Monday, August 13, 2007

Yo! IBM: 21st C = von Neumann * Armstrong^2

I wrote this a decade ago. IBM is no longer on the ropes, as it was at that time. But it hasn't regained its past glory either. That is gone, no doubt forever. And whatever happened to Borland International?




Why is America the software center of the Universe?
Because it is also the Rap-Rock-Funk-Soul-Jazz-Blues
center of the Universe. What does that have to do
with the If-Then-Else imperatives of byte busting?
Technology is not just technique. It is style and
attitude. You can't write great software if your
soul was nurtured on the mechanical clockwork and
internal combustion rhythms of the Machine Age.
You must free yourself from the linear flow of
mechanical time and learn to improvise order from
the creative chaos lurking in the multiple
intersecting flows of the digital domain.
Roll over Beethoven, it's Jimi Hendrix time.




Cases in point: Steve Wozniak took time out
from Apple to produce rock and roll concerts.
Microsoft was co-founded by a guitar-playing
Jimi Hendrix fan, Paul Allen. Borland International
is the brainchild of barbarian jazz saxophonist
Philippe Kahn. Xerox and Apple guru Alan GUI
Kay worked his way through graduate school as
a jazz musician. Lotus founder Mitch Kapor
has taken to riding the informatic frontier
with Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow.




Now, IBM is on the ropes. Marching to the tick tock
strokes of a steam locomotive, it can't swing to the
rhythms of the Apollo moon dance. Big Blue is
crying the blues because it isn't hip enough
to play the blues. If you don't want to be dogged
by the hell-hound on IBM's tail,
then baptize your brain in the soul-juice
of funkadelic jivometric drumology.




Still, we can't create the future from nothing.
The post-IBM world has been in the works
for a long time. In the Roaring 20s
the sons and daughters
of Henry Assembly-Line Ford
and Tom Light-Bulb Edison
cruised the night spots of African
America dancing to the
improvisations of Louis Armstrong,
Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway,
and all the other pioneering funkateers.
Getting juiced, they got loose,
and mechanical tick tock began to die.
Their sons and daughters dug
Elvis the Pelvis and blew
Bob Dylan's changing winds
into the high-tech studio wizardry of
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band.
When Woodstock Nation faded into decaying
reels of audiotape and videotape the young,
the hip and the restless decided that
communes were 19th century and
created the video game and PC industry.




Now a new cultural force has
emerged on the scene.
Tempered in battle with
Ronald Raygun and his
Bush League Wrecking Crew,
hip hop reaches back to
the rhythms which created
humankind on the African
savannas and, through digital
sampling, crosses those
rhythms with our recorded
musical legacy. Silicon Age
rappers insinuate body-heart
rhythm into the digital
warp and woof of emerging
cultural patterns. The anger
cuts through accretions of industrial
armor and
creates room to grow,
etting the neurons branch in new patterns.




That's where it all begins: the nervous system.
While the genes lay down the basic plan, the
detailed wiring is worked out through
extended and intimate interaction
with the environment.
To update William Wordsworth,
the jazz child is mother
to the cybernetic man.
The dancing you do at ten forms
the matrix out of which you think
when you are twenty. If you grow
up to mechanical rhythms,
digital dancing is unnatural.




To be a natural born child of the 21st century
you must dance at the wedding between
the soul of John von Neumann
and the science of Daniel Louis Armstrong.

2 comments:

JP Stormcrow said...

OK, I give up. I assume that the "cleverly disguised allusion" is in reference to von Neumann times Armstrong squared - but I got nothing other than genreal references to computing and space travel as "futuristic". Other than that I got nothing.

bill benzon said...

um . . . err . . . the allusions are so cleverly disguised that even i don't know what they are.