Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Comdex.. Las Vegas.... 1994

By mid-1994, not only did I have an 'engine' under construction to generate insurance policies, I (well we, Greg and I) had an engine, not a fully tuned, or debugged engine, but an engine all the same, for the MOOP process. For those programmers out there, this was what I (again, it's really "we", or "I" in the plural sense) called our process. Meta-Object Oriented Programming.

I’d written many implementations of it over the years, but, the first real working model I had, that brought it, out of the lab, and into the ‘real world’, was the Lazer-Prn application we had been selling.

This application stored all of the formatting for various forms, in HP PCL code, in a database, and referenced it as needed, streaming it to the printer as part of the overall printing job. The language we had then FoxPro 2.x, wasn’t exactly an object oriented language, it was however, extensible enough, that you could ‘sort of’ treat database contents as though they were ‘tangible’ objects.

We’d also used another version to build the ‘Shutter Calculator’ for the firm in Naples, and adapted yet another version to allow customers (or their computer folks) to build their own ‘solver’ application, by building in the parameters and then referencing them.

I (we) really felt we were on to something. The whole “Object Oriented” concept was coming to the mainstream; I’d implemented an extension on the concept, that truly allowed everything we could imagine to become an object. The whole “everything is an object” we now see in the .Net platform, we were using, in 1994. Microsoft handled it differently in their implementation, differently enough that, the original model we had then, is still applicable, and still adds value and intelligence to the coding process.

It was on the tail end of this kind of ‘heady development’, and a growing acceptance into the SBT dealer community, which encouraged us to make plans to attend COMDEX, as a vendor, that year. We felt we’d be able to reach an even wider dealer audience, interact with folks in a way that simply wasn’t possible on the phone.

What follows next here, is a piece originally written by Greg, back when we both had a ‘group’ on MSN. I like it because of the way we interacted as he wrote it. I commented, he commented… it is representative of how we interacted, always. The original piece is on Greg’s website, but it’s buried on a page with several other pieces. I’m presenting here, as it appears there, Greg’s original words are in ‘black’, my comments in ‘red’ and Greg’s comments, to my comments, in ‘green’.(All of Greg's copyrights apply)


Hot Dog in Las Vegas
p(HE,I) = p(HI)*p(EH,I)/p(EI)

In the beginning, the COMDEX show was the epitome of things a 'computer person' could do. I'm not sure when I became a computer person. I used to be a human being, well, I think so. Possibly it followed the alien abduction.

[Bill's note: Interestingly enough.. both of us wound up in the profession... although through different circumstances... We ended up square in the middle of that 'revolution'... could well have been an abduction I guess!! Certainly, we found ourselves in the middle of something far bigger than either of us... yet far to fascinating to just let it slip by!!]

Bill and I planned this excellent adventure, our programs tuned, or computers tweaked. We thought this the high point, the pinnacle, the grandness of grandness, of our little careers. Setting up for disappointment...you bet!

The reality, always reality, is we still haven't reached our high point. That will come when the computing process we invented becomes the way things are. Of course, I think it was all my idea...silly me. It will probably happen long after we're dead. Recognition of art is the truth of art.

[and *I* like to think it was mine {grin}... truth be told.. for us it was the logical result of the tiresome effort required to bring programs to clients...] if I were to say Bill it came from the amalgam of that need of yours and my need to find some way to tell the story...its our differences often that is the beauty of our relation...logic is all yours my friend. [Well.. Greg... you *are* the story teller, of the two of us, after all... I'm a fair novice compared to you!! Suffice it to say... we certainly *knew* it when we hit upon it.. and watched it work for the 1st time!!]

Just an aside. Bill (at least, of course much more) named our process, Meta Object Programming Procedures. It's a method of dealing with objects (in our method an object is anything that can be named...that is anything/everything that can be imagined) and viewing them from their true context that is from inside the object looking out. I think this is how we humans really think, a limited universe only as far as the eye can see so to speak. We have a bit of information and we spiral out from it until it is defined. Curiously only as far as necessary to achieve the definition required for the situation. We all have situational ethics.

Application of these methods of thought to computer programming could achieve true 'intelligence'. I think the Bayesian's are idiotic in their approach, why probability? why not certainty? even if limited. The Chaos theory requires belief in the truth of the initiating proposition...but I'm all about be here now. Of course, I'm talking about the smartest people in the world...sorry Mr. Hawkings...from the vantage of one of the dumbest. I've tried to read their stuff....I haven't a clue.

It may be that because my world is so tiny and theirs is so...so universal. I can't imagine how you harness the universe, that intelligence. Seems to me its like trying to build artificial intelligence from a God's eye view. Confronted with the contradictions, God and artificial, looking down and being, I fall and stumble. It seems to me to be useful for humans, intelligence must be from the perspective of humans. I also do not perceive that machine intelligence is any more or less artificial than any other form of intelligence. I actually tend to think the Bayesians view 'human' intelligence as artificial...maybe that's why the God's eye view? Or maybe cause Bayes was a minister first and a mathematician second? It's not that I don't see the place for probability theory just not in...but, I really haven't a clue.

[and *that*.. the lack of a clue.. was, and is, the true beauty of our system... it doesn't take a rocket scientist, or a Bayesian, to apply it.... just common folk like us... I think it may well become common before we're dead... but long after we've lost interest in 'pushing it home'...] maybe thats what I'm doin' here?...my part of this started on the beach in Isla Vista in 1971...a wonderful young mathematician named Mike Carroll and I walked in the sunshine and cold breeze and argued the probability theories as initiated by Bayes inference...talkin the wonders of nature...the wonders of youth..its goin' on 21 years since I first talked with Kolp on this...21 years and we still haven't written it down...and now a decade since we clarified the concept... 8 years since we talked about whether our concept was patentable as a process... remember?... maybe its time to 'push it home'... bro... I think you of all people, understand, there is so much I, we, have to push home... time is short. [It's funny, as we sit here and attempt to relate the tale, how far back these thoughts go.. into our respective pasts I mean, I was 'extensing' data from programs as early as 1980.. trying to remove the 'knowledge' from the code, and place it 'outside', in the universe, where it belonged... I think maybe we should 'push it home' bro... I think I'd forgotten the length of this particular journey, for both of us.... and time, my friend, is the one precious commodity we'll never have enough of!!]

So obviously this leads to the Unabomber and The New School for Social Research. Now it may seem to you that there is no correlation between a whacko anti-technologist, a bunch of Marxist-feminists and Las Vegas. Well, there's me.

I recall how often these city folks, would decry the de-humanizing effects of city life. Yet here we live in a world where well over 95% of the populations live in the city. This would seem to be the 'human' condition. Farm life is 'de-humanizing'. Living on the Amazon is 'de-humanizing'. Maybe better for people, maybe more quality but not the way of our species today. Sure my cultural-anthropologist buddies would take their trips to the wild. But they always came back to humanity. Kinda like Dick Cheney bein' from Wyoming...he lives in Texas.

But contrarily they espoused the collectivism of modern society and the true feminist ideal. Poor Ted cries to be held by his family and decries technology. He worships his earth mother and hates his remote father and wants so much to be him.

But technique is feminist at its heart, it is collectivist. It is feminist to plant the field and control nature, to build hives, to control wealth, for the greater good of the family. The masculinist confronts and conquers, the individual, man above nature all that domini, dominance, dominate, lord above stuff, accumulation...for the greater good of the family. Poor Ted is very confused...mother controls the family, he loves her and yet wants to kill her. Our poor anthropologists are equally confused. And so am I.

Off to Las Vegas. Wizards, gurus, priests, of this religion are Bill and I. Off to the High Temple for the annual High Mass. We carry the secrets, know the rites and ritual. This technology that is and will destroy society as we know it and yet it is creating a new social order. Better? There will be less freedom, there will be less individuality, more boys will get methylphenidate...will the world be better? Ted I feel your pain. It doesn't suprise me that the altar is in New Sodom. Will I look back?

[I recall us talking about this exact idea on the way to LV, and at the hotel when we got there.... We justified our presence as a 'necessary evil'.. maybe the only way we could bring our ideas to the public eye, given our rather limited budget... For all the things it wasn't... our trip to LV tought us many things.. among them, the duplicity of our compatriots... and the true limited scope of our universe.. oddly enough... that didn't dissuade us, but only served to strengthen our resolve.. and our belief in our idea]...yes thank you, Bill, thank you, of course this is the story of that adventure and you are the reason I'm writing it. [You're very welcome Greg... you may be writing it for me... but this is truly the one thing in my life, I fully know in my heart, would never have happened, had we not had that original conversation, from 3,000 miles apart, to discover we lived less than 100 miles apart!! I had the 'notion'.. the seed... but it never fully germanated until we'd met... worked together... built a trust.. and began to have those wonderful 'what if' conversations!!!]

Why so thoughtful, so morose, so melancholy, Bill and I as we make our way to our Mecca? Could be we are sentient beings after all? Reminds me of dear David....came to see the cultural revolution...can't see it...can't chronicle it...all are part of it but it is all pervasive and hidden. Some get an illicit glimpse...like Ted...and are overwhelmed. Some like Orwell are like the prophets...protecting the name of the divine, 'Big Mama' My initiation began in 3rd grade, by seventh grade I was an acolyte. At the age of 16 I was allowed to communion at the plexiglas gate. I rebelled, I lost my faith, apostate...but still I was called back and I came.

[*I* think, we'd not only seen the revolution, we'd seen beyond it.... and knew that while we held the key(s) in our hands (or in our process).. we also knew that while we'd win a disciple or two, the risks we were taking, equalled or exceeded our potential rewards... Our trip to LV, was at least as interesting as being there... I know, so crowded was our plane, I kept looking for that woman with the 'chicken' you always see on the crowded bus in a 'B' movie]

We finally arrived at our hotel...the Lucky Lady Casino. It was way cool...noise, fools and lights! Finally...inside a real casino...and all this free shit. Like 2 foot hot dogs. We were hungry.

Now these weren't some skinny little Kosher sausage...they were more like those balloons that clowns shape into pink animals only in reverse, animals shaped into balloons. A little grayed lady was attempting to shove one of these monsters in her mouth lengthwise. I was simply amazed at how much sausage she could get in her mouth, must have had lots of practice. She choked...Bill turned red and headed for the elevator. Apparently, while studying this beast, arms outstretched as required to get the whole picture of bun, mustard, relish and bright catsup so red...I most philosophically said, "I knew a horse once...."

[But is this not but the beginning of the Las Vegas trip? The hours spent discussing the process, smoothing the transactional nature.. and listening to the offerings of idiots? Suspecting a devious intent, but not sure of it until months later? Mr. Suzuki, who was unable to speak with 90% (maybe more) of the people passing through the booth... Many interesting incidents occured for sure! ]


I’m hoping to put together some further memories of that trip for tomorrow’s post. COMDEX was about a week, maybe four days, but I recall it felt much longer by the time we got home again.

A ‘red-eye’ flight at both ends of the trip, long days and nights working the show, meeting people and getting our hopes pulled higher and higher… We really thought we were at the top of our game then… little did we know how the game would soon change, and not for the better!

If you liked Greg’s piece, leave a comment and let him know… better yet, why not visit his blog, and let him know?

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Greg said...

Oh my! This aught to cut down on the readership.
Oh my! Reminds me of that movie...hmmm...Army of the 12 Monkeys...oh yes it does.
Folks are gonna say, "Bill he's a nice boy...but he really hangs out with the wrong crowd. Yes, he does."

Bill said...

Greg - and that my friend, is the story of my life!! (one of my favorite movies BTW)...

My life has 'color' in it, because of the 'crowd' I've allowed in to it. It's not always been easy, but, in the end it has always been worth the effort!

Jay said...

Wow. I love how I understood nothing, but read it anyway.

Firehawk said...


I think conventions have some weird time dilation effect, as if everyone there were moving at relativistic speed...I find that I'm always utterly exhausted when I come back from one. I'm sorry I missed Comdex in its heyday, though I did work the convention center, loading in and out, for one in '93, I think.


Your part sort of reminded me of Hunter S. Thompson, if you don't mind me saying. Thoughts all agitated, like gasses under extreme pressue and heat, activated molecules flying and bouncing everywhere, though unified somehow.

...Those must have been very interesting conversations, guys. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

Bill said...

Jay - Thanks... The key I think, is the feeling, at least that's what I was trying to convey... we were so very close at that point to achieving a 'grand dream'... I swear we could taste it. As always, I'm glad you stop by and I hope things have returned from hibernation!!

Firehawk - I couldn't agree more! From the Toy shows, to all the various auto parts shows, and the computer shows... big or small, they're exhausting.

I think you've captured the 'essence of Greg' there... I hope he's a little flattered... yet he's decidedly un-Hunter-like in person... or in much of his other writings.

We were definitely a 'pair', we get to chat much less these days, 1st I move 800 miles away to NC, and he's up in Alaska these days.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by, and for your thoughts.

Greg said...

Well everyone...
I was once mistaken for HST boarding a plane...though I don't think we looked at all similar, perhaps it was just the young ladies dream...that I was fulfilling or perhaps the Gonzo in me was oozing out...perhaps...
Now I have to think about
"... yet he's decidedly un-Hunter-like in person... or in much of his other writings."
hmmmm...is this good?...is this bad?....is this true?...oh my there go those gases again PV=nRT
Where did they hide the Moles?
Yes I am flattered...and...we were in Las Vegas afterall.

Bill said...

Greg - Considering I've never been very fond of HST's stuff, interesting enough, but far to chaotic for my tastes, I think it's a good thing :)

On the other hand, that one night in the 'ear'... you did get off on a tangent!