La Boite Bleue
Translated from the memoirs of Jean Turing-Von Neuman A minor 19th century post-impressionist programmer
I will never forget that Spring, that day. Paris had an air of revolution. The week before an exhibition of Seraut's listings had caused a sensation. In his unrelenting quest for simplicity he had reduced all of programming to three machine instructions. The resulting 6,000-line bubble sort had shocked the critics.
My own recent efforts had been received poorly. I had cut and slashed through my programs, juxtaposing blocks of code in a way that exposed the underlying intensity of the algorithm without regard to convention or syntax.
"But it doesn't compile," they complained.
As if programming was about adhering to their primitive language definitions. As if it was my duty to live within the limits of their antiquated and ordinary compilers.
So it was that I came that day to La Boite Bleue seeking solace and companionship.
La Boite Bleue was where we gathered in those days. The wine there was cheap, the tables were large, and they kept a complete set of language manuals behind the bar.
As I entered I heard Henri's measured accents above the din.
"...that complexity is not the salient characteristic of exemplary style."
Toulouse-Lautrec was seated at a table spread with greenbar. Manet, redfaced, loomed over him.
"Damn your recursion, Henri. Iteration, however complex, is always more efficient."
Manet stormed away from the table in the direction of the bar. He always seemed angry at that time. Partly because his refusal to write in anything but FORTRAN isolated him from the rest of the Avant-Guarde, partly because people kept confusing him with Monet.
Henri motioned to me to join him at the table.
"Have you heard from Vincent recently?"
We were all concerned about Van Gogh. Only a few days before he had completed an order n sorting routine that required no additional memory. Unfortunately, because he had written it in C and refused, on principle, to comment his code, no one had understood a line of it. He had not taken it well.
"No. Why?" I replied.
"He and Gaugin had a violent argument last night over whether a side effect should be considered output and he hasn't been seen since. I fear he may have done something... rash."
We were suddenly interrupted by the waitress' terrified scream. I turned in time to see something fall from the open envelope she held in her hand. Stooping to retrieve it, I was seized by a wave of revulsion as I recognized that the object in my hand, bestially torn from its accustomed place, was the mouse from Van Gogh's workstation. The waitress, who had fainted, lay in an unnoticed heap beside me.
By the evening, the incident had become the talk of Paris.