Texas Instruments had finally decided to build an RPN-based calculator, and for obvious reasons had chosen MIT for a major promotional event. I had been browsing the MIT bookstore and had seen a promo kit, so I snuck in to the labs to see the hardware in action.
It was "landscape" format, like the classic HPs (12c, 15c, 16c), but had a wide bitmapped display that could show 20 digits easily. It wasn’t just a calculator–they had taken ideas from the mobile phone world, and added a camera with extra low light sensitivity, a Zeiss lens with macro focus, and high speed motion capture, so you could record your experiments with it too. Oh, and it ran for something like 60 hours on two AA cells.
Pondering whether to buy one, I sat in a nearby cafe. The barista asked why I was so excited, when I could be visiting New York or Harvard or something. I explained that for me, MIT was where it had all happened, but in my excitement the only name I could think of was Marvin Minsky. When I mentioned him, the barista snorted, and said he was a hack.
I think this is quite possibly the geekiest dream I’ve ever had. I think it’s all because I was looking at R6RS yesterday.
Ten books on my bookshelf which almost certainly aren’t on yours.
"Threaded Interpretive Languages" by Loeliger. Describes how to build FORTH systems. Published by Byte back when FORTH was mainstream. (Why, yes, I am that old.)
A.R.T.H.U.R. by Lawrence Lerner. Poetry from an imaginary AI. Much better than RACTER.
"The Third Word War: Apostrophe Theory" by Ian Lee. Starts off as a catalog of grocers’ apostropes, mutates into a collection of photographic meta-references and arch puns.
"Fortran 5" by Simon Leonard. Three surreal stories by one of the guys behind the bands I Start Counting, Fortran 5, and Komputer.
"RCL20". A celebration of 20 years of the Handheld and Portable Computer Club. Contains the story behind the design of a number of classic HP RPN calculators. Gift of the editor.
"Zenarchy" by Kerry W. Thornley. One of the authors of Principia Discordia; neopagan, libertarian, friend of Lee Harvey Oswald and allegedly part of the conspiracy to assassinate JFK. This book is his often-overlooked approach to Zen Buddhism. Copies seem to be going for $95 and up on Amazon, but I’m keeping mine.
"Zen Without Zen Masters" by Camden Benares. Continues the non-mainstream Western approach to Zen theme. Apparently the author was a friend of Kip Thornley. Like Zenarchy, this book is frequently hilarious, and shouldn’t a true religion be funny?
"Think Tank" by Roger Langley. "The Prisoner" fan fiction.
"Nineteen Ninety-Four". Novelization of the radio series. Think "1984 meets the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy".
"Bad Shave: The Story of Baby Bird So Far". Compilation of articles about lo-fi pop god Stephen Jones, aka Baby Bird, aka Babybird (the band).
Previous entries, withdrawn because they are insufficiently rare:
"Twitching and Shattered" by Frank Key. The gentleman is an acquired taste, and this is a taste I acquired back in 1990 or so. His books for children, such as "Derek the Dust Particle", are truly inspired, and recommended if you want your children to grow up to be like me.
"Beat Your Relatives To A Bloody Pulp" by Maxim Décharné. A Narrative Concerning the Proper Chastisement of Personages Without Whom &c &c.
"Literary Machines" by Ted Nelson. Describes the design of the Xanadu system. Self-published by Ted.
Bob Black, "Friendly Fire". Compilation of articles by everyone’s favorite anarchist.