Wednesday, March 7, 2012



By Rob Watson

A couple of days ago, I watched as several young people received a special blessing from the bishop in our church. As I watched, my mind drifted back to a warm evening in late spring. It was the 23rd of May 48 years ago. I was standing outside the auditorium of my high school waiting to process down the isle and be graduated.

As I stood there I knew I would change the world. I knew I knew how and I knew I would. I had already made a bet, of one case of whiskey, that I would be the first to make a million dollars… That was back when a million dollars would actually buy something… the winner was to pay the loser.

In evaluating this 48 years I can fairly claim that I have changed the world. In one sparkling instant of time, I was the instrument for changing the whole world.

I explained to a software engineer how the hardware interrupt sequence of the TI 990/12 worked to cause the computer to behave as you would have it behave. The software engineer changed the way the computer software code behaved and taught engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratories how to install it on their computer. This computer, using this new software, received the first close up pictures of the rings of Saturn. You can look it up. Just Google Voyager 2 pictures  of Saturn's rings.

Later, recent pictures are better. (Google Cassini Saturn Photos.) But it took them nearly 30 years. And they were second behind me.

In reality this changing of the world could be pictured as two pyramids point to point with me between. The lower pyramid is of my computer instructors, science teachers, then other teachers, then parents and friends and the institutions that made my life and learning possible. The upper pyramid is the software engineer, the JPL, the astronomers, then scientists, professors and students…

Back then I saw myself as captain of my ship, navigator extraordinare. Two days ago, the whole truth made itself known to me in a flash of inspiration. We in that church, like those people waiting in that auditorium those many years ago, were casting their children upon a wild and stormy sea, in a small and leaky boat, hoping for the best.

A few quotes I picked up recently:

"You know you have hit rock bottom when the man, who hanged his predecessor in a military coup, says you have character flaws." Charlie Wilson's War

"Never argue with an idiot. The best outcome you can hope for is that you won an argument with an idiot" Anonymous

"I suffered from chronic hypochondria for years. Eventually, I went to a Naturopathologist and was cured with a course of broad spectrum placebos." M. Cullen

1 comment:

  1. Learned something new about you today. Not everyone can say they have impacted science the way you have. Your teachers at SHS would be so proud to know the giant contribution their student made. Yeah Class of '64.