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Tail of the Weak 2.16

Updated: Jan 24


Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.

One of the earliest precursors to the computer was a self-operating machine called the automaton, built in 1206 AD by Ismail al-Jazari, an Islamic inventor and mathematician. Charles Babbage used punched cards in 1830 to control his Analytical Engine.

Ten years later, Ada Lovelace designed an algorithm for processing on Babbage's machine and is often recognized as the first computer programmer in history.

Ada Lovelace

As a newlywed in 1982, I entered into Phase Two of my higher education at Waycross-Ware Vocational-Technical School. My first attempt at college in '71 ended quite painfully after one Fall quarter at Georgia Southern in Statesboro.

I'm sure I didn't apply myself—well, maybe to the wrong things—and when Daddy took one look at my grades that December, he said, “Boy, you ain't goin' back”!

So, there I was, at 28 years of age, desperately looking to gain a toehold in life with a degree in Computer Programming. I eased into the Data Processing department under the tutelage of a brassy, no-nonsense lady by the name of Barbara Kearson, who I'm certain had a lot of Ada Lovelace in her.

She loved her job and devoted her time to new would-be programmers, attempting to dissuade them from their chosen vocation with a constant barrage of emotional browbeating. Mrs. Kearson was brilliant in that respect. She figured if you could take what she dished out in that initial interview, then you were well on your way to becoming successful in her class and on the job out in the real world.

There were times when I would turn to the knowledge of my instructor and emerge from her office, hours later, still with an unsolved problem, yet thoroughly familiar with what was going on in the stock market or the details of her most recent fishing trip to the salt water river near Hilton Head, the whole while staring at a huge pin-up poster of Tom Selleck on the wall.

From Basic Programming, through RPG I and II, ending with Structured COBOL and Advanced Structured COBOL, I learned to talk to that big, inanimate, highly insensitive Burroughs mainframe computer in the classroom. Hard disk storage, garbage in–garbage out, structured walk-throughs, program debugging—these were the phrases that laid the groundwork for my studies.

That wasn't all I had to learn. There were Accounting classes, Human Relations, and my favorite, Typing, in a room filled with future secretaries giggling at the gangly man in the corner—all thumbs—pecking away at a speedy 12 words a minute.

Classmates came and went. Many could not endure the heat and criticism heaped on by our instructor. The ones that made it through, though, went on to better places in life. McCoy Carter, son of Nikki Carter, Society Editor at the Waycross Journal-Herald, was selected as a co-nominee, along with me, in the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) program. We made it to the finals locally, only to be beaten out by a Moye fellow majoring in Air Conditioning.

The job placement program at Waycross-Ware Tech was exceptional. Upon graduation in 1983, I was immediately hired on as Office Manager at Waycross Coca-Cola Bottling Company, run by a legend of a man, O'Neal Zorn. Tandy Morton was the Assistant Manager and Pearl Fairchild was the Office Manager on her way out after many, many years of service.

L-R: Karen Bunch Ferrell, Uncle Dave, Joyce Deen. Seated: Pearl Fairchild

Mr. Zorn was not fond of beards; so, I gladly shaved mine off to get the job. I remember him admonishing me one day in his office, “It's not what a man makesit's what he saves”. Good advice to this day. I was employed with Coca-Cola for about two years until the Postal Service came calling.

Barbara Kearson told me that what I was learning in 1983 would be outdated in a few short years. I'm afraid I didn't retain a lot of that knowledge, due simply to a lack of use.

But, in my attic, there's a box holding reams and reams of Structured COBOL programs and a dusty diploma that remind me fondly of the teacher who knew when not to teach, who allowed me to listen to her remarkable life tales, and who pushed me to learn – all the while with Tom Selleck staring over my shoulder.

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REFERENCES Wikipedia Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

#CharlesBabbage #AdaLovelace #BarbaraKearson #TomSelleck #McCoyCarter #NikkiCarter

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