It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the US of A and that means in a few short hours millions of people will be sitting down to wonderful feasts of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and the like and in the process express their gratitude for whatever is important in their life. And it just happens to be the first snow of the season for us in eastern Pennsylvania. All of that makes me happy.
In keeping with Thanksgiving tradition I’d like to take a blog post and reflect on what it is I’m thankful for. There are the usual things for which I’m thankful for — my parents, a roof over my head, warm clothes and a reasonably full stomach. But I’m also thankful for things which aren’t of the bare necessities variety. In particular I’m thankful for computers, the great advancements of recent times, the fact that I’ve found something I love doing and that people seem to be willing to pay large sums of money for.
Over the last few months I’ve come to the realization that if we didn’t have computers, I don’t know what I would do with my life. I do like other things — reading, writing, music, physics, history, economics to some extent, but I don’t see myself being able to do any of them as a full time job. What’s perhaps even more amazing that almost all I’ve learned about computing has been on the backs of essentially free tools and services. Again, I don’t know what I would do if I had to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for developer tools. Thanks to the rise of Firefox, Apache and the web we all owe some thanks to free and open source software, even if we’re not programmers or hackers.
I’m grateful that I can afford multiple machines running a wide variety of languages, compilers and other tools. I’m grateful that I don’t have to wait overnight for my punchcards to come back so that I can fix a typo. And I’m really really grateful that I’m not running an operating system that crashes a dozen times a day taking all my data with it. I’m grateful that almost all the information I need to feed my interests is available for free on the Internet — that I don’t have to pay some large corporation or government to access something that has been created by other free individuals (basic bandwidth charges not included). I’m grateful that I can carry around the Internet in my pocket, as well as more books and musics than my great-grandparents had access to their whole lives. I’m also grateful that I can turn all of it off if I really wanted to (and sometimes that comes in very handy).
I’m thankful to the giants on whose shoulders I stand on every day, often for hours on end (sometimes just to admire the view). I’m thankful to people who are just starting to stand on my shoulders for showing me that I can stand up straighter and carry more weight with less effort. I’m thankful to be surrounded by people who willingly give their time and effort to make me a better person.
In a word, there’s a lot I’m thankful, a lot of which I barely even think about. And now excuse me while I go stand by the window looking at the snow falling on the trees and be thankful that I have a rather nice view out the window.