This week’s poem is by Charles Bukowski and reminds us that despite the vagaries of our technological world, the real world goes on.
but the wind still blows overCharles Bukowski (1920—1994)
and in the Spring
the turkey buzzard struts and
flounces before his
Poem 231. 16-bit Intel 8088 chip
with an Apple Macintosh you can't run Radio Shack programs in its disc drive. nor can a Commodore 64 drive read a file you have created on an IBM Personal Computer. both Kaypro and Osborne computers use the CP/M operating system but can't read each other's handwriting for they format (write on) discs in different ways. the Tandy 2000 runs MS-DOS but can't use most programs produced for the IBM Personal Computer unless certain bits and bytes are altered but the wind still blows over Savannah and in the Spring the turkey buzzard struts and flounces before his hens.
Charles Bukowski wrote about ordinary life and the difficulties facing a writer, and this poem seems to address some of his frustrations with the technology of the 1980s. All the systems he cites are mutually incompatible to a greater or lesser extent. Bukowski can only rail against the hurdles that this new technology put in his way. Whatever computer he had was probably incompatible with his editor’s and the systems operated by his publisher so that it was practically impossible to transmit his work to others without a huge amount of exasperation.
At the end, it seems as if he has looked out of his window (possibly to check where his latest computer has landed) and recognised that outside of the world of bits and bytes and digital mayhem, the real world goes on unruffled—”the wind still blows over Savannah” and the turkey-cock, untroubled by thoughts of formats and floppy disks, attempts to impress his hens just as these birds have done for time out of mind. By extension, much of humanity at that time was engrossed in the real world and uncaring of the difficulties of working with technology.
We now complain about the differences between Apple, Android, Linux and Microsoft systems and these differences arise from the differing philosophies and outlooks of their progenitors. There are fewer formatting inconsistencies of the kind he mentions: all of the main systems are able to read each others’ handwriting to some extent so that it is possible to exchange documents and media. This is largely due to an enormous effort being put into standards that all these systems must observe if they want to collaborate.
The 16-bit Intel 8088 chip of the title was a microprocessor released by Intel in 1979. It heralded the dawn of the IBM desktop computer which has had a massive impact on personal computing. Ultimately, the manufacturers and operating systems developers agreed to abide by standards that ultimately benefitted us all. These standards were often drawn up by the engineers that built the Internet and it was important to all sides that they obey the rules for exchanging data, so that their customers were able to take advantage of the common ground created. This is why you are able to send photographs to a friend who has a different kind of phone, for example.
I like this poem because it highlights not only the historical compatibility problems which I remember myself but it prompts us to look at the poem from a very different perspective: a world where technology largely interoperates seamlessly and where this mutual compatibility has brought millions into virtual realities: fake digital worlds that seem preferable to the real world where the wind still blows over Savannah and the turkey-cock still struts. We have flipped a switch and now much of the first world seems engrossed in the digital world and cares little for the difficulties of the real world.
- Read about the Intel 8088 chip at Wikipedia.