A Trip to Purdue Changed My Life

Twenty-five years ago, I traveled back to my alma mater Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana and it changed my life. I head back down there again today for a day at Purdue at the Krannert School of Management.

Twenty-five years ago a former college roommate, who I will dine with tonight, took me on a tour of the university campus and showed me all the changes that had occurred in the 10 years I had been gone. He showed me a new dormitory with suites of rooms that had one key feature that changed everything. The students each had their own Internet connection at a time when it cost $10K a month to connect to UUNET if you wanted to do so yourself.

There were no dial-up services yet, but they would come soon, after I had tries to learn how to connect without them. And I quickly signed up for America Online and started to write in newsgroups and email lists. I taught myself the Internet and would eventually start to blog before blogging was called blogging when I started this newsletter.

All of you readers were impacted by that fateful trip, just as I was, as the body of my work since then was impacted by those revelations.

When I last lived in a dormitory in 1981, my technology consisted of a telephone party line, an electric typewriter and a black and white television. I had a small boombox too for music.

When I visited Purdue 25 years ago, I could see how this Internet connection was going to give the kids coming out of college an advantage. I said at the time that they were going to download the Internet into their brains and take all of our jobs.

The Internet did change things and continues to this day to do so. The challenges of today are issues that this industry faces, like big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the implications of all of them. Purdue University just bought Kaplan University to create a public online university to help teach the masses the skills necessary for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs.

Today kids have to learn how to code. I told my son Robby to learn Python over the summer. It would serve him well.

I don’t know what exactly I will learn at Purdue this trip, but I will try to put my best Scout Oath “mentally awake” into action and learn.

It is hard to believe it is 25 years since that trip. The world has changed so much and so have I.

(Jim Kharouf suggested I mention how I rode my horse to school, but that was my mother who did that when she was a kid.)

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