16 thoughts on “Ken Thompson abandoned computer nerdism for flight instructing… who else?

  1. Think about it. What is the difference between a computer nerd and a flight instructor? Both take some form of hardware and something capable of processing input and creating output and following instructions with the idea of producing something that performs a function. In both cases, the poorly programmed objects will not function well and the good ones have favorable results unless something unforeseen and unhandled occurs. This also true for computer nerd pilots. Perhaps this is the thrill of it. No chance to just fix the bug and reboot.

  2. Bob, do you mean because of the encoding of the HTML tags (which one might call “double encoding” since HTML entities are double encoded) within the RSS XML? RSS allows this; this was one of the quirks that sparked the Atom fork.

  3. While I don’t consider myself a “great computer nerd”, I am a computer neard and am slowly working my way there too.

    Private Glider in 2003
    Commercial Glider in 2005
    Privae SEL in 2006 (a couple months from now, I hope)
    CGI-G in 2007 is planned

    It’s just a matter of finding the time to spend in the cockpit. 🙂

  4. Eulogy for the Amazing Gary Kildall

    I have frequently heard it said that you can learn a lot about a person by playing golf with them. Living here on the Monterey peninsula and not being a golfer may be some form of misdemeanor. But, Gary and I shared something even better than golfing, we flew together. I believe that you can learn even more about a person by flying with them. I have been Gary’s co-pilot for over 1,000 hours and that is where I learned the most about him. He was passionate about flying and loved the aircraft he flew.

  5. Bob: Harvard is aware that Manila is a spectacularly crummy piece of software and they keep saying that they will convert to WordPress, but they never do. I try to stay out of sysadmin these days…

  6. I’m no great computer nerd but I’ve done well for my age and have managed to progress in the career. I also hold a commerial/instrument (ASEL) license/rating and DO want to finish up the CFI. The problem: I am young. I missed out on the stock boom (finished my undergrad too late). I’ve also missed out on the real estate boom, or so it seems…as such, I read Philip’s early retirement article with envy, but also with the knowledge that I stil have a fair amount of time to work with. Until then, the reality is that I can either afford housing out here in California – via being a computer nerd – or teach people to fly, but not both.

  7. The president of NAFI was a lawyer…OK not a geek, but another example of going from a money-making career to a fun career.

  8. Hey Phil!

    I’ve been a database administrator for about 15 years w/ BS & MS degrees in computer science. I’ve also been flying for 24 years, and would take the flying career path if I could get away with it.

    I bought the Diamond Star DA40 after reading your articles (about 500 hrs over 3 years so far, and absolutely love the airplane). Been keeping tabs on your site since the beginnings of the Diamond Owners website. I also have Twin Star #25 and D-Jet #32 on order, hoping to get the Twin Star by this fall!

    The problem is I couldn’t afford all the toys if I quit my day-job – I’d be flying someone elses toys. I work hard to finance my addiction to flying, and hope to get my ATP / CFII within the next two years. I’d love to teach multi-engine in the Twin Star, but I just can’t believe the insurance premiums for doing so! They make it completely unaffordable to teach in something nice.

    There is nothing in the world like flying your own airplane into the blue-green waters of the Caribbean Sea & island hopping, or flying over the desert & Grand Canyon to Las Vegas! I’d trade anything in the world to be able to do it more frequently. Hopefully that will happen when I get my Diamond Twin Star. Also, I had one lesson in an R22 2 years back, but haven’t had the time. One day!

    Take care & good luck with the helecoptor lessons. When I get my Twin Star you can have a ride.

    p.s.: I saw an article in an aviator magazine about ear-muffs just for dogs. If you are interested, I’ll find the article & send to you.

  9. Frank: Someone emailed me about these and I bought a pair. They do seem to stay on Alex’s head, but I haven’t tried them in flight yet (has been hellishly turbulent here in New England recently; the dog does not like being thrown out of his seat!).

  10. Lots of geek pilots: Larry Ellison (CEO of Oracle – has a de-militarized MiG), Eric Emerson Schmidt (CEO of Google), Dean Kamen (inventor or Segway, helo pilot – can you say negative stability?), Bob Pittman (ex-CEO of AOL, flew around the world on one eye with a special medical)

    BTW, Ken Thompson’s flight in a MIG is interesting reading: http://cm.bell-labs.com/who/ken/mig.html

  11. Phil,

    After I graduated, I joined the Army and became a helicopter pilot. I was in from 88-93 and flew around 800 hours (Hueys first, later Black Hawks – spent 1 1/2 yrs in Panama and 1 yr in Honduras). I found that flying itself became easier and… eventually somewhat boring with time and it did not fullfil my creative impulses. (Though, my occasional flights using night vision googles were still interesting and challenging) By the time I got out, I was ready for new challenges. At around 1996 I became a software developer. I currently work at a large company in San Jose.

    It is very funny to me that your trajectory is in the opposite direction. I wonder how long flying (itself) will remain challenging and interesting to you.

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