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Lord British is Going Into Space

by on Apr.14, 2008, under Near Earth, People

Richard Garriott

Richard Garriott

Richard Garriott, the 46-year-old creator of the Ultima series of computer games, will become the world’s sixth space tourist in Oct. 2008. It has cost him a cool US$30 million to join that select few.

Garriott was born in Cambridge, England on Jul. 4, 1961. His father was astronaut Owen, would later fly aboard Skylab and the Space Shuttle.

Raised in Nassau Bay, Texas, Garriott attended Clear Creek High School. He acquired the nickname “Lord British” there, from students who though he spoke with a British accent.

Whilst at Clear Creek, Garriott developed an interest in computers and programming computer games. He gave away his early efforts free to friends. He published his first game “Akalabeth” in the summer of 1980. This paid for his college fess at the University of Texas at Austin, which he joined later that year.

During the early 80s, Garriott developed the hugely successful Ultima series of games under the pseudonym Lord British. At first, California Pacific Computers then Sierra On-Line, published the Ultima games. For the third instalment, Garriott set up Origin Systems with his father, brother and others to publish and distribute the game. He sold Origin to Electronic Arts in Sep. 1992.

Garriott is currently living in Austin, Texas at the Ultima inspired, Britannia Manor. Features include secret passages, a dungeon and an observatory. Garriott keeps his many collections of rare artefacts here.

As well as a successful programmer and entrepreneur, Garriott is a keen explorer, being a member of Explorer’s Club. He has dived on the Titanic and collected meteorites in the Antarctic.

Garriott acted as corner man for friend, professional boxer, Jesus Chavez. He is also a keen amateur magician, having appeared on the cover of MUM, the magazine of the Society of American Magicians in Jan. 2008. Garriott is vice-chairman of the board of directors of Space Adventures.

In Oct. 2008, Garriott is scheduled to fly aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-13 to the International Space Station. His web site quotes him as follows:

“I am dedicating my spaceflight to science and enterprise. We need to be adventurous in mind and stimulate our intellects to answer today’s most daunting scientific questions and to invent tomorrow’s technological marvels. We need more than great ideas – we need to make them happen.”

*Picture by Hachimaki posted under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license to Flickr

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Sir Arthur C. Clarke Dies at 90

by on Mar.23, 2008, under People, Science Fiction

Arthur C. CLarke

Arthur C. CLarke

I pestered my father to take me to see “2001: A Space Odyssey.” He thought I was too young and would not understand it. He was right. The film is a vision of a near future, in which humans make contact with technologically superior aliens. It is a recurring theme in Clarke’s work. Along with the Apollo Moon landings, this vision inspired and enthralled me.

Arthur Charles Clarke was born in Minehead, England, on Dec. 16, 1917. The son of a farmer, he was educated at the local state grammar school then joined the British civil service. Volunteering for the British Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II, he worked on radar development. After the war he gained a first class degree in math and physics at King’s College, London, before going on to became a full-time writer.

Clarke married in 1953, but the couple split after 6 months. They divorced in 1964 with no children. He immigrated to Sri Lanka in 1956 and become a dual Sri Lankan-British citizen. He was a keen scuba diver and for a while ran a diving school outside of the capital Colombo.

Clarke Orbits

While still in the RAF, Clarke circulated a paper suggesting the use of satellites in geo-synchronous orbits 22,000 miles above the Earth’s equator to bounce electronic signals around the world. This idea was soon implemented, giving rise to the world of global communications we know today. In recognition of this, such geo-synchronous orbits are sometimes known as Clarke Orbits.

An All-Time Science Fiction Great

Clarke published several stories in fanzines between 1937 and 1945. He sold his first story professionally to Astounding Science Fiction in April 1946. Clarke wrote his first three novels for children. He briefly worked as assistant editor of Science Abstracts in 1949 and become a full-time writer in 1951, eventually writing over 100 books.

His most famous work started as an entry called “The Sentinel” to a BBC short story contest. He developed the story with director Stanley Kubrick into “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which was released in 1968. The Odyssey series along with the similarly themed Rama series provided the backbone of Clarke’s later work.

Clarke was a noted futurist, making many insightful and intriguing predictions. He famously formulated Clarke’s Law that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Receiving many awards throughout his life, including a British knighthood in 2000 and a Sri Lankabhimanya (The Pride of Sri Lanka) in 2005, Clarke has an asteroid and a dinosaur named after him.

Three Wishes

In a farewell message to fans posted on YouTube on Dec. 2007, Clarke said he wanted to be remembered as a writer.

He made three wishes: that the existence of extra-terrestrial life be proven, that the world would wean itself off oil and that the civil war in Sri Lanka should find a peaceful resolution.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke died of heart failure and breathing problems on March 19, 2008, “having completed 90 orbits around the Sun.” He left written instruction that “Absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith, should be associated with my funeral.”

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