the terminals shine
[ This article originally appeared on my blog in 2014. -Ed.]
Getting ready to start my day, doing a couple little tasks while watching AMC's Halt & Catch Fire in the background. I really love the show; mostly 'cause it's like re-living the microcomputer revolution. Kids today don't know what it was like. Every month something new and innovative came out. Most of the things that came out withered and died 'cause they were too expensive or the market for the product didn't really exist.
But at the time, that didn't matter too much. It was a crazy time and there were no rules. Or rather, people were more willing to creatively bend them. I was on the tech side of the fence in the 80s and was privileged to work on firmware, application programs and even an operating system to compete with MacOS and Microsoft Windows. I wrote a lot of very cool code, but strangely, the only thing that's still in use from back in the day is some code for older ATM machines & a hack i wrote for DOS / Netware.
The common misconception of the 80's was software was written by lone coders working feverishly through the night. That's not completely untrue, but there were plenty of small organizations: three or four coders working together to get stuff done. (Remember, this is back when version control was flinging floppies around the room.)
One of my favorite bits of writing from the time is this bit from Geoffrey James:
"The computer center is empty,
Silent except for the whine of the cooling fans.
I walk the rows of CPUs,
My skin prickling with magnetic flux.
I open a door, cold and hard,
And watch the lights dancing on the panels.
A machine without soul, men call it,
But its soul is the sweat of my comrades,
Within it lie the years of our lives,
Disappointment, friendship, sadness, joy,
The algorithmic exaltations,
The long nights filled with thankless toil,
I hear the echoes of sighs and laughter,
And in the darkened offices
The terminals shine like stars." --from The Tao of Programming