All posts by Mick West

My History of Backups

Backing up one’s data is a perennial problem. I’ve been backing things up for a long time, here’s a little history.

My very first backups were actually wetware. I backed up my programs inside my brain. I was able to do this since my first “computer” was a calculator (a Casio FX180P), which only had 38 bytes of memory. So I could not help but memorize my library of software. Restoring the backups was simply a matter of tapping in the program again.

Next came the ZX81. This stored its programs on tape. Now initially I did not have a tape recorder, and the wetware solution proved inadequate, so I resorted to simply leaving the computer switched on. This meant I generally only ever used a program once, after I typed it in, and then it vanished forever a few days later. Not ideal.
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The Power of Technology

I ordered a Nintendo Wii a few weeks ago, and it finally shipped. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, I can tell that it left Dallas at 8:34PM yesterday, and arrived in LA at 7:00 this morning. Currently it’s “Out for delivery”, meaning it’s on the brown truck, somewhere in Santa Monica.

My UPS guy got tired of waiting for us to come to the door, so he’d just knock and run, leaving his deliveries on the doormat. Recently he does not even bother to knock, just leaving the packages, so we often only discover there has been a delivery when we walk the dogs at night.

But if there’s something I’m looking forward to, I could go and look outside the door, but instead, I just refresh the UPS query. Yup, instead of walking twenty feet to see if something is there, I get my computer to ask a computer in Mawah, NJ, to tell it all it has been told by the computers in Dallas, Ontario, Los Angeles, and a computer in a truck somewhere in LA.

And it’s actually easier. Here, one click, in five seconds I know exactly where my Wii has been, and that it’s not on my doormat. I marvel now at this new technology, but soon it will be as accepted as cellphones were – or a better example: trains.

[later] …. And eventually, I checked the page, it told me the package had arrived, I open the door, and there it is! Wiiii!

The IT2010 Competition

IT2010 was a competition I entered and won in early 1988. At that time I was 20 years old and a student at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (more commonly known as UMIST). The competition was a join promotion on the part of EDS (a large IT company, previously part of GM), and the Sunday Times (a venerable British Newspaper).

The competition was only open to students currently in higher education, and basically involved predicting what “Information
Technology” would look like in the year 2010, which would be 22 years in the future back then. The prize was £2010, which would be the equivalent of around $8000 in today’s money, a staggeringly large amount of money for a poor student back then, greater than all the money I had spent in my entire life up to that point. So I resolved to enter.
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The Little Trade.

Marcus Aurelius supplies this quote

Love the little trade which thou hast learned, and be content therewith

Which I like for various reasons, so I just copied it from some page of Aurelius quotes, which listed the source as Meditations IV. 31..

Now I always like to see quotes in context if possible, so I tried to find it in the gutenberg text.

But then, Gutenberg says it’s actually 4:26, translated differently:
(by Florence Etienne Meric Casaubon, 1907)

What art and profession soever thou hast learned,
endeavour to affect it, and comfort thyself in it;

and pass the remainder of thy life as one who from his whole heart
commits himself and whatsoever belongs unto him, unto the gods:
and as for men, carry not thyself either tyrannically or servilely
towards any.

Hey, that sounds different in meaning! “comfort thyself in it” is not the same as “be content with it”. What the?

Bartleby, where I found the original quote, has the full text, but here the 4.31 becomes:
(Translated by George Long, who died in 1879)

Love the art, poor as it may be, which thou hast learned, and be content with it; and pass through the rest of life like one who has intrusted to the gods with his whole soul all that he has, making thyself neither the tyrant nor the slave of any man.

That certainly seems the closest, and may well be the actual origin of the popular saying, just simplified a bit for the books of quotes where is it found.

It seems to me the original greek is actually 4:30

Τὸ τεχνίον ὃ ἔμαθες φίλει, τούτῳ προσαναπαύου· τὸ δὲ ὑπόλοιπον τοῦ βίου διέξελθε ὡς θεοῖς μὲν ἐπιτετροφὼς τὰ σεαυτοῦ πάντα ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς, ἀνθρώπων δὲ μηδενὸς μήτε τύραννον μήτε δοῦλον σεαυτὸν καθιστάς.

Which is all Greek to me.

Now, I’d looked at the new (2002) translation by Hicks, and I found the language dull and uninspired. Looking up this phrase we have:

Cherish your gifts, however humble, and take pleasure in them. Spend the rest of your days looking only to the gods from whome come every good gift and seeing no man as either master or slave

“Cherish your gifts”? Pap! “your gifts” is not the same as “the art, poor as it may be, which thou has learned”. Danggit, now I’ve got to translate the original Greek to see what he really said. Are the Hicks dumbing it down, or did the older translators spice it up?

Another modern translation, Gregory Hays, 2002:

Love the discipline you know and let it support you. Entrust everything willingly to the gods, and then make your way through life – no one’s master and no one’s slave

Better. “Discipline” is better, but still so distinct in meaning from the old timers.

Back to the “original”

Love the little trade which thou hast learned, and be content therewith

This is listed as the quote in lists of quotes and aphorisms. Indeed the first use I find is in 1906, in a book “Familiar Quotations” by John Bartlett.

Rather oddly it is also attributed to “Mabel Ashburton” in the 2005 book of quotes, “The White Wallet”. “Mabel Ashburton” does not appear on the internet, but is probably “Mabel Edith Baring” (nee Hood), Lady Ashburton, which is confusing until we find The White Wallet was actually written by Viscountess Pamela Grey of Fallodon, in 1912, collecting and publishing quotes being an acceptable occupation for a gentlewoman. Probably Mabel stole it from Bartlett, and offered it to Pamela as her own.

We also have a latin version, by J. M. Schulz, 1802

Artem, quam didicisti, diligito et in ea acquiesceto: quod autem vitae super est, id ita exigito, ut qui Deo omnia ex toto animo commiseris, neque ullius hominis aut dominum aut servum te praebeto.

Transliterated very badly:

Art, how learnt, esteem and in also (?accquire?), that also life/career beyond is