Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Temporal Baseline

There is one method of storing and accessing instructions in computer code which is sometimes called offset sequential. A baseline address is chosen, and then a count, or offset, is added to obtain the register address of an instruction. 

In other words, rather than number a set of statements from 1 to 100, I set the number of the first statement as 1, and then add a number to get whatever statement I want. So statement 67 would be 1 + 66, but I reference it as 66 (the add 1 is implied). This sounds kind of silly and pointless, but I save myself a digit in storing an address (statement 100 is stored as 99). When you have billions of memory addresses, the storage savings add up.

I'm thinking we have the cultural equivalent of the offset sequential system, one that allows us to cross generations and slang to provide a commonality of understanding. And this baseline is 1960s television. This is the established baseline from which all culture now flows - even 50 years later. All references and associations from these TV programs are readily understandable because, well, because they never went off the air. They are still with us, and still watched.

Thanks to reruns, syndication, the Internet, and cable TV, I am able to talk to my otherwise completely alien cute little student aide, Caitlin (pictured above), about things that we otherwise could not talk about.

Case in point (and this is not an isolated anecdote, I have to do this all the time): She has put on some of her modern music (techno? electronica? I'm not sure), and listening to it, I mention that a particular piece sounds kind of Japanese, and not just because they are using electronic versions of Japanese instruments. 

"They are?", she asks, meaning they are playing electronic simulations of Japanese instruments, "Like what?"

"Well, I hear a koto. And also, I think, a shamisen".

"What's that?"

"It's like a three string banjo". I get a blank look. (sigh) "You know on the Addams Family, what Morticia plays? That's a shamisen."


I rest my case. I wonder if, two hundred years from now, all cultural references will be based upon Star Trek, Batman, The Munsters, and every show from that era?

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