Paddy's Fifteenth KBC article
Paddy's Tower of Digital Delights

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[Here is Paddy's fifteenth article for the Newsletter. It appeared in the twenty-second issue (Christmas 1987).]

Paddy's Tower of Digital Delights

On soot-black nights such as these, a traveller in the vicinity of Bush Towers might chance to be guided by a strange and spooky pinky-blue light flickering high up from one of the west-wing windows. And should he cast his glance upwards he may well behold silhouetted in the frame a weird and strange figure gazing down at him. I'm sure you won't have to stretch your imagination too far to realise that could well be me.

Taking a break from the computer and resting the eyes from the bright lights of the monitor, I remember a time when computers were operated by men with white coats and spectacles. Those were the days. Now ordinary people are processing megaflumps of data in the privacy of their own battlements. Fantastic, isn't it?

Perhaps not to everyone's taste, but it looks like it's changing things in a big way for today's musicians, whose data requirements are so excessive.

It looks like it's about to change the life of the strange traveller outside who happens to be looking up at my window instead of where he should be going. I hope there's some water in the moat--it's a bit too far down to see clearly.

Yes, floppies spin to the hum of the disk-drives. This technology is so versatile. I've been connecting everything to everything. It's astounding what can be done. I've got the computer interfaced with the synthesiser, sampler, printer, reverberation, fridge, lights, waste disposal, water heater, drawbridge, etc. There seems to be no end to the possibilities! In fact, a message is going up on the screen right says, "Attention. Intruder in moat."

Well, how about that! It's a jolly good example of what can be done with a few old sensors, a big bundle of wire, an old ballcock and the odd servo or two, all interfaced to a totally brilly computer. In fact, it sounds like it's running a bath for me right now, that's remarkable! You know, a few years ago none of this would have been possible. To think that in a minute or so the old microwave will plink into action and this evening's "macaroni au tordu" will bubble and hiss into life as if by magic. In the past I would have been out in the hazel copse whacking away with the old machete, then focusing the sun's rays through some scratched up magnifying-glass, just to make a cup of tea. How things change. And even as we speak, the robotic tea system I fixed up on Wednesday is responding to a stream of highly complex machine-code addresses, and a cybernetic arm lifts and rotates the spoon module. It's a little like those ones you see in films on nuclear power stations, and it's at work right now, which is pretty good timing as there should be a weather report from Tokyo coming in on the modem any moment. Best to keep in touch with world meteorology as we have the odd problem here with high winds and lightning, not to mention the fog which can often lurk for days around the lower floors. Once upon a time I would have been forced to watch the flight of the wild geese, tap a mercury barometer or closely scrutinise a warty frond of seaweed.

This technology is advancing so fast, surely it's only a matter of months before I can send Kate a fleet of Rumanian bagpipers down the telephone. Actually I tried that the other day, but it didn't work out too well. Still, experimentation is what it's all about, and what with this big-bang computerisation of the stock market and me with a telephone link, I think you could say that this is an area where a complete beginner can make quite an impact...However, I'm rambling somewhat, and there's a little flashing display on the screen informing me that someone has sent me some electronic-mail, and if I just press this button...I can see it's from Kate...Perhaps you would like to know what it says, so I'll punch in my security code, if I can remember it. Actually, it would be better to instruct the tea-making process to stop, as things look out of hand over there...Which is a bit difficult at the moment, as Japan is on-line and there is an unusual whistling in the macaroni-zone... No problem, just tab in a drop of data...and...That's odd, the boiler has stopped. Oh well, I'll check that one out in a moment. Anyway, this technology is fantastic and...What the hell's going on up on the roof? Maybe I should investigate this as I haven't got round to completely finishing the mounts for the sixty-foot diameter satellite-dish that I knocked up the other day...But I'm sure there was something I was supposed to remember...Of course, the security code for Kate's message.. d's I.D.:**********! enter... The monitor is flashing...It says: "Good evening, Paddy...There are two messages for you. Please select which you would like first. You have two categories of message: category a, "Urgent"; category b, "Most urgent"..

Decisions, decisions...Let's try the "Pad, your bath is overflowing...Love, Kate."

Perhaps I should have a quick glance at category b: "Paddy, there is a man from the Water Board trapped in the drawbridge of the west wing."

I think she's more likely playing a little joke on me, as most people know that this wing doesn't actually face west, more a south-westerly aspect, which is a little prone to summer gales, as I'm sure most weatherwise people would agree.

What is that noise? Why am I asking you anyway? It does sound somewhat like a waste-disposal unit, but on nights like this it's a bit difficult to tell...

-- Pad

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