[LinuxBIOS] Some philosophy
hokusai at btinternet.com
Thu May 3 09:36:01 CEST 2007
Hello children --
(I'm allowed to say "Hello, children" without giving you offence because I'm rising seventy-five years old and wrote my first computer program in 1957 --- hey, that's exactly half a century ago this year ! --- for a processor which, as it happens, I had built myself using Post Office relays amd a soldering iron. That's, you might say, primitive, yes?)
Here's what one of you has just written:
" >Stefan Reinauer wrote:
> * Quux <pawn2be.wild at yahoo.de> [070502 16:03]:
> > from what I understand they try to get MS into the boat. For cost
> > reasons LinuxBIOS will still be choice #1. --Q
> B3 and newer XOs will not come with LinuxBIOS anymore.
> Instead of implementing a VSA-free version of LinuxBIOS, all machine
> setup is done in Open Firmware now, in a forth based assembler
I'm a bit confused. Can you elaborate how OFW can replace/differs from
Now you have to realise that half the stuff you write to one anoither on this board is way outside my understanding. Ok, not way outside, but I still have to struggle to see what you're getting at; (the last piece of serious programming I did was in Borland C for MSDOS, arounf fifteen years ago.)
But what I want to remind you is this : In the end, the language doesn't matter all that much.
In the end, whatever you write -- whatever words and acronyms -- is going to be translated into a different language, the one that the <processor> understands. In the end, as we all know very well but sometimes forget, what it will do is apply voltages to pins. And the pins are organised into relays, and will, collectively, pass other voltages on to other pins, some of them on other piece of hardware, and in the end some of those voltages -- those 'signals' -- will activate coloured pixels on a screen or make the cone of a speaker vibrate.
And that's all The Wonderful World Of Computing is. It's the presence or absence of voltages on pins.
( Which is all that's going in inside your head, and mine, as it happens and as we shouldn't forget either --- voltage signals pass, or do not pass, along the axons of neurones, some of which are organised, just like the semiconductor elements of a monitor screen are organised, in ways which produce pictures or sounds, or reasonig, or whatever. )
In the end, it's voltages on pins.
Now, all right, there are not many of us who would like to give the necessary instructions, to the millions of pins involved, in the actual 'language' which those pins understand, and which is, you will recall, 'binary".
Meaning: Is there a voltage here (Yes) or not (No) ?
If we could all talk in binary, there would be no programming-language problem; we'd all be able to see exactly what another programmer 'means' by this phrase or that, this symbol or that, in fact we wouldn't need the phrases and symbols at all, we'd just chatter away to one another in binary. No problem.
But we can't 'speak binary' --- just as I can't speak Stefan Reinauer's language, he has ro translate what I'm saying into somethig he understands. Yes?
So, over the years, we have developed other, newer languages, those of programming: - FORTH, UNIX, C, Basic, whatever.
And, underneath those languages, lie the operating systems, which are 'owned' by somebody, as Microsoft 'owns' MSDOS or Apple own MacOS, or as everybody 'owns' LINUX.
But nobody actually 'owns' those operating sytems, which are themselves just languages, or 'dialects', of binary. They can't be owned. We pay to use them, purely for the sake of convenience, merely. because we can't talk to one another in binary, and so d like, as with the 'higher' programming languages, to be able to understand what each of us is trying to say, or to do.
Hence. of course, lots of the posts which appear here in the blog. We ask"'what do you really mean by that?" or "Where and in whose dictionary of what language will I find what you have just said? Ah, I see. Thank you."
But all of this is just convenience, that's all. Nobody 'owns' an operating system or a language, we just agree for the sake of convenience to use this language or that one, this OS or that one, and we pay --- often through the nose --- for this convenience. That's all we're paying for, though : convenience.
Which is worth paying for. But it's not worth paying a fortune for, because every single one of us can go away and write another language, another operating system, another way of getting the voltages onto the pins of the hardware, and if enough of us happen to agree that this phrase or that one is a good way of doing so --- that is, a nice way of saying what voltages we want and where and at what moment --- then, BINGO! we've got another language.
But --- this at last is the point --- nobody can stop us putting those voltages where and when we want to put them. If a means of doing so can be said to be 'owned' by anybody, it's owned collectively by the designers of the processors and the hardware upon which the pins reside, and who actually DO have the ability to tell us that if we apply this collection of voltages to this pins and this one and this and this . . . we will see a picture of a duck, or hear a phrase of a symphony, or read what you're reading here, or perform such and such a calculation.
Think about it, children.
And let's not get too over-awed by the people who APPEAR to 'OWN' what we're doing.
Because we can do something else if we feel like it, or at least if enough of us feel strongly enough about it.
I did it, a long time ago.
And you know what? I can put an entire Shakespeate play, illustrated in colour, into just over a megabyte, and Microsoft can't.
That's because I am a very argumentative and arrogant old bastard.
I advise you to adopt the same approach to The Wonderfful World Of Conputing. It ain't theirs, it's yours.
With regards and love (and forgive any typos in this long, long post),
Dr Martin Charlton Woodhouse, MA, MB, BCh
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