I was reading when the phone rang. Debbie said, “Quick you’ve got to get down to the IBM office!” “Where’s that?” “It’s in that tall building in downtown Berkeley, and the lecture starts in fifteen minutes.” With no more than that explanation I ran to the BART station where I saw that a train was approaching; thus I ran through the station and up the escalator and dodged through the closing doors. Puff, puff, puff. We stopped at North Berkeley station for a bit, then off to the Berkeley BART station. Ran up the escalator, thru the doors, and into the elevator, where I asked, “Puff, puff, where is the IBM office?” “Top floor.”
I stepped into a room crowded with a mix of business-suited people and shabby ones, too. All of them looked like Berkeley geeks. There wasn’t even standing room in the back, so I curled around the right side toward the podium, when a guy spoke to me. My first thought was this suited guy was going to ask me for my credentials … for crashing this lecture.
He transferred a small flat box to his other hand and held out his right hand in greeting and mentioned his name. However, in my super hurried state I didn’t even hear it, and we shook hands while I said my name. We chatted for a few seconds about the beautiful view out the top floor window of the University of California campus, the San Francisco Bay, and the crowd packed for the lecture.
“Do you want to introduce me?” Without missing a beat I said, “I think the guy by the podium is scheduled for that” and stepped back with a smile and a gesturing hand in the general direction of the podium. In a couple of seconds, that guy said, “And here he is, the man we’ve been waiting for, a man we all revere who needs no introduction … Vint Cerf!” Everyone cheered and clapped enthusiastically.
Without a moment’s hesitation, he said, “A funny thing happened on the way over here. I was called to the White House in Washington DC and yesterday was sitting in the hall in front of the President’s office next to a guy who was also waiting. He said to me, “Who are you?” “Vint Cerf.” “What did you do?” “I invented the internet.” “What did you do?” “I went to the Moon.” “Neil Armstrong?” “No, Buzz Aldrin.” We laughed and shook hands and were called into the office, where I was given this.” He opened the box and showed us his Presidential Medal of Freedom.
This is a Google photo, but when I talked to him he was holding his Presidential Medal of Freedom. Vint then gave a motivational talk to this crowd that included some people of well-earned distinction, like Andrew Kay of Kaypro computers. That was a successful portable computer before Apple and IBM-PC displaced them. I got to talk to Andrew Kay for a while.
An hour and a half after that phone call I was sitting in the Med having coffee. Things happen in Berkeley.