Blathr Wayne Lorentz

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Showing blathrs with the tag “Languages.”

Program it again, SAM

Thursday, September 15th, 2022 Alive 18,769 days

Creative Computing, May-June, 1978, page 28

SAM76 was one of many computer languages that came out in the 1970ʼs that promised to be the “next big thing,” but failed to gain traction.

It looks a bit like AP/L, with its tight syntax, but was meant for text manipulation like Lisp.

I haven't found a SAM76 interpreter to play with in 2022, so here's an example of what a SAM76 program would look like, from the May-June, 1978 issue of Creative Computing that would take a number from the terminal input, and uses recursion to print out the factorial of that number.


I'm no SAM76 expert, but I think there's a typo in this listing. I think the !%ii… is actually supposed to be !%is… to retrieve an “input string” from the terminal. But I'm happy to be proven wrong.

As you may have guessed from the ten slashes, this language is all about nesting commands. Amusingly, it doesn't matter how many slashes you close your expressions with, as long as it's enough. So just keep banging that slash key!

SAM76 is a great example of smart people dealing with the scarcity of their time. This is a language that has been optimized for teletypes, punch cards, and paper tape. The % isn't a command prompt, it's a command. (More specifically, a “warning character.”) The “mu” and “pt” and such are shortened, almost tokenized, keywords.

Sadly, there is no SAM76 entry on Wikipedia, and almost no information on the internet about it, so it will soon be erased from the public memory by search engines (*cough*Google*cough*) that choose to only show things currently trending in popular culture. Shakespeare, youʼre next.

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Saturday, May 15th, 2021 Alive 18,281 days

A talking electronic translator

Today I said goodbye to one of the most promising, but least used, gadgets in my travel kit. Itʼs a talking electronic translator.

It translates English words into Japanese, Mandarin, and Cantonese. That is, it would have if Iʼd ever used it.

The problem is that I donʼt ever have the need to translate single words when Iʼm traveling, which is about all itʼs good for. It has some built-in phrases, but theyʼre very few, and getting to the phrase you want can take a minute or more. By then, the person youʼve flagged down on the street for help has gone on with their day.

A better version of this might have been a good aide for learning a new language, but the screen resolution is too low to make sense out of the displayed glyphs, and the speech sounds like itʼs generated by a Texas Instruments TMC0281. Think “E.T. phone home” on a Speak-and-Spell. In Chinese.

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Smoking signal

Saturday, October 6th, 2018 Alive 17,329 days

A sign reading “Doo nídaʼ atʼ oh da”

Now you know how to say “No smoking” in Navajo.

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