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Code abode

July 17, 2009

I’ve been thinking about Web coding, mostly because Mom asked me about the assignment. Being the dutiful daughter, I pulled up one of my pages for the course then showed her the source code, whereupon she asked why we couldn’t just use English to get the computers to show what we want them to show.

It’s a good question. I don’t think I answered it satisfactorily.

I did, however, remember that when I first learned HTML seven or eight years ago, it was unexpectedly easy. Incredibly easy, in fact, which made no sense, because I’m resistant to learning new languages. Eventually, I realized that the reason it was so easy was because I’d learned a similar language years and years earlier.

Back in the mid 80s, I worked for a local company that was pretty advanced in terms of the technology it used (an HP mainframe, if you’re interested, complete with tape-deck backup). I used the single stand-alone computer, which was bleeding edge for the day: an HP with a 12-inch monitor, dual 3.5″ disk drives and C/PM operating system. I used that puppy, along with WordStar, to set up the text for the company catalog.

People who use MS Word, Open Office and Word Perfect these days have no idea how good they have it compared to WordStar. I didn’t hit command-b to set boldface, I typed in a dot command at the start of the word or phrase and a dot command at the end of it. I used dot commands to set up columns, new pages and various other things which I’ve since repressed (defense mechanisms get a bad rap at times, but they’re there for a reason). In a very real sense, I had already learned a language that was similar to HTML.

This was the same company that also ended up with one of the earliest Macs out there. IIRC, it was a Mac SE with a massive 5MB hard drive. It was love at first sight on my part, because dude! I could make boldface with the same kind of key stroke I used in WordStar, but the word showed up on the screen with bold face. I could actually see it!!

Yeah, okay. Not exciting to you. I get it. But to me, it was awesomesauce with a side of cool beans. That early imprinting to Mac was profound and permanent. And is also off-topic compared to the rest of the post, which is as good an indication as any that it’s time for me to go to bed.

‘Night, all.

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