[portland] newcomer introduction

Anthony Smith gods_bud666 at hotmail.com
Sun Nov 2 09:09:47 CET 2008

Hello from Everett Washington (an hour north of Seattle).

I was a programmer of Apple IIs from 1982 to 1985.
Good old BASIC (not visual or Q, just BASIC).
It was a worthwhile occupation : just writing code
for stuff I thought up - - - and I learned debugging,
writing out longer programs, etc.  

When I came across problems (the speed of the
interpreter), instead of using a compiler (which was 
available, but I didn't learn to use) or making use of
an assembler, - I just gave up writing.

Over the years I kept learning - a few books (assembly
language; microprocessors; IC - level wiring schematics)
but I still have not done any serious writing, until

I figured out how to download Python 2.5 (or 2.6,
don't remember now) and started writing again.

I got past save/load/run - that part was easy ...
and I made it through 16 lines of code successfully -
I mean I checked it out - everything worked.

But then I hit a snag - the interpreter gave me
syntax errors and highlighted a field of whitespace
a few lines BELOW the last line of code I wrote.
I assume that whitespace would not be interpreted 
as a syntax error - particularly in a place where
nothing was yet written.

So I assumed that my version of Python was corrupted
by something I downloaded off the internet (you know
the garbage:  spam; viruses; spyware; trojans) so I
erased Python and have not continued.

Would you suggest that I get another computer to
write code with - I mean a computer that is new and
not connected to the internet?

The computer I use now is old:  a DELL Dimension
L733r with a pentium chip and Windows 2000.
I cannot make use of my speedy (COMCAST
connection) internet server because of this slow

The sorts of programs I write are varied:

Originally, I played around with graphics and a random
generator to display blocks of symmetrical (multicoloured)
demonstrations.  I would copy programs from magazines
for high-resolution graphics.  I wrote a program that,
when run, looked like the computer was scrawling a
map of the United States.  

Later, I programmed it to play games.  Little stuff at
first, then a program to play PONG against the computer
and blackjack.  

Future projects would involve string manipulation - breaking
words down into component letters and transferring them
to a digital number based on position in word.  Also,
taking a number (base ten) and making it into a word
by use of a base 26 number system.  Then later,
crunching numbers and (yes) crunching words (English

This is discovery.  All a person has to do is begin to
multiply numbers - whatever numbers interest you -
and learn the beauty of numbers.  I found an interesting
number this way:  299997.  After repeatedly adding
this number to itself, I found MANY MANY instances
of products that had all ten digits used - and - only
once each (example:  299997 x 4117 yields
1235087649; 299997 x 6551 = 1965280347).
I found hundreds of other products using 299997
that also were non-repeating ten-digit products
using all ten digits.

Have you ever typed in 71077345 into a portable
calculator and turned it upside down?  Yeah,
it reads SHELLOIL.  I have used this technique
as well to identify - well - FUNCTIONS.

To seek these things out is to discover years,
phone numbers, addresses, times of the day,
and the more you do it, the more - TOTALLY -
the system works.  You just keep on.

Did you know that Artificial Intelligence is a possibility?
Not writing a program that will think private thoughts, but
writing one that will be a - very good - SIMULATION of a
real person.  Like the computer that Matthew Broderick
had a powwow with in the movie 'WarGames'.  THAT
type of system is a possibility (and likely a reality as
well) - not a system that will make independant decisions
such as deciding to play a game on a lark, but one
that you can interact with as though another person
(as with text) and this sort of system would be a
paragon of a useful tool to any programmer or simple
user - the only hurdle is someone has to write it.

My, I am long-winded!

Anyway, language translation should be utilized,
and upgraded too.  As well as teaching computer
language students about central processing, some
kind of 'ease' and the natural power of computers.

I blew through a couple of books about computer
languages (one about JAVA and one about Python)
and it seems to me that modern languages ought 
to be streamlined by the companies that come up
with the new prototypes - there are simply too many
new 'features' and 'alternatives' and absolutely way
too many reserved words in the language.

Complicating a good computer system (like the 
original BASIC I once used) with umpteen terms
and alternatives and such is not an advancement -
it is a headache.  A similar system with as great
a potential and far easier to learn and use is quite
possible, once you learn to write a system that
mimics the actual processor and memory access
and I/O devices and (BASIC) screens, speakers,
heart of gold.

I'm out.

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