A weekend that reminded me of the first time I used the Internet
1994 was a special year for me. One of my professors at Anglia Polytechnic University suggested I use the Internet. I did not know anything about this Internet thing, and when I arrived at the computer labs I discovered that the software involved was even less friendly than that DOS operating system I was being forced to use.
But one tool seemed to be a newsgroup that allowed participants to ask questions of each other. I could not see the point of this but I thought I would ask the weirdest question I could think of – how do I get a copy of the game of Life, which I had read about as a usefully simple introduction to artificial intelligence algorithms.
One of the participants replied that same day asking me for my address so that he could send me the game. I was sure I misunderstood his questions, because surely he could tell my electronic address from the software? But did he, I asked, mean my mailing address? If so, here is my home address. Of course, I was young and naive, and kids, you should not do this.
But the Professor – he turned out to be one – really did mean to know my home address. And within a week a floppy disk arrived with a copy of the game of Life. The postage had been paid from his university in Canada to my home in Cambridge, England.
I cannot overemphasize how important this first experience was for me. From that day onwards I learned that the Internet is full of nice people, and that I must be nice to others there too.
I remembered this lesson during the last weekend as I went to Startup School. A very nice friend of mine, John Knight, told me to apply and when I arrived there were literally one thousand other very nice people in the lecture theatre with me. Every one of them was unfailingly helpful. Some introduced me to others that could help me, others taught me how to integrate software, and others still introduced me to new linguistic techniques for my Arabic language company.
The following posts will officially be about the lectures I attended, but bear in mind that before and after each of these lectures some random person in the audience taught me something really helpful. None of them had to, they did not even have to talk to me, but they all did and I benefited so much. I hope that in time I will be able to thank each of them by paying them back individually. But I know that all that they truly wanted was for my Arabic language students to be taught better.
I hope I do not disappoint them, nor my good friend John.