To ring in the new year I thought I’d play around with an old friend from my earliest programming days, a random text generator. Back then (over 30 years ago), but a little bit always, a good way to practice programming is by working on small, relatively easy, but still fun, programs.
Simple games are common choice, but not the only one. (I’ve probably written a version of Mastermind in every programming language I know.) Another fun choice is various image or text generators (or processors). Random text generators, in particular, offer a range of complexity depending on your taste and time.
Cleaning out some old boxes of papers, I came across one of those humor bits that circulate in any profession. Back in the day, it was usually by fax. Then it was email, and now Tweets and other social platforms. (The song remains the same.)
This one concerned “rare” (i.e. made up) languages loosely based on existing languages. The humor depends, mostly, on recognizing parodied languages and certain other topical references (like “Valley Girls”).
In other words, a lot of the funny has sailed, but I found parts of it cute enough to record here…
In the process of cleaning out boxes of old paperwork, I found this company memo, circa early 1980s, that describes a “simpler” way to send email. At the time, email systems were mainframe-based text systems you logged onto and typed at — actually not terribly unlike the web-based email systems today.
The memo reminds me of how it was back then and of how far we’ve come since. Here it is, reproduced as is:
What follows is the text of a piece I wrote back May of 1990 in a Star Trek USENET group. There is some minor editing for clarity. Given that 64 bits seems common now, the projections may need some adjustment!
I got into software in the late 1970s, so my first couple of decades involved lots of low-level systems and designs. My world had a lot of assembly code, interrupt handlers, and driver routines. I can’t say I miss living in that realm, but it’s still fun to revisit sometimes.
A rare place that still happens is when I get to thinking about how I might design an operating system should I ever chose to (these days a dubious and foolish choice, at best).
These days it seems like spell checkers exist in almost everything. Word processing software has had them a long time, although in the early days you had to invoke the spell check function. These days software handily underlines misspelled words in real-time (with sometimes an advanced function we can invoke).
It always struck me as pretty lame how people (well, let’s be honest: managers) would present PowerPoint documents in important meetings with the red jagged “you misspelled this” underline sprinkled throughout their document. What exactly did they think that meant?
But enough about managers. It’s Friday and time for some fun, so here’s an old, old poem about spelling checkers…
It’s Friday again, so it’s time to get casual and have some fun. Today I have a pair of songs for computer programmers. These files have been occupying bits on my hard drive for many, many years. I’m releasing them to the Wild World Web so they can live free!
You know the tunes, so sing along to the new words…