The Big Here and The Long Now

The Big Here

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Brian Eno COURTESY THINK JAR COLLECTIVE

It was 1978. I was new to New York. A rich acquaintance had invited me to a housewarming party, and, as my cabdriver wound his way down increasingly potholed and dingy streets, I began wondering whether he’d got the address right. Finally he stopped at the doorway of a gloomy, unwelcoming industrial building. Two winos were crumpled on the steps, oblivious. There was no other sign of life in the whole street.

“I think you may have made a mistake”, I ventured.

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10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); :GOTO 10

10print504This installment of MIT Press series Software Studies has an unusual title, at least for the non-coding population. It is a single line of BASIC that, if the code is executed, prints an infinite string consisting of two characters, selected at random. The last instruction at the end of the program line (GOTO 10) instructs the computer to go back to the beginning of line 10 of the program, execute its instructions, and generate and print out another character based on the algorithm.

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