Why Now?
Thursday, November 25, 2004
  Give Me Some Oldtime Computing

I mentioned doing some augury, but that was strictly for personal entertainment, or so my lawyer said after the letter appears from the Guild of Augurs regarding my doing it. [I think it was the puff of red smoke and smell of sulfur that got his attention.]

Actually I’m a computer druid. People think of oak trees, mistletoe, holly, sickles, and dancing in the woods. That generally only applies the lunar branch. I’m in the other branch: solid-state calculations for over two millennia.

These days everyone wants portability, but in the old days we built for reliability. You build a computer with slabs of compressed silicon, quartz, and rare earths and you can guarantee system stability. Some of the systems, like the machine at Stonehenge, have been running for centuries without a re-boot or a crash. Granite and solar-power does that for you.

Of course, with that kind of reliability, management loses interest in paying for an IT staff, and people forget what the machine does. Naturally, within fifteen days after the initial boot the users’ manual was lost or misfiled, and management won’t pay for the extended service agreement.

While I agree that predicting the solstices and equinoxes isn’t as entertaining as Solitaire, and there’s not much of a tax advantage in a piece of equipment that provides a negligible depreciation allowance, the real blow came when people stopped staging music festivals at the installations. It seemed that in no time the old 10 mega-ton units became cattle pens, and the locals started using parts for castles and such.

But computer druids keep plugging away and many of those who work at home have gone back to wearing robes. Given the current state of computers we sound more like the lunars, coming up with reasons why users aren’t getting the results that were promised at the time of the sale. [In the old days we could sharpen sickles in the presence of the irate customers and they left.]


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