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How are Virtues observed?

by | Oct 1, 2020 | J. S. Bach, observe, Virtue

As I leaped out of IBM just before they laid off 40,000 people, I was fortunate to land a job at Fannie Mae. Their Vice-Chairman saw a Business Week article (remember that magazine…) about Software Reuse, and directed the CIO to pursue it.  It makes sense – write software well once, and Reuse it over and over, the Return on Investment is much higher.  As with all things in magazines, the idea is WAY more complicated to ACTUALLY execute, but here I was with a new job as Director of Software Engineering, and a charter to get us at least 70 programmers trained by the end of the year…. and it was the end of March.  And… my job was “speculative” – ie, if I didn’t do it, the position was not really permanent… Check. Missed that in the interview process… 

What made the challenges at IBM so large is their Virtue had become an Achilles heel.  Guaranteeing lifetime employment was something that eventually became not so Virtuous, as the other computer companies became faster, more nimble, and were charging forward at a pace that IBM couldn’t match.  I was exposed to it, and the dissonance from the Executive Suite to the bottom was palpable, and I knew I needed to move on.  I was fortunate to get this position, something that plausibly I probably shouldn’t have, but it was the start of a great journey of learning on multiple levels that continues to this day.   At this juncture I first encountered software that would also change the world – Object Technology – and the interesting thing about Objects is the fundamental key is that they have a simple outside interface – what is inside doesn’t matter. 

So – I didn’t write this, or yesterdays, but it is what I would like to say I know about this piece: “While it’s easy enough for the keyboard to stand alone, string instruments have a harder time of it. Bach’s solo Cello Suites are immensely difficult, not least because he was determined to make the instrument sound self-sufficient. They vanished for years from the repertoire, only to be rediscovered and subsequently celebrated when the great Catalan cellist Pablo Casals began to play them, proving that they were not, as previously thought by some, merely studies. The suites have daunted players and delighted audiences ever since. They turn the cello into a veritable orchestra, and range from the gloriously affirmative No.1, via the introspection of No.2, to the brilliant, high-flying Sixth.”  In the domain of classical, I am a learner for sure, and this site has been where I have been finding music that fits the plan for the week.  In studying Reuse, they found laziness is a core Virtue – not writing code actually was what you wanted…

Jobs saw them first at Xerox, and by this point had taken a huge gamble on them – forced by his own flaming exit from Apple.  Unlike me jumping, he was fired, but nonetheless, he was forced to find a new way of being, and a new approach to everything.  Betting on Objects was the path for him, along with a band of pirates he accumulated along the way.  The Virtue’s they embraced was everything needed to be designed from the ground up differently.  So much of computing you know came from this, including the ubiquitous USB port – you know – the little thing on the side of your computer.  I first saw one of those on a “new” keyboard and mouse they shipped on the NeXT slab in 1993.  And – every computer came with a speaker and a series of sounds where it was ‘assumed’ that multi-media was going to be included in everything. And the Objects that came with NeXT did that… which meant sound, and music became integrated with computing…  

….which is a long way of getting to today’s track by Yo-Yo Ma.  I am sure he was a thing before the ’90s, but the first time I heard him was on a NeXT slab.  You can select sounds, and here was this “Yo-Yo Ma” thing…. what the heck is that?  Just about the most beautiful thing I had heard.  The track for today starts with this quote “Culture – the way we express ourselves and understand each other – can bind us together as one world.”  Steve built that Virtue into his computer, and thus, into our consciousness.  Much has been said about Steve and his Virtues, but I was proud to be around to see music become integrated into everything.  He had a baby about then, and the email he sent out to his team was simply a video of the new child, and Yo-Yo Ma beneath. No words, no text, nothing but… Virtue.  It changed him, and it changed computing, and it changed me in ways that are still just becoming clear.  Enjoy this track from Bach played by the master…. and observe the Virtue you need to bring to the world around you.  It may not be 6 Suites, but start with 1 and see …. 

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