Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Weather (At The Fox Point)

I watched a big white possum run through
a parking lot near the donut shop.
While I watched, the possum didn’t stop
and change into a creature more true

to the twenty-first century view—
donut shop, garden shop, asphalt top
of cleared ground for cars, where the first drop
of rain fell while I watched so I knew.

The possum scurried. It seemed afraid.
A twenty-first century creature
would have stood up and glared at the sky

and then glared at me, something else made—
that garden, donut, car, rain feature.
The new creature would eat me. Or try.


Yesterday, weather technology sent two conflicting messages. The live radar view looked like a large, intense storm was about to blow through Chicago, north to south. But some set of atmospheric conditions triggered the algorithm that predicted the future of the storm to generate images that showed the storm completely breaking up before it reached Chicago’s south side.

In real life neither extreme view happened. The storm neither broke up nor remained intense.

About an hour after I did my blog post yesterday the sky clouded up and the outside temperature dropped about ten degrees. A light rain started falling, and then a heavier rain. There was a little lightning and thunder, but not much. There was a little wind, but not much. It rained, lightly, almost all night. But in the morning I didn’t see any trees damaged from lightning or wind.

So reality turned out to be simply different than what technology predicted.


When I did my post Exciting Waveforms I described how a guy who owned a music studio offered to give me a good deal on a Yamaha Motif music workstation. It was kind of sad to me that technology like that doesn’t seem to have much of a place in the modern world. A Yamaha Motif is a very good workstation. There should be a place for that kind of thing.

It didn't have to be this way.

Since this post, this sequence of posts, is kind of a sequel to Exciting Waveforms—or at least they are all somehow related—I have a technology note for this post, too.

I’ve mentioned Andy Hertzfeld I think once here at the blog, in Apple And The Status Cow. He was an early Apple employee, a very pivotal person in early Macintosh software development, and he remains an extraordinary programmer. I’ve also mentioned the development of the BASIC computer language at Dartmouth, as opposed to the versions developed at Microsoft, in Design Of A [Computer] Language.

Recently there was a kind of real life sequel on the net to these two topics.

Andy Hertzfeld maintains an amazing website, a wonderful resource for people interested in the early days of the Macintosh. The website is called Folklore. Because Hertzfeld was and remains so well-liked in the technology world, almost everybody who worked on the early Mac has contributed stories and memories to the Folklore project.

I’m not going to dwell on it here, but when the early Macintosh first shipped, it almost shipped with a modern, Dartmouth-inspired version of BASIC.

Well-designed computer languages almost don’t exist in the modern world. There are endless scripting languages and endless utility languages but there are almost no well-designed language systems like a good Dartmouth BASIC implemented as a state-of-the-art working environment.

Anyway. Macintosh people know the sad saga of MacBasic. Great programmers wrote the code. Great writers wrote support resources. Then Bill Gates screwed over Steve Jobs and forced Jobs to kill the project so Microsoft could market their awful version of BASIC for the Mac.

Since then the world hasn’t become awful and the world hasn’t become wonderful. The world has become just different than what many people had hoped (or feared, for that matter).

Now the Mac isn’t even a Mac any more, it’s an elaborate NeXTStep machine.

Anyway. Earlier this summer, one of the writers who worked on support materials for MacBasic put up a note at Folklore that brought back all the sadness of that era passing. It’s a little note at the end of the comment section of Hertzfeld’s MacBasic thread, but it says a lot. Here’s a little excerpt from the end, and a link to the comment section:

But the saddest thing to me is that the Mac shipped with no user-level programming language. It was the beginning of the end of ordinary people writing their own programs. Computer buyers became customers of programs (now renamed “applications”) written by experts, not creators of their own, albeit modest, programs.

It didn’t have to be that way.

1 comment:

Blogger said...

By using Car Rental 8 you can find the most affordable rental cars at over 50000 locations globally.