September 3rd, 2014

Ten books that 'have stayed with me'

Since this is floating round again. Stayed with me undefined.

Without looking at what I said last time.

1. Sirens of Titan, Vonnegut. Think I described Vonnegut as 'the elephant in the room' last time. He still is. Powerful stuff for an 8 (?) year old. An introduction to nihilism
2. The Whole Earth Catalog. That would be the 'Next Whole Earth Catalog', you always prefer your first, like Dr Whos. What brave new world that has such people (and stuff, so much stuff) in it.

Think those are the big 2, nothing else comes close.,
3. Player Piano, Vonnegut. A technocratic dystopia. The best. And yet... 'a just machine to make big decisions, programmed by fellows with compassion and vision'. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis?
4. Illuminatus. Some of the sexual politics has dated badly, but we kind of knew it would.
5. Cosmic Trigger vol 1 (or 'Cosmic Trigger' as it was then). Wilson's autobiography. An anarchist techno-utopian. Plays into the dialectic of 3.
6. The Science Fiction Encyclopeda, Nicholls and Clute - the first version of course, as with Dr Whos you always prefer your first.
7. Breakfast In The Ruins / Engines of the Night, Malzberg - the former is an expansion of the latter. The book which explains SF like no other.
8. Design and Evolution of C++, Stroustrup - to read this book is to understand where C++ comes from and, perhaps, forgive

Gets more difficult according to an obscure power law...
9. Let's say 'The Awk programming language', Aho, Weinberger and Kernighan. Clearly comes from a kinder, gentler age, but this slim book is the most literate of all programming books.
10. Oh, I don't know, Cryptonomicon

Icy Tea

"For the first time - children in our schools will learn the new language of computer coding." D. Cameron - 2013

Now, we are not here to discuss whether teaching programming at school is a good thing (TM) or where it fits in the wider educational context - the world is not short of uninformed opinions on that subject.

Nor are we here to say that describing the sublime experience of taking pure thought and molding it into an application, an exquisite illusion of light and logic, 'programming' or 'coding' and calling the people who do it 'programmers' or 'coders' is as demeaning as calling Borges a 'writer' or Da Vinci a 'painter'.

Nor are we here to discuss what the British economy would do with a shed-load of extra programmers if it had it. Outsource the jobs to India and put them shelf-stacking on workfare in Poundland one might say if one were the sort of person to say that sort of thing.

My question here is as follows: I could be wrong, but the term overwhelmingly used for programming is, er, programming. So why have they chosen an 'out group' term rather than an 'in group' one which does I fear rather mark this as an 'outsiders on the make' project? It is a bit like the term ICT, a synonym for IT used, as far as I can see, in parts of academia and in EU project land.

I accept that people do sometimes use the term coding - many years ago when we worshiped at the alter of the Waterfall Method 'coding' was the stage where the lovingly produced 'detailed design' (probably, ugh, pseudo-code) was transformed into some nasty verbose language e.g. FORTRAN 77, COBOL or assembler, but does anyone still work that way? And that isn't what is being proposed.

(Whilst we are here we can also ask 'For the motherfucking love of God how stupid do these fucking imbeciles have to be not to be able to get some simple technical jargon correct in an important speech to the extent that it doesn't sound completely risible? Yes, I know we can tease some meaning out of the quote at the top, but that's not really the point, is it?)