I always look forward to reading the comments you all leave, it’s one of the biggest motivators for me, to continue writing here. If this dialog, is something you all enjoy, I’ll continue with it whenever asked, or the mood strikes me. Hell, I might just do it because it’s fun!!
Without further banter….
As I read your post, I just pictured you slaving away at a computer that would equal the size of a modern pick-up truck, ribbons and spools of magnetic tape whirring endlessly...I know it wasn't that long ago, but the way you described it, I couldn't help it.
Flash, that’s the way I envisioned it as well, except the actual 360/370 was probably more “tractor-trailer”, than pickup truck sized.
Although, I never actually saw the machine in question, it was housed about 100 miles away on the SUNY Binghamton campus. SUNY Utica/Rome, later the SUNY College of Technology, was too small at the time to warrant its own machine.
I’ve seen plenty since that time, one computer center in particular was nearly half the size of a football field! What’s amazing to me, despite having been involved and working with computers for that past 20 plus years, is that today, on our desktop, or in our laps, many of us have more computing power than those old behemoths had!
Hmmmm....as you know I cut my teeth on one of the first 360/40's in '67 and certainly it could do stuff a bit faster but here's my question: Is the quality of the answer as great as the 40 hour one you refer to?
In human terms of poetry, satisfaction and accomplishment?
Now as you think back on this post, it is the people that mattered afterall
Where is Doctor Dave???!!!!!
First, for those of you who don’t know “Dr. Dave” is what Greg and I have always called Dave Fulton, the original founder of Fox Software and the product that was to become “FoxPro”. Dave signed on with Microsoft as their chief database architect when the company was sold to (merged with actually) them, but then, about 18 months later simply ‘vanished’ from their ranks. It's been written that he left because Microsoft was a 'big company' and he was more of a 'small company' guy. I, for one, really believe that to be true.
We’ve wondered, many times over the years, what exactly happened to him. He was a great man, brilliant mind and fostered an atmosphere of invention at Fox Software. He encouraged innovation and we folks in the “streets” actually got to talk with the developers when we had problems.
I’ve sort of secretly hoped he’d retired to some tropical island, living out his days relaxing in the sun and enjoying the fruits of his efforts. The last thing I saw in the press about Dave is here, he’s in his early 60’s now and I suspect continuing to find things he feels passionately about to fill his time. If you’re interested in what some other developers had to say about Dave, you you can look here.
Now, on to the more esoteric question, the one that addressed the relative ‘quality/value’ of either solution.
In straight business results terms, they’re absolutely equal. The results are identical, repeatable and reliable. In terms of speed to market, the computer solution is definitely superior.
In human terms, believe it or not, I also believe they’re equal.
I know the sense of accomplishment I had when finished with the computer version was even higher than when I finished the manual solution. To complete the computer version I had to learn new things, new methods, apply them properly and monitor the results. It probably took me the better part of a second week to achieve that second solution. Once I had however, all I needed to do after that, was get the data ‘punched up’ and run it through. It made possible, what a week before was impossible.
I know, that the feeling of elation I had when I knew my (and that mainframe’s) efforts would allow us to complete the project not only on time, but early, was genuine.
Is a poem, “less good” because it was written using a keyboard and monitor, than if it was written longhand?
Is digital photography somehow inferior to the older film method?
The true genius, in any work, is in the inspiration, the vision of the person creating it. Not necessarily in the means, or the medium they use to bring it to life (with apologies to Marshal McCluhan). I think beauty, satisfaction, accomplishment are all terms to describe what we feel when we look at something that we, or someone else has created.
I know I don’t find those emotions diminished if the work was done in canvas and oil, or in pixels… In fact, at times I’ve looked at ‘digital art’ and thought of the thousands of hours that may have been devoted to producing it, one painstaking layer at a time, each of the several million pixels each requiring the artist to ‘adjust’ it until it suited him, or her.
Tying both of these comments back together, those old computers were huge, and make no mistake about it, there’s still plenty of “large iron” in place and running major corporations today. There are also millions of “Middle Iron” machines, filling gaps, handling tasks that are better handled in real-time processes, intercepting message queues and handing off jobs to the proper machine, at the proper time.
Behind, on top of, or underneath (depending on your point of view) of both of those tiers is the PC in all its many versions and flavors. That ubiquitous desktop appliance, one that graces nearly every business workspace in the country, more raw computing power is housed in these millions of boxes than in all the large and mid-tier iron combined.
The bigger question, in my mind anyway, is one of are we really any better off?
Is life, as we know it, truly better than the life folks lived 50, or 100 years ago, because of these devices? Have there been improvements, in our level of living, our life satisfaction level, our overall happiness as a result of the way the computer has infiltrated nearly every facet of our lives?
Some would say no, and emphatically say no. They’d argue that life has become too fast, that we no longer have the ability to take pride, to feel the sense of accomplishment we once did. That computers, and specifically robots, have taken that from us.
I disagree. You tell the research scientist who’s finally brought a new drug to market, that because the computers they used allowed them to speed the processing of huge amounts of data, that they should feel less satisfied.
Does a farmer feel less satisfied in a successful year because a computer monitored water and nutrient levels throughout his fields and calculated the exact amounts necessary for a maximum crop yield?
I think, humans (or at least this human) find satisfaction in a job done well, in taking existing skills, learning (or inventing) new skills, applying them to a particular problem and achieving the desired results. I believe this is a universal-ism, that anyone who’s had the good fortune to accomplish anything, especially if they’d been told it couldn’t be done, will find themselves driven to repeat the experience.
So what do you all think, have computers “pulled their weight”?? Brought us good that outweighs the potential bad? Are they essential to you, would you want to go back to a world without them?
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