My name is Kenneth Thomas Francis Brown, but if my Dad had it his way, I would have been James Early since I was born a month early (the day before his birthday), and well, he loved James Earl Jones voice in Star Wars…
My Dad loved nicknames, acronyms, plays on words, etc. I remember him saying things like “The department of redundancy department” or mentioning “There are too many TLAs and FLAs in computers and electronics.” (Three Letter Acronyms and Four Letter Acronyms) all the time. An email address he used for many years started with hearhere. He had a software called Data Monger, another one called DIAR (Ducks in a Row); he would use Data Monger to gather information from websites, documents, etc. and put it all into a database and use DIAR to sort through and organize all of the data. He was creating things that people are starting to try to use AI for 30 years ago… He created a program to do facial recognition and tag people in it to help with a huge genealogy project BEFORE My Space, Facebook, or Google even existed. His Data Desk software was able to generate websites directly from the information in the database before PHP, Python, Java and most of the other web based programming languages existed (he created his own program to convert the data to HTML years before any public web based programming language existed to interact with a database).
So, to say my dad was a pioneer in databases and programming is putting it modestly. The crazy thing is that computers and databases weren’t even the things he considered himself to be “good” at…
Dad dropped out of high school, struggled with spelling and basic math, and never learned to type, but if you gave him virtually any electrical or mechanical item that was broken, he would take it apart, figure out why it broke, redesign it and put it back together, and then use that same tool that somebody else would have just thrown away for the next 40 years. I remember one time watching him take the wires wound around a transformer in a drill out and meticulously rewinding higher quality wire around the transformer and mentioning that the people who designed it initially should have done a different number of windings to get more power out of it. Why do I like Marvel movies? Because hearing Tony Stark advise Ivan Vanko how to get more power out of Ivan’s invention, watching the first Iron Man movie when Tony was in the cave building his first suit, seeing an old green and black monitor with reel to reel machines in the background like in Winter Soldier in the bunker was just a typical day with my Dad. Why do I like Star Wars? Because one of the consoles my dad worked on (and my sister and I got to play with) was the EXACT SAME MODEL RECORDING STUDIO CONSOLE that was on the Death Star when they fired the superlaser.
My Dad and I used to laugh about some of the “new” things coming out or the “futuristic tech” in sci-fi movies because many of them he had made 10 or 20 years prior.
My sister and I were homeschooled in I think 1990. One of the “classes” that my Dad taught me was mechanical drawing using his drafting machine, and also using the most up-to-date version of AutoCAD and MicroStation (because somehow we always received the newest versions of each due to him being an external developer for them). Dad was an excellent draftsman and also did amazing doodles/sketches of all sorts of things (hopefully we can find some of the things he has drawn to share).
We also went on a trip in a motor home that year that took us through nearly every state in the US as we zig zagged our way down to New Orleans where my Dad was doing the sound for the New Orleans Jazz Festival. It was too loud and too many people inside for my tastes as a second grader, so instead of being inside, I took my trusty magnetic chess set and took a bunch of money from security guards and random people outside that underestimated an 8 year old… My sister on the other hand, she was inside sitting on top of the speakers on the stage or getting hugs back stage from people like B.B. King.
As I had mentioned earlier, my Dad loved nicknames and stuff, he also loved merging names so it was one part descriptive and one part silly. He loved to share his knowledge with people and usually ended up giving examples of places he put that knowledge to use (sometimes there would be a lot more of the use cases than the lessons). One thing Dad wasn’t great at though was charging for things, or even really putting his name on something he had done (which is why so few people know about him even though he made massive technological advances in both sound and computers). I remember times companies needed his help and they would offer him equipment instead of pay, or if he thought it was a good cause (or even just a fun challenge), he would just give his work away. He had been trying to find homes for his sound gear for a while and one of the last things he wanted to do was to donate it to churches and schools. He also wanted a way to share more of his knowledge and experience. Here is an article from back in 2015 where he straight up said “I’m not a businessman, period.” and “I keep telling people, do it for free, put out a tip jar.… People will come back if it’s good.”
In July, he asked me if I had any jobs or projects that he could work on to have a bit of a distraction from his ailing body and struggling memory. At that moment, I didn’t have anything, but I started thinking about it and talking to some other people I know that are pretty involved and skilled in the tech world and I came up with Technitown. I got the domain and started getting things setup a bit in a fun way to keep things light, but still informative and useful so Dad would feel comfortable doing some smaller things instead of the huge projects he so often did in the past. I wanted him to be able to take a couple pictures or just do a video of him talking about a piece of gear he had and post it, or to do some small coding project with a wifi controller and share how he did it (or at least the code he created for it). I gave him a couple things to look into that were right up his alley with some small electronics combined with programming and controllers, and first thing in the morning on September 8th, I registered the business name so I could give him a “real job” again. I spent the day with him at the hospital on the 8th and was able to show him the website, that it was “official” and talk a bit more about how we would be getting the content online and all of that stuff. We also talked about a lot of things from the past that day and he had several moments where he was pretty confused even about who I was (he couldn’t get over the fact that I had glasses and a beard since up until more recently I didn’t) and later in the evening was constantly telling doctors and nurses really excitedly, “This is my son, KTFB!”
So, while Technitown was originally created primarily as a way for Dad to share his knowledge and have a sense of purpose, I am going to continue with that initial plan of freely giving away tech advice and guidance. I’m not the gifted programmer he was, so I won’t be creating things that are going to be pushing the limits of what people can imagine. But, I can analyze data, figure things out, and find solutions to problems extremely quickly, so I hope with the help of some like minded people, to be able to share things that will help everybody save time, reduce stress/frustration, enjoy/utilize technology better and most importantly, have more time for the things and especially the people they love.
Thank you all very much for taking the time to learn a bit more about who Thomas Brown was to me, please also take the time to read what my sister (Christine) shares because she loved the music and excitement side of things and while I was playing with the gadgets and helping setup some of the very first digitally controlled consoles (and freaking out people watching a 12 year old “playing” with their brand new recording studio console that cost as much as their house) she was backstage or on the stage with some of the greatest musicians of our time!