When I decided to go to Georgia Tech, the three biggest things that influenced my decision were:
- I had seen Gone with the Wind so many times that I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble finding my way around Atlanta.
- I was rejected by my first choice school (Your loss, Rice University), and going to college in my home state just seemed like a non adventure.
- The Olympics would be on campus in the summer after my sophomore year.
I managed to get myself a job at the newly constructed Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in the Summer of 1995. I worked as a lifeguard and pool staff during the regular school year and they kept us on during the Olympics. It was a terrific experience and I am grateful for the opportunity.
The logistics behind designing, building running an Olympic venue were mind blowing, but we were compensated well. The most valuable piece of compensation was this little paper strip that you could stick into a Coke machine instead of a dollar and get all the free Coke you could drink! Keep in mind, I was 19 and sleeping in my friend’s living room along with all of her relatives that were in town for the events, so I wasn’t too picky.
I had some mild hero worship issues with venue architect and site manager, Craig Penzler. I used to carry around a notebook and pen and take copious notes of all of the cool things I would make sure I designed into my sports venues when I was a famous sport venue engineer. Then, in the fall of 1996, I took structures and decided to take another look at dirt.
We kicked out pay TV in favor of web services a few years ago, and we don’t get an NBC station with our antennae, so I offered myself up as a babysitter to a few of my neighbors this week to watch the games. I love watching the sports, but I always look for the behind the scenes stuff and I know that somewhere, behind those perfectly branded barriers, there is a 19 year old girl counting trashcans and lining up chairs in the ready area.
After the Olympics, we had a very short summer semester where I took Fluids (not very memorable) and Engineering Ethics with Dr. Leroy Z. Emkin. On the first day of class, Dr. Emkin delivered an energetic lecture about how computers would destroy our careers, rot our minds and create the illusion that any monkey could design infrastructure and the public would no longer feel they needed engineers. The great irony here is that Dr. Emkin is the Founder and Co-Director of the Computer Aided Structural Engineering center at Georgia Tech, which was, and still is, well known for the application GT STRUDL.
Coincidentally, I had been reading a book called Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway. While Clifford Stoll was an avid computer user in 1995, he believed that the dreams of internet grandeur were bloated. Last week, Panorama and I were at the library, and if my nostalgia for the summer of 1996 wasn’t already keeping me floating through a flashback dreamworld, here was Silicon Snake Oil begging for a reread 16 years later.
The book is so charming, so readable, so very right and so totally completely wrong. It’s like Bill Bryson meets Robert Scoble.
Well, I don’t believe that phone books, newspapers, magazines, or corner video stores will disappear as computer networks spread. Nor do I think my telephone will merge with my computer, to become some sort of information appliance.
As I sit on the couch turning the pages, I’m tempted to throw on some Deana Carter and ponder if it’s really the Olympics and the sweaty Atlanta summer and the wide eyed wonder of this new toy the internet that I miss, or being nineteen and still holding on to some small amount of hope that I would enjoy my structures class that fall?