Computer Memories (concluded)

COMPUTER CHESS AND CHECKERS

Years ago, I remember people saying what a waste it was to use a computer to create chess and checker games. I also remember one of the people programming a chess game was very happy to hear my version of why it was a very good exercise. I said that it was a program that would help the programmer learn how to work with that kind of problem (a simulation, much different from more normal math problems), and in the case of chess or checkers, there was a very easy way to test a simulation program and see if it worked. All you needed to do was to have the computer play chess with a wide range of human chess players, and you would know almost immediately if the program was any good. It was a little more difficult to have real airplanes crash, and real bombs explode, just to prove that a war-game program was working.

Many of the same ideas and concepts that were used in the chess game were employed when a computer simulated flying aircraft, damage from bombing raids, the interaction between messages sent, and the actions taken as a result of receiving or not receiving those messages.


READING RADIO WAVES FROM A COMPUTER

Did you know that some one could park a truck on the street just outside your house and make a copy of everything that happens on your computer? Everything the computer does, including key strokes, and data transfers, generate radio waves, just like a variable light switch generates noise in your radio.

In the late 1950s some one had tried to tell the management of a large computer system (containing some kind of sensitive information) in Washington DC, that they should be concerned that their data might not be all that secure. It was known (approximately) that at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, all the data in that computer was copied from one magnetic tape to another as "back-up" in case of a problem. At a few minutes before 10:00 a panel truck parked near the computer building, and a few hours later a print-out of the "secure" data was delivered to the computer facility in question!

Fifty years ago some of the Air Defense Computers were located in caves in mountains in Colorado. Those computer systems were completely surrounded with copper mesh, with copper mesh "double door locks" to make sure that at no time was there an opening from the outside to the computer. The copper mesh stopped transmission of radio waves.

They were concerned that it was possible for some one to copy the computer program that was used to control the Air Defense System, and that a truck with the proper equipment could park somewhere outside the cave, keep track of what the computer was doing, and at the proper point in the program, change the identification of an aircraft from "hostile" to "friendly" and change a critical decision on the part of the people in charge.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Had I received a good college education I would most likely still be on someone¹s payroll, but since I had just 2 years of high school, I was able to receive my last paycheck from the computer industry in 1978, at age 50. During the last 20 years of that effort I had been on airplanes for about 1200 flights, rented cars hundreds of times, and spent a couple of years in hotel rooms ‹ and enough was enough

A couple of weeks before the decision to retire, we had received a very nice check from an escrow company after selling one of our apartment buildings. My wife had been the driving force in apartment management, but now when we saw that check, it was obvious that we could make more income properly managing that money than I could make in the computer business.  Not that it was easy to get to that point.  We always remember the night when I received a phone call in my hotel room in Denver, and my wife gave me the report of the day¹s activities at one of our apartments, ³Belinda just shot Edgar.² And I was not in the position to be of much help for her right at that moment.

Over the past 25 years or so we have had our ups and downs in the real estate investments, but enough ups so that we could spend 968 nights in 452 different places in 32 European countries, we visited 49 of the 50 states, Canada from coast to coast, and touched 124 ports on 5 continents on cruise ships and ferry boats, and in general really enjoyed ourselves.

As an outcome of all that travel, we have published three books about our travels, and Google will find a couple of hundred stories and photos on the Internet right now.  Another 500 are about ready to go, with at least a 1,000 total expected by the next year or two.

I haven¹t bothered keeping up with the computer industry, and these days I often feel like a Model T Ford mechanic trying to work on a new Cadillac. I have had a Macintosh computer on my desk since the mid-1980s, and mess around with book manuscripts, Travel-Tidbits, and Photo-Tidbits while watching the news, and a ball game or two.

It¹s been fun, both the 30 years in the computer business, and especially the 25 years working and enjoying life with my beautiful wife, Emmy.

Thanks for listening.


James T. Humberd
jimhum@sbcglobal.net

 

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