1977: It Was A Very Good Year

I finally went a long drive to Marin today. It had been a while, with a new kid at home. Baby and the wife slept in the back on the way up, so I was listening to Swell Radio and caught a short segment from NPR’s Science Friday, featuring Ira Flatow, who was talking about the Voyager 1 spaceship that had just left the heliosphere — our galaxy — and is now in interstellar space. Flatow’s guest was Ed Stone, the guy who chaired NASA’s project. It was amazing to hear this guy on the radio. I can’t imagine what he must have felt today, knowing that just over 36 years ago, the creation he and his team slingshotted into space finally left the bounds of what we know. It is now going to places we can’t even imagine. That is some long-term vision, patience, and planning.

I couldn’t help but notice the year Voyager was launched: 1977. In 1977, Steve Jobs launched the Apple II, the world’s first widely-used personal computer. People said he was crazy to think the mass market would use these machines. In 1977, Bill Gates took his second leave of absence from Harvard, moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to set up Microsoft. I didn’t realize how many years had passed since Voyager 1 launched, but I happened to pay attention to the broadcast details because 1977 is a year I recognize and have written often: it’s the year when I was born. Maybe 1977 was a good year to launch new ideas 😉

On the long drive, I couldn’t help but think about Jobs and Wozniak in a garage in Palo Alto, or about Gates and his crew leaving campus to form Microsoft. Hearing Ed Stone’s joy and wonder in his voice on the radio, today in 2013, it hit me that he had to wait thirty-six long, long years to see his creation make it to this point, and it’s still going. It made me think that it took me 36 years to get back to California and to finally do something I love doing in a place I love. And, like Voyager, that I have to still keep going, that the journey is not done, and that the next 36 years could bring many unknowns.