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Memo Rewind |< 20:21
Wrapping up an almost-year of the Mad Ned Memo
The Mad Ned Memo started as my pandemic writing hobby last April, and I really had no idea then if anyone would be interested in reading any of the nerdy content I wanted to serve up. It’s been great to see that some people at least are interested in these articles, and surprising to me always that you allow me to invade your inbox on a regular basis with somewhat random thoughts.
I occasionally write something that is what I call a “Negative Subscriber Article” — where more people decide to unsubscribe after reading a weekly post than subscribe. Honestly, this was a bit upsetting when it first happened, but I do understand that if you signed up after reading some nerdy thing about old mainframe memories, then the next thing you know we’re talking about Agile development, you might say “This isn’t the content I was expecting.”
These topics all fit together somehow in my head. But if it seems somewhat unfocused week over week, I’m sorry; I guess that’s the “Mad” part of the Memo. I’ve since come to terms with the Negative Subscriber thing. I now think of it as an alchemical process, refining raw materials into a precious filtrate. Or is it a precipitate? I always was bad at chemistry. Also, I need a marketing guy, probably calling your audience a “precipitate” is not wise.
But anyway - thanks so much to everyone who signed up this year! I’ve enjoyed hearing your thoughts, making some new friends, and all the discussions and comments we’ve had here.
Now, let’s take a quick look back at what’s been going on since our last Rewind.
Night of the Living Code
I’m retroactively angry I did not choose this as the title for my article about bringing my long-dead code for the TRS-80 back to life. The Dead Code Diaries was a catchy title. But undead sells better. I chose the title though because I thought it might be a series, where I cover bringing back to life some other old I was involved with, like the multi-player Rogue game I mentioned in the Screwing Around at Work post.
Still nothing to write about there, but my friend who owns this code did, at my urging, manage to get part of this very old code base to compile. I’ll keep on that.
We got a lot of interesting comments from people though with dead code of their own, both on Hacker News and in the comments section of the article. I was especially envious of the guy writing TRS-80 code who had Forrest Mims as his neighbor, an engineering legend I mentioned in my August Radio Shack article.
My Accidental Guest Stars
The top comment on that dead code article in Hacker News was a guy who mentioned still having code from 1977 running. It turned out to be none other than Walter Bright, computer wargaming pioneer and inventor of the mainframe game Empire, and the D programming language. I asked Walter if he would be interested in doing an interview, and he not only agreed to that, but also to do an AMA on Hacker News. This was a really popular interview with thousands of views, and hundreds showed up to talk with Walter on HN.
That same article spawned another accidental meeting, with computer text adventure legend Scott Adams. I was trying to email the people at the TRS-80 fan site trs-80.com to thank them for all the great things they did to preserve that machine, but accidentally emailed Scott who was on the email links list.
I wouldn’t blame him at all if he still thinks that was a ploy to get him to come to an interview, but it was really a dumb (yet happy) mistake! Scott was very gracious and agreed to an interview and AMA.
Thousands read the article and we had a great discussion about the old days of PC gaming, as well as looking at what he’s been up to recently with his new company, Clopas.
Really great discussions here, and really nice to make friends with some people who were positive influences for me in my teen years!
Also in the Memo over the past few months, a bunch of articles relating to business topics. I shared my adventures transitioning from a large company to a tiny one, and how you both have to do stuff yourself, and get to do stuff yourself, in the process.
This article paired nicely I thought with another recent post, about how I miss working in crappy workplaces. It explored some let’s say ‘non conventional’ facilities I worked in (including that startup), and how it secretly made me happy to see how appalled some outsiders found them. This resonated with a few people, because I ended up getting several replies from others who also worked in dumpy places they liked, but which turned off visitors.
There was also a little frightening look at the Dobsonfly Larvae in that crappy workplace article. Sorry to bring that up again. I’m still processing that I think, give me time.
Then there was my cautionary tale about what happens when an R&D group has a lot of its design responsibility removed, and is asked to just implement things others created. This wasn’t a huge hit but I did find it interesting that at least a few other people found themselves in similar predicaments - with similar results.
This one also could have made a good horror-themed article, I should have moved it to Halloween week. Live and learn.
This brings us up to last week, where I shared my maybe unconventional thoughts about why crappy agile is good. I heard from a few people but am still very interested in what development processes people are actually using these days, and how they differ from “the book”. Drop a comment!
A Medium of Success?
I may have mentioned earlier that the Mad Ned Memo is also available on the online publishing site Medium - in a slightly different format. I’ve been slowly growing my presence over there, and Mad Ned content has appeared in several Medium publications, such as Index, The Haven, and UX Planet.
But it’s not intended as a replacement for this newsletter, as much as it is a place to write shorter pieces. Things that are excerpted from Mad Ned Memos, cut material, sneak previews, and articles that don’t really fit the theme well, like that time the cops forced me to buy monster cable. No real publication schedule, which is also nice from my perspective because I can put things out there when time permits.
If you are already a Medium member and are interested, you can check me out there at: https://medium.com/@mad-ned
I ended up getting my Medium account to post stuff and be in their partner program to make a few bucks, but found it to be interesting to browse content-wise as a reader too. Very short articles there, easy to just munch through like potato chips. A lot of click-baity stuff to be honest but also some good authors and publications too.
If you are thinking of becoming a Medium member at some point, give a bro a referral ! (Medium membership is all-you-can-eat, so you get access to everything there and not just my stuff)
But if it’s not your thing, do not worry — The existing, free, not-always-fitting-in-a-5-minute-read Mad Ned Memo is not going anywhere! I think I’d be frustrated if I had to condense everything I wrote into that short format.
So that’s the small ad at the end of the mostly-ad-free Memo this week. I’m looking forward to a few weeks off, which gives time for ideas to percolate and bad-for-you food to be eaten.
I’m looking forward though to returning next year to this community we have created together, for more fun. If any of you have thoughts or ideas for what you want to hear more about, hear about instead, hear less about, or comments in general we didn’t get to from previous posts, drop me a note!
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, to all those celebrating them! Peace and all the Best for the New Year! —Ned
Next Year: The Mad Ned Memo is taking a break for the next few weeks, but returns in January, 2022 with more nerdy tales, interesting computer and game related discussions, unsolicited business advice, and hopefully more guests joining me to talk all of the above! See you back here, then.
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