Lunch with Marjorie: Making impossible things happen

Mark Mitchell mowed lawns in sixth grade to buy his first (Commodore) computer. We lunched at Sophia’s in Roscoe. He’s a meat and potatoes guy. I didn’t attempt to sway him toward my more adventurous food preferences. I was anxious to tap into his genius brain cells for answers to my tech questions. These brainy guys…they’re on a different plane.

“You started working on the Internet as senior at Hononegah?”

“There’s something about computers I’ve always enjoyed. My dad was a big sci-fi buff and he influenced me a lot. I’ve always been a thinker. It works, but why? Something clicked with computers. Seeing something that seems like it’s not possible…how to make it possible…achieving a goal just outside of reach…technology lets me thrive on it.”

“Are there things we haven’t imagined yet?”

“I think we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg.”

“I saw Around the World in 80 Days…that scientist saying there are no new things to invent.”

“He was quoting an author of an article in Popular Mechanics in the 1950s.”


“Oh, yeah. We are just on the verge of a whole new era of inventions.”

“Are you ready to prophesy for me?”

He was serious. “In five years, I see one of the biggest things are phone systems, TV, satellite dishes, computers all bundled into one appliance—mainstream. It’s starting to go mainstream now.”

“I just learned about TiVO. It’s robotic?”

“It’s the first generation of artificial intelligence. The biggest thing starting to go mainstream now is voice-over IP. Now you’re taking your telephone…mixing it with your Internet. You get phone service and unlimited long distance. But, it’s how it’s getting to your house. It’s coming over Internet protocol. It’s data, unlike phones. It’s not making telephone calls from your computer. It’s voice-over IP. When it hits the box outside my house, it gets converted.”

“Are we The Jetsons yet?”

“Marjorie, you had two calls while you were out.” I imitated what I imagined is the speaker TV-phone-computer I will soon encounter entering my home.

“Less than five years—already being sold. Have you heard of Media Centers? That’s what they will sell. It’s not specific anymore. You can hook it to your 19-inch, your computer, or the plasma screen in the wall. Five years we’re looking at streamlining entertainment, more entertainment industry stuff.”

“Robots to clean my house?”

“Already starting now. You can buy vacuums that do that.”

“Do they bump into things?”

He shakes his head. “And they go back to their recharging base. A few hundred bucks.”

I was on a roll, tickling my insatiable techno-curiosity bones.

“Ten years?”

“Some of the biggest medical breakthroughs.”

“What are your hobbies?”

“It’s a weird one—you ready?” He wasn’t sure how I would react. “I do medieval re-enactments. It’s all aspects of the Middle Ages. I like history a lot. You can live a life that’s not reality. And…the people involved…they’re really good people. No jousting, because of the severity of our fighting.”

“You wear armor?”


“What does your wife think?”

“She’s in the group, too. It’s not just fighting—singing, clothes making, story telling, dance. You’ll find people from 15 to 80 doing it.”

Mark met his wife, Leanne, on a blind date, set up by a good friend in the medieval group.

“For some reason, they thought we were perfect for each other. They tried to get us together for about two years.”

On their date: “We just drove around and talked…for about four hours. That was Saturday night. Then we went out to dinner the next Thursday, and a month and a half later, we were engaged. We got married about 14 months later.”

He smiles. It’s easy to imagine this burly man in a medieval suit of armor.

“What’s important to you besides problem solving?”

“Family is No. 1. I want (my children) to have opportunities to pick the paths they will go, to make sure every door is open. Support is the biggest thing. Little things, like my daughter getting a citizenship award at school. I called the grandparents. I took off work. We all went to the ceremony. I grew up with that all my life, and I want my kids to (have that).”

“What’s your biggest fear for American society?”

“Not taking responsibility. The fact is…not being there for the kids. That’s got to be the goal…the No. 1 job. Everything else is second place. I love my job, but it’s second place. No competition. Family is No. 1. The kids are the center of my life. I never want a door to close because of a reason I could have stopped.”

Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years.

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