Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Computing History, as I understand it

 In the beginning, Computers were people who computed things.

Then mechanical adding machines came along and made them more productive, but demand kept up.  A phase change

Then tabulating and sorting machines, along with storage on cards brought formal methods of managing data to organizations. A phase change

Then electronic computers were put into place to start to do the computing.  The humans who previously computed were in demand elsewhere.  A phase change

There was 1 programmer... Alan Turing... then 100, then more... the rate of doubling about every 5 years, on average since then.

Computers were expensive, and it took time to learn to get the most out of them. Over time, libraries of code began to be commonly used, and operating systems were born.  A phase change

As the price of computers went down, and the amount of programmers and data went up, there were punch card operators, who transcribed handwriting to punched cards.

The computers still required maintenance, tubes to replace, circuits to adjust, etc... they were kept away from everything else in their own rooms. Operators were the priesthood that emerged to care for them.

Every new computer was faster, but incompatible... requiring frequent rewriting of applications to be compatible with the new systems. Most programs had a life of less than a decade.

Then IBM broke the rules, and the 360 could run 1401. Backward compatibility and legacy code were born, a phase change. Programmers didn't need to rewrite code, but by accident this created the Y2K problem.

Online teletype printers and time sharing allowed programmers and users to directly access the machines. Cardpunch operators were no longer needed.

Programming got a lot faster, and complexity went up.

Then Minicomputers came along, and were easier for end users, another phase change.

Then Microcomputers came along, and everyone had their own computer... you needed about 1 Administrator for 20-50 PCs, to fix the problems, and keep things going

Then things got more reliable, and went to the cloud, so administrators got outsourced, another phase change

It is now possible for a single person to deploy thousands of computers from a batch file.

The future is uncertain.... look back on the history, What makes any of you really think that there won't be another phase change?

As for why there aren't many old programmers...

Every 5 years the number of programmers doubled.... so most have less than 5 years experience.   There are about 120 times more programmers now than when I started, 7 programmer doublings ago.

We may, or may not, have a phase change that devalues programmers, developers, devops, architects, whatever you, dear reader, care to call yourself.

I myself did programming, then electronics technician work, then 15 years as a sysadmin, then 5 years making Bevel I'm diving back into programming.

The future will have many changes... most of them productive. 8)

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

I reject the content of a stupid meme

 Recently, this poster showed up elsewhere in a social media walled garden.

I reject the underlying message whole heartedly.  As I said elsewhere

"I reject this anti-western, anti-science propaganda. I will not give up critical thought just for the sake of fitting in. I will not let someone else tell me what to believe. I will not let someone else tell me what books to burn, or what knowledge is forbidden.

As for this, in detail:


So, if it turns out Covid-19 escaped a lab by accident, what then?

Or if we find out someone from Antifa set at least one of the fires in Oregon?

Or if turns out that jet fuel doesn't melt steel beams, but building inspectors were bribed a few times? (Construction, after the bombing in 94)

Or Epstein was murdered?

5G is a stupid idea, they can't deliver what they promised with available funds and technology

Mattress Firm shows the stupidity of the market... at one point, in Hoffman Estates, there was a single corner where there were 5 visible Mattress Firms from the center of the intersection.

Aliens didn't build stone henge... the archeologists aren't inventive enough to figure out how they did it.

Government Made diseases ; We have Bioweapons research labs, we also have labs where people make mistakes and let shit slip that shouldn't.

Subliminal Messages: Isn't consumerism a message that results in everyone wanting far more than they need?

Who made the author of this chart Omniscient?

I reject the thesis of this chart. I reject its politics.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

ImgBurn to the rescue... twice!

 I've been on a Retro computing kick lately. I hit a few walls because I couldn't figure out how to get things into the VirtualBox machines (the OSs involved were so old there were no file/network sharing things I could get to work).  Then it dawned on me that I could make .ISO files, and insert them in the virtual CD-ROM drive.  ImgBurn did the job under Windows 10.

Here is Forth/2, which I wrote, and Brian Mathewson documented, back in 1992-1994, running under OS/2 4.50

Next up we have STOICAL, a next generation FORTH system which has some promising features I'm interested in exploring. I had to get Debian 3 up and running to get it installed via dpkg

Jonathan Sachs initially wrote STOIC for the Data General NOVA machine, then moved on to write Lotus 1-2 3.
Jonathan Liles wrote STOICAL to run on Linux, then moved on to write NON.

Here is STOICAL running under Debian 3

Observations about the Pope doing a TED talk.

I find it amazing that the technology exists that I, along with most of humanity, can watch this leader of a large faith, read a speech, but more importantly, see his gestures when he wants to drive a point home... despite language barriers, time, and space.

What is even better is that it serves all of us fairly equally. There is nothing technical stopping anyone, anywhere, from doing the same.

I agree with his message, we all need to work together to make civilization more sustainable, and distribute opportunity more fairly.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Why is X such a hot-button issue in the United States?

 The corrupt influence pedaling duopoly (RNC/DNC) needs to keep their customers happy (The donor class). Their Donor class stands in direct opposition to what most of us want (because they are hoarding power and opportunity)

The strategy is to keep us angry at each other, while ignoring them. These are the "hot-buttons"... any time they find a new one, you bet they'll exploit it.

The social media platforms seek to maximize "engagement" which as a side effect, maximizes for "hot-buttons"...

It should come as no surprise at all when you see "hypocrisy" from either side getting played up... it just maximizes our distraction, and keeps the donor money rolling in.

This applies to pretty much any issue you care to mention.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

STOICAL - the journey continues

 As a result of a few recent Forth threads on Hacker News, I first heard of STOIC on September 29th. (1 Week ago) Intrigued at the novel way it addressed the shortcomings of Forth which limited its use... I tracked down STOICAL. It really got me motivated, and I decided to download it and dive in.

At that moment, I had almost zero of the specific bits of knowledge required to make it work. I only used Linux sporadically. I never programmed in Linux. I actively avoided C for the last 40 years. Yet, I dug in.

Last night I got it compiled enough that it now starts up, and then hangs. This is a vast improvement from 2 days ago. I now have WSL installed, with gcc, automake, and all manner of stuff required to make it go. I still use Notepad++ and windows to edit the source (as the /home/mike folder is visible as a network share) I've even got git/github going.

I know I'll get it up and running in short order. Then I'll start banging away at it until it matches my ideas of how it should work. My goal is to produce a Forth-ish compiler that doesn't get people intrigued but then run out of steam.

STOIC checks all the boxes, it's Imperative, Structured, Object Oriented, Functional, Concatenative and HomoIconic.

And right now.... it doesn't even boot... but it will! That's programming!

My responses to a Doc Searls live stream

 Doc Searls mentioned that there were some good responses in the chat log, so I saved them to a file.

Here are mine, I left others out to respect copyright, etc.

Me To All panelists and at...1:48:13 PM

There is a cure for social media... it's to chose your sources wisely, and stop maximizing for BUZZ.

We're the product being sold, and the platforms study our actions and shove us towards a rabbit hole to keep us on their platform, no matter what the cost to us or society.

Me To All panelists and at...1:55:54 PM

From the societal and non-commercial view of the world, we need to pull our attention back, and channel it ourselves. RSS and Blogs still work... and we can use them in parallel with the walled gardens.

The Prepper of the Social Media world is someone who cross-posts to Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and their own Website

Me To All panelists and at...2:00:43 PM

I just picked up a project someone else put on Sourceforge in 2002 and forgot about... it was an adaptation of STOIC, which was an adaptation of FORTH, that Jon Sachs wrote before he wrote Lotus 1 2 3

Me To All panelists and at...2:01:30 PM

With Open source, ideas, tools, and code can persist like books, the allow ideas to live well past their authors.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Wherein Mike undertakes an audacious quest he is woefully unprepared for, but full of pluck.

 This is, by far, the most ambitious programming project I've taken on in decades. I'm picking up a program written in 2002, in C, a language I've actively avoided for 40 years. It runs in Linux, which I've never programmed for, though I have used. I have almost zero experience in this particular tool chain, it's all new to me.

Why? Because the documentation I read 4 days ago, hinted that there was a very powerful programming language buried inside. 

So, now here I am, with an idea, and enough tools to realize it, and a rough but interesting road ahead.  

As of now, the program prints this text when run:

Welcome to Stoical.

Segmentation fault in:

stack: (empty)

context: (:) 'def Segmentation fault

I'm pleased that I've gotten to the point that it compiles. 8)

You too can watch in real time as I struggle to come up to speed on gcc, autoconf, m4, Ubuntu, WSL, and C with tons of pointers, through the magic of Git and GitHub

Here is the GitHub repository