15 Jan 2014
January 15, 2014

Sherwin Levinson – The Early, Early Years

January 15, 2014 0 Comment

Without Sherwin Levinson, I would never have been called, “Planet Earth’s First Interactive Electronic Journalist.” Without him as one of my co-founders, there would never have been our TRANSCOASTAL Electronic News Service (TENS) … and I would never have covered the national political conventions, Academy Awards, and a wide range of other events interactively via computer with readers around the world. He changed my life. More important, of course, he helped blaze the path from “The Early, Early Years”, as he calls them, to the world we all interact with today. He was – and is – a zealous pioneer. — Mike

Sherwin - 1975, already a techie

Sherwin – 1975, already a techie

I knew that we’d be able to do great things with computers. I just didn’t know what those things would turn out to be.

I learned computer programming (“app writing” if you were born this century) at a National Science Foundation summer program in 1964. We had a ham radio station. It gave us the chance to “meet” total strangers from far away places and experience group chats with them. I was hooked on the idea and would have become an avid ham, were it not for the cost. But none of us ever dreamed of applying the ham radio model to “online” chats and communications via computer.

A few years later, at college, I worked for Sears as a computer operator. All Sears catalog orders from around the world came through that single center, entered on Teletype machines that sent at 50 baud. (As a frame of reference for what that felt like, the slowest DSL speed you’re likely to find today is about 30,000 times faster).

Some of the order entry clerks in various countries discovered that a “real live human being” in Chicago actually would read and notice order errors … then reply with information about necessary corrections. Periodically, they’d enter bad stock numbers on purpose just so they could include a message, like “how’s the weather in Chicago”, instead of the product description. These errors would come out on punched paper tape, which I ran through another machine to print. My replies were punched on paper tape, then transmitted using a different machine. It was laborious but, over time, we learned about each others’ homes and families. People do crave to communicate!

Skip forward about 10 years. read more →

30 Dec 2013
December 30, 2013

Year-end Remembrance of My Parents

December 30, 2013 3 Comments

As 2014 approaches, I think about the fact that – once again – I won’t be phoning my parents in Beaufort, SC, to wish them a Happy New Year.

Having both of them gone affects my perspective in ever-reverberating ways. As empathetic as I’ve always thought myself to be, I’ve gained a new and visceral understanding – beyond just intellectual comprehension — of what it means to be human. In a way that wasn’t so before – couldn’t have been so … I couldn’t have known how this would feel — I have a new connection now to anyone else who’s lost their parents. My condolences to others today reflect a richer understanding of what’s just happened to someone else.

That’s my mother, Lucille. She’s wearing an oxygen tube and using a walker – having suffered lasting lung damage from the radiation that she received for her breast cancer. She was a vivacious Southern belle …of her own unique ilk, since she had grown up Jewish in this tiny island town. Scarlett O’Hara, my mother was not. But she had been beautiful all her life and had a discreetly playful demeanor when she wasn’t obsessively worrying about everything, or analyzing it. (Sound familiar, to those who know me?)

Fortunately, I was to acknowledge her, before she passed, for the gifts that I inherited from her – including just conversation with her … she was so bright and so precise — that make me a writer today.

And that’s my dad, Sam. He taught me fairness, punctuality and dependability, the value of a generous heart, and the blessing of a sense of humor. Also, a commitment to working hard and to pleasing clients. They were “customers,” in his context: he ran my grandfather’s building supply company, in addition to teaching psychology at the local University of South Carolina branch.
They were the love of each other’s lives. To a phenomenal degree, they complemented each other. For my mother, the glass was not only half-empty… it was cracked, and losing water from its sides. For my father, the glass was more than half-full … it was overflowing with reasons to be happy. You can see that even in his “everything’s A-OK” gesture for the camera.

I know that he’d be proud of the fact that I’m sharing proceeds from my new song, “With You”, with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA). And he, as well as Mother, would be astonished if they could hear the impact of Kimberly Davis singing my words.

To anyone who reads this: Happy New Year.

18 Dec 2013
December 18, 2013

Early Online Memories: Dawn Debbe

December 18, 2013 0 Comment

I remember communicating with “Shari” online in the early 80s, liking and enjoying her abundant intelligence and enthusiasm.  What I did not know then was her real name was Dawn, how old she was, what she looked like, etc.   As her story points out, the anonymity and freedom of the online world could be transformational.  We were only barely beginning to discover how vast the transformation would be. – Mike

By Dawn Debbe

Dawn Debbe 1985

Dawn Debbe 1985

Toledo Blade Sept. 7, 1984In high school I worked part-time for a global company with a desire to advance technology. They had a corporate account with an early online service called The Source, and all employees were encouraged to experience and actively use it.

As a receptionist/co-op, I had plenty of spare time. So I dutifully set out, just as Management wanted, to explore the world of online communications and to learn as much as I could. Games held my interest for a while because they were puzzles — but how many times can you figure out how to light an acetylene torch?

Eventually, I discovered an area that seemed complicated but intriguing. It was more intellectually challenging than games, so I surmised that it must have been exactly what my employers wanted us to learn more about. The service was called “Participate” or “Parti On The Source” (POTS).

I have always been an avid reader, and Parti was comfortable for me – as natural as reading books.  But … read more →

17 Dec 2013
December 17, 2013

New Song Benefits Alzheimer’s Organization

December 17, 2013 1 Comment

My dad – Samuel Clifford Greenly — is the reason I’m fanatically punctual, believe in fairness and in keeping an open mind, and have a good sense of humor, even though I’m too earnest to properly tell a joke.

Dad is also one of the reasons why Alzheimer’s Disease matters so much to me … and having seen it up-close, why I’m so afraid of it.  (I work to keep my mind active, to help prevent this terrible affliction.)

My mother, Lucille Greenly, is probably the single most significant reason I became a writer – of speeches, video scripts, songs, you-name-it.  Another big reason is my lack of grace and dexterity in the physical world.  I seem to live in my head; furniture never gets out of my way when I’m walking, deep in thought, and find myself bumping into it.  Better just to write!

My latest song — “With You” – was composed by Jim Papoulis and produced by “Soulbeats NYC” (Jim and DJ Tony Smith in collaboration.)  It is Kimberly Davis’s third single, released today from D1 Music in NYC and available in multiple formats on iTunes.  The song is part of the Soulful House genre – with a meaning that could be either romantic or spiritual:

WITH YOU

There’ve been times when I have wondered
If I’d ever find my way
Days with so much darkness
All that I could do was pray
But now with you beside me
Here’s the way I live each day

With You!
I can be whatever I want
I can do whatever I need to (etc.)

Some DJs have already previewed “With You” in their Clubs, and they expect it to do very well.   Here are a few seconds of sound as DJ Abel Aguilera & Ralphi Rosario previewed a remix of it (by DJ Escape & Tony Coluccio Mix) at their Alegria party in NYC, 10/27/13 and report that the song pulled crowds out onto the floor.  http://bit.ly/1bN9qRx   I hope you’ll check it out on iTunes and amazon.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of “With You” benefits the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), a leading national non-profit organization dedicated to “providing optimal care to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families, through member organizations dedicated to improving quality of life.”    High Res AFA logo

14 Dec 2013
December 14, 2013

“Always My Angel”

December 14, 2013 0 Comment

Today is the One Year Anniversary of the terrible shooting of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT – Dec. 14, 2012.  That incident was the genesis of a new choral song of mine – not yet available to the public.  (Sheet music expected before Spring, 2013; also exploring possibilities with recording artist.)

I make my living as a writer of speeches, video scripts, voicemails, letters, presentations, etc., for corporate clients.  I’m also a speech coach (to help them deliver their messages more effectively) and a creative director (helping to develop the elements of a meeting that help its communications be motivating and memorable.)

When clients learn that I’m a songwriter, they seem to correctly infer, “Maybe the guy can write speeches, too.”  (I can!)

In the meantime, though, it gives me great personal satisfaction to write songs and to use many of them to raise awareness and/or funds for worthy causes.  I’ll be honest – I am proud of “Always My Angel.”  Here is a link to a video about its creation in choral form.  http://bit.ly/1fcDKcx