Just before Christmas of 1983 my family moved from (state1) to (state2).  I’m happy to announce I was an Air Force Brat and didn’t move to either state voluntarily.  I would normally make jokes about why anybody would live in (state2) on purpose, or suggest that if anybody ever wanted to make a prison colony in the United States that we make a wall around (state1).  This is pretty Christmas-y so far right?

Let me setup the fall of 1983 for you.  The cold war was raging.  The base I moved to in (state2) was full of B-52s that were made could carry air launched cruise missiles. In September, a Korean Air Lines flight from New York City to Seoul (via Anchorage), with 269 people aboard, was shot down by the Soviet Union.  Later that same month, Stanislav Petrov, a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, may have saved the world.  WarGames was in theaters, and probably only because my parents had not seen it, they relented and got me a Commodore Vic-20 for Christmas.

I have received a number of truly great Christmas presents over the years.  Among them are:

  • A remote control R2-D2 in 1978
  • My first electric guitar
  • My first son coming home from the hospital on Christmas Eve (after a rough entrance to the world 3-week hospital stay)

However, the Vic-20 holds a special place, because it probably kept me from saying “Would you like fries with that?” any longer than necessary.  When you’re a military kid, if you move when school is out it is difficult to meet people, so I learned to program in BASIC pretty quickly.

I would give some stats on the Commodore Vic-20, but it cannot be compared to any modern device.  I imagine any graphing calculator from 1993 was actually more powerful and had more memory.  I suspect there are kitchen appliances that have more RAM than the Vic-20 did.   I received a Commodore 64 the following Christmas, which was a far more usable device, but the Vic-20 set the hook.  And certainly you can see why here:

When coupled with the Commodore 1530 Datasette – which allowed you to save your BASIC programs on a cassette, you really had something.

So, thank you Mom and Dad.  This wise decision probably played a large role in me not still living at your house.

Merry Christmas!

In the final video of the DiffZilla series we take a look at SlickEdit’s Backup History feature.

Note: this video is best viewed in the  highest quality setting available for your browser. You can set the quality via the video’s bottom menu bar after selecting to play the video.

See part 1 here.

See part 2 here.

See part 3 here.


The following is a list of things that the world could not agree on:

  • The metric system is better than the English system we currently use (although I kind of like liquid measurements because it’s like they’re in powers of two).
  • We should drive on the right side of the road, from the left side of the car.
  • We can’t agree whether or not to have am and pm.  Here in the U.S. we tend to refer to 24-hour time as “military time”, but I believe this is the standard in much of Europe.
  • We can’t agree whether or not the day of the month, or the month itself comes first when listing the date.  Again, in the United States the military behaves differently than the civilian world, but other countries do it differently as well.
  • How to keep the music that was on a TV show in the actual TV show when it goes to DVD.  I have over dated myself here a bit, I was thinking more of Miami Vice, but it appears it was eventually released to DVD.  I never bought it, but those occasional Saturday afternoons when there’s a marathon of it on some basic cable channel, I enjoy several episodes while I procrastinate.

The things the world doesn’t agree on that annoy me, therefore making them by far the most annoying things the world does not agree on.

  • New line characters.  With the Mac’s “Unixification”, I believe we’ve moved from 3 formats to two, but WHY!?!?  I believe one standard is quite enough, and since it uses fewer characters, we shall use the Unix standard.  I’m fixing this, right now.  From here on, lines end with 0xA.  If you have old text files that wind up with extra characters, there are several things you can do.  I suggest that you CHANGE them.  Buy a copy of SlickEdit, and if you can’t figure out how to change them, one of the people in our support department will be proud to help you.
  • File system case sensitivity.  Case sensitive on UNIX, case insensitive/case preserving on Windows.  AND Mac.  And you could possibly have different file systems on UNIX that are case preserving, so that’s always a possibility.  I’ll make this decision too: case insensitive/case preserving.  OS and file system vendors, take note.  If you’re on UNIX and have separate files, one named “LS” and one as “ls”, I suggest that you CHANGE them first,  then comment on this post explaining why you would ever have done such a thing on purpose.
  • Indent levels.  Some people say 3.  Some people say 4.  Occasionally it’s 2.  I’ll make this very simple: it’s 3.  Make a note of it.  If you’re using a 2, 4, 5,  or some number other than 3, stop explaining why you prefer that number, and CHANGE it.
    • If the language you are using enforces a certain indent, I’m not talking to you.
      • If you are in your basement wearing a tinfoil hat developing another language that you think will solve the issues with all the ones available, and your language will enforce a certain indent level, make it 3.  That is now the standard.
        • Stop it.  There are 4,397,531 computer languages.  Yours will not solve all the other problems.  It will have it’s own share.
  • Tabs.  Some people like to use tabs to indent, and have them match the indent amount.  Some people like to set indent to one value (it had better be 3), and then set tabs to a larger number (maybe 8), so that it compresses the file somewhat.  So on a line that is indented four times, you get one tab and 4 spaces, thus saving 7 bytes.  So, when should you use tabs?  NEVER. Tabs have NO place in source code. You don’t need to save the space. Attempting to save space cost us a lot of time and money with the whole Y2K 2-digit year fiasco. Here is a 1TB hard drive for $60. Buy two and use all the spaces you need. If you need to compress the leading whitespace in your code, you’re doing it wrong.  SlickEdit it has a nifty feature to help you convert your tabs to spaces (Edit>Other>Tabs to Spaces).  Get to work.

If you’d like to wait until after the holidays to implement these changes, I understand.  If you’re waiting until after December 21st to see if you should waste your time in case the world ends because the Mayan calendar stopped there: they probably just stopped there.  They probably just took it out a couple thousand years and said “that’ll do”.

« Previous PageNext Page »