I wrote a letter to myself on Monday, February 5, 1998. I opened it today (Tuesday, February 5, 2013). I was delighted by what I saw, as it affirmed the continuity of my core identity. I’ve often stated that my world-view has not changed much since I was 15 years old. Now I have proof to back that up. I’ll scan a copy at some point, because the text alone isn’t sufficient to express the entry. Below I’ve copied the text for reference along with comments made by my 30-year-old self.
I’ve marked today as “WD:2B5F – Act III”, marking the beginning of my third “15-year” span of existence. Back-dating in my current date format, I started this process on WD:15F8. The next date will be WD:40C5 (Sunday, February 5, 2028).
The letter itself is organized on an 11×17 sheet of paper. It has two sides and was enclosed in an envelope for the last 15 years. The text below is copied verbatim from the hand-written original. I’ve preserved the spirit of my handwriting where applicable. The paragraphs in the actual letter are written in 8 distinct regions of the page and were numbered to preserve order for my future-self.
RR 1 Box 79
Auburn, NE 68305
USA, Earth, Milky-Way
February 05, 1998
February 05, 2013
Back of Letter [C1]
W i l l i a m B i c k f o r d
[ In cursive ]:
Do not open until February 05, 2013.
February 05, 1998
Content Text Border [C2]
Do not open this journal for 15 years. At that point in time, I will be 30 years old, and I should be well on my way to achieving my goals for my life. Of course, if I have not started down my road to success, I will still have time to start, even at the age of thirty. Now I will begin my writing for what I want to accomplish in my life. Of course, I cannot begin untill [C3] I have reached the end of my text border. I just noticed that I used “of course” twice (I did not plan that. [C4]
My immediate goal is to go to college at M.I.T (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). As I said, this is my immediate goal; my long-range goal is to bring my company (Xedoloh Software) into the forefront of the computing world. I have many new ideas that I feel would revolutionize the world of computers. Please follow this to paragraph number 2.
As I mentioned in paragraph 1, I have many ideas for computers. My best idea is a 3D-voice-activated computer. It will incorporate many new technologies that are only now being developed. The basic idea is to streamline all aspects for the end-user. As a result of a 3D environment, tasks will be more intuitive. Continued on section 3.
At the same time that the 3D environment will make tasks easier for the user, it will also allow for easier manipulation of 3D objects (as no conversions to a 2D surface will be needed. [C5] More processing will be available for advanced effects. Continued on S4.
While this immediately benefits PC Games, all people will eventually gain from this conversion to 3D, as more realistic VA (virtual assistant)’s will be possible [basically eliminating most secretaries]. Well, that is a snipit [C6] of what I want to do in the computer industry.
Today is February 05, 1998. I am 15 years, 4 months, and 12 days old. [C7!] On the day I open this time-warp, I will be 30 years, 4 months, and 12 days old. The date will be February 05, 2013. Today we had a basketball game (Varsity) at 8:45. We won 71-42. It was an o.k. game.
As you have probably noticed by now, this document is arranged symmetrically, indexed, and has some artistic aspects. This probably shows something about my character (although I do not know what it shows). I am almost done with my T.V. Table in Shop [Intermediate Technology].
I hope that my writing does not appear too jagged, I tend to skip from topic to topic. Oh well, I’m trying to put the most important aspects on paper.
Right now I am listening to various types of music (Mozart, unknown, myself…). Music is another area I wish to explore. Actually, I am interested in most areas of life. I just hope I have time for it all.
Abstract Art | Left-Hand | Right-Hand [ Art ] This is my left- This is my handed writing. right-handed writing. I was born on I was born September on September 13, 1982. 13, 1982.
C1 – Back Page Corners
The corners have identical symbols in them, but they are not rotated logically.
C2 – Content Text Border
The border is decorated with text that has no exact beginning or end. This was intentional.
C3 – Misspelling
I obviously meant ‘until’. Nothing in the letter deals with farming. I generally have a very low false-positive spelling error rate. This was one of two misspelled words in the document. I remember not being sure about how many l’s I needed. At 30 I recognized this one immediately.
C4 – How to annoy a web developer
Good job, 15-year-old-Will! Looks like Randall Monroe unwittingly took a page out of your error-book some years later: XKCD – Tags
C5 – Errors Bubble Up
Here again we see that I’ve dropped my closing parenthesis again. Doh!
C6 – Misspelling #2
Here I meant ‘snippet’. I don’t remember being unsure about the spelling, so this counts as a full error. At 30 I recognized this error immediately.
C7 – Importance of Age Calculation
There are two things to notice here. First: I cared about how old I was down to the day. Second: Somehow I got it wrong. I was actually 5,624 days old (WD:15F8). The calculation in this letter puts me at about 5610 days, depending upon how you add it up. The worst error was in simply adding 15 years to calculate my 30-year-old age. Oh well, live and learn!
Upon opening the letter a chunk of memory became activated from the night I finished the assignment. Prior to opening the letter I could remember vaguely that I was supposed to be running my own company (Xedoloh Software). I thought I had written it during my English class at school, but the basketball score rules that out. Apparently JB played against NE City Lourdes that night. I believe that I started the entry in class, but finished it at home.
The “best” idea articulated in my letter was essentially stolen from Star Trek (i.e. the holodeck). I refined the idea to include virtualization technology a couple of years later through discussions with my dad. I wanted to build a meta operating system that allowed me to display portals into sub-systems running operating systems such as Windows, Mac, and Linux. Fast forward 15 years and I routinely use several virtual machines at work to do just that – minus the 3D or any system design effort on my part! Although the key aspect of the system I described in the letter was the use of actual 3D objects, not just 2D screens displaying 3D objects.
Spelling / Content Accuracy: 99%
I made a total of 4 Errors in the 487 words presented, for an overall word-level accuracy of 99 percent. Two words were misspelled and two parenthetical statements were not closed properly.
Prediction Accuracy: 14.3%
1. Do not open for 15 years: 1/1
2. On-course for goals: 0/1
3. Attend MIT: 0/1
4. Xedoloh Software: 0/1
5. 3D-voice-activated computer (i.e. ‘holodeck’): 0/1
6. Age calculation: 0/2
My goals have obviously changed over the years. The only thing I managed to do right was wait exactly 15 years to open the letter!
“Of course, if I have not started down my road to success, I will still have time to start, even at the age of thirty.”
This sentence underscores the fact that I apparently had only one path to success at the time (oops!) and that I felt thirty was old.
While I’ve maintained core aspects of my personality over the last 15 years, there is one striking difference between then and now: my world-view at 15 was focused entirely on me. This expanded to me and Libby in 2004. We now have two cats and a dog to take care of as well, but no kids so far. Naturally my plans have adjusted to compensate!
The text border featured squeezing text similar to a #twoosh on twitter – I filled the space exactly by design. I’ve continued and refined the practice of counting my age in days. I now prefer hexadecimal days since birth with a “Will Date” prefix (hence WD:2B5F). I still want to develop intelligent software systems, although I’ve focused more on automation technology than 3D graphics during my career thus far.
Where To Go from Here
As I alluded to above, I’m writing a new journal to be opened on WD:40C5. It will be interesting to compare and contrast the three viewpoints in 2028.