Ok, that’s sort of twisting the famous JFK-quote.
But it’s a good way to put the difference that exists between merely using computer technology on the one hand – or actually understanding and shaping it.
Given the extent to which technology influences our lives, I find the interest – especially of the iPhone generation – to really understand what’s going on under the hood remarkably underdeveloped.
I make this point because others seem to notice this as well: the June issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek was entirely dedicated to the subject of coding. I haven’t read thru all of it yet – but I can already say it’s worth it !
And I can only add that it can be rewarding to create some awareness for yourself of how computers work and what can be done with their sheer force to crunch numbers (….or better: to go at incredible speed thru huge numbers of pre-coded instructions).
My hour of awakening struck when I wanted to understand how the little marvel of Sinclair ZX81 actually worked which I was able to purchase after endless days of getting up at 6 o’clock in the morning to deliver bread for the local bakery store (….one of the many unhappy episodes of my Manchester-capitalistic youth :-)).
And I acquired skills & insights at the time that still do serve me well today (….hope to hear no **SIGHS** on that one from younger collegues….): I’ll never forget the day I walked into a bookshop to find a book about how Z80 processors work in detail, stumbled across one, red a single page, didn’t understand a word…. and decided to change all that.
And in the context off the initial considerations of the post, I searched the web for this book. And, sure enough, there is a PDF available, even put online with the consent of the author, Rodnay Zaks.
„Programming the Z80“ was really a technological eye-opener – and I all to willingly share the poetic beauty of the phrase that revealed my complete and utter ignorance to myself (quote from page 288 from the PDF in the link above):
„If the specified condition is meet , the given offset value is added to the program counter using two’s compliment arithmetics so as to enable both forward and backward jumps. The offset value is added to the value of PC+2 (after the jump) . As a result, the effective offset is -126 to +129 bytes. The assembler automatically subtracts 2 from the source offset value to generate the hex code. If the condition is not met, the offset value is ignored and instruction execution continues in sequence.“
Let that sink in…
I remember that especially the brief, but utterly incomprehensible phrase „The assembler automatically subtracts 2 from the source offset value to generate the hex code“ got me flabberasted at the time…. and hope that more will share this fascination for the incomprehensible in the future.
Watching „Big Bang Theory“ just isn’t always enough…. 🙂