A life with computers
Doctor's at home and at work - with PC, software

By RICHARD DES RUISSEAUX
The Courier Journal
Monday November 29, 1999

 "LET'S CHECK and see where she " says Dr. George Stege III sliding off a stool at the kitchen island and stepping over to the 21 inch computer monitor atop a waist high counter.

 The keyboard is tucked away in a slide in drawer and the beige box networked on a high-speed DSL (digital subscriber line) Internet connection with several other computers sprinkled around the house is on the floor, around the side, hidden in a cranny.

 "My wife doesn't like the way it looks," Stege explains. She's also not too fond of the 15 inch monitor and AMD 450-megahertz DSL router in the den, next to the desk where her husband keeps his paper thin Sony Vaio laptop, but such is the aesthetic price of technology.

Stege mouseclicks on the American Pearl Web site (www.adept.net/americanpearl) and an animated chart pops up. A succession of green dots shows Louisvillian Tori Murden's hourly progress or lack of it as she rows toward Guadaloupe and the completion of her solo trip across the Atlantic.

 "I found that program in Russia," Stege says, emphasizing the worldwide nature of the World Wide Web. “I was looking around for tools to use on the page..” Click. He bought it online with a credit card.

 Stege, 46, is marking his roughly 30 year anniversary as a computer aficionado. At 16, he built what a have been the first personal computer in Louisville, creating it from surplus parts bought "for pennies on the dollar" from a company in Cincinnati. It filled up the basement of his parents' home, cost a little under $1,000 and made the front page of The Courier Journal.

 Stege can't even recall what he did with the machine. 

"It was just the joy of making it more than what it would do afterward."

These days he and his wife, oversee the Tori Murden site from home, working on it an hour or two a day putting up letters from sup porters and Murden's commentaries and handling other details.

 They've known Murden for several years, ever since she agreed to coach a newly formed rowing team at Louisville Collegiate School. Their oldest son, Chris, now attending Georgetown University In Washington, D.C., was one of the charter members. 

Besides his family medicine practice, Stege owns local Internet-service-provider-company Adept Communications and is involved in three medically related companies that wouldn’t exist without computers and the sophisticated software programs he writes some that contain as many as 100,000 lines of code. 

That’s a far cry from the millions of lines of code in Windows 98 ... but maybe not. As a teenager, Stege pursued oth-er science projects: He built a laser. He got to watch the Apollo 12 launch in 1969 with President Richard Nixon after winning an award at a NASA- sponsored Youth Science Congress.

Stege's father, also a doctor, didn't quite discourage his son's scientific bent. 'You can do whatever you want to ... after you graduate from medical school," he said. 

Stege went to Princeton University and pursued his medical degree, but he also earned a master's degree in physiology and biophysics and didn't abandon his interest in computers.

While he was in college in the early 1970s, he began building his second computer, using one of the first microprocessors, an 8008 chip.

 But the hardware was only half the adventure. "The other project I had going was writing a Basic compiler for it," Stege said. An operating system, if you will. A bit farther north, at Harvard University, another Ivy League student, Bill Gates, was taking a similar tack.

 After graduating from college and working in his father's office, Stege began developing medical software that would simplify the business end of things billing, staffing, payroll, taxes and so on a program at the heart of MD Systems, a company he started in 1984.

 "I did a lot of programming on a PC Jr.," Stege said, recalling IBM's ill fated "portable" computer that was introduced that year and came with a reviled “chiclet” keyboard.

He also has designed a program for a "just in time" hospital staffing agency, HealthNet Inc. of Kentuckiana, that he runs with partner Tim Teague. If a hospital needs a nurse with specific skills, it calls the agency. The program searches a database for nurses who meet the criteria then automatically pages them. The first to call in gets the assignment. 

Over the years, Stege has owned PCs running on every generation of Intel’s microprocessors - from the Altair of the mid 1970s, which used an 8080 chip, to today's Pentium III processors. In 1996 he bought the first dual processor Pentium machine manufactured by Dell Computer. He has also owned a "Trash 80"  Radio Shack's TRS 80 color computer that made it’s debut in 1980, running on a Zilog Z80 chip and a couple of Macintoshes. 

His companies require a couple of dozen computers, and at home, besides the laptop and the two 450-MHz PCs, there are two older Pentium 200 MHz desktop machines (one for Alex, 16, and one for Elizabeth, 10). And when Chris is home from Georgetown University, where he's studying music, he brings home his laptop.

 “I’ve been on the bleeding edge," said Stage. "Now I try to stay a generation behind" the latest, fastest processors. It just makes good economic sense.

 From time to time he wonders what in lit have happened had he taken a different path, but he has no regrets. 

"I'm happy being me," he said.

 MANY YEARS, MANY COMPUTERS

 Dates are approximate except for the first entry.

 1969 - First machine: do-it-yourself, basement-size computer from surplus parts

 1972 - Another do-it-yourselfer, based on an Intel 8008 microprocessor

 1974 - An Altair 8800, built from a kit and with an 8080 chip, which, like the 8008, processed eight bits of information per clock cycle

 1978 - "Trash 80," Radio Shack's TRS-80, using a Zilog Z-80 chip, which was compatible with the Intel 8080

 1991 - IBM XT, using an Intel 8088 chip, which enabled the computer, to process eight or 16 bits of Information per clock cycle; later XTs used an 8086 chip

 1984 -  IBM AT, running on a 16/24-bit Intel 80286 chip and with an "astounding" 10 megabyte hard drive

 1984 -  IBM PC Jr., which used the old 8088 chip

 1987 -  ALR 386DX, 40 MHz (Intel 80386)

 1990 -  No name 486SX-25 Mhz processor

 1997 -  Macintosh PowerPC, Motorola 604 microprocessor

 1993 -   Succession of desktop, laptop computers using ever faster Pentium class microprocessors, including the first dual processor Pentium by Dell Computer.

 

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