36. In 1983, Gates tried to buy Allen out at $5 per share, but Allen refused and left the company with his shares intact; this made him a billionaire when Microsoft went public. Gates later repaired his relationship with Allen, and the two men donated $2.2 million to their childhood school Lakeside in 1986. They retained a friendship for the rest of Allen’s life.”

Allen went on to do many great things for the world including donating over $2 Billion towards science, technology, education, wildlife conservation, the arts, and community services.

You can read more about Allen’s extraordinary life and find links to his biography here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Allen

6846-microsoft-flight-simulator-v1-0-pc-booter-front-coverIn the past three years of writing my Tuesday Newsday I’ve not shared much (if anything!) about my Forest Gump-esque experiences at Microsoft. I was hired there in early 1982 as part of a group of three young women who would be launching a retail telemarketing division for the company. Our trio faced nearly insurmountable odds – which we did not know when we took the jobs – as we were tasked with calling out to every retail store in our region (I had the west coast. The. Entire. West. Coast.), working in conjunction with Microsoft’s field sales reps, to sell such programs as Basic, Fortran, and Cobol compilers, the always popular Flight Simulator and Typing Tutor, and the early spreadsheet program MultiPlan.

Microsoft phone list 1983

My business cards (with my married name) and the employee phone list from May 1983. There are 268 names in this directory. I believe I was employee number 250ish. The logo seen here was used from 1982 to 1987.

The phone calls were often brutal with the stores’ buyers either not taking our calls or, more often, asking if we sold Lotus 1-2-3, our competitors sizzling hot multi-functional program which dwarfed Microsoft’s Multiplan. We worked hard, we played hard, and the burnout rate was high.

I left Microsoft in the fall of 1984 and went to work for another computer company located in Kirkland. One day, likely the summer of 1986, my then boss, Tom, took me to lunch for my birthday. We went to a favorite Japanese sushi place in Totem Lake called Izumi.

We sat up at the sushi bar, the only people in the restaurant when we arrived. We had just gotten our food when a group of 4 or 5 men also arrived, and took a table nearby. I didn’t pay much attention to the group as Tom and I were talking. Tom, being a loud and gregarious individual, dominated the exchange and the room.

izumiSomehow our conversation got on to Microsoft and Tom asked why I had left the company. Before I could answer, I noticed the table of nearby men had gone silent and were all looking at us, and one of them said “I can’t escape it, no matter where I go.” That man was Paul Allen.

Perhaps that moment, more than any other, illuminated how he felt about Microsoft – at least in 1986 when he and Gates were still working to repair their relationship – and summed up for me my Microsoft experience also. For anyone living in the Seattle area, you either work for, know someone who works for, or once worked for, Microsoft. It was inescapable. And not particularly pleasant.

I wanted to say something to Paul Allen that day, but felt that if I had it would have been about as welcome as a drunk fan asking a movie star for an autograph. Instead – as if by mutual agreement – he returned his attention to his group and Tom and I changed our topic.

But, unlike Paul Allen, I never got a single stock option as part of my compensation package. Those extra millions sure would have come in handy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Allen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft

These Are The Good Old Days

carly simon debut albumJune 25, 2019

Carly Simon

I have been waiting over two years to find a Tuesday on which I can feature this musical artist. As one of my favorite ‘hitchhikers’ when I travel back and forth from Yakima to my home, her lovely contralto voice frequently fills my car with many beloved songs from my teen years. I would argue that nobody does it better than Grammy and Academy Award winner Carly Simon. June 28 is her 74th birthday.

In anticipation of this article, I plugged in her greatest hits CD and imagined I, like Carly, was a legend in my own time, singing in the footlights. Alas, I think anyone listening would have said to me you’re so vain to think your voice could compare to hers.

Ultimately, the right thing to do is tell you all about Simon’s life and her amazing career. By all appearances hers was a storybook existence. The daughter of publisher Richard Simon of Simon and Shuster, she grew up as one of three girls seemingly given every advantage. She was, however, sexually assaulted at age 7 by a teenage friend of the family. The event caused the young Carly to withdraw into herself. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

” ‘It was heinous’, (Simon said) adding, ‘It changed my view about sex for a long time.’ Simon began stuttering severely when she was eight years old. A psychiatrist tried unsuccessfully to cure her stuttering. Instead, Simon turned to singing and songwriting. ‘I felt so strangulated talking that I did the natural thing, which is to write songs, because I could sing without stammering, as all stammerers can.’ Simon attended Riverdale Country School and also (briefly) Sarah Lawrence College, before dropping out to pursue music.”

Additionally, she lost her father who – by all accounts was a mostly absent father – at age 15. She teamed up for a short time with her sister, Lucy, and then with another group. It was her impressive talent which propelled her forward as a solo artist. The self titled debut album, Carly Simon, debuted in March 1971 when she was 26.

Her first top ten hit, That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard it Should Be, hailed from the album.  Her second album, Anticipation, was released nine months later and the title song made it all the way to number 3 on the charts.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Simon scored the biggest success of her career in 1972–73, with ‘You’re So Vain’. It hit No. 1 on the U.S. Pop and Adult Contemporary charts, and sold over a million copies in the United States alone. It was one of the decade’s biggest hits and propelled Simon’s breakthrough album No Secrets to No. 1 on the U.S. album charts, where it stayed for five consecutive weeks. The album achieved Gold status that year, and by its 25th anniversary in 1997 it had been certified Platinum.”

carly-simon-anticipation-1971-7.jpgFor me it was the song Anticipation which has always garnered a strong emotional response. In fact I found in some of my teenage writings where I had written out all the lyrics to the song and even named the beginnings of one of my early attempts at story telling ‘Anticipation.’

Now, decades later, I am always carried back to 1971 and 1972 when I hear that song and the poignant lyrics are as true today as they were then:

 

 

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day.

Anticipation, Anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting

And I tell you how easy it is to be with you
And how right your arms feel around me.
But I rehearsed those words just late last night
When I was thinking about how right tonight might be.

Anticipation, Anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting

And tomorrow we might not be together
I’m no prophet, I don’t know natures way
So I’ll try to see into your eyes right now
And stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.

 

The song is pure in thought and sentiment. Cherish today, for tomorrow is not promised. Carly was right. These ARE the good old days.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carly_Simon

…The Mahre Brothers

Olympic Champions with Silver & Gold

February 19, 2019

Phil and Steve Mahre. PHOTO: Lori Adamski-PeekThis pair of skiers are, no doubt, the most famous Washingtonians to win Olympic medals. It was on February 19, 1984 when the twin brothers slalomed to gold and silver, being the first siblings to compete and place in the same event.

Phil and Steve Mahre were born on May 10, 1957, in Yakima, Washington.  They grew up at White Pass which, as fate would have it, tends to be buried under snow some six months each year. It was there they learned to ski. And learn they did. Phil – the oldest of the two by four minutes – won 27 World cup races during his career, the fourth highest number for an American.

It was, however, the dramatic competition in Sarajevo which cemented the twin’s legacy and also focused attention on the Pacific Northwest. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“At the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Mahre again medaled in the slalom, this time taking the gold while Steve won the silver for a Mahre twin 1–2 sweep. Steve had led the first of two runs, skiing flawlessly and building a large half-second lead over Swede Jonas Nilsson with Phil in third place, another two-tenths back. Phil skied a fine second run to grab the lead, then Nilsson skied next and faltered, dropping out of the medals. Steve skied down last, needing only a solid run to take the gold, but a series of mistakes dropped him into second place, and Phil became the Olympic champion. Meanwhile, unknown to the racers, Phil’s wife Holly had given birth to their second child, a son, in Arizona an hour before the race started. Phil did not find out about it until a TV interview after the race.

phil-mahre-vault-slalom-sarajevo-olympics.jpgThe Mahres won two of the five alpine skiing medals taken by Americans, all from the Northwest. Portland’s Bill Johnson (downhill) and Seattle’s Debbie Armstrong also won gold and Christin Cooper of Sun Valley took the silver for an American 1–2 finish in the women’s giant slalom.”

It was probably around 1974 when I first heard about the Mahre brothers. I had friends who went to school in Naches with the brothers. It was fun over the next nine years to follow their career and cheer for them in the Olympics. It was shortly after the 1984 gold-silver win when the brothers retired from competitive skiing, their spot in the history books cemented.

As I was working on this article I was reminded of a story told by a gal who grew up in Wenatchee and learned to ski at Mission Ridge. Rosemary was a few years older than I but we both worked in the telemarketing cube farm for Microsoft in the winter of 1983. She and I covered the west coast, me California and she the Pacific Northwest. What I most recall about her were her stories. It was always fun to listen to her tales of adventure as a single woman. And she was fearless. Despite the many things she had done, her persona was that of an airhead. Personally, I think it was all an act which she used to disarm people.

In the winter of 1983, Rosemary decided to join a Microsoft group that skied together. The ensemble consisted of a half dozen software programmers and her, the lone female. On one particular Monday in late January or February, she came in to work and related to me that she had gone skiing with the guys for the first time. She had ridden the lift to the top with one of the programmers and when they skied off the chair, the pair found themselves at the top of a slope filled with moguls.

the_mogulsHer fellow skier asked her if perhaps the black diamond run might be a bit difficult and would she like to try something easier?

“Oh no. I think I can handle it,” she replied, then said to him “Why don’t you go first.”

Which he did. And barely managed to stay upright as he picked his way down the bumpy slope. What happened next, according to Rosemary’s story, was epic. She adjusted her goggles, took firm control of her ski poles, and flew down the hill, attacking the moguls like a boss.

Her partner, still staring at her open mouthed as she swept up next to him at the bottom, managed to ask, “Where did you learn to ski like that?”

To which she replied “I was on the 1968 Olympic B team.”

Oh yes, there was so much more to Rosemary than met the eye.

Despite having grown up an hour’s drive from White Pass, I did not learn to ski until I was in my mid-20’s. In fact I took my first ski lessons in the early 1980’s. The hubby and I – along with his sister and Mom – spent several days at Whistler during the 1984 Olympics watching the events in Sarajevo in the evenings at a pub, cheering on the Mahre’s  and the rest of the American’s in their quest for gold.

While I never once came close to skiing like either Phil or Steve Mahre or my co-worker Rosemary, I did have an appreciation and awe of what they could do with a pair of boards and a couple of sticks in the snow. I felt an incredible pride when, in February 1984, the twins from little ole Yakima, Washington, won Olympic silver and gold.

As always, a few links of interest:

https://www.seattlepi.com/sports/article/Where-Are-They-Now-Phil-Mahre-1984-Gold-Medalist-1195145.php

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Mahre

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpine_skiing_at_the_1984_Winter_Olympics

Ted Ligety won two gold medals, 8 years apart… his 2014 Medal was also won on February 19! Although Bill Johnson also won gold in 1984, his medal was won on February 15, four days earlier than Phil Mahre.