Absolute Fave

In lieu of announcements on forthcoming books, but in keeping with the cyber-related theme of the titles that I will be announcing, I would just like to mention my favourite TV show. It's been decades since I enjoyed a programme as much as Halt and Catch Fire, currently in its fourth and final season.

I was hooked by the end of Episode 1, Season 1, when serious-faced IBM executives poured into the offices of the fictitious Cardiff Electric, clearly meaning business. That show got so much right, and never mind the little glitches here and there, like the glimpse of a mainframe terminal running the wrong OS in Season 3. Like the show, one of my forthcoming books includes an incident that owes a serious debt to Soul Of A New Machine by Tracy Kidder. It's been over 30 years since I read it, but I remember it clearly.

Perhaps I should mention that when I wrote my first program, dinosaurs roamed the Earth and pterodactyls were flying overhead. As a physics student at Birmingham, I coded in BASIC on an Open University Univac and the physics department's DEC PDP-11. (There might not have been real dinosaurs, but my jeans had flares and my friends were wearing platform shoes.) My first commercial programming job involved maintaining RPG II applications with data in flat files and program-described I/O on a System/34, while working on the really exciting stuff: the redesign, recoding and migration of the entire enterprise onto the RDBMS and other cool features (for the time) of the System/38. Those were the days.

(Check out my free story, Whisper of Disks. If you'd ever been in an old-school machine room with banks of disk drives, especially alone at night, you'd know exactly where the story's title came from. They whisper like ghosts. I remember them still.)

The terms "IT" and "software developer" did not exist. If you'd said you were cutting code for a web app using a full technology stack, employing continuous integration on build servers, or spinning up new servers in the Cloud, no one would've know what you were talking about.

I wonder what kind of jargon the software engineers of 2057 will be using...


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