Gaylord Perry and a Texas Rangers first impression

Gaylord Perry
Gaylord Perry pitching for the Seattle Mariners in 1982. (Associated Press photo)

Editor’s note: Major League Baseball and its fans lost Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry on Thursday, Dec. 1. Perry pitched in the first Texas Rangers game I ever witnessed in Arlington, so I wrote this post to commemorate that event and what I remembered from seeing the Hall of Famer pitch in the game.

Let me tell you the story of my introduction to the Texas Rangers.

In the spring of 1976, I moved to Abilene, Texas, to go to college at Abilene Christian University. I was transferring my credits from a community college and started at ACU in the second summer semester while working at a small retail store in Abilene..

Anyway, I drove back to Fort Smith to visit my folks the week of Independence Day, and then drove back to Abilene on Monday, July 5.

I had grown up a St. Louis Cardinals fan, but became acquainted with the Rangers through their radio broadcasts after moving to Abilene.

So, as I was driving down from Fort Smith that Monday, I tuned the radio to WBAP 820, the Rangers flagship station. I learned they would be playing a home game that evening.

Perfect timing.

I detoured into Arlington and got to the ballpark about an hour before game time. I had read about how sparsely attended Rangers games were at that time, so I was surprised to find the parking lots surrounding Arlington Stadium almost completely full.

I parked and walked to a ticket window, where I was told that the only tickets remaining for sale were general admission in the outfield. It was a July 4 sellout.

Good enough for me.

I bought a ticket and found a spot deep in left field bleachers next to a man and his son, who was approximately 6 years old. The guy had a transistor radio with him that was shaped like Mickey Mouse and had the volume and tuning dials in the ears.

perry lineThe Mickey Mouse radio was tuned to WBAP, so we had radio play-by-play throughout the game while sitting in the stands. I guess that’s how we rolled in 1976.

Don’t remember much about the game except for the fact that the Rangers won and I got to see all-time great Gaylord Perry pitch for Texas (I was saddened to learn on Monday that Perry had passed away.)

The Hall of Famer and spitball legend started that 1976 game, although I wasn’t certain until I looked up the boxscore.

My real adventure started after the game as I left the stadium. I did not know my way around Arlington and had no map to consult. So, as I left the ballpark I found myself on Randall Mill Road, which I thought would take me back to I-30 and then west to Abilene.

Instead, Randall Mill Road seemed to go on forever with no sign of the Interstate. Finally, after seemed what was about an hour on the road to nowhere, I pulled into a 7-11 to ask for directions.

“How do I get to I-30,” I asked the clerk behind the counter.

He pointed to the west. “It’s right there.”

Sure enough, I had come within a few yards of the Interstate without realizing it, although I was actually now in Fort Worth.

So, about 11:30 pm on Monday, July 5, 1976, I pulled onto I-30 West and headed for Abilene and the rest of my life.

But I drove into Abilene now a Texas Rangers fan and a memory of watching Gaylord Perry pitch in a Major League game.

I remain a Rangers fan to this day.  RIP Gaylord.

A message of Hope for the season

Ben Langford delivers a message of “Hope” to The Springs CofC audience.

I hope you keep reading this blog post. See what I did there?

Well, you will.

The church I attend, The Springs Church of Christ in Edmond, launched a series of sermons on the season of Advent this past Sunday. Our preacher, Ben Langford, presented it as a season of hope found in the birth of Christ.

Ben defined hope in the way that University of Oklahoma professor and author Chan Hellman, Ph.D., describes it in his book “Hope Rising: How the Science of Hope Can Change Your Life.”

Dr. Hellman’s definition of hope is, “the belief that your future can be brighter and better than your past and that you actually have a role to play in making it better.”

I read Hope Rising a couple years ago and was caught off guard by the definition. I always thought hope was something far more nebulous and random.

Sort of like “I hope rain doesn’t wash out the baseball game tomorrow, or “Gee, I hope you get what you want for Christmas.”

See, I’ve always believed that hope was more of a wish than something you could actually turn into an action item.

But Hellman’s book explains how people can set a goal, find a path toward its completion and then take action to reach it.

That sounds a lot like a goal setting exercise I learned in college.

In Hope Rising, Hellman demonstrates how the science of hope actually helps people who have been afflicted by life’s circumstances find their way to a better life from things like childhood trauma.

It’s not random or nebulous, but it does require some action by the person who’s hoping for better. It took a while, but I finally saw Dr. Hellman’s point about the “science” of hope as I read the book.

So, anyway, back to Ben’s sermon (watch it here). He made the point that people find hope in Christ by seeing the path to God and taking action to achieve it.

It was the type of sermon that stayed with you beyond lunch at Earl’s BBQ afterward.

I hope this blog post made some sense for you.

See what I did there?

Black Friday in 2008 was cold, dark … and fun

Shortly before 4 am at the Elk City Walmart store on ‘Black Friday’ 2008.

It was dark and cold on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving in 2008 as I left my mother-in-law’s farm outside of Hammon, OK.

At roughly 3:30 am on that Black Friday, I headed into Elk City to see what the crowd of shoppers was like at the Walmart store on the west side of town.  The store was scheduled to open at 4 am.

My wife and mother-in-law thought I had gone off the deep end.

But it was all in the name of work, because I had been asked by Clytie Bunyan, then the Business Editor at The Oklahoman, to contribute some color from Elk City for the paper’s annual Black Friday shopping roundup.

I rolled into the Walmart parking lot about 10 minutes before 4. The only spot I could find was at the far fringes of the lot about 100 yards from the store. The rest of the spaces were filled with vehicles.

So, I walked toward the entrance, where hundreds of people sort of jumbled together in not so much of a line but what I would call a crush of shoppers. There was a genuine excitement in the air as they anticipated nabbing the ultimate Christmas bargains that had been advertised to go on sale on an hourly basis.

It reminded me of the incredible lines of folks that used to wait outside the Apple store when a new iPhone was released. A lot of camaraderie.

Folks patiently waited for the doors to open and chatted among themselves. I talked to a few people about what drew them to this store well before dawn on the day after Thanksgiving. They came not just from Elk City but from surrounding communities such as Sayre to the west, Mangum to the south and, yes, Hammon to the north.

In the darkness, I shot what was a poorly lighted photo — it’s at the top of this page — with whatever digital camera I had at the time (not an iPhone) and posted it to my Twitter account.

Shortly after 4 am, the doors opened and the crowd surged forward. I waited a few minutes until it cleared and walked in. There were already lines at the cash register as people claimed televisions, toys and whatever the hot electronic item of the day was.

I sipped free coffee the store offered as I wandered through the aisles and managed to get comments from shoppers and store personnel about the Black Friday shopping experience.

My Black Friday early morning routine remained the same for the next few years.

2009-walmart


Looking back on this memory from a distance of 14 years, it now seems like the Good Ol’ Days of Black Friday shopping. Back in those days, grabbing a copy of the newspaper fat with holiday advertising on Thanksgiving Eve was the first stop for most shoppers.

In just a few years, stores started opening ON Thanksgiving Day, so there was no longer the urgency to head out in the pre-dawn darkness.

Now we’ve come full circle. Online shopping has made a big impact on how we approach Christmas buying, and most stores — including Walmart — will again be closed on Thanksgiving this year.

So, I guess early morning Black Friday shopping is back, although in what I assume to be a less frantic manner.  A Google search showed Walmart stores are opening at 6 am.

But, check your local listings, as they say. Here’s a link to a story in The Oklahoman that lists opening hours for OKC stores both on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. (The Wednesday paper this year was still fat with holiday ads.)

Yes, I fondly recall the camaraderie of that crowd of Elk City shoppers in the pre-dawn hours of 2008.

But I’ll still be in bed when the doors swing open this year.

My date with COVID finally arrived

ER room at Mercy
In the ER room at the Mercy Health Emergency Room along i-35 in Edmond.

I’ve read somewhere that COVID is eventually going to infect us all, but I had begun to doubt that it would catch me.

Until it did.

It’s been more than 2-1/2 years since our world was shook when the pandemic washed over us, beginning locally when the Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City Thunder game was cancelled on March 11, 2020.

That was a jarring, scary night, with both my wife and my mother in-law at that game.

Anyway, we masked up and stayed home much of 2020. Then just after Christmas of that year my wife had a mild COVID infection. She tested positive two weeks in a row.

I tested at the same time and was negative each time.

Also, I received the Pfizer vaccine in early January 2021 and declared myself bullet proof, even at my advanced age of 69. I’ve added two booster shots since then.

Then a little over a week ago I woke in the middle of the night with an unexpected, out-of-the-blue sore throat. No big deal.

But I lost energy and appetite throughout the next day, while adding a cough and tons of drainage.

By the third day, it moved into my chest and I had no taste or smell.

So, I went to a walk-in clinic. I was tested for STREP, Flu and COVID. The COVID test came back positive, which I was NOT expecting.

The doctor gave me some pills to take for the next five days, as well as a nasal spray. He said I should no longer be contagious after five days.

Things didn’t improve over the next four days, so by Sunday I walked into the Mercy Health ER along I-35 to see if I could find some relief. The health care professionals there were awesome and empathetic while giving me a steroid shot and hydrating IV.

By Monday, there was incredible improvement in my condition. I’m still improving and hope to be completely symptom free by the end of this week.

Meanwhile, what of my wife, who sleeps and eats with me? She had laryngitis while all of this was going on, and has been tested twice for COVID over the past week.

Negative, both times. So, it’s role reversal this time.

I’ve learned my lesson. I’m not bullet proof. I am thankful for the vaccines and boosters. Because of my age and medical history, there’s no telling how far down COVID could have taken me.

Now I’m up for the Bivalent booster in a couple weeks. I’m all in.

An NBA Don Quixote takes on tanking — again

Plenty of seats should be available this season at OKC Thunder home games

I’ve been on a 2-year long diatribe on this blog against tanking in the NBA, mostly because of my frustration with the OKC Thunder playing for better draft position instead of winning.

NBA teams never, ever say the word ‘tanking.’ They use the word ‘process,’ instead. If you want to know, tanking is the process of sitting your best players in favor of less experienced back-of-the-bench guys in hopes they will lose instead of win.

Enough losing and you get more ping-pong balls and potentially a better position in the annual NBA draft. It’s all so teams can capture the next unicorn for their roster, who in this year’s case is 7-4 Victor Wembanyama from France.

Wembanyama wowed the NBA world this summer when he dominated a couple of games played in Las Vegas against international and G-League teams.

For what it’s worth, a website called NBA Draftroom already has the Thunder selecting Wembanyama as the No. 1 pick in next summer’s draft.

What does that tell you about where the Thunder are in The ProcessTM? It means the Thunder must lose enough games this year so they finish among the bottom three teams. That will give them the best odds (14%) of receiving the No. 1 pick.

It’s still a long shot.

Source: nbadraftroom.com

So, that leaves me with the point I’ve tried to make for months. Tanking disrespects fans, corporate sponsors AND current players, as well. I could go on all day about ticket prices, sponsorship packages and the lean crowds we saw at Paycom Center last season.

But, my friend Ed Godfrey says I’m an NBA Don Quixote tilting at windmills. I’ve aired my own theory of how the league could discourage tanking.

Ed put a pin into my trial balloon.

“I don’t think the league cares about tanking,” Ed said. “If they wanted to stop it all they have to do is give every non-playoff team an equal chance of getting the No. 1 pick.”

In fact, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has addressed tanking in a couple of articles recently published on ESPN.com

Here’s the money quote from the most recent article:

“It’s one of these things where there’s no perfect solution, but we still think a draft is the right way to rebuild your league over time,” Silver said. “We still think it makes sense among partner teams, where a decision was made where the worst-performing teams are able to restock with the prospects of the best players coming in. So we haven’t come up with a better system.”

That leaves fans, sportswriters and bloggers with the responsibility to come up with ideas to negate tanking.

I proposed in a blog post earlier this year that the league institute a late-season lottery tournament among non playoff qualifiers that would reward the team with the best record with the No. 1 pick.  It’s the ultimate play-in.

My friend Steve Buck has given the tanking issue a lot of thought, as well. He’s come up with his own proposal that I think has a lot of merit.

Steve suggests that the league monitor “load management” among teams and how often healthy players are sitting out.

“Teams can practice load management if they want,” Steve said. “But teams that play their best players most frequently are rewarded with better draft odds than teams that routinely do load management. If your roster is truly bad, you get help. But if you are gaming minutes, you receive a penalty in reduced odds.”

Steve has it all sketched out down to the deadline for teams to announce a player sitting out and a requirement to reduce ticket prices for fans who often buy tickets just to see a specific star player.

“Only one player can be on ‘load management’ per night max, and a player is only allowed four load management nights per season,” Steve said. “Load management must be announced 24 hours before a given game and the club choosing to rest players must find a way to compensate single game ticket holders that bought seats for a specific contest through the NBA sanctioned ticket vendor.”

His scenario also includes evaluating injured players for game-ready status. The Thunder’s Shea Gilgeous-Alexander last season, for instance. We had to take the team’s word (or maybe the team’s physician) that SGA was not game ready for about the last 20 games or so of the season.

“That’s tough to prove,” Godfrey said. “If SGA has a ‘minor’ injury and the Thunder don’t want to risk further injury by not playing him the last 20 games when they are out of the playoffs, how are you going to prove that is tanking and not a decision in the best interest of the player’s and the team’s future?

“And the player’s union would get involved.”

So, what have we solved? Nothing, I guess. But I hope the tanking dialogue continues until the NBA takes substantial action to level odds for all non-playoff qualifiers, as Ed suggested.

A final word about draft odds from Silver as quoted in the ESPN article.

“You’re dealing with a 14% chance of getting the first pick,” Silver said. “I recognize at the end of the day analytics are what they are and it’s not about superstition. A 14% chance is better than a 1% chance or a no percent chance. But even in terms of straightforward odds, it doesn’t benefit a team to be the absolute worst team in the league, and even if you’re one of the poor-performing teams, you’re still dealing with a 14% chance [of winning the lottery].”

So, why can’t you level the odds for non playoff qualifiers?

Stay tuned.

Adam Silver at NBA draft. (source: Associated Press)

Healthcare for all needs to happen

clinic

The healthcare industry has thrown yet another obstacle at American consumers, and it has me seething.

Here’s some background.

My primary physician recently sent me to a specialist for a healthcare concern I’m having. I had never been to this specialist’s office before.

So, a couple days after my doctor made the recommendation, I received a call from the specialist’s clinic. A time was arranged for an office visit, followed by questions about my insurance.

Count me among the nation’s elderly, so my insurance is Medicare and a secondary insurance.

Next, I was hit with a demand that I’ve never experienced from any hospital, clinic, doctor or healthcare specialist. I was required to provide a debit or credit card number for the provider in advance of the office visit.

“We require all of our patient’s to have a credit or debit card on file,” I was told.

What?

I was angry as I mulled over the requirement well before the appointment.

But I showed up for the doctor’s visit, filled out required paperwork and then was confronted by the request for the debit or credit card.

So, I hit the innocent receptionist with all the GET OFF MY LAWN fury of an over-the-hill 69-year-old man.

This is a first, I told her, loudly. So, if I have a balance after the insurance portion is paid, you will draft it out of my account?

She told me that the clinic implemented the requirement because of one-time patients who refused to cover the out-of-pocket portion owed the physician.

I get it. We’ve had some pretty big out-of-pocket expenses over the years that we’ve slowly paid off over time to providers. At times, we’ve even had our balances turned over to collection agencies.

But they all got paid, eventually.

That’s just a hazard of the American healthcare system, since we are one of the few developed countries in the world that does not have universal healthcare for all.

I didn’t ask to be sick. No one does.

Anyway, I told the nice young woman that if I DID have a balance after insurance paid its portion, I would promptly cancel the card they have on hand before they had a chance to draft it from my account.

She said I had the option of requiring the clinic to contact me first and ask to draft the amount before actually doing so.

My old-man fury was slightly diminished.

But my anger is not on my behalf. It’s for the millions of Americans — working or not — who don’t ask to be sick but are victimized by a system that saddles them with humongous healthcare costs when they do become ill.

When folks can’t pay their healthcare bills and are turned away from medical providers, they end up going to the emergency room for their healthcare. And that’s the absolute most expensive option.

But that’s the American WayTM.

So, what’s the purpose of this diatribe? I’m ranting because I consider healthcare a basic human right, and our system treats it like it’s a Mercedes that we can’t afford.

Let’s join the rest of the world and implement healthcare for all.

I know, I know. Fearmongers claim it would bankrupt the country or severely diminish healthcare coverage for the average American.

That’s an old argument that I used to hear on my grandmother’s radio as she listened to the H.L. Hunt-sponsored “Life Line” shows in the early 1960s. And that’s before Medicare was even implemented.

Medicare has been an incredibly successful lifeline for elderly Americans.

We could slowly implement universal healthcare as an option in place with private health insurance for those who choose to keep it. Or lower the qualifying age for Medicare to, say, 60. Or 55.

We can make it happen. It’s going to happen.

All in on Sam Presti & the Thunder season

Presti screen
OKC Thunder general manager Sam Presti speaks to the media in the weeks leading up to the 2022-23 season.

As my friend and debate partner in all things OKC Thunder, Steve Buck has often accused me of being anti-Sam Presti.

It’s an accusation that I loudly protest even as I have questioned the Thunder’s apparent philosophy of losing games on purpose, otherwise known as tanking. Teams tank because losing positions them for better draft position as they work to build their roster.

As my friends at church would say, “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Steve has described it to me as a “player development” philosophy rather than actual tanking, which the NBA frowns upon. In 2018, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $600,000 for admitting on the Dan Patrick Show that the Mavs lost games on purpose. 

In comments made on the Dan Patrick Show,, Cuban said that “once we were eliminated from the playoffs, we did everything possible to lose games.”

I’ve never heard Sam Presti say anything about losing on purpose. But I have heard him discuss “commitment to the process” and “not taking shortcuts.”

We saw how that played out as the Thunder went 24-58 in 2021-22, often keeping key players with minor ailments on the injury list and out of the lineup for long stretches. The team even cut a player late in the season who was playing above expectations, which threatened the team’s commitment to ‘The ProcessTM”

Frustration mounts for me when it’s apparent the Thunder are ‘exploring the roster’ with no interest in winning the game night after night. That’s what we’ve seen the last couple of years.

So, what have we heard from Presti leading up to the Oct. 19 season opener against the Timberwolves? Here are some sample comments from the Thunder GM over the past few weeks.

“What we’re looking for is overall improvement over a long period of time,” Presti said in a media appearance. “That’s not the most sexy, exciting thing that I could say to you.

“I’m not trying to mislead anybody, but it would be easier to try to find something that’s more catchy or exciting. But we just want a long-term, overall improvement. That doesn’t mean each season has to go the same way.”

As I did in a post a year ago, I’m asking the Thunder to play to win every game. I’m sure neither the franchise nor its sponsors enjoyed the nights last season when the Paycom Center was less than half full. 

It’s pretty apparent to me that people are not going to commit time or money to a team they perceive as not trying to win, even if there is a long (emphasize “long”) term goal of capturing the next unicorn in the draft.

My perception is that the fans come last in this tanking or “player development” scenario that’s played out over the past couple of years.

That’s a position that my friend Steve takes issue with.

“Strongly disagree on your last point,” he told me this week. “Presti wants to give a title to the city; isn’t that for the fans? It is fair to say he is not distracted by outside noise; he is focused on the long game.

“And he is accountable to Clay Bennett and he has likely set the goal of winning titles”

There’s a whole debate over whether fans would be more excited by a team that’s competing late in the season for the final playoff spot or if they would rather wait on an NBA title that may never come. 

That’s pie in the sky in the sweet bye and bye.

I’m definitely in the camp that wants the Thunder to play to win every night and be in the chase for a playoff spot, even if it’s the play-in game.

That would make the long, cold winter much more interesting for all of us.

But back to Steve’s original complaint. I’m a huge fan of Sam Presti. I am awed by his acumen for judging talent and finding diamonds in the rough at whatever position the Thunder are drafting. I love the way he welcomes new players to OKC and gets them involved with the community.  I love the way he represents the Thunder and OKC itself.

As Dan Patrick said last year, “Sam Presti is the best GM the NBA has seen in a long, long time.”

A last comment from Presti on the upcoming season: “Let’s wait for it to play out before we decide that’s what it’s going to be.”

I’m all in on that.

thunder tip2021
Thunder tip off in an early 2021-22 season game

Farewell to the Edmond-OKC commuter bus

Edmond bus1
The Edmond Citylink bus parked at the Festival Marketplace downtown.

Attention, Edmond-to-downtown Oklahoma City bus commuters: I come bearing bad news. The Edmond Citylink bus service to downtown OKC is ending on December 30.

I know this is not big news to most of my NW OKC-Edmond neighbors. There’s a certain stigma to taking public transportation in a well-to-do community where the automobile is king.

But all my adult life I’ve wanted to live in a city where public transportation was close enough to me that I could easily take it to work if I chose.

Never happened.

Once, I lived in a house near NW 50th and Hudson in Oklahoma City, and the city bus passed right by my residence. But the hours of my job in downtown OKC began in mid-afternoon and didn’t end until midnight or later.

So, there was no bus option to get home.

Then I married and, together with my wife, moved to far northwest OKC near Edmond Road and Western. There was no public transportation options within miles of my car-centric neighborhood.

Then I learned about Edmond’s Citylink bus service that connects downtown Edmond to downtown Oklahoma City. It’s called the Expresslink bus.

By now, my work was located in the Research Park at NW 8th and Lincoln just east of downtown. Turns out, the Expresslink bus went right by the Research Park.

So, looked at the schedule and figured out that I could drive 3 miles to the Edmond Festival Marketplace, park my car and catch the free 7:15 am bus that would let me off right at the Research Park entrance.

Did I mention that it’s free?

So, it cost me nothing to ride and saved gas expense and wear and tear on my car. I could step out of my office and walk just a few yards to catch the bus back to Edmond at the end of the day.

Perfect. I caught the Expresslink bus off and on for several years.

Then my professional life moved to a work-from-home situation. I’ve only taken the Expresslink bus one time in the past three years or so.

I’m off the bus now, so to speak, but still found the recent news disheartening that Edmond will end the Expresslink bus at the end of the year.

Most of the time, when I rode that route, there were 12-to-18 people who rode with me on the 7:15 am bus.

Among Edmond residents who often took the Expresslink bus downtown was my friend Dan Lovejoy.

“The bus is nice,” Dan said when I asked him about why he took the bus instead of driving into OKC. “It’s not much slower than driving – and I can work or rest on it. It forces me to leave on a schedule and not stay too late.”

Many — or most — riders boarded the bus as an alternative to rush hour driving, as Dan did.

“One distinguishing characteristic of successful public transport is — do people who don’t have to take it actually take it?” he said. “On Edmond Express at least, people rode it who didn’t have to ride it.”

Today, Dan drives an electric vehicle, which cuts down fuel costs. He also has a job in which he works at home a couple days a week, so he’s not taking the bus on a routine basis.

“I wonder if there are a lot of folks like me who just aren’t commuting much any more,” he said.

Citylink hearaing

I’m convinced the pandemic has had a major impact on Expresslink ridership. Many people like Dan are able to work from home at least a couple days a week.

I emailed Christy Batterson, Edmond Transit Program Manager, to inquire about ridership numbers, but she did not respond.

The transportation news isn’t all bad, however. There’s a silver lining in far distant clouds.

Edmond is part of the Regional Transportation Authority of Central Oklahoma, which has long-range plans to operate a commuter rail service from Edmond to downtown OKC to Norman.

That’s a pretty exciting prospect, not only for a rail fan like me, but for potentially hundreds of Edmond commuters who could take the train in to downtown OKC each work day.

Of course, it all depends on overcoming the stigma of boarding public transportation in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Edmlond bus2

Still an Apple fanboy after all these years at

The Apple IIe with two 5-1/4 inch floppy disks, just like my first setup

I read a magazine article in the late 1970s about a couple of young Californians who built a new stand-alone computer in the garage of a Cupertino, Calif. home.

They started a company called Apple Computer to sell their innovation.

I had never used a computer at that point in life. As a journalism student at Abilene Christian University, we did all of our writing either on our own antiquated typewriters or on IBM Selectric typewriters in the newsroom of ACU’s student newspaper.

Anyway, the more I read about Apple and its Apple II computer, the more fascinated I became with both the company and the concept. Like most people, when I thought of computers, IBM and its massive room-sized mainframes came to mind.

After graduating from ACU, I went to work at the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith, Ark. We worked on typewriters when I arrived in late August 1978, but by the Spring of 1979 the paper had installed its first computer terminals for reporters and editors to use.

They were so-called “dumb” terminals that were tied to a mainframe computer. They crashed a lot, usually right at deadline.

Meanwhile, I was still keeping up with Apple and its computer, but thought it was way beyond what I could afford.

Besides, who ever thought of having a computer in your house?

Fast forward about seven years. I was working at The Oklahoman when J.T. Goold, one of my co-workers, said he had a used Apple IIe for sale. It had been his father’s,

So, I ponied up about $500 and bought the Apple IIe, which came with a green monitor and two 5-1/4 inch floppy disks.

That Apple IIe sealed my love of all things Apple. I learned to use word-processing software on that computer, as well as a spreadsheet, a simple database and a page-design program.

In a few months, I added a 1,200-baud modem, which opened up a whole new online world of what were then known as bulletin boards. Then came AppleLink.

I tried my hand at learning some BASIC programming skills, but never got much further than making a little routine that filled the screen with a single sentence.

I’ve written all of this because I’m deep into Steven Levy’s book, “Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.” The Apple II and its creator, Steve Wozniak, play a huge role.

In Hackers, Levy detailed the founding and growth in the early 1970s of the Homebrew Computer Club in the San Francisco Bay Area. The club attracted scores of computer hackers who shared a vision of a future where everyone had a stand-alone computer of their own.

Levy wrote: “These were people intensely interested in getting computers into their homes to study, to play with, to create with … and the fact that they would have to build the computers was no deterrent.”

Steve Wozniak attended the very first Homebrew Club meeting, but it was a few years before he actually built his first computer. His friend Steve Jobs convinced him to create a company as partners and sell his computer invention.

So they began building computers in the garage of the home of Jobs’ parents. The Apple II became a runaway bestseller, bringing computers to millions of people.

I became an Apple fanboy after reading that early magazine article in the 1970s. The used Apple IIe that J.T. Goold sold me in the mid-1980s ensured it would last.

And here we are today.  I’m writing this on an Apple MacBook Air while the my Apple iPhone keeps buzzing with text alerts and notifications.  I’m reading Levy’s excellent “Hackers” on an Apple iPad Mini.

It’s been a long-term relationship, to say the least.  Still an Apple fanboy after all these years.

Siri has a hot take

Her screen
Screen shot of the ‘Her’ trailer

We were traveling back to OKC from Hammon, OK, on Saturday when I asked my virtual assistant, whom I will call “Siri,” for the score of the Cincinnati-Arkansas football game.

“Arkansas leads Cincinnati 14-0 at halftime,” Siri responded.

Then I asked her for the score of the OU game. The Sooners were playing UTEP, and I wasn’t expecting much of a match.

“Oklahoma is dominating UTEP 28-10 at halftime,” Siri responded.

My wife picked up on how Siri gave us the score.

“I wouldn’t say that OU is ‘dominating,” Paula said.

“Yeah, but that’s how Siri sees it,” I replied.

Then it hit me. Siri had a take on the game! My virtual assistant supplied by Apple not only gave me the score, but an opinion on how things were going.

Even if Siri was stretching things a bit.

SiriAnyway, this made me think about artificial intelligence. Siri, Alexa, Google’s assistant all have some personality built in, I assume. I only have experience with Siri and Alexa, and they both can have a quirky personality.  Alexa seems more upbeat.

If you want a fictional vision of the future of artificial intelligence and virtual assistants, watch the movie “Her.”

If you’ve not seen Her, it’s a 2018 film about a lonely, incredibly downbeat man named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) in the not-too-distant future who buys a new AI-powered computer operating system. He calls it “Samantha.”

Played by Scarlett Johansson, Samantha engages Theodore in a round-the -clock conversation, learning about his life and environment while anticipating his every need.

Ultimately, Theodore falls in love with Samantha, whose intelligence seems to be expanding exponentially.

At the end of the movie, Samantha tells Theodore that he’s just one of scores of men she’s “dating.”  Then she drops the news on him that she’s taking off with some of her other AI counterparts to bigger and better things (which I assume to be a world takeover).

It doesn’t exactly bode well for mankind.

Her raises a lot of questions about the future of AI, and I’m not sure the answers are what we like. At least Samantha had a personality and a take on the issues in Theodore’s life, even if she was over the top.

Maybe that’s where Siri is headed. Let’s just hope she doesn’t conspire with Alexa and Google to try to take over the world in an AI coup.