[Coco] Thoughts on modern computers (sort of off topic)

William Astle lost at l-w.ca
Fri Feb 3 01:32:31 EST 2012

On 12-02-02 10:38 PM, Andrew wrote:
> How much of this will translate over to a PC, or how long interest 
> will hold, is anybody's guess. Those of us who continued with our 
> computers past typing in a few programs were, and always have been, 
> few and far between. For most people, the modern computer is a magic 
> box (and despite knowing more about their internals, I still think 
> they are magic boxes, no matter how simple or complex - I only know 
> how the magic works, but that doesn't make it any less magical for me).

It has been suggested, albeit jokingly, by at least one famous person 
that any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently 
advanced. I'm not entirely certain that is wrong, either.

When you get right down to it, for most people the internal combustion 
engine is a magic box that does amazing things. I know I would be hard 
pressed to do anything resembling maintenance on even a simple one 
without all the modern gunk that as accreted to them. I leave it up to 
the engine mages (mechanics) to deal with them. I know they aren't magic 
but they might as well be.

The same can be said for computer hardware. I know basically how it 
works but I couldn't put it together at the circuit board or lower level 
with any degree of confidence, even a simple computer similar to the 
coco. I leave that up to the appropriate classes of mage. On the flip 
side, I can write network daemons which I suppose would qualify me as a 
network daemon mage. Obviously, I know that what I do is not magic, but 
it might as well be for someone who does not have the skills to do it.

Basically, any of us doing highly skilled work are the mages of our 
fields. None of us do actual magic. However, if you were to suddenly 
change the world so that the internal combustion engine really were 
magic (and all the mechanics real mages), pretty much nothing would 
change in the structure of the world. The same goes for computer design, 
network programming, bridge building, and so on. If all technological 
feats were replaced with equivalent magic and the doers of same replaced 
with specialized mages, the world would continue exactly as it is.

I guess my point is that thinking of the computer thingie as a magic box 
that does stuff is not nearly so far wrong as some folks would have you 
believe. There's a reason that "hacker culture" has the concept of "deep 

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