La Boite Bleue
Date: Thu, 18 Aug 94 14:04:41 PDT
Subject: La Boite Bleue
[Recent discoveries of unarguably authentic documents have shown that the
impressionists, not content with their formative influence on Cajun music (see
"The Impressionist Two-Step" by Hansen & Wagner), appear also to have been in
the programming vanguard for many years... -psl]
Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: firstname.lastname@example.org (Andrew Cherenson)
Forwarded-by: email@example.com (Paul Haeberli)
Forwarded-by: Jeff Piazza <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Forwarded-by: Alan Bawden <Allan@lcs.mit.edu>
Forwarded-by: email@example.com (Willian A Rennie)
La Boite Bleue
translated from the memoirs of
a minor 19th century post-impressionist programer
I will never forget that Spring, that day. Paris had an air
of revolution. The week before an exhibition of Seraut's
listings had caused a sensation. In his unrelenting quest for
simplicity he had reduced all of programming to three machine
instructions. The resulting 6,000 line bubble sort had shocked
My own recent efforts had been received poorly. I had cut
and slashed through my programs, juxtaposing blocks of code in a
way that exposed the underlying intensity of the algorithm
without regard to convention or syntax.
"But it doesn't compile.", they complained.
As if programming was about adhering to their primitive
language definitions. As if it was my duty to live within the
limits of their antiquated and ordinary compilers.
So it was that I came that day to La Boite Bleue, seeking
solace and companionship.
La Boite Bleue was where we gathered in those days. The wine
there was cheap, the tables were large and they kept a complete
set of language manuals behind the bar.
As I entered I heard Henri's measured accents above the din.
"...that complexity is not the salient characteristic of
Toulouse-Lautrec was seated at a table spread with greenbar.
Manet, redfaced, loomed over him.
"Damn your recursion, Henri. Iteration, however complex,
is always more efficient."
Manet stormed away from the table in the direction of the
bar. He always seemed angry at that time. Partly because his
refusal to write in anything but FORTRAN isolated him from the
rest of the Avant-Guarde, partly because people kept confusing
him with Monet.
Henri motioned to me to join him at the table.
"Have you heard from Vincent recently?"
We were all concerned about Van Gogh. Only a few days
before he had completed an order n sorting routine that required
no additional memory. Unfortunately, because he had written it in
C and refused, on principle, to comment his code, no one had
understood a line of it. He had not taken it well.
"No. Why?", I replied.
"He and Gaugin had a violent argument last night over
whether a side effect should be considered output and he hasn't
been seen since. I fear he may have done something ... rash."
We were suddenly interrupted by the waitress's terrified
scream. I turned in time to see something fall from the open
envelope she held in her hand. Stooping to retrieve it, I was
seized by a wave of revulsion as I recognized that the object in
my hand, bestially torn from its accustomed place, was the mouse
from Van Gogh's workstation. The waitress, who had fainted, lay
in an unnoticed heap beside me.
By the evening, the incident had become the talk of Paris.
© 1994 Peter Langston