Beneath the dark glass of the monitor glowed the faintest hint of green light. A little green square blinked in the corner like a pulsating heartbeat. The whine of cathodes was palpable.

About a dozen of us stared silently into the darkness of their own monitor, as if entering a trance. A voice from behind us broke the spell: “This is called the ‘cursor’.”

The room was long and narrow, the walls lined with computers. Everyone sat with their backs to each other; together yet alone. The only human interaction was through an occasional brush against the chair-back as the teacher slowly paced the room.

And thus we were introduced to the personal computer — sitting in front of us at almost half our size, returning its own perplexed and curious gaze.

It was probably an Apple IIe. The green phosphor screen, the raised keyboard, the giant floppy disk drives. I vividly remember the sound it made while reading the disc. It was the early 1990’s and I was about 10 years old. That particular model was nearing its end of life. But it would mark a beginning for mine.

Sometimes our trip to the computer lab involved playing a game as a small group. In retrospect, it was a team-building experience. We weighed the risks and rewards. We made decisions collectively. We shared successes and failures. And if it was Oregon Trail, we always failed.

One day our teacher presented us with an ambitious class project. We were to create our own book. Each student would come up with a short story and illustrate it themself. We experienced the entire publishing process: writing, editing and layout. When everyone’s story was finished, we waited for the books to be bound. On release day, everyone was presented their own copy and read their story in front of the class. What a sense of accomplishment!

Creative collaboration. It started in that little computer lab. It continues with every project I take on.

—Mark Chambers

Mark David Chambers

Adding Multi-byte UTF-8 support in Drupal 7

Written by Mark Chambers on

You need at least version 5.5.3 of MySQL. Check your version number before you proceed:

mysql --version

1: Edit MySQL settings

1.1: Edit your MySQL config file:

sudo vi /etc/mysql/my.cnf

1.2: Add these lines in the [mysqld] section:


1.3: To load the new settings, restart MySQL:

sudo service mysql restart

2: Convert database

Before you begin:

2.1: Download script

drush @none dl utf8mb4_convert-7.x

2.2: Go to your Drupal root

cd /var/www/html

2.3: Put your site into maintenance mode

drush vset maintenance_mode 1

2.4: Run the script

drush utf8mb4-convert-databases

2.5: Update settings.php

Open settings.php in your favorite text editor:

vi /var/www/html/sites/default/settings.php

Add these lines to your database array:

'charset' => 'utf8mb4',
'collation' => 'utf8mb4_general_ci',

It should look like this:

$databases['default']['default'] = array(
  'driver' => 'mysql',
  'database' => 'databasename',
  'username' => 'username',
  'password' => 'password',
  'host' => 'localhost',
  'charset' => 'utf8mb4',
  'collation' => 'utf8mb4_general_ci',

2.6: Take your site out of maintenance mode:

drush vset maintenance_mode 0

Enjoy the emoji support!