(Mediocre Laboratories' web form error message.)
From the guy who invented and sold Woot!, meh.com.
Observations by and for the vaguely disenchanted.
Risking the wrath of the whatever
from high atop the thing.
(Mediocre Laboratories' web form error message.)
From the guy who invented and sold Woot!, meh.com.
It's surprising what pops up on Google...
It's U.S. Patent #7,249,057 B2, issued July 24, 2007: "Product Information Supplying Method, Product Information Acquiring Method, Product Information Registering Method And Recording Medium," and the description is equally enlightening:
"There is provided a product information supply method for supplying a user who desires to purchase a product with proper information about a related product that could be bought in combination with the product, so that the user is assisted in purchasing products. Registration of combination information to be supplied to the user is made with a database managed by a service provider server by a person who has bought the above product by means of a registration page so that a lot of combination information is accumulated in the database. The registered information includes not only information specifying a combinable product but also information about the effects of the combination and the ways of using products in combination. The database is searched in response to inquiry information from the user who makes reference to a page of products. Thus, corresponding combination information is extracted from the database and is sent to the user."
I'm no expert in intellectual property law, but- this is something patentable? A database of related products, with the added twist of returning information on "effects of the combination and the ways of using products in combination." You mean like peanut butter and jelly? Gin and tonic? Water and Alka-Seltzer tablets?
Even more puzzling is the reference to one of my old DEC Professional DCL Dialogue columns. It deals with referrals and recommendations for computer hardware and software, but its relevance to this patent eludes me. You can read the column here.
Other stuff that passed across the desktop this week:
[A] computer is a stupid machine with the ability to do incredibly smart
things, while computer programmers are smart people with the ability to
do incredibly stupid things. They are, in short, a perfect match.
A computer cuts your work in half and gives you back the bloody stumps.
A computer is only as good as the people who are employed to replace the
people who were made redundant by the computer.
A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in
human history with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila.
A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you
didn't even know existed can render your own computer unusable.
A lot of what appears to be progress is just so much technological
A successful technology creates problems that only it can solve.
All programmers are playwrights and all computers are lousy actors.
All scientifically possible technology and social change predicted in
science fiction will come to pass, but none of it will work properly.
All technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent.
-David Ross Brower
An idiot with a computer is a faster, better idiot.
Any idiot can use a computer. Many do.
Any problem in computer science can be solved with another layer of
indirection. But that usually will create another problem.
Any research done on how to efficiently use computers has been long lost
in the mad rush to upgrade systems to do things that aren't needed by
people who don't understand what they are really supposed to do with
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
-Arthur C. Clarke
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged
Artificial intelligence is the study of how to make real computers act
like the ones in movies.
As far as we know, our computer has never had an undetected error.
As practiced by computer science, the study of programming is an unholy
mixture of mathematics, literary criticism, and folklore.
Asking if computers can think is like asking if submarines can swim.
At the source of every error which is blamed on the computer you will
find at least two human errors, including the error of blaming it on the
Bad command or file name. Good typing, though.
(Computer error message)-Unattributed
Bad things come in threes. However, when dealing with computers, the
fourth thing is always the start of the next group of three.
Cheese in an aerosol can is the greatest advance in technology since
Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about
Computer Science: A study akin to numerology and astrology, but lacking
the precision of the former and the success of the latter.
Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.
Computers are man's attempt at designing a cat: it does whatever it
wants, whenever it wants, and rarely ever at the right time.
Computers are such time-saving devices. In fact, I've just spent the
last three years trying to print out an envelope.
Computers can do better than ever what needn't be done at all. Making
sense is still a human monopoly.
Computers can now keep a man's every transgression recorded in a
permanent memory bank, duplicating with complex programming and
intricate wiring a feat his wife handles quite well without fuss or
Computers can still barely open a printer port, much less the pod bay
Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things
they make it easier to do don't need to be done.
Don't anthropomorphize computers. They hate it when you do that.
Don't explain computers to laymen. Simpler to explain sex to virgins.
-Robert A. Heinlein
Engineers are always honest in matters of technology and human
relationships. That's why it's a good idea to keep engineers away from
customers, romantic interests, and other people who can't handle the
-Unattributed (From Engineers Explained)
Enter any eleven-digit prime number to continue.
-Unattributed (Computer command prompt)
Even though today's technology provides us with mountains of data, it is
useless without judgment.
-Felix G. Rohatyn
Every time you turn on your new car, you're turning on 20
microprocessors. Every time you use an ATM, you're using a computer.
Every time I use a set top box or game machine, I'm using a computer.
The only computer you don't know how to work is your Microsoft computer,
For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality
of life, please press three.
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public
relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
-Richard P. Feynman,
in his analysis of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. Academy Award winner William Hurt portrays Dr. Feynman in "The Challnger Disaster," a drama based on the late Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist's final book, "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" If you missed last night's premiere, it will be rebroadcast again tonight at 9 pm on The Science Channel.
Having a computer is like having a small, silicon version of Gary Busey
on your desk. You never know what's going to happen.
Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.
I have a computer, a vibrator and pizza delivery. Why should I leave the
I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my
telephone. My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my
I may be just an empty flesh terminal relying on technology for all my
ideas, memories and relationships, but I am confident that all of that,
everything that makes me a unique human being, is still out there,
somewhere, safe in the theoretical storage space owned by giant
I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something
about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is
purely destructive. We've created life in our own image.
I think everyone in this country should learn to program a computer.
Everyone should learn a computer language because it teaches you how to
think. I think of computer science as a liberal art.
I think it is time we learned the lesson of our century: that the
progress of the human spirit must keep pace with technological and
scientific progress, or that spirit will die. It is incumbent on our
educators to remember this; and music is at the top of the spiritual
I was shocked upon viewing Internet porn while surfing the Web last
night. Then I realized my wife must have wired the mouse on our computer.
-John Alejandro King (The Covert Comic)
If moral behavior were simply following rules, we could program a
computer to be moral.
-Samuel P. Ginder
If the Catholic church couldn't stop Galileo, then governments won't be
able to stop things now.
-Carlo de Benedetti (re: regulation of information technology.)
If we had a reliable way to label our toys good and bad, it would be
easy to regulate technology wisely. But we can rarely see far enough
ahead to know which road leads to damnation. Whoever concerns himself
with big technology, either to push it forward or to stop it, is
gambling in human lives.
If you can't beat your computer at chess, try kickboxing.
If you don't know how to do something, you don't know how to do it with
If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out but tomfoolery.
But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is
somehow ennobled, and no one dares to criticize it.
Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual
way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks
In a way, staring into a computer screen is like staring into an
eclipse. It's brilliant and you don't realize the damage until it's too
In all technologically 'advanced' countries, fashion has replaced
tradition, so that involuntary membership in a society can no longer
provide a feeling of community.
In computer science, we stand on each other's feet.
-Brian K. Reid
In the computer business, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned
lies, and benchmarks.
In the long run, everything is a toaster.
-Bruce Greenwald (on innovative technologies)
In the old days, writers used to sit in front of a typewriter and stare
out of the window. Nowadays, because of the marvels of convergent
technology, the thing you type on and the window you stare out of are
now the same thing.
It is only when science asks why, instead of simply describing how, that
it becomes more than technology. When it asks why, it discovers
Relativity. When it only shows how, it invents the atomic bomb, and then
puts its hands over its eyes and says, "My God, what have I done?"
-Ursula K. LeGuin
It's a truism in technological development that no silver lining comes
without its cloud.
Let's be frank, the Italians' technological contribution to humankind
stopped with the pizza oven.
Levitt's First Law of Information Technology: If it's free, adopt it.
Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft... and the only
one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor.
-Wernher von Braun
Memory is like an orgasm. It's a lot better if you don't have to fake
-Seymour Cray (re: computer virtual memory)
Misuse of reason might yet return the world to pre-technological night;
plenty of religious zealots hunger for just such a result, and are happy
to use the latest technology to effect it.
Most undergraduate degrees in computer science these days are basically
Java vocational training.
My perception was/is that while the rest of the computer world was
striving for Fault Tolerant Software, Microsoft was working on Fault
Never let a computer know you're in a hurry.
Never trust a computer you can't throw out a window.
Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the
steamroller, you're part of the road.
Our entire much-praised technological progress, and civilization
generally, could be compared to an axe in the hand of a pathological
Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently
programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.
PCMCIA stands for either Personal Computer Memory Card International
Association or People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms.
Read, read, read and put away computers. Forget the Internet, that's all
Reading computer manuals without the hardware is as frustrating as
reading sex manuals without the software. In both cases the cure is
simple though usually very expensive.
-Arthur C. Clarke
Science is everything we understand well enough to explain to a
computer. Art is everything else.
Science is to computer science as hydrodynamics is to plumbing.
Some technologies do their job perfectly and tend to stick around. The
spoon is one example, the lawn-roller another. Paper may well be a third.
-Unattributed (From The Economist)
Technological man can't believe in anything that can't be measured,
taped, or put into a computer.
-Clare Boothe Luce
Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means
for going backwards.
Technology [is] the knack of so arranging the world that we need not
Technology frightens me to death. It's designed by engineers to impress
other engineers, and they always come with instruction booklets that are
written by engineers for other engineers- which is why almost no
technology ever works.
Technology is anything that wasn't around when you were born.
Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand
what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not
Technology is not in itself opposed to spirituality and to religion. But
it presents a great temptation.
Technology is really civilization, let's face it.
-Arthur C. Clarke
Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology. The fog of
information can drive out knowledge.
-Daniel J. Boorstin
Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything,
except over technology.
Technology today is the campfire around which we tell our stories.
There's this attraction to light and to this kind of power, which is
both warm and destructive.
That's the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they
really hate is lousy programmers.
The British don't make computers because they never figured out how to
make them leak oil.
The Buddha resides as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer
or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain.
The computer industry has frequently borrowed from mythology: Witness
the sprites in computer graphics, the demons in artificial intelligence,
and the trolls in the marketing department.
The computer industry is a chicken on growth hormones, sloshing around
in a nutrient bath with its head cut off.
The computer is a moron.
The computer revolution hasn't started yet. Don't be misled by the
enormous flow of money into bad defacto standards for unsophisticated
buyers using poor adaptations of incomplete ideas.
The computer saves man a lot of guesswork, but so does the bikini.
The difference between e-mail and regular mail is that computers handle
e-mail, and computers never decide to come to work one day and shoot all
the other computers.
The entire body of computer science can be viewed as nothing more than
the development of efficient methods for the storage, transportation,
encoding, and rendering of pornography.
The fault lies not with our technologies but with our systems.
The first time a person gets a screwdriver, he's going to go around the
house tightening all the screws, whether they need it or not. There's no
reason a computer will not be similarly abused.
-Theodore K. Robb
The goal of Computer Science is to build something that will last at
least until we've finished building it.
The human race has today the means for annihilating itself-either in a
fit of complete lunacy, i.e., in a big war, by a brief fit of
destruction, or by careless handling of atomic technology, through a
slow process of poisoning and of deterioration in its genetic structure.
The Internet was done so well that most people think of it as a natural
resource like the Pacific Ocean, rather than something that was
man-made. When was the last time a technology with a scale like that was
so error-free? The Web, in comparison, is a joke. The Web was done by
The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree,
is by accident. That's where we come in; we're computer professionals.
We cause accidents.
The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in
the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will
be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.
-Edward R. Murrow
The only thing God didn't do to Job was give him a computer.
The only truly portable computer language is profanity.
The power to hurt... has evolved in a direct relationship to
The protean nature of the computer is such that it can act like a
machine or like a language to be shaped and exploited.
The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic
emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is
terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis
The Republic of Technology where we will be living is a feedback world.
-Daniel J. Boorstin
The Web brings people together because no matter what kind of a twisted
sexual mutant you happen to be, you've got millions of pals out there.
Type in "Find people that have sex with goats that are on fire" and the
computer will ask, "Specify type of goat."
The world is just filling up with more and more idiots! And the computer
is giving them access to the world! They're spreading their stupidity!
At least they were contained before- now they're on the loose everywhere!
There are more computers running Windows than VMS. There are also more
cockroaches than humans.
-Kevin G. Barkes
There are two kinds of computer users: those who have lost data and
those who will lose data.
There is a computer disease that anybody who works with computers knows
about. It's a very serious disease and it interferes completely with the
work. The trouble with computers is that you play with them.
-Richard P. Feynman
There is an evil tendency underlying all our technology- the tendency to
do what is reasonable even when it isn't any good.
There is no data to support that computers make business more
productive... most companies have merely found faster and cheaper ways
to do dumb things.
There is no escaping from ourselves. The human dilemma is as it has
always been, and we solve nothing fundamental by cloaking ourselves in
This computer makes me all frowny with pure nougat-filled hatred!
Unlike human beings, computers possess the truly profound stupidity of
We are reaching the stage where the problems we must solve are going to
become insoluble without computers. I do not fear computers. I fear the
lack of them.
We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that
We build our computer [systems] the way we build our cities: over time,
without a plan, on top of ruins.
We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly
depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that
almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription
for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later
this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in
While modern technology has given people powerful new communication
tools, it apparently can do nothing to alter the fact that many people
have nothing useful to say.
Whom computers would destroy, they must first drive mad.
Why is it drug addicts and computer aficionados are both called users?
Without software, a computer is just a lump of plastic- whereas with
software, it's a lump of plastic that can permanently destroy critical
Writing is a slow and a difficult process mentally. How you physically
render the words onto a screen or a page doesn't help you. I'll give you
this example. When words had to be carved into stone, with a chisel, you
got the Ten Commandments. When the quill pen had been invented and you
had to chase a goose around the yard and sharpen the pen and boil some
ink and so on, you got Shakespeare. When the fountain pen came along,
you got Henry James. When the typewriter came along, you got Jack
Kerouac. And now that we have the computer, we have Facebook. Are you
seeing a trend here?
Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that
-(If Error Messages Were Haiku, www.pcpoetry.com)
NFPE- NON-FATAL PROCESSING ERROR:
ITC - IGNORING THE CONTRACTOR
Remember that potential race condition I warned you about in the coding implementation meetings? You know, the one you condescendingly dismissed in front of your in-house staff of snickering, cognitively challenged ex-baristas? The condition that could never happen 'in the real world' and therefore could be ignored?
Guess what, Skippy? Some other process on the system- perhaps one from that odd location called 'reality'- just changed the offset into the next available customer acccount number table.
Fortunately for you, I ignored your explicit refusal to authorize the time necessary to write the code to lock and release the table offset. I did it on my own time out of a sense of professional pride and responsibility. If I hadn't, this application- and, through the resulting series of cascading failures, your entire production system- would have reduced this server to a puddle of molten silicon.
The arcane segmentation fault it would have thrown would have corrupted
the entire account number sequencing mechanism. Your crack team of
outsourced, clueless code monkeys would have taken weeks to identify the
cause, let alone correct it. And who are we kidding? You would have been
on the phone to me in under an hour, pleading- no, demanding- that I
supply a patch, immediately and at no charge, because it's in a part of
the code that I wrote and, therefore, is my fault, despite the fact it
behaved exactly in the inane manner you decreed.
I would have then directed you here: http://tinyurl.com/nak5n7c
It's a capture of that portion of the aforementioned video conference meeting where I warned you about this problem and spent ten minutes describing situations in which the condition could occur- and your response, accompanied by the smirks and giggles of your obsequious minions.
This message will appear in the production run log file only this one time and will probably not be seen by anyone, since you only check log files when something crashes and burns. You never check for non-fatal processing errors that should be corrected but aren't because that would be contrary to your policy of ignoring the smoke emanating from your hat until your hair ignites.
Anyway, in the unlikely event someone does read this, you should also check the report date function two modules down. As written, the end of month summary publication will at some point display a cover date of February 30. I pointed this out in our last meeting and would have corrected it, but it required access to another function in another module which I couldn't access. You said you'd have Bjorn fix it. Let me tell you about Bjorn. His real name is Walter. He changed it to Bjorn because he thought it would improve his chances of being hired. Walter is only vaguely aware of his surroundings and, if you look right now, is wearing mis-matched socks.
And I'm still waiting for that last check.
In light of the Edward Snowden/NSA scandal, CBS' science fiction series Person of Interest now more closely resembles a reality show:
While not quite as memorable as "Space... the final frontier," the series' opening voice over provides a pretty good summary of the premise:
"You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything... violent crimes involving ordinary people. The government considers these people 'irrelevant'. We don't. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up... we'll find you".
From the Wikipedia article on the show:
John Reese (Jim Caviezel), a former Green Beret and CIA field officer, is living as a derelict in New York City after the death of the woman he loves, and is presumed dead. He is approached by Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), a reclusive billionaire computer genius who is living under an assumed identity. Finch explains that after September 11, 2001, he built a computer system for the government that uses information gleaned from omnipresent surveillance to predict future terrorist attacks. However, Finch discovered that the computer was predicting ordinary crimes as well. The government is not interested in these results, but Finch is determined to stop the predicted crimes. He hires Reese to conduct surveillance and intervene as needed, using his repertoire of skills gained in the military and the CIA. Through a back door built into the system, Finch receives the Social Security number of someone who will be involved in an imminent crime, at which point he contacts Reese. Without knowing what the crime will be, when it will occur, or even if the person they were alerted to is a victim or perpetrator, Reese and Finch must try to stop the crime from occurring.
They are helped by NYPD Detectives Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), a corrupt officer whom Reese coerces into helping them, and Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson), who in early episodes investigates Reese for his vigilante activities. Although Reese arranges for Carter and Fusco to be partners in the NYPD early in the first season, neither learns that the other is also working with Finch and Reese until season two.
Periodically, the team also enlists the aid of Zoe Morgan (Paige Turco), a professional "fixer" who applies her skills to particularly difficult tasks. The series features several subplots. One significant story arc involves "HR", an organization of corrupt NYPD officers in league with budding mob boss Carl Elias (Enrico Colantoni); in the course of this arc Fusco is forced to go undercover. Another important storyline revolves around Root (Amy Acker), a psychopathic female hacker who is determined to gain access to the Machine; she asserts the device is actually God, and that she has been summoned by "her."
Ah, The Machine...
The Machine is a mass surveillance computer system programmed to monitor and analyze data from surveillance cameras, electronic communications, and audio input throughout the world. From this data, the Machine accurately predicts violent acts. Under control of the U.S. Government, its stated purpose is the identification of terrorist and their planned assaults. However, the Machine detects future violent acts of all kinds, not just terrorism. Unknown to Finch, his partner, Nathan Ingram, installed a routine called "Contingency" prior to delivering the system to the government. The covert software causes the machine to also act on non-terrorist crime. Finch is appalled that Ingram has the data sent directly to him. After Finch fails to prevent Ingram's computer-predicted murder, he further modifies the system so that "irrelevant" non-terrorism data is transmitted to him in the form of social security numbers, via coded messages over a public telephone.
Over the course of each episode, the viewer periodically sees events as a Machine-generated on-screen display of data about a character or characters: identification, activities, records, and more may be displayed. The viewer also sees a Machine-generated perspective as it monitors New York. Commercial flights are outlined by green triangles, red concentric circles indicate no-fly zones around tall buildings, and dashed boxes mark individual people. The Machine classifies the people it watches by color-coding the boxes: white for no threat or an irrelevant threat; red for perceived threats to the Machine, red-and-white for individuals predicted to be violent; and yellow for people who know about the machine, including Finch, Reese, Ingram, Corwin and Root. The white-boxed "irrelevant threat" targets include the Persons of Interest that Reese and Finch assist.
As the series progressed, a wider governmental conspiracy emerged. Known as "The Program", it revolves around the development and utilization of the Machine. Apparently led by a mysterious figure known only as "Control", an unnamed official (Jay O. Sanders) from the Office of Special Counsel begins eliminating key personnel who are aware of the Machine's existence by deploying teams of Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) operatives who believe they are acting to eliminate perceived terrorist threats on the recommendation of a department known as "Research". The members of the elimination teams are classified by the Machine using a blue box.
Person's producers have hinted the third season of the hit series, which moves to a new day and slot (Tuesdays at 10 pm, premiering on September 24) will attempt to be more, er, science fiction-y. Like all television shows, Person does have some reality-bending elements, but the suspension of disbelief level required is remarkably low. The bad guys are still lousy shots, and the key characters make miraculous recoveries from concussions, lethal injections and various forms of physical trauma, often before the show's end credits roll. But hey, it's episodic broadcast television, right?
Where the show excels is in production values and technical accuracy. While Mr. Finch's technology boasts features which are a couple software releases in the future, the indulgences can be forgiven. The show's cellular phone networks, computers, and other devices work at blinding speed. But when you have to shoehorn a rich narrative into 40 minutes of actual episode time, you really don't want to watch systems execute communication protocol negotiations in real time; trust me.
Particularly impressive is the effort the show puts into elements that have perhaps a second or two of screen time. Thanks to high definition and digital video recording, I've been able to freeze frame some of the monitor shots- and it's obvious these guys have some real-world Unix and TCP/IP knowledge. A one-second blip of a phony newspaper article reveals someone actually wrote a faux news story and, apparently, follows The AP Stylebook.
Other one-hour drama series spend eight days or less to film an episode. Person of Interest spends nine and a half, with more camera coverage, extensive location shooting, and substantial post-production work.
They spend money on this show, and it's all up on the screen. The episodes have a decided theatrical motion picture feel.
So... when planning your television viewing for the upcoming season, give Person a shot. Like certain other Warner Brothers shows, the studio hasn't made it available for free, on-demand viewing- you have to buy the DVDs or download the show from iTunes. Update: During the third season, the show became available on the CBS website.
Just type CBS Person of Interest into Google and you'll find hundreds of useful fan sites and video clips from key episodes.
One caveat- the series is produced by J.J. Abrams of Lost fame, which means there's a chance that at some point the whole thing could take a sharp turn into stupidity. But, based on the first two seasons, it's worth the risk.
And, the regular cast includes a dog:
Categories: Amy Acker, CBS, Computers, Dogs, Edward Snowden, Enrico Colantoni, George Orwell, Google, Internet, James Clapper, Jay O. Sanders, Jim Caviezel, Kevin Chapman, Michael Emerson, NSA, Paige Turco, Peggy Noonan, Person of Interest, PRISM, Ron Wyden, Science Fiction, Signs of the Apocalypse, Taraji P. Henson, Technology, Terrorism, The Machine, TV, Video, YouTube
Gary Kildall could have become a household name and, possibly, the richest man in the world.
In 1980, IBM approached Bill Gates at Microsoft to license a BASIC interpreter for their soon-to-be-released Personal Computer (PC). They mentioned they also needed an operating system, and Gates referred them to Digital Research, Gary Kildall's company.
For various reasons, things didn't work out, and IBM went back to Microsoft. You know the rest.
There are various accounts of what actually happened, and the Wikipedia article on Kildall offers what appears to be a neutral report.
I used DR-DOS. I used GEM. And I wish more people remembered Kildall's contributions.
(YouTube video: Remembering Gary Kildall)
"Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place.
Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by
definition, not smart enough to debug it."
I'm working on a major project and including code from stuff I wrote in 1988. It reminds me of how much I've forgotten- well, not forgotten, but not recently accessed. The feeling's similar to the rush of memories you get when viewing an old picture album. And it's reassuring to see my overall state of mind hasn't changed, based on the comments in the code, like:
* Years from now you will review this function and say to
* "Boy, this is really crappy code. I should take the time and
* optimize it."
* You probably won't remember, but you spent an entire
* weekend of unbillable time tweaking this. You increased
* its execution speed by 30%, but in the process crafted
* a function of such blinding elegance that when you
* reviewed it the next day, you discovered it was totally
* incomprehensible. So you put the old code back in.
* This is running on a 386 machine with a 12Mhz clock
* and 640K, and the profiler lists the execution time as 211
* milliseconds. A bit slow, but acceptable.
* So forget about it.
"12 Mhz clock and a full 640k."
My current laptop has a 2.4 gigaHertz clock, which is 200 times faster than that old 386 desktop. That kludgy, awkwardly written function that required 211 milliseconds to run now takes a little over one millisecond, and the file that took 20 seconds to process runs so fast that the command prompt appears immediately after I hit the return key.
Thank you, 1988 KGB, for the unexpectedly wise advice. And by the way, Fox canceled Tracey Ullman, but the Simpsons got their own show and are still on the air. And that "Naked Gun" movie you saw with Doug last weekend? Keep an eye on O.J. Simpson. Trust me.
You may ask, how did I remember taking my son to see "Police Squad?" Thanks to Google and the Internet Movie Database, this program comment now makes sense:
* "Hey Look! It's Enrico Pallazzo!"
My favorite computer trade magazine cover, from June 15, 1985- 28 years ago, about four years after the introduction of the IBM PC. Some things never change.
I'm sick of hearing about the Mayans, so here's an oldie but goodie:
This information comes from the original (pre-Motif) DECwindows help file which accompanied VMS version 5.3. It was written by Marios Cleovoulou and is copyright © 1988, 1989 by Digital Equipment Corporation.
As decreed by Pope Gregory XIII, October 4, 1582, was followed by October 15, 1582. Thus ended the 1,600 year reign of the Julian calendar upon which the Gregorian calendar is based, and thus began the calendar which DECwindows Calendar uses to measure time.
Calendars based on sun and moon movement were used even by the ancients, but the first reasonably accurate one was the 365 1/4- day cycle calculated by the Greek Sosigenes. This was the calendar authorized by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. The Julian calendar (not to be confused with the Julian period; see below) had three years of 365 days each, followed by a fourth year of 366 days.
The 365 1/4-day cycle was more accurately defined in 730 AD by the Venerable Bede, an Anglo-Saxon monk, who shortened the time by 11 minutes, 14 seconds. This accumulates to a whole day's error every 128 years, or a little more than three days every 400 years. This being the Dark Ages, nothing was done to adjust the Calendar, despite Roger Bacon sending a note to Pope Clement IV, informing him of the drifting of the date for the vernal equinox. Later, Pope Sixtus IV did become convinced that another reform was needed and called the German astronomer Regiomontanus to Rome to advise him. Unfortunately, Regiomontanus died of the plague shortly thereafter and the plans died with him.
Thursday, October 4, 1582 was the next time the calendar was adjusted. This last day of the Julian calendar was followed by Friday, October 15. So began the Gregorian calendar that we use today, named after Pope Gregory XIII. He commissioned the mathematician Father Christopher Clavius, S.J., to do the necessary calculations, having been authorized to reform the calendar by the Council of Trent in 1545.
The Vatican librarian Aloysius Giglio provided a formula for long- range accuracy. He suggested that every fourth year be a leap year, except for century years that are not divisible by 400. Thus 1700, 1800, and 1900 would not be leap years, but 2000 would be, because 2000 is divisible by 400. This rule eliminated three leap years every four centuries, making the calendar sufficiently correct for most ordinary purposes.
Political Acceptance in Europe
Italy, Portugal, and Luxembourg immediately adopted the new calendar. By 1584, Belgium, parts of the Netherlands, Switzerland, and most Catholic German states had joined, and by 1587, so had Hungary. It was not until 1699-1700 that these countries were joined by the rest of the Netherlands, Denmark, and the Protestant German countries.
By the time the British imposed the calendar on all its possessions, in 1752, 11 days needed to be lost. September 2, 1752, was thus decreed to be followed by September 14. In addition, New Year's day was moved back from March 25 to January 1. (For example, before, March 24, 1700 had been followed by March 25, 1701). Among other repercussions, this moved Washington's birth date from February 11, 1731, to February 22, 1732. The following year, 1753, Sweden too adopted the calendar.
In 1793, the French Revolutionary government adopted a calendar of 12 onths of 30 days each, with five extra days in September (six on leap years). The Gregorian calendar was reinstated in 1806 by Napoleon.
Political Acceptance World Wide
Adoption of the calendar in countries outside Europe and its Crown possessions occurred much later, and often in conjunction with political upheaval: Japan in 1873, Egypt in 1875, China in 1912, and Turkey in 1917.
In 1918, Russia's revolutionary government decreed that January 31, 1918, would be followed by February 14, 1918.
Religious Acceptance Worldwide
German Protestants used the old calendar until 1776, three quarters of a century after their countries had adopted the Gregorian system.
Sweden retained the old Easter rules for 90 years after switching to the Gregorian calendar, and many Middle Eastern Christian sects still retain the Julian calendar.
The Russian Orthodox Church still follows the Julian system.
The Julian Period
Astronomers use the Julian period because it is convenient to express long time intervals in days rather than months, weeks and years. It was devised by Joseph Scaliger, in 1582, who named it after his father Julius, thus creating the confusion between the Julian (Caesar) calendar and the Julian (Scaliger) period.
Julian Day 1 began at 12:00 noon, January 1, 4713 BC. This date was thought by some to correspond approximately to the beginning of the universe. Certainly it predated any known astronomical events known in the 16th century without resorting to negative times. Scaliger decided on the actual date on the grounds that it was the most recent coincidence of three major chronological cycles:
- The 28-year solar cycle, after which dates in the Julian calendar (for example September 27) return to the same days of the week (for example Tuesday).
- The 19-year lunar cycle, after which phases of the moon return to the same dates of the year.
- The 15-year indiction cycle, used in ancient Rome for tax regulation.
It takes 7980 years to complete the cycle. Noon of January 1, 1988, marks the beginning of Julian Day 2447161.
The Julian period is also of interest because of its use as a time base by the VMS operating system.
VMS and the Julian Period or:
Why VMS regards November 17, 1858,
as the beginning of time...
The modified Julian date adopted by SAO (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory) for satellite tracking is Julian Day 2400000, which turns out to be November 17, 1858.
SAO started tracking satellites with an 8K (nonvirtual) 36-bit IBM 704 in 1957, when Sputnik went into orbit. The Julian day was 2435839 on January 1, 1957. This is 11225377 octal, which was too big to fit into an 18-bit field. With only 8K of memory, the 14 bits left over by keeping the Julian date in its own 36-bit word would have been wasted. They also needed the fraction of the current day (for which 18 bits gave enough accuracy), so it was decided to keep the number of days in the left 18 bits and the fraction of a day in the right 18 bits of one word.
Eighteen bits allows the truncated Julian day (the SAO day) to grow as large as 262143, which from November 17, 1858, allowed for seven centuries. Possibly, the date could only grow as large as 131071 (using 17 bits), but this still covers three centuries and leaves the possibility of representing negative time. The 1858 date preceded the oldest star catalogue in use at SAO, which also avoided having to use negative time in any of the satellite tracking calculations.
Ultrix (Unix) Time Origins
The beginning of time for Ultrix systems is:
Thursday January 1 00:00:00 1970
The reason for this date being chosen is that this was the year that UNIX, the "father" of Ultrix, was firstreleased.
Thus dates prior to 1970 are BU; 1970 and later dates are AU.
History and DECwindows Calendar
If you read the topics concerning the political and religious acceptance of the Gregorian calendar, you will see that there is a problem: there are many dates for the conversion from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. For example, the British (and therefore the Americans) converted in September 1752, so British and American Calendar users might expect Calendar to show September 2, 1752, to be followed by September 14, 1752. However, a Russian user would expect to see this jump between January 31, 1918, and February 14, 1918.
DECwindows Calendar conforms to the date of the original decree, therefore no days have been lost since Friday, October 15, 1582, nor since the beginning of DECwindows Calendar time: January 1, 1600. Thus for everyone except for users from the majority of the Catholic European countries, which all converted before this date, there will appear to be an "error" in Calendar, where the conversion actually took place. This generalization was felt to be acceptable for an application not specifically designed for historians.
...and it's going to be one of those days...