Reflecting Back On My Father

Barbara Powers

My dad has always been a highly intelligent, very creative man. He started setting computers up at home long before this became commonplace. His repertoire includes designing observatories, writing science fiction stories, and helping to develop closed-circuit television. The list goes on.

For some reason, one thing that stands out in my mind is that we had a "commercial killer" in our house. (Bear in mind this would have been back in the 60's.) A small block of wood with a button smack in the middle resided on the arm of the living room chair. A wire ran from this across the room to the back of the TV, making some mysterious (to us) connection there. When a commercial came on, "Wham!" Down went a hand on the button, off went the sound! The only pain was having to move that wire all around when we needed to vacuum. We did still have to get up to change the channels (aw, shucks), but no more annoying commercials!

Dad was already nearing the completion of his first book about Control Theory by the time I was old enough to begin to understand his work. We kids (and our friends!) were often his unwitting guinea pigs. Each time we would walk through the front door after a day at school, his form would appear in the doorway, finger beckoning, a grin on his face, a new experiment set up and ready to go on the computer in the back room. Anyone who entered the house was fair game. But little did we know that in those increments of five minutes we each spent regularly in front of that screen, we were contributing valuable data for a much larger project.

In retrospect, I realize we enjoyed the infancy of video games for awhile. Swing the pendulum up, and keep it balanced in an upright position. Try to make your dot move in a circle around the stationary one in the middle, fighting the unseen forces playing havoc with your point of light. Play ping-pong with the computer, never mind that the ball does not seem to behave at all like the one downstairs at our real ping-pong table.

And to this day, I still remember the multiplication lessons. Some of the rooms I used for reference, the objects I associated answers with, still appear briefly in my head. I can recall images of numbers hanging around the attic, or pasted on the teapot in the kitchen. I doubt anyone else in my class, or many others, had experienced math lessons quite like these, and I have to say they were very effective. Learning for me comes easier using a method of association, but I will never know if I was this way all along, or because of my father's influence. At any rate, it is a technique I use in many ways.

I am very proud of my father's accomplishments. Most of all, I am glad that he will have the joy of experiencing your respect and appreciation for his hard work. I am certain this surprise recognition you are arranging will be a most wonderful reward for Dad.

Thank you,
Barb Powers