Looking back to 2008 (1): A Tribute to Jerry Pournelle

While pondering and writing about 2008 for this Blog

I more and more realize how many UFO’s (Un Finished Objects) I have lying around. That’s one of the reasons I ceased making lists of New Year’s Resolutions, as I tend to forget about them as soon as I have jotted them down. Moreover, usually I take care of them on the run. In my case New Year’s resolutions would not be serious.

There are so many subjects I want to touch looking at 2008, that I’ve decided to spread my thoughts over several posts.

One of my UFO’s was to write a tribute to Jerry Pournelle.

The photo here shows him at the introduction of Sir Richard Branson’s Spaceship One in 2004. See for more photos Damer.

Jerry Who?
Jerry Pournelle is a Science Fiction writer who, in many cases together with his good friend Larry Niven, has produced many Science Fiction titles.
In addition Jerry was a column writer for a Computer Magazine, Byte.
Thirdly he is a Blogger as the French use to say “avant la lettre” i.e. long before the words “Blog” or “Blogger” even existed.

Why Jerry Pournelle?

Much of what I know of computing I learned from Jerry’s numerous humorous columns “Computing at Chaos Manor” in Byte, a former US printed magazine that I liked very much and subscribed to. For reasons I still cannot grasp it ceased somewhere in the 90ies. I take it that even Jerry doesn’t grasp the reasons and politics behind it. Maybe the publishers really believed paperless society had become true in those days: Quot Non. Byte bits and pieces can still be found online at Byte.com. Jerry wrote the column for more than 20 years since 1979. He still does online at Chaos Manor Reviews.

When we moved to The Hague, I started with Windows 95 in fall 1996. I tried to hook up an old 286 with a newer 486. I got stuck in the middle. I shot an e-mail to Jerry and I gracefully got a return e-mail pointing me in the right direction. It saved me a tremendous amount of time sorting the problem out. Then as now computing is nothing Zen. I will never forget that. I felt really proud the great man himself took the time to answer my e-mail. Never since we have had contact until recently I found the e-mail and archived it (I actually don’t know how to find it and in that respect relate to Jerry very much for coining his column “Chaos Manor”. It would be a perfect description of my office/study here in The Hague). I found his site on the web and saw he was still alive and kicking, albeit suffering a kaleidoscope of medical problems at his current age in the mid 70ies. I’ll e-mail him for the second time of my life to inform him of this tribute.

I have always liked Jerry’s style and hands down approach of computing. Until recently when he defected to a MAC, he kept defending Microsoft and its operating systems although he disliked it maybe even more than I do. I do believe that as Jerry describes in his adventures with his new Mac, I should stick to Microsoft’s systems.

Last year I was at WTM in London and found a bank of Macs in the press room. I tried one of them to update this blog. I succeeded to have it hung even quicker than I’m usually was able having my own systems hung here at my own Chaos Manor. Although I am glad that with the current HP machinery I have less glitches. This year in the WTM press room they were back to banks of windows computers. XP machines for your info. That says a lot in favor of XP, yet.

Some lessons I learned from Jerry apart from computing:
1) Once and for all, no matter how busy you are, try to answer e-mails.
2) On the internet: Share as much as you can. Be generous!
3) If you want to be a good writer, look at what Jerry wrote about that subject.

Hey Jerry, thanks for all your lessons an take care in 2009 especially with your health!

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