Things Every Hacker Once Knew

Eric Raymond goes over a few things every hacker once knew.

One fine day in January 2017 I was reminded of something I had half-noticed a few times over the previous decade. That is, younger hackers don’t know the bit structure of ASCII and the meaning of the odder control characters in it.

This is knowledge every fledgling hacker used to absorb through their pores. It’s nobody’s fault this changed; the obsolescence of hardware terminals and the near-obsolescence of the RS-232 protocol is what did it. Tools generate culture; sometimes, when a tool becomes obsolete, a bit of cultural commonality quietly evaporates. It can be difficult to notice that this has happened.

This document is a collection of facts about ASCII and related technologies, notably hardware terminals and RS-232 and modems. This is lore that was at one time near-universal and is no longer. It’s not likely to be directly useful today – until you trip over some piece of still-functioning technology where it’s relevant (like a GPS puck), or it makes sense of some old-fart war story. Even so, it’s good to know anyway, for cultural-literacy reasons.

The article goes over:

  • Hardware context
  • The strange afterlife of the outboard modem
  • 36-bit machines and the persistence of octal
  • RS232 and its discontents
  • UUCP, the forgotten pre-Internet
  • Terminal confusion
  • ASCII
  • Key dates

Found via a couple of other interesting bits –
What we still use ASCII CR for today (on Unix) and
How Unix erases things when you type a backspace while entering text.

Drupal and Playboy

Slashdot has the details for the story, if you haven’t heard it yet.  Inappropriate? Maybe.  But then again, where do you draw the line of what’s inappropriate in the sponsor’s bag?  (Beer and other alcoholic beverages are very welcome, for example.)

I tend to take things on the lighter side, considering it to be somewhat entertaining and mildly funny.

ASCII vs. ANSI

Browserling does it again:

ascii-ansi

For those of you not old enough, here are the ASCII and ANSI Wikipedia pages.  Back in a day we used these for cool art, fancy user interfaces, email signatures, games and more.  Have a look at some cool examples of ASCII art.  Now imagine those “images” colored with the breathtaking variety of 8 colors and you’ve got yourself a true 90’s rainbow explosion.

ansi-color-table

You’d probably be surprised to learn that a lot of these have survived to modern day, and are still used in command line user interfaces.

P.S.: And if you think that this stuff is ancient, have a look at typewriter art example.

Classic Programmer Paintings

Classic Programmer Paintings is a hilarious resource with classic paintings featured with modern captions from the programming world.

"Gentle technical discussion on IRC channel", Francisco Goya, Oil on canvas, 1814
“Gentle technical discussion on IRC channel”,
Francisco Goya, Oil on canvas, 1814

Well worth adding the RSS feed to your geek humor collection…

Found via Andrey Vystavkin.

On test strings

I’ve seen my fair share of test strings, varying from simple ‘test’, ‘foo’, and ‘blah’ to automatically re-generated Lorem Ipsum paragraphs.  But I don’t really remember seeing anything more weird than this one:

$string = "I am not a question. How was your day? Sex On Hard Concrete Always Hurts The Orgasmic Area. Why does custard taste so lumpy when you use breast milk?";

From this StackOverflow answer.  Is there a tool that does this?  I wouldn’t mind using it in my daily work.

Ice Orb Levitating Speaker

Ducks freaked out by Ice Orb #gadget #toys #geek #music

A photo posted by Leonid Mamchenkov (@mamchenkov) on

I’ve got a slightly delayed birthday present today, from a good friend of mine.  Ice Orb levitating speaker is a Bluetooth speaker with a twist.  It comes with a base, which, when switched on, makes the speaker levitate over it.  It just hangs in the air, no strings attached.  Or a USB cable attached, if you want to charge it.  Coupled with a few blue LEDs, it makes quite an impression.  The future is here, ladies and gentlemen.  We live in the world of science fiction.

Here’s the video of this thing in action:

O’Reilly Parody Book Generator

I have utmost respect for O’Reilly Media.   They’ve published numerous technology books, aggregate and shared plenty of human knowledge, and saved years in productivity and tonnes in pulled out hair.

But no matter how many books they will publish, there’s always the need for more.  Well, know that need is at least partially solved.  Not in the form of whole books, but at least in book covers.  With the help of the this parody book generator you too can become an author of whatever was that you wanted to share with the world.

Procrastination