I sat seated with my graduating class in front of the stage. It was just after 2:30 and was a beautiful 75 degree Oklahoma spring day. May 4th, 1985. My name is John Cook, and I’m eight years old. Nine in two months.
I’m currently up for two Guinness book of world records, youngest undergraduate degree, and highest IQ. Earlier this month my friend, Dr Thompson gave me a new test. It scores up to 250. I finished it in record time, and with a perfect score, so my official IQ is now ‘Above 250.’
He’s also the one responsible for my graduation this semester. He convinced my parents and myself that I needed to step back from lab work, and everything else I was doing for a month, and take the remaining finals. He also enrolled me in a writing class just for writing scientific papers.
During that time I’ve either been taking tests or submitting papers to scientific journals around the world. My knowledge of French, German, Spanish, Russian, and Japanese has assisted greatly. As of today I have 36 published papers.
I also hold nine patents, play three instruments, part owner of a successful software company, author of a hit computer game, published author, and known around the world for solving the longest running problem in mathematics, Fermat’s Last Theorem.
It sounds like bragging, but what is most important to me is that I have saved over sixteen thousand lives. I could see number 14 looking at me from the audience. He was sitting with my parents, grandparents, and little sister. As the proverb says, “there is such a thing as a loving friend that sticks tighter than a brother.” That’s Matt, and at six foot eight he really stands out in a crowd, especially when he’s surrounded by nearly 100% white people.
I stood as my section of the graduate class stood. I’m towards the front of the line as it’s alphabetical. Finally I’m announced, “John W. Cook, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, and Computer Science.”
I started across the stage to the applause. Then the announcement continued, “In addition to being eight years old, he is the first quad major at our University.”
I stepped up to take my diploma, and get my traditional handshake, but the University President put a hand on my shoulder to keep me from following the other students around the stage and back to our chairs. “For groundbreaking work in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Physics he is also being awarded a Master’s Degree in each of those fields.”
I tried to act surprised. The agreement with the University was that I would work on those degrees during the fall semester, and they would award them afterwards. I very often have to act surprised. It’s because I don’t get surprised anymore.
I haven’t been surprised by anything for fourteen months. That’s when I became omniscient. I know things. Just about everything there is to know. I already had a photographic memory, but an experiment from a few hundred thousand years in the future attempted to send information into the past. It didn’t work as expected, and now I can remember the future too.
You’re probably thinking that remembering the future doesn’t sound like omniscience, which is knowing everything. That’s because I can remember every future. My future selves can go places, do things, even get themselves killed, and I remember it all. If I want to know what you did yesterday, they can kidnap you, pump you full of drugs and interrogate you and learn every secret you have. I remember it, and you don’t because it never happened. It’s a very practical form of omniscience.
That’s why I’m not surprised. But I’m supposed to be. My future selves are watching this moment via a video recording. I know I look surprised, I can remember the look on my face. But I particularly like the look of surprise that came next, it was one of my best.
“But, after reviewing his work in Physics. Particularly the invention of high temperature superconductors, and the work involved in describing the mathematical underpinning of the quantum effects involved, extending the boundaries of human knowledge in a brand new and unexpected direction, it is the pleasure of The University of Tulsa and it’s Doctoral Committee to award John W. Cook a Doctorate of Philosophy of Physics. Congratulations Doctor John Cook.” He said, reaching out to shake my hand.
There was massive applause from the audience as I vigorously shook his hand. He handed me the sheepskin, though it was just a prop. Even my fellow graduate were applauding and cheering wildly. When the cheering stopped, I was still standing there. The University President put his hand back on my shoulder, turned me in the correct direction, and gave me a little push to follow my classmates.
Amidst the laughter, he quipped, “Seems we stunned him as much as he’s stunned us.” Then he continued down through the graduates. Eventually we were back in our seats, the Valedictorian gave the final address, we tossed our caps, congratulated each other, and found our families. Before I could find mine I was cornered by the four Deans, Dr Thompson, Dr Maytubby, Dr Rice, Dr Gunner. They were heads of Psychology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics respectively.
“You gentleman are not nice for springing that surprise on me. But regardless, thank you very much!” I told them as I shook their hands. “You are all coming to my party I hope?” They all agreed that they would come.
I got big hugs from everybody in the family, Grandpa Joe right down to Mattie my little sister. Even a hug from Matt who as I said, is like a brother. Then we went to celebrate!
We were having a big party at the roof of our hotel. Last year when my grandfather learned that the family was going to move to Tulsa so I could go to the University he purchased a hotel in downtown Tulsa, the first of 15 so far. It had needed serious renovation, which my Dad had overseen. Part of the remodel had turned the top floor in to lab space for me, the floor below into private apartments for my family, my grandparents, my friend Matt, and recently my lawyer Jennifer. But the two jewels of the hotel, the fabulous beaux arts lobby, and the rooftop penthouse bar and lounge would be on display today.
The hotel was all but finished, staff was being trained in preparation of the big Grand Reopening. Today they would all be on hand to help throw a giant party. The family loaded into two minivans, shiny black with a white hotel logo on the side. Matt drove one, and a hotel shuttle driver drove the other.
As always I was with Matt, but in the back with me was Grandpa. Dad sat up front in the passenger seat. The other van carried Mom and Mattie in the back, and Grandma up front. Grandpa was gushing about how proud he was of me. I smiled as best I could, I knew this party wasn’t about me, but mainly about everyone involved in my life wanting to congratulate themselves for their part in my accomplishments. Either way I was determined to have fun.
We unloaded at the front, and were greeted by the valet who took the vans away. We were greeted next by the staff who was lined up in their uniforms clapping. Then into the two elevators, and straight to the roof. I was the only one dressed in comfortable clothes, they had been under my graduate robes, everyone else was dressed up.
We ordered drinks from the bartender, and I headed for a server for a canape. Once I had my pig in a blanket and my Dr Pepper, I sat at the giant white grand piano, and began to play. This way anyone who wished to talk to me could, as where I was would be obvious. It would also keep a crowd away, as it was only comfortable for a couple people at a time to stand close enough for conversation.
I looked around the room, we had rushed back so we could be here for our guests. The bar, officially ‘The Mayo Rooftop Lounge,’ was about 3200 square feet, an L shape. It had folding glass doors that opened out onto a roof deck, giving the space an additional 2500 square feet in good weather. The doors were folded back now, and some people were at the tables and chairs outside, others were looking out over the city. One group was taking turns using a telescope mounted there to examine the city.
I started to play softly enough to not cause anyone’s attention to turn my way. Mom disappeared for a bit to fix her makeup. When she returned she was carrying a big wrapped present that she set on the table designated for them. I let my eyes close as I sunk into the music, letting it wash over me, keeping me in the moment. No moment but the note being played, each note a moment, always in the now.
When I opened my eyes Jennifer Parz, my lawyer, was standing there. “Congratulations John. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to say hello at the graduation.”
“Hi Jen, I’m glad you got back from Corning in time. How did it go?” I asked her.
“Very well. As requested they purchased our license with stock, and will pay out a percentage of gross sales.” She gave me a dazzling smile, “10 percent. They already have orders for fifteen million dollars worth of product, and more coming in everyday. Carbon felt filtration is the product that every sector is looking to use to cut costs.”
“Well done Jennifer. Slide in next to me.” I told her as I slid over on the piano bench to make room. She sat so I softly asked her as I played a little louder, “Did you mention the other three products?”
“Yes, they about wet themselves in excitement. They didn’t believe me until I showed them the samples you gave me.”
“Good, I’d like the same type of deal for each additional product of mine they take on. I’m looking to acquire at least 25% of the company. Did you put the samples in the safe?”
“Excellent, any song request?” I asked.
“Play my favorite.” She said. It was a game we played. I’d ask her a question, she say “my favorite” and then I would perfectly choose her favorite. To her I was a mystery. To me she was an open book. It thrilled her in a way that I was too young to explore.
“Perhaps another day for that one, this really isn’t the time or place.” I told her, and began to play ‘Thank heaven for little girls’ instead. When I began singing the lyrics in my best Maurice Chevalier voice she burst into giggles.
The louder playing and her laughter caught attention of others and they began to trickle my way. As I ended the song, she stood up, gave me a kiss on the cheek and whispered, “I’ll take a rain check on that song.” into my ear.
The spot next to me open, and the song finished, I began another. As I chatted with people, I’d occasionally invite one lady or another to sit next to me, and then play a funny or silly romantic song for her. Later Matt tried to sit next to me, but I shook my head, “Sorry Matt, pretty girls only, and you’re not either.” He smiled and nodded knowing it for the joke it was.
Eventually a young lady sat down next to me. “You’re incredible.” She told me.
“In what way?” I asked.
“I’ve been here from nearly the start of the party and you’ve been playing for hours. No notes, just from memory. And you’re taking requests, any song anybody wants you are playing!”
“Do you play?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m the one who’s supposed to be playing soft background music. I have a one hour playlist, and then I have to start over.”
“Then let me leave you to your job, it’s about time for me to find the little boys room.”
“Thank you, but you’re still incredible.”
After the bathroom I went out to mingle. Snacks and Dr Pepper are a wonderful combination anytime. Eventually there was a call for attention. It was time for presents.
There were calls “Speech, speech, speech!” As I approached the front of the room to the table piled with packages. I pulled a chair around, and stepped up onto it so I could look out at everyone.
“Thank you for coming to my party. I’m still a little dazed that I have so much to celebrate. Like all such events in life worth celebrating, this party is simply the short moment between where we have been, and where we are going. May we always have more places to go, and reason to celebrate where we’ve been. Cheers!”
“Cheers!” The crowd responded back.
I stepped down, and had a seat in the chair I had been standing on. Dad handed me the first present. “This is from your girlfriend.” he teased.
“Just the president of my fan club.” I told him as I unwrapped the present. I was able to genuinely laugh in delight at the present. It was a t-shirt, and it said “I’m John Cook and I belong here.”
I stood up and pulled off my shirt, to cat calls and camera flashes, and put it on. Then I turned to show the audience still smiling widely. Amber, my oldest friend, and President of my fan club had gotten me the perfect gift. Her note simply said, “Sorry we couldn’t be there, congratulations.”
From there I opened more gifts, there seemed to be a lot of t-shirts because Mom had put in a request with the invitations, funny or custom t-shirts as gifts. A few were better than others, my top favorites were: ‘Mad Science is Fun Science.’ ‘I might have a PhD but I can still play Doctor.’ ‘Take me to your leader!’ ‘Super Conductor’ (with a picture of Superman conducting an orchestra).
Then came the gift from Grandma, it was a custom lab coat, my size which was four foot four, and lots of pens in a pocket protector on the front. It included massive black rubber gloves, black rubber boots, and large safety glasses. It was great. I put the coat on then gave her a hug.
There were the typical gag gifts, a stethoscope, a reflex hammer, and a speculum that came with a big magnifying glass, that made the women laugh, but the men just wondered what it was about. With that part of the festivities complete everyone was invited down to dinner at our new restaurant on the second floor.
I better explain our hotel, I’m rather proud of it as I did a lot of the layout work, and the custom artwork going in soon. It was built in 1925 and is locally famous. The second and third floor are U shaped, while the ground floor and mezzanine level are the full foot print of the building, about 140 feet on each side. The mezzanine space looks down onto the lobby and is reached by the grand staircase or the elevators
We had cut the full basement in half. It was now partly parking lot with a private entrance for the hotel. In addition to deliveries, it was a way for a guest to enter the hotel without coming thru the public lobby. The other half was our new spa and our indoor heated pool. The sub-basement below it had held the kitchen and laundry. Part of it was now the bottom of our basement pool, the remainder was still the laundry. The pool and spa were still under construction. We would offer everything from massage, steam, and sauna to beauty treatments and salon services. There was also a work out space with stationary bikes and treadmills.
The U shaped second floor, a 17000 sq foot space, got our biggest kitchen, and our premier dining room. Officially called ‘In Flagrante Delicious’ this would be it’s first event. Mom had surprisingly been happy with the name, she was convinced that it would help sell the hotel as a romantic getaway, especially on Valentine’s day.
This second floor is divided 60/40, seven thousand sq feet of kitchen space, ten thousand sq feet of dining space. With spacious seating for 500 it’s a big restaurant. The third floor has a second 5000 foot kitchen that handles the breakfast buffet, pastry production for the coffee shop on the lobby level, and the 24hr room service. The remainder of the 12000 feet of the third floor is a multi purpose space, with accordian walls it can be sized as required. Primarily for meetings and small conventions, it also handles the breakfast buffet.
Two more restaurants are on the premises. First a coffee shop, ‘The Daily Grind,’ that is reachable from either the lobby, the street, or the mezzanine level as it is 2 story. The Grind does counter service, pastries, sandwiches and fountain drinks. The coffee shop is served by dumb waiter from both kitchens so doesn’t actually cook anything more than making and serving coffee and other drinks.
Second a bistro/pub, ‘Twister Grill’ also accessible from the street, or the lobby. It plates the meals served, but most of the cooking is done in the hotel restaurant above, arriving via dumb waiter. The ‘Twister’ offers table service, does hot food with beer and wine but only with meals, Both restaurants can be fully provided by either kitchen as needed.
Both ground level restaurants are next door to each other, and accessible from South Cheyenne Avenue. The hotel lobby entrance is on West 5th Street. In addition to the second floor of the coffee shop, which is primarily couches, easy chairs and coffee tables, Hotel concierge, managers office, and gift shop are on the mezzanine level, while check in desk, valet station, bellboy station, and an open sitting and relaxing area finish off the ground floor.
Floors four and five offer two bedroom luxury suites with balconies in the rooms facing the interior of the U shape. A mix of one, and two bedroom suites without balconies are on floors six thru nine. Floors ten thru fifteen have two and three bedroom apartments. Fifteen, where we live, has only five apartments, the rest is a board room and Grandpa’s business office. The hotel manages the entire property, but level fifteen is private, and the ones on twelve thru fourteen will be leased out as luxury residences, catering mainly to single people who work downtown, while ten and eleven are daily or weekly thru the hotel.
While I was explaining this, everyone arrived on the second floor at In Flagrante Delicious. Our new chef and his staff did his best, even Ms Double approved. The highlight of the evening was the charred leek ice cream at the end.
My Grandpa stood, tapped his glass with a fork, and the room quieted. “Thank you all for coming to my hotel. I think we can all express our appreciation for the work in that wonderful meal.” He said leading a round of applause. “My name is Joseph Carpenter, John is my grandson. Of course, I’m Jewish, and we Joseph Carpenters are known for having famous descendants.” He said to a roll of laughter from the dinners. “While previous Carpenters had a famous son, I’m very happy to have famous grandson. As a special thank you for joining us in this celebration, Mark, standing over there, has a card for a free three night stay at any of my hotels. Please see him anytime after dinner. You are also invited to use your card immediately and become our first guests here tonight.
“I also want to say a few words about my grandson, Dr John Cook. I’ve never seen a young man who works so hard. When I asked him how his school work was doing, worried that he was pushing himself, his response was simply, ‘It’s not difficult, there’s just a lot of it.’ Then he went on to do it all at record speed.
“I’ve never seen a young man who seemed so humble about his accomplishments. When I showed him a newspaper article, or a magazine article about his Chess wins, his computer game selling 500 thousand copies, his book being on The New York Times best seller list, or someone extolling the way his new water filter is going to save hundreds of thousands of lives around the world, he simply smiles and says, ‘I’m glad I could do it, it was fun.’ or ‘I’m glad I could do it, it is really needed.’
“My Grandson, who is quite likely the smartest person in the world, had the best answer when I asked him what he wanted most for a birthday present, ‘I’d like everyone to be happy, and have what they need.’ then he added, ‘but puberty would be pretty great too.” Grandpa said getting another laugh.
“To my Grandson, may you have both wishes, that everyone is happy and has what they need, and puberty when you’re thirteen. We will all support your noble wishes to the best of our ability. L’chaim!” He concluded to loud applause from the guests.
With the festivities over, I made my goodbyes, and went up to the sixteenth floor. My lab space. This had been the hotels original ballroom. It would be again someday, but for now the double height space was ideal. It was here that I created a method to crack carbon dioxide at five Watt hours per liter, and created graphene flakes that I baked into what I called carbon felt. Carbon felt was now being produced by Corning, which is what I had been discussing with Jennifer.
My newest products for them were bubbling away. The first was a roll of graphene thirty six inches wide. The roll it was spooling onto after coming out of manufacturing was already four feet thick. I used a small dolly to lift it up and move it next to two other rolls already provided.
The second product was a diamond. It was still growing, but for now was about a half kilo of pure diamond. Around 2500 carats. This was my second big diamond. Jennifer had packed the first off to Corning, then brought it back and put it in the safe in her apartment. It was to convince Corning it really was man made, it was six by eight inches, and had my signature imbedded inside it. Just a little red nail polish during forming, and then growing the diamond around the signature. It was a startling effect.
A third project was at work in a corner, it was also going onto a roll. It was a form of carbon felt that was extraordinarily strong, and impervious to all gases, including hydrogen. Best of all, I had it down to a half millimeter thickness.
There was a knock at the door and Matt looked in. Seeing I was in the room, he came in closing the door behind. “I came to change out the roll of graphene.” he told me.
“I took care of it.” I told him.
“Quite the party.”
“Yes it was. I’m going to bed soon, everything ready for tomorrow?”
“All packed, Jennifer said she’s ready too.” he assured.
“Ok, goodnight then. See you at breakfast.” I told him as he left. Now alone I moved to an open space and began my Tai Chi. I moved into a meditation state as I went through my favorite long form variation. I let the peace of the now soak into my soul.
The voices stirred.
Thanks for visiting again
You guys lonely?
Of course not, always plenty of you around to talk to.
I know that I’m on the right path, but I really don’t like the choices in front of me. I need to go deeper, remember deeper, go further.
This is the way, follow us.
The universe exploded, as I touched infinite possibilities. My inner eyes opened to images, sounds, experiences. I lived a thousand lifetimes, tried a million variations.
Those are the choices, those are the compromises. It is an unusual business, but you are all we have.
I’m finding the frenzy in the media about me to be really oppressive. It’s only going to get worse.
That never changes. But, you grow used to it.
I hate what I’m putting people I care about thru. There’s all these things I’m doing. It’s like I keep jumping from flower to flower. People see the busy little bee but don’t understand all the seeds I’m making.
The perfect choices will always require sacrifice. You are beginning to face that reality for the first time.
It’s so strange, I used to be so proud of showing off my abilities. I have my degree, and my PhD. Every event till now has been carefully orchestrated, probabilities prodded, displaying abilities in front of just the right person, at just the right time. It’s felt forced, not who I really am. It’s like all my choices are scripted.
You’ve made good choices. The script is your own.
I guess it’s just business as usual, I just wish I wasn’t so dependant on me, there’s so much on my shoulders. It feels very lonely knowing the only person who really understands is a future me.
After breakfast Matt, Jennifer, and I climbed into the van. A hotel employee drove as this would be an airport run. At the airport we boarded a Cessna 208 configured for six passengers and cargo. It was a quick flight to a small airport outside Dallas.
There I had a meeting at Heartland Software. After getting settled around the conference table, Blake Sanders, my business partner, and CEO introduced the other members in the room. Then continued, “Dr Cook, congratulations, are you bringing us new software, or something else?”
“Glad to be back here Blake, and congratulations on your deal with Tandy. I’m here because I want to run an idea past you.
“What do you think of merging with another software company or two?”
“I don’t know, we are successful enough now that we don’t need to do so. What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking that I purchase 25% of two other companies, we split the software categories up between them, programming systems and utilities stay here at Heartland, one of the others takes games, the third does educational software. Each company gets 25% of the new company.”
“I want to keep Civilization here, but why does this make sense?” he asked.
“Perhaps we keep strategy games here. It makes sense if the three divisions all report to a single over company that manages production, sales, distribution, and does most of the marketing. The combined cost savings of being able to offload that makes the three divisions more profitable, and able to better focus on making product.”
“I see the business logic. Who are you thinking of going to?”
“Broderbund and Sierra On-line.”
“Broderbund competes with us with their Turbo Pascal, but they also do education. Sierra makes adventure games, so I see where they both fit. Do you think they would go for it?”
“Broderbund has investors that want their money back, Sierra would like to offload marketing and production, they’re happiest writing games. I think I can convince them both.”
“What do you want to call the new company?”
“BHS Productions works for me. I certainly don’t want to call it Cook Productions.”
“And the existing owners would all have a place in the board of BHS?”
“Yes, Jennifer here would vote my shares on the board.”
“Well go see if they’re interested and get back to me. It would be nice to end the Broderbund competition, we are matching them on price but we have a better product.”
“The best benefit of the deal is that they get first use of our programming updates. Sierra has a problem right now because they wrote Kings Quest for the IBM PC/JR, and it’s not really IBM compatible, so they are having to go back and rewrite it for the new PC/AT. It’s extra difficult because while its a novel game, IBM didn’t sell many JRs.”
“One thing that will happen is you’ll get programmers from all three divisions moving between the divisions to where they want to write. If the merger happens we can’t let the divisions get hard feelings about moving software development or programmers around.”
“I can see that. I’ve been thinking that a magazine would be good for the company too, somewhere to advertise all three divisions.”
“There is no combination PC/MAC magazine, perhaps something considering hardware of both, plus software. We can emphasize when software is available on both, articles on writing for both, and even learn to program articles.”
“I like that idea, when do you plan on meeting with the others?”
“Sometime in the next couple months.”
From there we discussed what the company was working on, then broke for lunch. Lots of people wanted to come congratulate the new Dr Cook. After going to lunch I went with Jennifer to her office in Dallas. There I met with a group of law firm partners, praised her work for me with Corning, and requested the firm open a satellite office in Tulsa. They agreed to discuss it. After that it was an hour flight back to home and dinner.
Our family has been having meals together since moving into the hotel. Now that In Flagrante Delicious was open, graduation night having served as a sort of Grand opening, the hotels kitchens were fully staffed, and our three restaurants fully open to the public. A few of our guests from the party had taken up the free rooms offer that night, and so were still on site enjoying a breakfast buffet downstairs. We were eating a similar family buffet served in one of the unused rooms on our floor earmarked as future office space.
I had just finished eating when the phone rang. Everyone looked around for a moment wondering who would call here, then Grandpa went to the phone.
“This is Joe.” He said.
His eyes got big, and he looked at me. “It’s for you John.”
I took the phone, “Hello this is John Cook, how may I help you.”
“Please hold for the President of the United States.” said a voice.
I put my hand on the receiver, “It’s the President!”
“Congratulations Dr Cook. My National Science Advisor recommended I give you a call. I’m glad to tell you how proud and astounded we are by your accomplishments. You’ve even made the news here in Germany. I’d very much like for you to come for a visit at the White House after I get back. I’ll have my office contact you.”
“Thank you Mr President, very much. I’m so honored by the invitation and am looking forward to it. I want to say that I appreciate what you did in Germany yesterday. If we can’t have peace with Germany after 40 years we never will. I know people accuse you of sabre rattling, but I realize you’re just reminding the world of the consequences of not seriously seeking peace first.”
“Thank you son, I feel much the same way. Perhaps young people like you and Samantha Smith can help the world find a way to peace.”
“I would love to meet her sir. Do you think we could both come visit you?” I asked.
“I don’t see why not, nice to have young people come visit the White House. I’ll have my staff get with you.”
“Again thank you for calling me Mr President. I’m looking forward to meeting you and the First Lady.”
The line clicked and an efficient young man came on the phone. He gave me a contact number, and asked several questions about the size of my family and who they were. I mentioned I had a personal assistant so they wanted Matt’s information too.
I turned to the family who stopped whispering to each other, “Looks like we’ve been invited to the White House!”
Everyone started asking questions immediately, So I explained the conversation. Even though everyone was excited Mattie had one week left of school, so Mom had to get her ready to go. I excused myself, as I had errands to run. On my way out the door I said, “Grandpa can you join Matt and I today? We leave at nine.” And walked away before he could answer.
Matt and I checked the three experiments, then I spent some time writing letters. At nine I went down to the basement garage. There Matt and Grandpa were waiting for me. Matt checked out one of the hotel shuttle vans, and we took off heading south east towards Broken Arrow.
As we traveled I explained that we were going to check on an engineer I had hired for the hotel artwork. Grandpa was suitably excited. We eventually got to the house, it was an older area that had homes with actual property, some had horses, others big barns. So much of this area was on it’s way to being indistinguishable. Cookie cutter houses on postage stamp lots, green space provided by manicured golf courses. Every section and subdivision in big squares, neat and straight. I was not a fan but understood the economic reality.
Matt had been here before with me, and knew the way. He pulled up to a big steel shop building, and we got out. Nobody seemed to be around, so I told Matt to honk the horn. When he did the sliding door on the very large building slid open.
I walked up and greeted the guy that came out, “Ted, how are you? How’s the project?” I asked.
“It’s working great, glad you came to check it out.”
I introduced Grandpa, then Ted showed us the tile printer. He was visibly excited as it ran on its own in the middle of the shop. He started explaining how it worked, “John hired me to build the tile printer for him. Together we worked out the design and he wrote the software while I built the hardware. It runs on an IBM compatible PC.
“John’s magic eye software saves the finished artwork as a text file, a column of letters A thru P. I insert the disk and tell it to print. Each letter corresponds to a different color. John provides a pallet sequence, and I load up the colors according to the instructions. Each color is a 1/2 inch tile.
“Once it’s all set, the printer drops the tile on a mesh made of nylon. Glue holds the tile in place. The whole thing slides off the printer down an incline down to the floor. I have to keep adjusting it so it doesn’t bunch when it hits the floor, but that’s only for the last two feet. It puts all the colored tiles in exactly the right space.
“When it’s done printing, I move the sheet of tiles to the side. I’ve got the mermaid picture on the floor right now if you want to see.”
“What’s magic eye?” Grandpa asked.
“Marketing, autostereogram was too big of a mouthful. We will do color posters, prints, and a couple coffee table books for the hotel. My publisher thinks it will be very popular.” I explained.
“Wow she’s not wearing much.” Matt said as his eyes focused. Ted blushed a little, that one had been left out on the floor for a reason.
“That looks great.” Grandpa said, “I love how the green tiles seem to be seaweed growing behind her. How much of the pool is finished?”
“I’ll be done with the four walls around the pool at the end of the week.” Ted told him.
“I thought that it would be 1 inch tiles.” Grandpa said.
“It made the hidden images too large. By reducing the tile size by half, I’m actually quadrupling the resolution. Now instead of one tile, there are four. Ted has designed the machine so that he can change tile size by changing the printer hopper that holds the colors separate. It’s just a simple switch in the program that tells it tile size, and how many tiles go in a row. We can only do 24 inch strips at time, but length is limited only by the length of the mesh sheet. The ones we are using right now are all 10 feet long.”
“This will work for more than magic eye pictures right?”
“Yes, any design, any size, sixteen colors maximum with this machine. We can do patterns, words, pictures, artwork, photographs the list goes on.” I told him.
“This is fantastic. It’s so much more durable than any other artwork for a building. Have you tested how easy it is to install?” Grandpa asked.
“Yes, our contractor has a smaller job where the owner wanted a herringbone pattern in his bathroom, using small tiles, and University of Tulsa colors. We printed that out, and he was able to install it in just a couple of hours. He loved it, the owner loved it, it worked so well that he wants to buy one of these for himself.”
“Really!” Exclaimed Ted. “How much?”
“I told him it was fifty five thousand for the machine, including service and repairs for a year. So as soon as you’re at a point where this is under control, I need you to start building a second one.”
Ted whooped loudly and danced across the room. Grandpa looked at me for an explanation. “He gets half of whatever we sell one for, minus cost of materials. It’s about twenty grand for him. It’s part of our deal, I pay for materials, and an hourly wage for him to build and run this machine. If I sell it or any copies he builds, he gets half of net. He provides space and electricity for the work.”
“He’s not going to be able to keep up with orders once the pictures of the hotel get spread around.” Grandpa noted.
I agreed, then verified the arrangements made for the contractor to come pick up the sheets of tile, that they were all numbered, and marking which end was up. A ten foot sheet rolled up took two men to lift. While we rode back to the hotel I talked to Grandpa about the hotels Grand reopening on the first of June, and explained I wanted to do something special for the celebration.
“Since the city denied your fireworks permit, I want to do a fire tornado on the roof.”
“What is that?”
“Just as it sounds, a tornado made of fire. It’s held in place by the machine that spins to make it. It’s very impressive, but not very dangerous if you’re careful. It’s just a propane burner and some wind. We will have a small one outside on the street so people know what it is, otherwise they will think the hotel is on fire.”
“That seems pretty crazy.” He told me.
“I agree, way crazy.” Matt chimed in.
“So crazy that it will be on every TV news channel in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas.” I told him confidently.
That was advertising dollars Grandpa understood. “Build a little one first so I can see it work. I mean little too, under a foot tall.” he insisted.
So when we got back to the hotel I went to to my lab and built a little one, it was hand powered, with a small handle to turn the spinner. For fire it used an alcohol burner from a mobile hot buffet table. For safety I used chicken wire to enclose it on the sides and top.
After lunch I demonstrated it to Grandpa, Grandma and Mom. Dad was at Grandpa’s Fountainhead resort for the day reviewing upgrades and needed maintenance. They were all impressed with the tornado, but not the machine. I assured them this was a quick prototype, the real machine would be prettier. Then they asked how big would the tornado on the roof be.
I smiled and said, “I’ll try to keep it under five hundred feet.”
“We better warn the Fire Marshal.” Grandpa said.
Mom and Grandma just looked at him as if he were nuts. Then Grandma spoke up, “This is really pretty. Could you make them a little smaller, and nicer? They would really go well on the tables at In Flagrante Delicious. Much more attractive than candles.”
“That’s a great idea Grandma!” I told her, “The name means literally blazingly delicious. That’s why the chef has that charred leek ice cream.”
“We will want probably a thousand of them, for the tables and for our gift shop.” Mom added.