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archive:stories:20.lws

"THE ADVENTURES OF LONE WOLF SCIENTIFIC"


"The Adventures of Lone Wolf Scientific" is an electronically syndicated series that follows the exploits of two madcap technology entrepreneurs. Copyright 1991, 1992 Michy Peshota. May not be distributed without accompany WELCOME.LWS and EPISOD.LWS files.


EPISODE #20

 What Research and Development Was Always Meant To Be
Computer genius S-max has a midnight brainstorm. His

business partner is sobered by the realization of what weeks of R and D can sometimes lead to.««<

                     by M. Peshota
   >>"Chief Engineer Sebastian!  Thirty seconds before the

shields collapse! We have to get those engines back online!"

   The brave computer programmer, oblivious to the

hysteria growing on the bridge, watched the code skidding over his computer terminal screen. Deftly, he typed in a GOTO.

   "Chief Engineer Sebastian!  If it weren't for those

stupid hardware engineers we wouldn't have lost the warp engines!"

   The captain's nerves were nearing meltdown, but the

programmer remained calm. He always did in crisis. He typed in the last line of the circuit bypass that would save «The Starship Enterprise» and its crew from total and immediate destruction by the disruptors of the approaching Romulans.

   He hit <enter> and smiled as he heard the reassuring

hum and whir of the warp engines firing. They sounded like vacuum cleaner attachments.

   Never again, he vowed, settling back in his chair with

a victorious simper, would they let the hardware engineers tamper with the personnel department's database software….«

   "Andrew.BAS!  Let me in, quick!"
   He cracked open an eye.
   "Hurry!  I have a product idea and I don't think it

will last very long!"

   Andrew.BAS groaned in his half-wakened state.  He heard

thumping on the attic door. It was not the magisterial voice of the starship captain that hailed him, nor the beastly growl of his Klingon security officer–

   He groped around disorientedly on the Microsoft box

beside his bed for his glasses.

   "Andrew.BAS!  Hurry!  I've just discovered what

research and development was always meant to be!"

   Although it sounded a great deal like the infantile

whine of a thwarted Romulan, it was not that either. Instead, it was the hysterical blat of his high-strung business partner–a hardware engineer. A hardware engineer just like the ones who had gummed up the warp engines. He could heard him iggling the knob and heaving his thug-like bulk impatiently against the door.

   "One minute, please," said Andrew.BAS.  Dazed, he sat

on the edge of his cot and slid on his slippers. What time was it anyway? He looked at the digital clock on the box. Three a.m. His head felt heavy as a loaded cattle-car.

   <<"Chief Engineer Sebastian, you're the only one who

can save us from the crazy hardware engineers…."»

   "Please hurry, Andrew.BAS!" he heard his business

partner whine.

   He had barely lifted the latch on the attic door when

the pajamaed computer builder shoved his way in. He flung his arms in the air and blurted, "We can build a computer operating system! Every computer needs an operating system!"

   Andrew.BAS gazed at him in distress.  He noticed for

the first time how much his matted Valley of the Apes coif made him look like a rabid Klingon. He cupped his hand to his mouth in a yawn.

   S-max seized him by the collar of his pajamas, and

blatted in his face, "Listen, we can give our computer operating system important features that other computer companies, through egregious misperceptions of the needs of the technological marketplace, have forgotten to build into their computer operating systems–like the ability to remotely steer radio-controlled model cars from the command line–"

   "Huh?"
   "That's right, no computer operating system has this

fundamental feature at the moment–incredible as it may seem." S-max grunted. "We will also design it so that it can pick up radio stations in Los Angeles, interfere with the geosynchronous orbits of other people's satellites, direct submarine reconnaissance in the Arctic Circle, interfere with television reception in hostile lands, beam digital images to Phobos. These can be major selling points. To build it we can use up some of those old Z80 boards that are starting to fill up the garage."

   The sleepy programmer slid his wirerims to the top of

his nose, perturbed. He reflected, his face a placid moon. He finally said, "I don't know if anyone's ever mentioned this to you before, S-max, but most computer operating systems are fashioned of software. They're not build out of old Z80 boards."

   "And that's what's wrong with them," S-max scowled.  He

wagged a finger in disgust. "If they were, they could have lots of buttons, toggles, and switches, and bright lights and batteries, and an internal fan, and tons of electrical cords and interesting cables dangling off the back. Where's your entrepreneurial spirit, Andrew.BAS?"

   "Vanishing fast."
   "Now, look."  He paced the floor in thought.  "You

write the software part of the operating system, and «I» will build the hardware part of the operating system, and then we can put them together and see if they work."

   "They won't," said Andrew.BAS.  "I can assure you of

that now."

   "No, no, Andrew.BAS!" he wailed, once again wagging his

finger in reprimand. "Let's not be so cynical at this early, critical stage in the research and development process. It is wholly antithetical to the atmosphere of daily technological excitement that we are trying to build here at Lone Wolf Scientific, Inc. Migod, you programmers are always such killjoys! Now listen to me." He grabbed him by the shoulders. "«You» write the software part, and «I» will build the hardware part, and then we will sell them."

   "To who?"
   "To anyone who wants a computer operating system with

which they can remotely control model cars, boats, planes, and trucks from the command line! Haven't you been listening to me? Haven't you heard what I've been saying? Have I been painting my life's hopes, dreams, plans, and ambitions half the night to an insensate home computer?" He gestured disparagingly toward the small computer next to Andrew.BAS's cot.

   "It's not a home computer," the programmer corrected.

"It's an Apollo workstation. And it's a very powerful computer." He smiled at his beloved software development computer, a machine on which he dotted with an almost mawkish affection. He patted its well-polished monitor. He smiled at it. "But don't worry," he said, "I don't think it was offended much. It had its disks optimized today and I installed on it a new C compiler, so it's in especially high-spirits."

   S-max scowled at the programmer's saccharine affection

toward the tidy computer, squinting at it skeptically, wary of any contraption a programmer might find worthy of adoration. Suddenly, his potent Ghaddafi-like eyes brightened with interest.

   But before Andrew.BAS could spot this most telling

symptom of another mad idea swirling in his partner's feverish mind, S-max hurried on to detail all the marvelous computer peripherals that could be attached to a computer whose operating system was capable of interfering with television reception in hostile lands.

   "We could daisy-chain a gas grill to it and cook

fajitas while the operating system is running maintenance on Neptune–" he said.

   It took almost thirty minutes for Andrew.BAS to calm

him and convince him to return downstairs to the livingroom and the research couch upon which he slept. When he did, he insisted upon taking along Andrew.BAS's Apollo computer, claiming that having such a powerful computer near his bed would help him sleep. Since Andrew.BAS often found this to be the case himself, he didn't object too much.

   Once S-max was gone, he returned to his small, folding

cot and tried to fall back asleep. His sleep was restless, though. Many times throughout the night he was awakened by sounds of pounding, sawing, welding, soldering, hammering, and wire-snipping filtering up from the livingroom below. He shuddered to think what the morning light might bring to Lone Wolf Scientific, Inc.

   When Andrew.BAS descended the stairs in the morning, he

found, to his dismay, his partner, still p.j.-clad, fussily wiring a pair of rabbit ear antenna to the top of his treasured Apollo computer. A large metal ammunition box was riveted to its rear. He hurried the rest of the way down the steps, trying to remain calm.

   "Good morning, Andrew.BAS!" the computer builder

hailed, waving a conspicuously solder-caked soldering iron in greeting. "You'll never believe what I've been up all night doing."

   "Beaming digital images to Phobos?"
   "Even better.  I've been building more and more

revolutionary features into our new computer operating system. Each feature is better than the last. Take a look at this feature." He pointed to the small slot filed crookedly on the top of the ammunition box that was riveted to the backside of the $10,000 computer. "You'll never guess what this is. I'll give you a hint, though: it is totally revolutionary. It will transform the world of high- technology as we know it."

   "That's where you deposit the quarters to get the

operating system running?" said Andrew.BAS dourly.

   "'Migosh, Andrew.BAS, you are correct!" S-max

exclaimed. "You must have been up all night thinking like me! (How very impressive. Obviously my presence in your disheveled programmerly life is starting to make its good influence known.) Yes, this is in fact where you deposit the quarters. Seventy-five cents will give you fifteen minutes of pure operating system pleasure." He grunted and fumbled in his pajama pockets. "Can I borrow some quarters?"

   "No."
   "But Andrew.BAS!" he wailed.  "I want to demonstrate

fifteen minutes of pure operating system pleasure. How are you going to be able to write the software for this complicated high-tech product and provide the technical support if you have never seen it in operation?"

   "I'll read the description on the box."
   "No, no, you won't!" he declared.  "You'll deposit

quarters just like everyone else. Where do you think Bill Gates would be today if someone had asked him to deposit quarters in one of his operating systems and he had refused?"

   "Making twice as much money as he is now?"
   S-max scowled at his partner's humorless quip. "Let's

not be uppity, Andrew.BAS." He shook a blasted screwdriver. "I am giving you the opportunity to not only shape the future of global technology–"

   "Wait a second.  I thought we were only shaping the

future of American technology."

   "Well now it's global technology as well--thanks to my

hard work." He snorted. "You should be eternally grateful to me for what I have done for you. I challenge you to find another computer inventor of my stature who would stoop to include a mere nincompoop computer programmer such as yourself in the early moments of their product's R and D magic. Count your blessings. This is not the sort of thing that will happen to you twice in your confused programmerly lifetime."

   "I do frequently count my blessings for that."

Andrew.BAS slid his glasses to the top of his nose and smiled coyly.

   "Now, hand over the quarters!" S-max squawked,

extending his palm.

   He stared at the pajamaed computer builder and the

rabbit ear antenna with an astonished stupor, half bemused, wondering for a moment if their neighborhood was zoned for this sort of thing. Finally he shrugged his wispy shoulders and said, "Sorry, all I have is nickels." With that, he turned and quickly tread the steps back to his attic programming loft, resolving to wait until later in the day, when S-max was safely asleep on his R and D couch, to retrieve his computer.

   He could hear the incensed computer builder yelling

after him, "You'll be sorry, Andrew.BAS! You'll regret this! Twenty years from now when someone asks you to explain how you were involved in the historic birth of the coin-operated computer operating system, you will be forced to admit 'I forgot to bring the correct change.' And how do you think «that» will sound, Andrew.BAS?"

   Infinitely better than if he <<did>> have the correct

change, Andrew.BAS smiled to himself. Vastly better indeed.

                        <Finis>
In the next installment of The Adventures of Lone Wolf

Scientific–"What Is a Computer Operating System?"–S-max puts the finishing touches on his seminal Coin-Operated Computer Operating System. He reflects on the role of the computer operating system in modern society–and how it is about to be changed forever by the wirey contraption with the rabbit-ear antenna on his desk.«

[Apologies for the delay in this episode. I was putting the final touches on "The Adventures of Lone Wolf Scientific" the novel–look for it in your bookstores soon!]

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