HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Today’s date (and the thing pictured above) smacks of the years I worked as a computer programmer. Far, far before the age of personal computing, I labored. Far before Blackberry and Droid, far before the “i”Era — Pads, Pods, and Phones — I toiled.
In those days, sometimes we worked in machine language: binary code, octo, or hexadecimal, autocoder language or basic assembler. All had places in the programmer’s tool kit. When COBOL, a brilliant, English-like language for writing programs came along, life got a whole lot easier. Yet, I have to admit, I missed machine language–working with it made me feel skilled and privy to some things abstruse.
I never really needed that ego trip, because it used to annoy me that computers often made people scared. In those days, some thought only a mental giant could work with those machines.
What a long way we’ve come! Computers eventually brought us the Internet. Now we use computers, in our mobile phones, even, to connect with others all over the world.
As you might already know, the way computers work–at a very deep level–uses the fact that an electric pulse can flow or not flow–just as a light bulb can be on or off. Very simply put, in binary code (one type of machine language), “1” means that something is happening (a current is flowing, a charge is present, or something–anything– is on.) In like manner, “0” means the whatchamacallit isn’t flowing, or it’s absent, or it’s turned off. These on-and-off states–embedded in the languages that comprise computer programs–tell the computer what to do.
Just for the record, the locations–to put it simply–where these on/off states, well, switch on and off, are called “bits.” Thus, the title of this post.
And what in the bloomin’ world does this have to do with stay-at-home traveling? Well, the thingy in the picture comes from somewhere I’ve traveled to, from a place I’ve skied and hiked and visited relatives, a place which is part of my travels. Moreover, this thingy not only brings laughter to my home, but today it seems uncannily appropriate as an expression of ones and zeros in the date today!
As you look at the photo of this crazy piece of wood fashioned by my Coloradan nephew, notice that the shape is reminiscent of binary code. The peaks certainly seem like “ones” to me, and the valleys could well be considered “zeros.” This funny-looking thing veritably screams ON and OFF.
As if that weren’t enough on this 01 01 11 day, here’s the real chuckle. Do you see the nail in the middle of the wood? How did my nephew do that?
When my husband opened this gift and turned the item around, we wondered if Dennis had used some esoteric technique for building ships in a bottle. As far as we could tell, this didn’t seem likely.
We examined the wood. We saw no evidence of cuts or tinkering to position the nail.
So, for this New Year’s Day, as I ponder the date and the computer and the universal impact of zeros and ones, I offer a question to tease your brain. Who can fathom what my nephew did?
Take a look at the thingy again:
The first person posting a solution as a comment on this blog gets an ego boost as his or her prize!
An ancient Japanese story says that anyone who folds a thousand cranes will have their greatest wish granted. For 2011, I wish you a thousand cranes!
(P.S. In a few days, I hope to be back with the answer to the brain teaser.)