Fuzzy Bits

Should array indices start at 0 or 1? My compromise of 0.5 was rejected without, I thought, proper consideration. (Stan Kelly-Bootle)

That quote, which I saw by way of Jeff Atwood's latest, reminds me of what may be my favorite Stan Kelly-Bootle story. Stan worked on the EDSAC which stored memory using what were called "mercury delay lines" -- long tubes of mercury, down which they would send an audio pulse, which would echo off the far end and return some brief amount of time later (thus useful as a rapidly-changeable datastore). Naturally, the resulting signal was pretty noisy, even in the best situations. So Stan and company had a cardboard ruler that they'd hold up to the oscilloscope -- "Mmm... that's a 1 ... 0 ... call it a 1 ... " I always suspected that working with mercury might not have been entirely coincidental to Stan's legendary wit.

I think my even-more favorite Stan Kelly-Bootle is from his 70th birthday party. He was in the corner of his garden, drinking Grey Goose from the bottle with a beautiful girl, 45-years his junior, on his lap and two more at either shoulder. Two fellows in tweed jackets straight from central casting were hunched at another table, single-handedly generating the nicotine and Guinness atmosphere of an English pub. "'Ows 'e do it?" Lamented one. The other leaned in, tapping the table significantly, "'E's got what yer call ... charisma." The other nods and despondently says "Charisma."  He takes a long drink from his pint glass and summarizes what separates we mortals from the Stans of the world: "Ya' can't fucking fake charisma."