A world in a single line of code
“To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour”… it was part of a poem by William Blake, an 18th century poet whose works echo the mantra of “imagination before reason”.
I used this specific part of “Auguries of Innocence” on the opening page of my graduation paper now almost 2 decades ago. It sticks with me, as sort of a personal motto, and perhaps it was also an inspiration for the authors of the book “10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1));:GOTO 10”, Nick Montfort, Ian Bogost et al., associate professors in Digital Media and Literature and Communication.
Surely they too must have seen a world in this single line of code in order to be able to come up with a volume of a whopping 324 pages all about this one single line of Basic code.
Clearly there’s more than meets the eye with this single line of code. When run on a Commodore C64, it creates an endless maze, made up of PETSCII characters. The maze goes on and on until the program is interrupted by the user. This triggers a number of technical questions, such as how does a computer interpret code, how does a random generator work, how is Basic structured but it also triggers some more philosophical ones, such as the place computers have taken into society, the cultural significance and origins of mazes and labyrinths, the game of chance etc.
The authors take you on a compelling journey through history, computer science and philosophy, all triggered and always referring to this single magical line of code. For anyone whose interested in computers and how they’ve shaped today’s world and how they’ve molded modern society, it is a must read and I read it in a single night. Call it an IT geek’s “50 Shades of Grey”.
The book can be downloaded as a free PDF from their website or purchased through the regular online channels. It’s highly recommended (as is the authors other book on the Atari VCS “Racing the beam”) and it’s the perfect Christmas gift for every Commodore enthusiast that wants to dig a little deeper into the phenomenon of computing.
It sure is a world in a grain of sand!