By Jody Weisel
The phone in my office never rings—because I don’t have a phone in my office. If you call MXA and ask the receptionist to connect you to me,
the phone will ring in Daryl Ecklund’s office. It’s not that
I don’t want to talk to you; it’s just that most likely I’m
at a racetrack somewhere. No need to fear; Daryl will call
me, and then I’ll call you back.
I don’t have an iPhone, Samsung incendiary device or
Google phone. Nope! I have a flip phone. It can receive
calls and make them. It does not surf the internet, give
me driving directions, shoot photos or work as a flashlight. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I once had a smartphone,
but it was too smart for me. It made phone calls I didn’t
want to make—even when it was in my pocket. It forced
me to read when all I wanted to do was talk. It was that
constant companion that eventually turned irritating. In
short, it was George Orwell’s future come true.
Please don’t send me a text. I might read it, but I won’t
answer it. Just call me and I will flip my phone open and
say “Yes” or “No” in five seconds. Job done.
I’m not gonna “friend” you on Facebook, because
I’m not a 40-year-old woman. On the plus side, I won’t
“unfriend” you. It goes without saying that I don’t tweet,
Instagram, Facetime, Skype, Snapchat or Periscope. To
me, friends and acquaintances are real flesh and blood.
I don’t want to be connected to the world 24/7. If I
became one of those robots that walks around staring at
a glowing blue light every waking hour of the day, I’d
put that phone against my head and call Apple customer
service to get placed on hold for 13 hours in hopes that a
brain tumor would put me out of my misery.
It may surprise you to learn that I was once a
computer genius. Even I am stunned to hear those words
come out of the mouth of a man whose DVD machine
still flashes “12:00” after six years. You could call me an
early adopter of computer sciences. While working on
my PhD in gerontology, I spent hours on the university’s
IBM 7090. It took up a whole floor of the computer lab.
I had to book time to run my social research projects
and typically could only get access after midnight. I had
undergraduate students go door to door to ask questions
of social significance, typically for the U.S Government’s
health, education or welfare departments. I would
then have different undergraduates transfer all of the
questionnaires into thousands of punch cards on an
IBM Key Punch machine.
This is where I came into the picture. I was proficient
in two computer languages of the 1970s: Fortran and
Cobalt. Back then, I would sit at the computer’s keyboard
and type in long strings of code to instruct the IBM main-
frame to turn the holes in the stack of punch cards into
confirmation or rejection of my hypothesis via a formula
known as “chi-square.” Chi-square determined whether or
not the answers to my survey questions were statistically
significant. Oh, did I mention that after I wrote my pro-
gram and put the cards into the IBM mainframe, I could
then go home and take a nap, because it took several
hours to get the answer? (Which often was that I typed
one number incorrectly in my initial code.)
During the giant Y2K scare, everyone thought the
world was going to end when the calendar hit January
1, 2000. Why? Because old Fortran and Cobalt programs
that had fed industry, commerce and the military for
decades had never been programmed to compute any
information beyond 1999. Since modern programmers
had never learned these antiquated codes, computer
programmers who knew the two ancient IBM languages
were in great demand. As for me, I was scarred for life
by my long nights in the university’s computer lab and
had flushed every iota of code out of my personal internal
mainframe. Whether I helped or not, however, the world
did not end on New Year’s Eve.
MXA switched to computers back in 1985. I still miss
the clickety-clack of my trusty old Smith Corona.
So, what does this have to do with motocross? A
lot—and very little. The American motocrosser has never
been so far removed from what motocross is really about.
Compared to his 1970 counterpart, the modern racer is
a mechanical illiterate, a historical dunce and sissified
fashionista. And, the sport has gone from the purity
of racing motorcycles across the ground to an endless
series of virtually meaningless jumps. That’s considered
progress, and along with progress come computers,
ECUs, microprocessors and sensors. We are on the verge
of an electronic revolution in motorcycle development—
one that will make modern mapping look like silly Fortran
code. I don’t look forward to the brave new world of
computer-controlled bikes. It just moves man farther away
from the thing he loves—his bike.
Sadly, the venerable carburetor will soon be sitting in
a museum next to my Smith Corona. Long live the
uncomplicated two-stroke—new or old. ;