Some Nerd Treasures in the Attic

Pile of Old Disks

We’ve been in Spring clean­ing mode here around the house. Angela went through our old file cab­i­net, comb­ing over records for the past decade plus. We also both chucked most of our papers and files from col­lege. That alone end­ed up being ten box­es to take to the doc­u­ment shred­ding & recy­cling place.

In the process, I end­ed up with a rather large pile of 3.5″ flop­py disks to get rid of. I decid­ed to go through them and copy any files before we had them destroyed. Of course, we actu­al­ly don’t own any­thing with a 3.5″ flop­py dri­ve! Even my old lin­ux box in the garage only has a opti­cal dri­ve. For­tu­nate­ly, Ange­la’s dad has a USB flop­py dri­ve he was able to loan us.

So, in the process of going through some of the disks (many of which includ­ed pro­grams for obso­lete oper­at­ing sys­tems), I man­aged to find a few gems:

  • Lots of pho­tos from around 1998–99, when Angela and were first dat­ing and she was going off to phar­ma­cy school in VA. It prob­a­bly goes with­out say­ing, but we’ve aged a bit in the past decade.
    Our first ever big date, almost 11 years ago.
    Our first ever big date, almost 11 years ago.
  • The first help doc­u­ment I ever wrote for soft­ware. It was for a DOS pro­gram called Plane Frame & Truss (PFT, for short, because file­names back then could­n’t exceed 8 bytes). It is writ­ten in a very snarky voice; prob­a­bly not some­thing I’d try and repro­duce in my cur­rent writ­ing (okay, maybe here):

    How to use Dr. Noel Tolbert’s Plane-Frame-Truss Pro­gram (PFT)
    By Jason Coleman

    First of all, PFT is not user-friend­ly, regard­less of what Big-Dad­dy-Tol­bert may say about it. How­ev­er, if you are using PFGTAB (the qua­si-graph­i­cal ver­sion), sim­ply read every­thing it tells you until you are more com­fort­able with the pro­gram. The ques­tions the pro­gram asks are not always clear at first, so take your time with them.

    How PFT works: (This is more-or-less from the horse’s mouth)

    This will cov­er, for the most part, how to use the graph­i­cal inter­face, PFGTAB. You have to be at an MSDOS prompt, and not sim­ply in a Win­dows Shell. In a win­dows shell, you can only run a pro­gram once, and then the shell more-or-less quits, and when using PFT, you actu­al­ly have to run two pro­grams con­sec­u­tive­ly. That’s one of the many non-user-friend­ly fea­tures of PFT.

  • The first pro­gram I ever wrote in Visu­al Basic (or any­thing that had a GUI, for that mat­ter). It was a pro­gram for Advanced Mechan­ics of Mate­ri­als grad. lev­el course which would deter­mine the stress­es in a curved beam mem­ber under a spe­cif­ic load­ing. It was­n’t exact­ly any­thing very use­ful (unless you need to design clamps for a liv­ing), but it also did­n’t look too bad for a first attempt:
    Curvbeam.exe's screen.
    Curvbeam.exe’s screen.

So we found a few nerdy trea­sures from our past lives. That’s one of the fun things about clean­ing out so much of that sort of stuff: you find the things that real­ly mean some­thing and can put them some­where you can access, instead of buried in a tomb of junk.

By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.

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