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The Computer Corner

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By Charles Miller

Dia de los muertos, the day of the dead, is one of the most interesting and colorful of Mexican traditions. Every year at this time when I sit down to write this column, I try to think of a technology topic that is at least tangentially related.

In the world of Information Technology there were several notable passings over the last few months. Marvin Minsky, a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, passed away at the age of 88. Wesley A. Clark, a physicist who designed one of the first modern personal computers, died; he was also 88. Masaya Nakamura, inventor of the video game Pac-Man, passed at age 91.

Robert W. Taylor, inventor, died at 85. The internet we know it today is the work of many inventors but perhaps no one individual deserves more credit for the technological leaps of the modern information age than Robert Taylor. He contributed to the creation of the first computer network, the first prototype PCs, and even the mouse.

And then there was Bill Fink. A very clever and poignant obituary was published in an Illinois newspaper and soon came to the attention of software engineers and Information Technology people as it made its way around the world. Bill Fink was not among the famous. He was a programmer who worked for Microsoft and was probably little known outside his field, but he obviously had a great sense of humor. It is assumed that he must have written his own funny pun-filled obituary because this is how it read:

“William Ralph ‘Bill’ Fink, 46, of Belleville, Illinois, encountered an unhandled exception in his core operating system which prematurely triggered a critical ‘STOP’ condition on Wednesday, December 16th. Bill was an avid technophile, program developer and educator, whose master functions were harnessed by Microsoft Corporation as a technical evangelist. Some of Bill’s most impactful component subroutines centered around video games, coaching youth sports, building elaborate displays for Halloween and spending time with family. Diagnostics indicated multiple cascading hardware failures as the root problem. Though his hardware has been decommissioned, Bill’s application has been migrated to the cloud and has been repurposed to run in a virtual machine on an infinite loop.” That obituary left unknown numbers of tech-savvy readers smiling or laughing out loud, while many non-techies were just scratching their heads. Fink’s brother explained, “My brother was an amazing guy who ate, slept, and breathed computers, and I could think of no better way to memorialize his passing than to invoke memories of our childhood: Tron, Basic, TRS80, DOS, etc. Thanks to the OP (Original Poster to the internet) and to all who commented. Bill didn’t want a funeral or to be mourned, but to go viral like this seems to be the perfect tribute to him.”

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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