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Which way is up...?

Posted 06-22-2009 at 04:54 AM by Shingoshi
Updated 06-22-2009 at 11:31 AM by Shingoshi

As users of computers, we exist in a paradigm that's constantly in flux. It has definitely left many wondering, "which way is up...?
Quote:
paradigm 4: the generally accepted perspective of a particular discipline at a given time; "he framed the problem within the psychoanalytic paradigm"
Sometimes I think our technology changes so much and so quickly, that users may find themselves in need of psychoanalytic attention. But seriously, it seems we almost need to develop a technology for discussing technology itself. There are so many implications that stem from one transition to the next, that some consequences and outcomes are almost unpredictable.

Coming to Linux back in 2000, after buying my first used computer, I found myself in new territory. The computer I purchased came with Windows 95 installed on it. I barely had it a few days before deciding to use Linux. So I called my local Borders Books and found two distributions on sale there. One was Debian (for $50, a very large manual and a single CD), and the other was SuSE (for $50, a maybe smaller manual and a set of six CDs). So since I'm the person who never likes settling for less, I got and installed SuSE 6.4. The merit of my decision is beyond the scope of our consideration, at least for me anyway.

The installation went smoothly. No problems at all. The SuSE setup was something I fell in love with immediately. And I was amazed with all of the options afforded me by YaST. I enjoyed how I could see everything that was happening during the installation, switching to a console to watch the progress of files being written to disk.

I made the decision to use Linux, because of a number of factors.
1.) I wanted features that only were available on servers.
2.) I wasn't willing to pay for advanced server tools from M$.
3.) I was creating a website at the time, and wanted to build and run it myself. (I had a lot to learn)

One of the things I did during the installation, was to install the reiserfs filesystem on my root partition. At the time, I wasn't aware reiserfs wasn't supported by the kernel. As advanced as SuSE tended to be about moving on to new technologies before most others, this had not yet been included. So suddenly, I found myself unable to boot my computer.

Fortunately for me, I brought SuSE, which came with phone support. So early Monday morning, I called support. What I got was an immediate tutorial on how to compile my own kernel, over the phone no less! Damn good customer support, and a great return on my investment. When all was said and done, I had a brand new kernel, and the knowledge of how to do it again.

But then, there's always two sides to everything. And the flip side here, was that I quickly became addicted to compiling my own packages. I browsed the internet for no other purpose than to find software to compile and run on my brand new used computer. I was in Nirvana. Well, maybe you can't be in Nirvana if you're also addicted...

But my future was set before me. And much of it came from my past. I had been trained in IBM RPG programming, and moved on shortly after that to Fortran. You see, my hobby was mathematics. And I was working with series and sequences which were beyond the means of my calculator to manipulate. Polynomial expansion has a way of consuming resources. And I really needed to see how the numbers were developing as they grew in size. I had to learn programming. But I quickly outgrew Fortran. I found myself in need of something far more powerful than Fortran could have ever hoped to be. I needed dynamic arrays, which could expand without having their size predetermined. I needed APL!

Maybe in a few moments, I'll remember how I found out about it. But for the time being, let's just say I was amazed upon introduction, and fell in love. I have always been one who loved symbolism. And there is definitely no shortage of symbolism in APL. And the conciseness with which my concepts could be portrayed left me with nothing to desire. I had everything I needed in APL.

I started studying Fortran at my local community college in Valhalla, New York. Westchester Community College. My friends who knew of my work suggested that I needed to go and see the Dean of Mathematics there. His name was Louis Rotando. And I took him my notes showing what I was working on. All of this started with me playing around with my calculator.

One Saturday afternoon, after just buying my new toy, I sat in my chair and started playing with it. And I don't know how or why, but I started playing with reciprocals. And I noticed a pattern.

If I took any whole number and added to it it's reciprocal (a+1/a), I saw that the reciprocal (1/(a+1/a)) of that mixed number was very close in relationship to the reciprocal of the whole number:
b=(1/(a+1/a))
1/b<1/a
After running a few cycles (of operations on my calculator) on a set of whole numbers, I found reciprocals that were equal to the reciprocal plus/minus the whole number.
b-1/b=a
a+1/b=b
Where a is the whole number, and b is a mixed number. Which b is a plus the reciprocal of b (1/b). The formula looks like this: [a+((a^2+4)^(1/2))]/2

I found all of this just to be plain weird! I had no formal knowledge of mathematics. I knew that I always liked numbers. I always saw them as magical. And this definitely seemed to qualify as magic to me. I spent the rest of the afternoon doing this. Running one whole number after another through this cyclic pattern of adding the reciprocal to the number, taking the reciprocal of the mixed number and subtracting the whole number, and repeating the process. Until I wound up with a number that was always the reciprocal of itself.

Without having the slightest idea of what I had done in the space of a few moments, I stumbled into golden numbers. After a few more minutes of playing around, I determined a solution (the formula above) for solving the golden number of any whole number. I wrote the formula for the golden ratio. That started my quest with computers and subsequently programming. And there was no better language for handling this than APL. Unfortunately for me, APL was for mainframes. I didn't own a mainframe. But I've wanted one ever since because of this.

But that was years (1980) before my buying a computer of my own. In the meantime, I was back to using pencil and paper for anything I did. Life seemed to have as many cycles of iteration as the formulas I found myself inspired by. Why did it take me so long to own my first computer? Life had other things for me in the intervening period of time.

Geez! This is a long post. I think I should stop here. I've said all of this to say I've encountered different levels of technology over the past 30 years. Some of it has amazed me. Other things I simply wondered why did it take so long. On this path of my life, I feel like the kid in the backseat asking, "are we there yet? But the advancement of technology is a road trip that never ends. At least not until an individual comes to a place where they either can no longer comprehend it, or they no longer exist. In the meantime, it's a continual condition of consciousness to ask, "which way is up...?

Shingoshi
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