A Dangerous Obsession

If you think about it, you really shouldn't let people with an obsessive nature anywhere near computers. When I was much younger I knew a chap called John. Actually, now I am older I still know a chap called John, but it is a different John, and not important right now. Anyhoo, John had one of the first microcomputers, a Nascom. It had a 25 lines of 40 characters display. And 8 KBytes of RAM. And he could write Basic programs on it and store them on a cassette tape. What power. I was dead jealous. One Monday he came in to work looking even more haggard and disheveled than ever, which for John was saying something. We asked him if he had enjoyed a pleasant weekend.

 "Not really" he replied "I wanted to see the robots feet and it took ages to get it to work".

Turns out that the Nascom had a display character set which contained graphical images, including little robots. Snag was that these were not displayed completely, because the screen hardware skipped some lines when it drew the raster. The feet were missed off. For John this was a bad thing. So he spent an entire weekend rewiring the hardware so that all the scan lines were drawn. And he could see his robots feet. We thought this was silly, and could hardly see the difference extra pixels made.

I was reminded of this during my attempts to get Vista Aero Glass to work on my Toshiba M200 this weekend. For those that don't know, Glass gives you a funky effect around each window, so you can sort of see through to the one beneath it. This adds very little to the usability of your computer, but it is very cute, particularly if you understand how fiendishly hard it is to draw this kind of thing. And my rather elderly Tosh machine can just about do it. But only if you download a special driver, customise the initialisation file and then throw in a registry hack. And it only sort of works, in that every now and then it runs out of display memory and drops back to boring old opaque window edges.

But getting glass on my desktop became very important to me, and I spent far too much time trying and failing to make it work. Finally I had a glass display running and I showed number one wife the finished result.

"I can't see the difference" she said.