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Harriman Expedition Retraced

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Lawrence Charters

NOAA Computer Specialist


Lawrence Charters

Lawrence Charters
Lawrence Charters, NOAA computer specialist, helped design the Web site you are now reading. For more than two years he has been involved in the Harriman Alaska Expedition Retraced, and not only on the Web. He is responsible for the mobile computing and telecommunications equipment that will be used during the expedition. In fact, when the Clipper Odyssey pulls away from the dock, Charters will be on board, working the computers.

He admits that he is an unlikely "computer guru," given his master's degree in history from Washington State University. "Historians teach, talk and write," he says, "and while I enjoyed all three, I hated typewriters. So I wrote programs to turn an early personal computer into a "magic typewriter," what we'd now call a word processor. After that, things rapidly got out of hand." At NOAA, he is in charge of over a hundred web sites. He keeps the networks operating, tweaks software and equipment, and helps web site managers, usually scientists, create sites that convey information clearly to the average citizen.

Charters has been teaching and writing about microcomputers for twenty years, but has not lost touch with his historian roots. He has written articles on Japanese history and culture, and science fiction pieces that reflect his very broad range of interests. It is no surprise to learn he was excited about the Harriman Expedition Retraced from the first. "I found the mix of science, history, culture and natural environment irresistible. Growing up in the "empty" part of the Pacific Northwest -- eastern Washington and Oregon -- I've watched the transformation that technology and economic pressures have brought there. Development in Alaska began at about the same time, but the results are becoming evident in a much slower way."

His training as an historian lends itself to taking the long view, but one place history doesn't go is into the future. For this, Charters recommends science fiction, in particular the works of Kim Stanley Robinson, including Antarctica, and the trilogy Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. "For those who feel science writing is dull, I suggest John McPhee's The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed, which deals with aviation, or The Curve of Binding Energy, a riveting look at the development of atomic power."

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For information on the Harriman Retraced Expedition e-mail: harriman2001@science.smith.edu

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