Those of you who are Unix users will be familiar with the fortune cookie program. I am uncertain when it was first written, but it is rather ancient as such things go. That is why some of its’ many thousand quotes hark to a different era of computing, political thought and even humour. Although it does nothing “useful” it is fun and one of the items I consider mandatory for any computer I work with. If you include the non-politically correct ones there are some truly fine old bawdy limericks and the occasional ROFL (Roll On The Floor Laughing) stories that take the piss of any imaginable group or subgroup of humanity.
There are also many thought provoking quotes. Some make you just sit back and think. The following is one of those.
By the middle 1880’s, practically all the roads except those in the South, were of the present standard gauge. The southern roads were still five feet between rails.
It was decided to change the gauge of all southern roads to standard, in one day. This remarkable piece of work was carried out on a Sunday in May of 1886. For weeks beforehand, shops had been busy pressing wheels in on the axles to the new and narrower gauge, to have a supply of rolling stock which could run on the new track as soon as it was ready. Finally, on the day set, great numbers of gangs of track layers went to work at dawn. Everywhere one rail was loosened, moved in three and one-half inches, and spiked down in its new position. By dark, trains from anywhere in the United States could operate over the tracks in the South, and a free interchange of freight cars everywhere was possible.
– Robert Henry, “Trains”, 1957
I wonder how long the study would take today? Not to mention the environmental impact statement, the regulatory battles, the labour negotiations…
Sometimes one has to admit we have not advanced ourselves. We have only made complex what was once deemed simple.