Sunday, 2 May 2004

Si vieillesse pouvait...

It’s not quite true to say that when it comes to the capacity to acquire new mental skills it’s all downhill from the age of twelve, but it’s not far off. This was clear to me the first time a child took a Rubik’s cube out of my hand and went twist, twist, twist, twist....... “There you are, Daddy”.

I first encountered computers twenty-eight
 years ago, when I was already on a downward slope of mental capacity. Since then I have spent around 30,000 hours playing with them, working with them or just staring at a monitor waiting for something to happen, so even allowing for an extremely shallow learning curve I must have picked up a good bit.

Indeed, there are several things I can now do with a computer. But here is a frustrating thing: With all my laboriously acquired skills, and all the marvellous equipment I now possess, I cannot reproduce a program which I wrote in 1982 for my Sinclair Spectrum; I would love to be able to do so because, apart from its sentimental value, it was really quite good in a trivial sort of way.

There is a note HERE of what it does—and a summary of how I spent the 30,000 hours . I have a printout of the program in 700 lines of Sinclair Basic but there is simply no way I can rewrite it, since my programming skill consists only of the ability to write bits of clumsy and verbose VBA code by trial and error. And I have only the printout, not the cassette I recorded the program on, so I can't use an emulator and anyway I have no wish to enter the world of retro-computing.

So now, with years of experience, two PCs with quad core CPUs and vast amounts of RAM, a MacBook 4.1, a Time Capsule, Apple TV, an iPad and a couple of grand’s worth of software, I am incapable of doing something which I could do all that time ago using a little thing the size of a paperback.

Isn’t that sad?


Frederick said...

A fabulous commentary on a problem most of us would like to forget exists.
I don't think I could reproduce any those old programs, even IF I still had the tapes.
Here's to our future insanity...

Tony said...

Indeed, Fred, and doesn't it depress you that our grandchildren probably won't be able to access anything we've done?