Cargo Pants, Who Invented the Computer and Other Noteworthy Fripperies

Television often gets a bad rap from over-achievers and the literati class as mindless, wasteland, cotton candy for the brain. Yes, it is and thank goodness. As a jar of pills needs cotton to contain the items from shaking when they're disturbed, we all need some form of cotton to tamp down our daily tumult.

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Cargo pants can be hazardous to your life. Once the go-to pants for men who don't carry purses -- cargo pants are a problem for a growing segment of boomers and geezers. As short term memory starts to thin out, remembering which of the 6-8 pockets you put your thing-ma-jig in, is taxing and potentially dangerous. The grand old standby jeans might be the counter-cargos in menswear. They're not. Only four pockets, two side ones -- slits actually -- which hold very little and are way too tight when stuffed.

There's the two smaller back pockets, one of which is supposed to carry a wallet but a bulging wallet pocket is not butt-compatible. The other back pocket is totally vestigial and can be ignored.

Nobody ever figured out how to market men's purses. Some tried murse but that just says 'low testosterone.' The alternative could have been men's shoulder bags. For a while there was a chance that TV's 24 series hero Jack Bauer would ignite an interest in men's shoulder-bags but that idea died with the series.

Someone is bound to come up with an app, an app that shows all your cargo pockets and what's in them. This, of course, provides yet another reason to have your eyes on your smart phone while driving further making our cargo pants hazardous to our lives.

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In this presidential election season when politicians' sound bites sound like verbal Styrofoam, it's helpful to remember this: there's nothing in the constitution about political parties. George Washington warned against them in his farewell address. Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison did not want parties calling them "the violence of factions."

Watching today's Trump rallies, the old boys might be on to something.

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Who invented it? Who is the Thomas Edison, the Henry Ford of our computers? And when did it happen? Turns out this amazing saga of technical achievement isn't the result of one person but a whole line of people beginning in the 1840s with Aida, the Countess of Lovelace, daughter of England's reigning poet, Lord Byron. This is just one fascinating byte in Walter Isaacson's engrossing audiobook, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.

The life of computers evolved from a 19th Century concept, to hulking room-sized ones of the 1940s to the one you're reading this on.

One note: Isaacson's delivers an exhaustively detailed history. (audio: 8 hrs. 45 min; print: 560 pages) A portion of this narrative will be a wash of blah-blah to digital immigrants, which is why the audiobook edition is highly recommended. Actor Dennis Boutsikaris' thoughtful narration makes the tech ingredients go down smoothly.

For digital natives this book is required. The men and women who creatively tag-teamed each other for over a century to create the machine you're now on -- most of them were mathematicians, physicist or engineers like Vannevar Bush, head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development. In the1945 issue of The Atlantic, Bush wrote about a personal machine he called a Memex "a mechanized private file and library that would store and retrieve a person's words, pictures books, records and communications and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is a large, intimate supplement to his memory and other information."

For all who are fascinated with the digital revolution we're in, The Innovators is a significant story.
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"It's easy to form a chain from a string of zeros." - Stanislaw Jerzy Lec