January 5th, 2014


State of the Intertubes -- 1981

Via Facebook, a 1981 TV story about what would become the Internet -- a sort of the future is here story. Specifically it mention the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle offering an electronic edition. They pointed out it wasn't going to make money, but might not lose too much. Gee, 34 years later and that song is still playing.

Of course by 1981 the big newspapers were already using terminals in the newsroom to write and upload stories. But watching people dialing a rotary phone to connect an acoustic modem -- hilarious. Possibly only 300 baud. And it took 2½ hours to download the whole Electronic SF Chronicle.

"Image not as sexy as the ad." The ad showed an actual newspaper front page on the screen, whereas in reality, it was straight ASCII text. "No photos, no comics, no ads." Well, one out of three ain't bad. Oh, and downloading meant you could print it out and have your own paper copy! So much for the paperless newspaper.

Somewhere in the late 70s, while I was at Northwestern, I listened to the two major factions arguing about the proposals for the 2400 baud modem. Do you need one phone line or two? If you use only one, can you live with 2400 only in one direction? The problem of requiring two phone lines wasn't considered a matter for the home user -- no one will want that much speed at home. NU tested both systems -- you had to dial different lines to access the two systems. This is the problems with not having one standard. It gets expensive to implement.

And some perspective on how out there this was in 1981 -- no IBM PC. No Apple ][. No consumer hard drives. Definitely no Windows, Mac or mice. Laptops are still years away. And forget smart phones and tablets.

So it was news for newspapers to get on the forefront and offer something very few could afford. But there were businesses who were coming to use online.

Dr. Phil

And Now We Wait

Monday. First day of the new semester. First day back to work and teaching for me. If I can get there.

Winter Storm Ion -- it's an ion storm, Captain! Deflector screens are down! Sensors are useless! -- is giving us a snow advisory until 1am. Temp holding in the 20s, then the bottom falls out. Wind chill advisory Monday into Tuesday -- wind chills could drop to -30°F. Though we are by far not getting the brunt of this, mainly getting teased by the northern edge of the diagonal storm track and nothing like Indianapolis may get creamed with, the forecast is for up to a foot of snow. More southward of Grand Rapids.

And the neighbor who has been plowing us on deeper days, his lawn tractor is in the shop.

Churches all over West Michigan have closed today. Fully expect the local schools to close in the morning. The universities? Probably not. Sigh.

WMU has a history of not plowing well, especially coming out of Winter Break. Remember, this is the school that steadfastly says they don't close -- and one time had to tell students not to come for the start of January because the parking lots weren't plowed. Yeah, it had snowed heavily over Christmas and they forgot to plow. Forgot to plow. Two feet of snow over the two/three weeks.

Forgot to plow.

Yeah, assuming I can get out of the driveway, I will be calling the university's announcement number on the way south tomorrow. Like that will help.

Yesterday morning the wind blew all the snow off the trees. Today it's another snowglobe snowstorm. Beautiful. Except I am not having to wrestle a walker around in it.

Dr. Phil

One Down, One To Go

GVSU Closed

About an hour ago the phone rang. It was the Grand Valley automated phone messaging system saying that the university would be closed on Monday 6 January 2014. This is pretty early in the day -- we figured that they didn't want to have students fighting to get in after break, going into the teeth of the storm. Of course then there's the bitter cold, but still, a good call.

All campuses of GVSU will be closed Monday, January 6

All campuses of GVSU will be closed Monday, January 6 due to extreme weather. Only essential employees report.

Your Turn, Western

A friend just noted on Facebook that they'd heard that the grade schools in Kalamazoo have closed -- they have a friend who drives school busses and they were just alerted.

As of right now, no word on WMU closing. They so desperately don't want to close that they may wait until they have put student and faculty lives in danger. Again. My favorite non-closure at Western was one the other year when the ice layer under heavy wet snow and slush made it difficult to walk, let alone drive. After smugly reassuring everyone that Western Doesn't Close, they heard holy hell from everyone and closed the next day. When the weather and conditions turned lovely.

ADDED 4pm: Clearly Western is anticipating people looking for guidance, their web site has a news item dated Saturday reminding everyone how WMU notify everyone if they close and We Don't Close:

Weather-related WMU closings since 1999

  • 1999, Jan. 4-5—Heavy snowfall delayed the start of spring semester.
  • 2000, Nov. 21-22—Thanksgiving recess began Tuesday because of snow.
  • 2006, Dec. 1—An ice storm downed trees and caused power outages.
  • 2007, Feb. 5—Extreme cold and snow closed many Michigan colleges.
  • 2008, Feb. 1—WMU closed due to snow.
  • 2009, Dec. 10—Blizzard conditions closed WMU.
  • 2013, Jan. 31—Snow and icy conditions closed WMU.
We'll see if they decide to do the right thing and keep their people off the roads tomorrow.

Meanwhile, surprised that it looks so good at the San Diego-Cincinnati NFL playoff game -- Cinci is below the freeze line, so it's 44°F and raining. Still, we're waiting for the San Francisco-Green Bay game from (deep voice) The Frozen Tundra Of Lambeau Field.

Dr. Phil

And We're CLOSED, Too

Good Sense Prevails

Or good things come to those who wait. Some 4-5 hours after GVSU announced they were closing, I reloaded the WMU homepage to see that they, too, have decided to avoid the deteriorating conditions and postpone the first day of classes.

Did I not tell you? Every time they insist they don't close, ever, they close.

WMU closed Jan. 6 due to severe weather

Except for essential and emergency services, Western Michigan University will be closed Monday, Jan. 6, due to severe weather. The closure includes the University's Kalamazoo and Battle Creek campuses as well as the regional location in Grand Rapids.

Seriously, though, it's a good call.

It's Time To Play The Music...

Actually, there's still plenty of things for both of us to do on Monday, so it'll be a workday here at Chez Allendale. In particular, I've got some computer updates to finish -- working on a method of giving remote lectures on days it is unwise for Dr. Gimp to make a public appearance. More anon.

Tuesday will be bitter cold, but they'll have had 24 hours to clear some of the snow. It's a good thing.

Dr. Phil


The Midwest is CLOSED tonight.

Continuing mostly closed on Monday.

If you are out in sub-zero conditions, be glad you did proper maintenance on your vehicle and carry sufficient warm garments in case you didn't.

Enjoy the snow.

And the cold.

We'll be staying at home tomorrow.

Dr. Phil