Monday 23 August 2021

I'm Not Gone, I'm Just Thinking ...

... About matters of no special significance.

For inst.: the very large number ten duotrigintillion (10^100) a.k.a. googol has no special significance (in mathematics), according to Mr. Wiki. 

The term googol has been around as a handy shorthand for the mind-bogglingly-big number for a century now but I've only now taken a pause to consider the cultural side of this, courtesy of a weekend binge-watch of the old telly chestnut from 1981, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, wherein the Even Bigger Number googolplex (10^googol) makes an appearance. Viz:

"And are you not", said Fook, leaning anxiously forward, "a greater analyst than the Googleplex Star Thinker in the Seventh Galaxy of Light and Ingenuity which can calculate the trajectory of every single dust particle throughout a five-week Dangrabad Beta sand blizzard?"

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1979

Mr. Douglas Adams, of course, was a man of wit and was fully expected to be making merry whimsy with big numbers when he thunk up the Googleplex Star Thinker. And yet ... the makers of our oft-quoted friend around these pages, who'd each be of the geeky variety, if imagination serves me correctly, maintain that it was a mere misspelling when they coined the name Google in 1997 (whence came their Mother Ship Googleplex) and not a tipping of the hat to Mr. Adams.

Perhaps these geeky inventors had never read or heard of The Hitchhiker's Guide? Hmmm ...

And another matter of NSS: Mr. Wiki's entry on Mr. Adams speaks fulsomely of his attractions to Apple Inc. and its Macintosh, (and thus a man after Mr. P's heart), and was indeed one of their celebrity endorsers, but also references his once owning an Apricot computer. Hullo, now!

Your Correspondent, as may have been mentioned, studied Computer Science & Pure Mathematics at University around the time the Personal Computer became a thing. [Commodore 64, anyone?] For those students with luxe taste and the pesos for such things, the highly desirable PC was the 1984 Apricot, made by the British firm, Applied Computer Techniques. 

But it was the introduction around then of Graphics as a new subject that shoe-horned the Apple Macintosh into my university's quaintly-named Computer Room, housed within a specially-installed glass cubicle and chained to desks.

Those Graphics students (not Pipistrello) gained supervised entry to what was otherwise locked away from the grubby mitts of those who sneered at the beige boxes, while making this forbidden fruit yet somehow more desirable. 

Ah, Marketing ... 

And yet, InfoWorld Magazine wrote glowingly at the time of the Apricot being "clever, inventive, cosmetically attractive and easy-to-use" and "Apricot's manuals are all beautifully printed and very well written. They even have stylish white-metal spiral bindings. The people at ACT are relentless in their concern for detail!" ... A Manual?!!

The Apricot. A completely different animal to the fruit of Apple's loins.

Adriaen Coorte shows us what's desirable
Still Life with Five Apricots, 1704

Image credit: 1:  via GIFER; 2: Mauritshuis, The Hague

Bats In The Belfry