(urth) "The Computer Iterates the Greater Trumps" and Swedish cover
wolfe-lists at danrabin.com
Tue Feb 14 13:30:28 PST 2006
Jesper Svedberg points us to "The Computer Iterates the Greater
Trumps", and says,
>Hope it's of interest.
Very much so!
I particularly note that, despite Wolfe's reported claims of
ignorance of computers, the notation in the poem is close enough to
the classic FORTRAN programming language to have been written by
someone acquainted with the language.
Do 1969 I = 1, 22
would mean to repeat all the statements up to the one labeled 1969
with the variable I ranging from 1 to 22. There is a label "1969" at
the end of the poem.
I take the printing of the variable name as the digit "1" to be a
misprint--the use of "I" as a count variable is a *very* strong
convention in FORTRAN.
DEMENSION Trumps(21) is a play on the FORTRAN statement
DIMENSION Trumps(21), which declares an array Trumps having 21 elements.
The variable N is set to 22 - I on each iteration, so it counts down
from 21 to 0.
Indeed, when N reaches 0, an error is reported, corresponding to the
unnumbered Tarot Greater Arcana card "The Fool".
The poem conflates the description of the iteration with the report
of its execution, and also identifies the array variables named
"Trump" and "Trumps" in accordance with the syntax of English (but
not of FORTRAN). That's OK--it's a *poem*.
Another minor nit is that, since the array name "Trumps" begins with
a letter other than I, J, K, L, M, or N, its contents would be
assumed to be floating-point numbers, but Wolfe flashes his official
poetic license at the computer-room door to have the elements come
out as English verse.
I conjecture that Wolfe's remarks about computer ignorance may apply
to use of the recent personal systems as very general tools, and that
he was actually acquainted with FORTRAN programming in the early
1960's in the course of his engineering practice.
-- Dan Rabin
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