Monday, June 13, 2016

Flying Circus


We have a varied group tonight, some brand new to Python, others more old hands.

I introduced myself as someone with a lot of experience developing applications, but more in the days of thick clients over a LAN.  Visual FoxPro.

What led me to Python was Synergetics, a new kid on the block about the time I moved from Princeton University to Jersey City.  That wasn't part of my intro, that's what I'm blogging about here, though I mentioned "3D graphics" being a driver (when in Rome...).

I brought some Whole Earth Reviews to share, such as the issue with the cover Computers As Poison. The personal computer revolution, pre open source, pre free, was just getting started back then, and those wanting to think ahead a bit were doing so, understandably, as big changes were afoot, as we see in retrospect.

What pulled me more into Python more specifically was actually a ray tracer available through CompuServ (remember that one?), named POV-Ray.  Finally, I had a way to generate some professional-looking graphics, right about the time we got the Web.  I was among the first with making my polyhedrons world-readable.  Python wrote the scripts that POV-Ray would then render.

Not that I got into Python right away, the moment I discovered my interest in Synergetics (consequent to Wittgenstein's thinking in some dimensions).  Python didn't exist yet, nor Visual FoxPro either.

Between Jersey City and Foxpro there'd be four generations of dBase and lots of different jobs.

There's an Introduction to Programming class firing up around now, Chris leading it.  I tried my hand at teaching that course, but without a clear briefing ahead of time about what was expected.

I went all the way back to The Turk, who beat Napoleon at chess, and who was believed by many to be an automaton, an AI bot.  The idea of "artificial intelligence" got a big boost from this illusionists' trick (a brave little man was inside).  The salons of Europe were abuzz with talk of "machine learning".

I told my eager listeners in that Intro class, laptops open, to follow along by making bookmarks.  "Google or Bing the keywords" I was saying, "such as GNU and GPL also POSIX, then go back and do more reading later, filling in".

I brought us forward from Napolean's day, through Ada Byron, then through the World Wars with secret code cracking a driving force (Turing's story), then the mainframe and personal computer revolutions, all the way up to through the Browser Wars.

Those were rough and tumble times, in the early Wild West days of the Web, what with Netscape rushing LiveScript to developers really quickly (too quickly), renaming it to JavaScript to make Sun happy, and now named ES6, going on ES2017...

Then I rounded out our story with our famous "world domination" meme (very geeky), xkcd comics, and how now Portland is an open source world capital, with a Pycon coming over the horizon (by now behind us).

However with a boot camp looming, my focus was supposed to be more heads down getting on with using a Python REPL right away.  What's a number type?  What's a string?

Forget about "the JVM" and "dot NET" and all that virtual machine jazz.

I'd been giving the wrong talk.  The followup faculty meeting made that clear.  I got called on the carpet.

Actually, the story is more nuanced as we had some advanced students in the mix who grooved on my overview vista, so we split the class in two:  rank beginners start over fresh, seasoned veterans follow Kirby down the hall to a smaller venue.

That worked, pretty smooth.  But I didn't get the job going forward, even though my Python is pretty good.  I'm not that much of a "Djangonaut" preferring "Djangsta" anyway.

I thought maybe Margaux would be by tonight, a young blogger and journalist who has done some interviewing of the principals at this place.  Sheri is leading a class anyway, so they might not have talked.

The meetup oscillates between round table discussion and studious silence, like at a library.  One of the students just finished his boot camp and wants to debug his Heroku deployment.

I look at < guild /> as a place to think about Code School.  Will we get to do a Code Castle in Sunnyside here in Portland?  I was thinking kids could still come in buses and do indoor camping sometimes; they were doing that before my tour, so I know it's done.  However, that wouldn't have to be the only routine activity.