Saturday, October 15, 2011

Two of an era - Jobs and Ritchie

The last couple of weeks have been particularly bad for technology related stalwarts.  If the death of Steve Jobs hadn't even sunk in, it was even more painful to read up that Dennis Ritchie, the father of C programming and co-developer of Unix was no more.  Dennis Ritchie may not be as famous as Steve Jobs is to the layman, but there is no denying that without C, one cannot fathom the existence of these super powered smart phones and almost every other embedded device today.

It was in my Engineering that I was first exposed to C.  Already, the message was spreading quick and fast. If you miss even a single semi-colon, you are in trouble.  It is so difficult to debug.  And, maybe for the fun of  it, somebody added a comma as well.  Given a choice, my fellow batch mates would have added every punctuation mark to exaggerate the whole thing.  There were also suggestions that it was mandatory to add two slashes after a semi-colon as a part of the programming paradigm.

Thankfully, the punctuation marks, apart from the semi-colon turned out to be false.  And, for that last point, it would have been awesome if the two slashes were mandatory at least once every ten or twenty lines.  Maybe, gaping at tons of lines of code would have been much easier.  As one of my friends rightly said, for most of us, C, literally, is our bread and butter.

After the death of Jobs, I was really baffled to see some of the tributes pouring in.  One of them in my Facebook timeline appeared "An apple a day does keep the doctor away.  RIP Steve Jobs." I am still not sure what to make of it.  If anybody understands the meaning of the quote, please let me know.  The post also had a couple of likes and comments.  I didn't know whether to feel angry at the person who posted it or the person who liked it.  I would rather have stuffed an apple down her throat.  The other cranky tributes can be obtained, obviously, through Google.

My wife and I were visiting the Golden Gate bridge, and somehow, I had forgotten to carry my DSLR camera with me.  I operate the camera pretty well in the auto mode (what to do) and I am not one of those who experiments a lot (if any) with the camera features on the iPhone.  For a change, San Francisco was not filled with a fog cover.  It was one of those "You got to take a pic" moment in our lives.  Naturally, your had the massive chunk of tourists getting the Golden Gate background with the foreground representing all sorts of weirdness.  We were wondering how we could replicate the weirdness and our eyes were probing for someone who could take a snap of both of us together.  To our good luck, there was this elderly gentleman sixty something standing next to us and getting some wonderful and captivating shots.  Before we could approach him, he realized what we were looking for and was kind enough to take a snap of the two of us together.

"So, you want a snap of the two of you together?", he asked kindly.

"Yes, sir.  If you don't mind please."  We said, handing over one of our iPhones to him.

He, obviously, was a very experienced man in life.  But, I, sensing that he must be new to technology, told him "Sir, you got to press the shutter button on the screen.  There is no external button to capture the shot.  Also, you have to make do with the default zoom.  There is no zoom feature on the iPhone."  All this, I said very confidently.

My wife was quietly nudging me from behind as if to say that I was talking crap.

"Oh come on, I know how to use the iPhone", he said and pulled out an iPhone from his pocket.  "And you know what, you just have to pinch and drag in, and you will have the zoom options.  This is just like Safari or any other app.  You can also use the slider to adjust the zoom."

I just kept quiet.  I had no words.  I felt stupid.  I dared not to look at my wife.  He took a wonderful snap of the two of us with a perfect zoom, and a perfect backdrop, on a perfect morning.

We thanked him and we reciprocated by taking his photo with the Golden Gate background.  I also adjusted the zoom.

A little later, after talking to him, we realized that he had taken a four mile bike ride to the vista point.  At this age, he was so active.

He was not Steve Jobs.  But, thanks to Steve Jobs, even a sixty year old gentleman could find it easy to use the features of a camera on a smartphone.

Again, to the greatest technologist ever.  Steve Jobs, You will be missed.    

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Turning 30

I was getting up, and slowly my email inbox was getting filled with the usual suspects.  These people never fail to email me on my birthday.  I had a few calls as well.  Again, these people never fail to call me on my birthday.  

So, how's the feeling?

Pretty much the usual, I replied back.

So, turning 30, haan? Everyone had to ask this, unfailingly and unflinchingly.

Yeah, I let out a couple of the usual, monotonous jokes.  It means, they don't deserve to be called jokes in the first place.

In the midst of all the jokes, I also tried to act all grown up (am sure I failed miserably at this).

I have to say that Afridi and I have a lot of things in common apart from a few obvious differences.  Firstly, he is supposed to be a totally hot cricketer, according to the girls.  OK, even the guys know it.  I leave it to my friends to judge whether this is a similarity or a difference.  They know it.  I know it, too.

Secondly, Afridi has this amazing quality. At the age of 16, in the year 1996, he made his debut in international cricket.  Now, after fifteen years, if somebody questions his age, nobody gets surprised when he says he is 17. All the economists, I am sure, are cracking their heads at this weird case of the laws of diminishing returns.  For a change, I have never seen this concept in a better light.

If Afridi is 17, I am like ten.  But, maybe, mentally, he is still 17.  That's where we have our similarity.  I still seem to have not grown beyond the general adolescence associated with youth, cracking those pjs that don't seem to invoke a laugh out of anyone or passing those baseless and insane comments.  It may not be as outrageous as like Afridi saying that beyond the cricketing gear of front pads and thigh pads, he could see Tendulkar tremble when he faced his bowlers.  I mean obviously, at the age of 17, he has the vision of a hawk.

Sometimes, when I play tennis and as I get that seething back pain near the spine, my colleagues are quick to point out to me that this is a sign of the age.  I laugh it off and remind them that for a sportsman like me, who plays virtually every single game on the planet, that this is very very common.  <Modesty, modesty.  Control, control!>

Haha, I used to think like that.  You will soon know.  They retort and add the word experience to support their claims.

I watched Zindagi na milegi dobaara last week.  It was a coincidental watch (a Hindi movie after a long long time), and the songs are on a repeat mode in my Spotify playlist.  Nothing else can be more apt than the lyrics of Der Lagi (

So, what is it like being 30? I ask myself.

I don't know.  Maybe, I should start eating less number of bhel puri plates and masala dosais outside.  You know, the point where I need to take care of my health.  Cholesterol, fat control and what not!

Spirituality? Yeah, maybe I should start following Nityananda.

Mature talk? Yeah, I can do a world of good for people around me with a little bit of extra maturity.

Responsible partner? Yeah, that seems easy.  My wife can take care of the responsibility part.

I think there is still some time for all these things.  Let me just get a plate of Bisibele bath, and let me continue the weekly tussle in tennis with the folks here.