Thank goodness it wasn’t Slashdot …

Logged in this morning and checked mail, and then the usual news sites that I read. Boy was I surprised to see that Lambda the Ultimate – a collaborative weblog about programming language issueshad pointed to The Tcl War, an archive I maintain of a no-longer-very-famous semi-flamewar that once took place on comp.lang.tcl.

My response on LtU is rather ironic. One of my most pointed criticisms of Lisp during the original debate was the implicit evaluation rules that make macros a necessity, where Tcl can make do with ordinary commands. Now I’m reading a book that is primarily about Lisp macros, trying to understand them better.

TechnoPop: The Secret History of Technology and Pop Music

(via my O’Reilly blog)

This morning, listening to Morning Edition on NPR, I heard a wonderful piece that dealt with the ways early recording technology changed popular music. It’s the first part of a six-part Friday morning series called “TechnoPop: The Secret History of Technology and Pop Music”. After describing the birth of recorded Jazz and the impact it had, the reporter drew some interesting parallels to current events in the music industry.

Part One is online now as a RealAudio stream, and the page for the series gives pretty clear indication that “TechnoPop” will continue in a similar vein. I’m looking forward to hearing the next five segments.


I have a distant cousin named Albert Vanderburg. Online, at least, he goes by the name “Panther”. We’ve never met, although we have exchanged email from time to time. Albert is, shall we say, an “outlier”. (I don’t think he would argue with that assessment.)

Panther lives in Hawaii, and is homeless. Nevertheless, he has maintained a blog since October 8, 1997. That’s a pretty early entry into blogspace! (Dave Winer, who claims to be one of the earliestalthough I don’t know how to judge the accuracy of that claimstarted on April 1, 1997.)

General Magic is shutting its doors

I just read that General Magic is closing down. That makes me sad.

In addition to having one of the best company names around, General Magic pioneered one of the things that has really drawn my interest over the past 10 years: secure mobile code. Their Magic Cap operating system (and the Telescript language it was built on) was designed to change the world, and got a lot of attention for a while. Pavel Curtis slammed their vision of the Internet pretty hard in one of the best conference talks I’ve ever heard (the closing address at the 1995 Winter USENIX), and he was correctbut they nevertheless tried to do a lot of things right.

They had a booth at JavaOne last year. I hadn’t thought about them in a while; I was surprised to learn that they hadn’t already gone out of business. In one sense, it might have been better if they hadreading their material at the booth, they seemed like just another mundane J2EE/XML/enterprise computing/wireless buzzword company. A far cry from the visionary dream of their early days, and certainly not very magical. But you do what you’ve got to do to survive, I guess.

Except that giving up that dream didn’t work, either.

The Cost of Convenience

People are forwarding an email around the Internet, laughing about it. A lady hit “reply” when she meant to hit “forward,” and wrote some rather unpleasant things to the wrong person. I find it hard to laugh, because I’ve made similar mistakes, and the only thing that saved me is that I happened to make those mistakes with innocuous messages.

Granted, in this case the lady reveals a particularly ugly side of herself. But one big lesson to be learned is that convenience comes with a price. Every time we make something easy, we also make certain kinds of mistakes much easier than they were before. In the days of writing letters, we had to write the name on the envelope ourselves, look up the address and write it, etc., even if we were replying directly to a letter we’d received. It was still possible to put two letters in the wrong envelopes, but it wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today, when we can just click “reply” or “reply all” or “forward” and away it goes.

The next time someone shows you a dramatic new convenience, take time to think about what new kinds of mistakes you’ll be making soon.

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