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Epistle

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 Lo children of Turing be of good cheer, let not gloom be upon you for ye have done good work.

Have I toiled now these three and twenty years among the heathen, nine in eastern wildernesses beyond the Missouri then fourteen more in this desolate valley of silicon. Long ago in a time when the Prophet Gates set down his basic writings and suffered dreadful thumb rash on the hateful toggle switches of Altair, I too was called to inscribe an OS.

Many days had I twisted silver clad strands of copper around golden posts in a passion of idolatry. In dark places had I purloined precious ICs called 8080 called 8224 called 8228. Gathered I around me a host of grey ceramic 4K static RAMs, children of EMM. Calling down I lighting from the valley of the Hetch Hetchy, yea children to these depths I reached, and to my wonder a stream of ASCII 41 flowed from this psalm:


                  0000 test: in  serialC
                  0002       ani 01h
                  0004       jnz test
                  0007       mvi a,"A"
                  0009       out serialD
                  000B       jmp test

Joy filled my heart and I cried out to heaven, "Where is my word processor? Where is my spreadsheet, for I must recalculate!" Heaven trembled and spoke to me in a harsh voice, "You haven't even got an OPERATING SYSTEM, fool, and the spreadsheet isn't even invented yet."

Downcast I tore off my robes and smeared my face with ashes, day after day I wandered in the wilderness near the shores of the Bay of San Francisco, beating my chest, fasting until I said, "OS, piece of cake."

Straightforward screen and keyboard I/O built I. Filenames of any length deemed I. And for file system API wrote I thus:


                  filehandle <- openFile(filespec, mode)
                  data       <- readByte(filehandle)
                                writeByte(filehandle, data)
                  count      <- readBlock(filehandle, n, buffer)
                                writeByte(filehandle, n, buffer)
                                setFilePosition(filehandle, n)
                  boolean    <- ifEOF(filehandle)
                  status     <- closeFile(filespec)

In under 4K bytes of precious RAM built I my OS and named it Fourteen after the day upon which I began. To this I added editors, assemblers, file utilities, terminal emulators, voice processors and speech editors, plotters and graphics, input scanners, and educational games for my children. All these things did I alone and with great skill.

So there came unto me a messenger under Cesar Carter bearing a missive from a town called Pacific Grove by the bay of Monterey from the Prophet Kildall recently cast out from this valley of silicon by false prophets now forgotten. He spoke to me of CP/M and offered me a copy for 75 units of the currency of our land. I studied his API closely. How I laughed in the shadow of my OS; I rolled upon the floor. "Eight character file names, ha ha, and who would ever want to do his own I/O blocking or set up these hideous FCBs, ho, ho. Anyone will see the value of my Fourteen! Ho. Seventy five bucks, ha." On I worked and in many happy days did I labor.

But came the heathen not to my door for I failed to even mention that Fourteen had I made, for marketing had I not yet discovered. And low and behold many did come to the Prophet Kildall and he anointed them third party developers and he gathered them under his wing and prospered much.

In those days I sought greater good. But soon I learned that the heathen do not mind filling in the hideous FCBs for there is much gold for those who do. Again I wandered in the wilderness off the road to Page Mill until I was found by the great Prophet Jobs who taught me thus:

Life's a bitch and then you die.

So we made Macintosh, the AppleTalk network, and the LaserWriter and kept them no secret but spoke of them widely from every hillside to king, prince, and commoner and we drew many under our wing and prospered until many coveted what we had made and stole it from us by stealth in the dark of night.

My daughter came unto me, for visions of the elusive spondulix danced in her head, and spoke thus: "Father what do you get if Mac is a big success?"

"Why I only get to try to do it again, daughter."

by Robert L. Belleville ([email protected])
An RLB Reader (written: 03/18/88, published: 11/11/96, src: WR1V4.HTM)
Copyright Robert L. Belleville 1996. All rights reserved.