The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

October 28, 2005


the slide-rule processes nothing; there are no processes.
there are procedures.
the calculator processes everything; there are filters.

this is a fundamental distinction.
an abacus processes nothing.
it is not the distinction between analog and digital.

it is the distinction between interior and exterior.
the keyboard of a calculator or computer mediates processes
and protocols.
the beads of an abacus remain in situ. a slide-rule remains in situ.

observe the abacus or slide-rule. the results are steady-state.
the results are gained solely by human labor, i.e. movement of the
beads or slide.

the calculator uses an energy source, for example battery or solar
power. a wind-up calculator stores energy. a calculator regulates
its stored energy.

the stored energy is controlled much like the escapement of a clock.
the stored energy implements the unobserved steps or procedures
tending towards a visible solution.
even if every step were accounted for, for example listed in real
time in a debugging program - the steps are unobserved.
only signifiers, mediators, are observed.

the ontology of the slide-rule however may be compared to the
epistemology of the abacus or calculator.
the abacus founders on ontology and the real.
the calculator founders on ontology, the slide-rule on epistemology.
the real is of the real.

the digital must be manifest, within the analogic. the analogic
is present. the ruptures of the abacus are problematized by the
fuzzy movement of the beads. an electronic abacus, a digital abacus
in other words, is internalized.

this is the secret of the digital: its internalization is that of
the body; its operations are literally neural, and its protocols
are the shape-riding of synaptic signals.

the digital has a life of its own; the analogic is inert, and in this
sense, even the analogic body is inert.
life is always the life of others.


we look at the slide-rule or abacus. we watch the computer screen.
we say 'look at this'; however if we are responsible, we say
'watch this.' we see a film, but watch television.

however we look at the computer screen. we look at symptoms, 'look
what's happening here.' we watched a film last night. did you see
that show on television? look, see, watch - however, with the abacus
or slide-rule, with the real, we look.

why should we watch the slide-rule? it's not doing anything.
watch what i can do with it. watch the carry-over of the abacus

we wait with expectation. i wait without expectation.
the slide-rule waits for nothing, does not wait.
the computer may be in standby or hibernation.
the computer or calculator is the filtering and mediation of
potential energy.
the computer and calculator possess kinetic energy in the carrying-
out, performance, of their duties. they are assigned duties. the
assignments are flexible, flex-work.
the slide-rule and abacus do not possess kinetic energy. or rather:
they do not possess internal kinetic energy. for example, a stone
may fall; a stone is.

of course energy may be reassigned, as may waiting, looking, seeing,
watching, interior and exterior. there may or may not be an observer.
huang-po may have been such an observer. (nothing, addendum)
like all addenda, familiar.

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