I began writing this blog because of a summer course, “Multimodal Writing in a Digital Age,” taught by Dr. Cruz Medina at the Bread Loaf School of English in 2018. When I enrolled in the course, I had no idea of the impact six weeks in Santa Fe could have on my future plans. During the first class, on the first day, Dr. Medina instructed us to:
(1) Create a new personal website as a place to post future assignments.
(2) Write and publish “Welcome” and “About Me” posts on the website.
As I recall, we had a little over an hour to get our new websites up and running using one of the software platforms Dr. Medina listed in his syllabus, and to write the “Welcome” and “About Me” posts. After trying Wix software and abandoning it because of the frequent, distracting pop-ups pushing me to upgrade, I chose WordPress as my web host, because the software was mature, stabile, and unobtrusive. Here’s what I wrote in “About Me” on the website I named multimodalwritingworkshop.com. It turned out to be a flash memoir of sorts. My backstory. As I read it today, I visualize a two-minute video. I am portrayed by a cartoon character.
I wrote my first computer program in 1963 as a mechanical engineering student at what is now Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. The “computer class” was not in the curriculum and not offered for credit. It was taught, for fun, by a math professor who took time to share his love of computers and programming during lunch hours three times a week. His volunteer class was open to any student who wished to attend. I learned to write programs in FORTRAN IV for the IBM 1440 from Professor Garcia. Thus began my lifelong love of computers. By 1966, I had lost interest an engineering degree. There were no computer science degree programs, so when I saw an opportunity to test into a job as programmer trainee for a company that provided contract programming services to the U.S. Navy, I took it. Success! Five years later, in 1971, I joined UNIVAC as a senior programmer and entered a months-long, in-house training program that redirected my career into the research and development of artificial languages and systems. Jackpot!
FAST FORWARD 25 YEARS
I loved computer life, but by 1996 I was ready for a change. The Internet was being popularized by companies like America Online. Cyberspace was no longer just for programmers. Mini- and micro-computers were affordable. I no longer had to build home computers from kits, or work for computer companies to gain access to powerful software. I could buy both. What more could I want? So, I retired.
A NEW BEGINNING
I lived in cyberspace for a while, socializing with other programmers. But, I felt an intellectual void. In search of a new passion, I went back to school. Maybe I would become a lawyer. In 1998, I finished a BLA degree in political science and legal studies. But by that time, I was more interested in literature and writing than law. So, after graduation, I continued going to school year-round, taking undergraduate English classes. Somewhere along the way, my passion for artificial languages and systems began to merge with a new passion for writing and composition. One of my professors, who had graduated from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, suggested I pursue a master’s degree there. In 2000, I took his advice and was accepted to Bread Loaf. Four years later, in 2004, I graduated with an MA degree. Fourteen years later, in 2018, I have returned to Bread Loaf Santa Fe for Dr. Cruz Medina’s course, “Teaching Multimodal Writing in a Digital World.”
Though my work lacked polish, I was amazed I could do so much so quickly that first day. For six weeks, I pushed myself to keep the same fast pace, in class and out, with truly remarkable results. I returned home energized and inspired.