Dave? What are you doing, Dave? The legacy of Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke was one of the greatest science fiction writers of his time, giving us characters like the HAL 9000 to stand as a cautionary tale in the way that we depend on computing as an aide. Science fiction reaches beyond the page in many ways. In this case, it touches the Space Shuttle.

If you are like me, you have been doing IT since "forever." And like me, you recall the things that drew you in.

For me, it was seeing the expanse that was (at that time) what the human mind could encompass. It was beautiful to me then. It is beautiful to me now.

Mr. Clarke gave me hope for what I might see develop in my lifetime and continued to give me hope when we limited beings of a small planet called Earth screwed up time and again.

The passing of Arthur C. Clarke is the end of an era. It is to me. My whole business life was based on his input.

Mr. Clarke wrote of great things that technology would one day do.

From the Washington Post:

The most famous example is from 1945, when he first proposed the idea of communications satellites that could be based in geostationary orbits, which keep satellites in a fixed position relative to the ground.

Some scoffed, but the idea was proved almost a generation later with the launch of Early Bird, the first of the commercial satellites that provide global communications networks for telephone, television and high-speed digital communication. The orbit is now named Clarke Orbit by the International Astronomical Union.

"He had influenced the world in the best way possible," writer Ray Bradbury said in Neil McAleer's 1992 book "Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography." "Arthur's ideas have sent silent engines into space to speak in tongues. His fabulous communications satellite ricocheted about in his head long before it leaped over the mountains and flatlands of the Earth."

In addition to his books, he wrote more than 1,000 short stories and essays. One of his short stories, "Dial F for Frankenstein" (1964), inspired British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee to invent the World Wide Web in 1989.

Arthur C. Clarke forced me to think in ways that were unconventional for my time. This was inconvenient, as I was a young woman interested in technology long before it was cool. By his example, I chose to be unconventional in how I lived.

From the business perspective, I was able to think "outside of the box" about the solutions that really fit the needs; and had the cautionary tale of a governing computer that could kill in the back of my mind.

Indeed, it was that scenario along with others that defined the requirement for the multiple fail-over system of the first Space Shuttles. Back then , there were five independent, yet networked, computers on board. The concept was that if one concluded something different that the others, the others could shut it down. I believe that on a 3-2 split, the disagreeing computers re-ran the exercise. Dave was safe.

Clarke's law pertains today, and always — "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

What did you glean from Arthur C. Clark that you regard as a part of your business knowledge?

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