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This is a picture of me completely and unapologetically engrossed in a game of Space Invaders on a VIC 20. Here’s an early commercial for it, featuring the one and only William Shatner.
Several weeks ago the team at the Media Archeology Lab (MAL) celebrated their accomplishments to date by hosting an event – called a MALfunction – for the community. Attendees include founders of local startups, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Colorado, students that are interested in computing history, and a few other friends. The vibe was electric – not because there were any open wires from the machines – because this was truly a venue and a topic that is a strong intersection between the university and the local tech scene.
Recently, Amy and I underwrote the Human Computer Interaction lab at Wellesley University. We did so not only because we believe in facilitating STEM and IT education for young women, but also because we both have a very personal relationship to the university and to the lab. Amy, on a weekly basis, speaks to the impact that Wellesley has on her life. I, obviously, did not attend Wellesley but I have a very similar story. My interest in technology came from tinkering with computers, machines, and software in the late 1970s and early 1980s, just like the collection that is curated by the MAL.
Because of this, Amy and I decided to provide a financial gift to the MAL as well as my entire personal computer collection which included an Apple II (as well as a bunch of software for it), a Compaq Portable (the original one – that looks like a sewing machine), an Apple Lisa, a NeXT Cube, and my Altair personal computer.
Being surrounded by these machines just makes me happy. There is a sense of joy to be had from the humming of the hard drives, the creaking of 30-year old space bars, and squinting at the less than retina displays. While walking back to my condo from the lab, I think I pinned down what makes me so happy while I’m in the lab. An anachronistic experience with these machines are: (1) a reminder of how far we have come with computing, (2) a reminder to never take computing for granted – it’s shocking what the label “portable computer” was applied to in 1990, and (3) a perspective of how much further we can innovate.
My first real computer was an Apple II. I now spend the day in front of an iMac, a MacBook Air, and an iPhone. When I ponder this, I wonder what I’ll be using in 2040? The experience of the lab is one of true technological perspective and those moments of retrospection make me happy.
In addition, I’m totally blown away by what the MAL director, Lori Emerson, and her small team has pulled off with zero funding. The machines at MAL are alive, working, and in remarkably good shape. Lori, who teaches English full time at CU Boulder, has created a remarkable computer history museum.
Amy and I decided to adopt MAL, and the idea of building a long term computer history museum in Boulder, as one of our new projects. My partner Jason Mendelson quickly contributed to it. If you are up for helping us ramp this up, there are three things you can do to help.
1. Give a financial gift via the Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor Fund for MAL (Media Archeaology Lab).
2. Contribute old hardware and software, especially stuff that is sitting in your basement.
3. Offer to volunteer to help get stuff set up and working.
If you are interested in helping, just reach out to me or Lori Emerson.
Last October, when I put out a call for A Design HackStar for Startup Revolution I got about 50 responses. Around ten were great; one was awesome. That one was from Cole Morrison, who starting working part time as a Hackstar on all the Startup Revolution stuff at the end of last year.
If you haven’t been on the Startup Revolution web site in a while, go take a look and give me feedback on things you’d like me to change, or add to it. We are continuing to evolve it on a weekly basis – our most recent change was to incorporate the Ask the VC website into it as part of the release of the 2nd edition of Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist.
Cole is a 25 year old entrepreneur, designer, and developer whose design services company, ijitsu Design, was recently acquired by TundraLogic, Inc. for which he now serves as the Chief Marketing Officer. He is also working on a new RPG called Project Recreate. I met him for the first time on my trip in November to Lexington and Louisville, KY and it’s an example of how random good things (in this case – Cole) come back to me from the effort I put out into the world.
I love the emails I get from readers of this blog. Yesterday morning, I got the following from Shane Schieffer of FitTrip and I just saw it as I was grinding through my morning backlog from the weekend.
“Hi Brad, Happy holidays. My friend and I were watching Polar Express with our kids last night, and he commented on the impossibility of skiing down the top of a train towards the engine, even on a crazy steep slope. I know you like to geek out on software and things such as figuring out the algorithms behind slip numbers, how about physics? The question was bothering me so I took a shot at it this morning. Thought I’d share the result. I bet users of your forum could top my work, or find errors, or extend it to further interesting observations. Kind of a fun holiday geeky thing to contemplate, so I thought I’d send it your way.”
This reminded me of a great story from Amy. On her very first trip to Dallas from Boston to meet my parents, she was sitting on a plane next to a guy who was doing a bunch of math sheet of paper. She asked him what he was doing. He said he was calculating how much fuel the airplane needed to get from Boston to Dallas. It turned out to be a guy named Christopher Couch, who was an undergrad at MIT that had crossed paths with me for some reason I can no longer remember. She and Chris had a great time on the plane together talking about all kinds of nerdy things. The entire memory made smile.
Oh – here’s the answer.
“Assuming just the train engine (not cars, and cargo) that the polar express was modeled after, which weighs 361,136kg and has an approximate cross sectional surface area of 10m^2, at freezing (0-deg Celsius) and 1atm of pressure (sea level) on a -128.5 gradient (what the sign said in the movie which equates to a -52 degree slope) assuming frictionless tracks, and a hill tall enough to induce free fall, where no braking nor engine acceleration is applied, and the coefficient of drag is based on a rectangular shape, the train would be traveling 1,434 mph. This is clearly much faster than the terminal velocity of a 6-foot tall man with a boy on his shoulders (say a combined 3m), standing up, weighing a combined 240lbs, with a cross sectional surface area of 2.25m^2, whose terminal velocity would only be 52.5 mph on that same slope. Of course the train itself would create a wind draft that would lessen the difference, but either way the man and boy are going off of the back end of that train. Unless the man is a spirit…”
If you are in Boulder on August 25th, join me at the Fox Theatre at 8:30pm to see my partners Ryan and Jason debut their band’s album Off The Hook. I’ve long followed their musical exploits through their former band Soul Patch - Legitimate Front is their latest collaboration.
Off The Hook has a modern but retro-inspired sound with musical DNA from the 1970′s. I’ve heard a few of the soon-to-be released tracks, and I really like them. You will too, if you liked the 70′s music scene – their original music celebrates everything from 70′s hard rock to R&B to funk.
The $13 ticket price gets you in the door and lets you download the album for free – the tickets are available here.
I’ve been told that their special guest, Dechen Hawk is also giving away his album with the price of admission.
My quest for naming bathrooms, er – outhouses, continues. This one was named by Steve Lipsher of the Denver Post, for me on a recent trip of his. As I haven’t inspected it, I can’t guarantee cleanliness, but hopefully my name will add a little bit of warmth to the experience.
Look for another big bathroom announcement tonight at the Boulder New Tech Meetup which I’ll be attending.