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Monday, July 27, 2015

You never know what you'll find


When I started with personal computers (after having mainlined on mainframes for several years), they still had an A: and B: drive into which you inserted (very) floppy 5-1/4-inch disks and which ran on DOS Version 2.0 (which is when DOS began supporting harddisks).

But the harddisks only became usable after they had been formatted - twice: first you did a low-level format. Then, if you were using DOS Version 3.3, you could partition the harddisk into more than one logical drive (but only from DOS Version 4.0 could you create partitions greater than 32 MB). Then you did a high-level format on each partition to instal the operating system. Finally, you created the two all-important AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files to load the various devices and make the operating system run properly (including instructions on how to use the computer's then very limited memory with the HIMEM.SYS command). Then there were the pesky Interrupts (IRQ) and woe betide you if you had assigned the same IRQ to two different devices: have you ever seen thick black smoke come out of a Point-of-Sale docket printer? I have and it was all my own fault! ☺

And then came Windows and all these wonderful 'hands-on' things became things of the past as the computer did everything for you - well, sort of - and you had no idea how. Like yesterday when my laptop froze up on me - sort of - and I had no idea why. So today I took it down to my friendly Dick Smith store where I was introduced to the F11 function key: switch on your laptop while at the same time hammering the F11 key like a demented idiot to reset the entire computer back to its factory settings.

Which I did and which worked! Proof of which is this blog which I wrote after I had come home again but not before also visiting my favourite shop, the St Vincent de Paul op-shop, which is always full of surprises. No, not this one but a CD of Hans Albers' "Der Blonde Hans" with such German evergreens as 'La Paloma', 'Nimm mich mit, Kapitän, auf die Reise', 'Das Herz von St. Pauli', 'Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins' and many, many more - sample them here.

And, as always, I brought back a few books. The first one is a copy of Julian Barnes' "The Sense of an Ending" which I already have and have read. This one is in almost mint condition and will make a wonderful present to somebody I know who's just in the mood for such a little treasure. The other one is as much a travel book as a linguistic study, "The Prodigal Tongue - Dispatches from the Future of English". And the last is "The Dictionary of Wimps" (should that have been 'for Wimps'?) from which I cite a few definitions:

accountancy: a profession absolutely crawling with wimps. A chicken and egg situation ... did they become accountants because they were wimps, or did they embrace wimpotence because of accountancy itself? Whatever the answer the fact is that they became accountants because they lacked the balls to be lawyers and associate with criminals or cut people open like surgeons.

celibacy: a vow a wimp pretends he has taken to conceal the fact that he couldn't get laid if he was a shagpile.

culture: a collection of wimps growing on a camembert.

Hitler: a much-misunderstood Austrian painter. Between bouts of painting, Hitler managed to conquer most of the known world. More, we venture, than can be said for Gainsborough or Van Gogh.

keepsake: an eternal reminder of a wonderful holiday romance. Often resistant to penicillin.

Koran: basically the same yarn as the Bible, but with better imagery, tighter plot and more action. Essentially the Bible as written by Robert Ludlum.

monk: a man who takes vows of poverty, chastity and obedience when he enters a religious order. Wimps do the same when they marry.

one night stand: the first night of a wimp's married life and the last he will get for a long time.

swastika: one day Goering drew one of these squiggly shapes on the pad by the telephone. It caught the Fuhrer's eye, and the rest is history.

Thermos: the Greek god of hot water.

zen: a word used by German wimps when talking to their canaries, as in 'Hullo, who's ein pretty boy, zen?'

If you want to read more, stop being a wimp and go and buy the book!