4.0041 Gender &c. (166)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Mon, 14 May 90 17:30:09 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0041. Monday, 14 May 1990.

(1) Date: Mon, 14 May 90 10:29:28 -0400 (18 lines)
From: lang@PRC.Unisys.COM
Subject: more on gender discussions

(2) Date: Mon, 14 May 90 14:17:19 -0500 (92 lines)
From: Alan D Corre <corre@csd4.csd.uwm.edu>
Subject: Poem [eds]

(3) Date: Sun, 13 May 90 20:05:44-020 (56 lines)
From: onomata@bengus (nissan ephraim)
Subject: Nemesis, Ultrix

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Mon, 14 May 90 10:29:28 -0400
From: lang@PRC.Unisys.COM
Subject: more on gender discussions

Bob Amsler writes:

> I find the discussion very strange indeed. The main reason is that
> I never thought the linguistic concept of gender was intended to
> be a clue to anything these days---and that the use of gender terms
> in reference to inanimate things is not itself the mechanism whereby
> linguistics decides to attribute gender to those entities.

I'm surprised that nobody has yet brought up the old linguistic chesnut
(well, I think of it as a chestnut) that in Romance languages, words
(both clinical terms and slang locutions) denoting male sex organs
tend to be of feminine gender, and vice-versa. I haven't done extensive
research in this area (!), but I've always heard this to be true.

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------103---
Date: Mon, 14 May 90 14:17:19 -0500
From: Alan D Corre <corre@csd4.csd.uwm.edu>
Subject: Poem [eds]

By popular request--well, at someone's suggestion--I am submitting a
poem I wrote some six years ago. Previously it was only privately
circulated, but it may serve as a contribution to the discussion of
computer gender. The computer must have been a 64K Apple Two Plus. On
account of explicit language you may wish to press the fast forward
button on your keyboard if a child is looking over your shoulder. Here
it is.

My Computer

My friend said: "Go screw your Computer.
It's really her that you love.
I'm tired of hearing of constants,
Of gosubs, intrinsics and such.

"I don't want to be the rival
Of transistor, circuit and switch.
There's no room for you in my program.
Our romance has one big glitch!

"It's far too late to debug me.
My charms--you'll no more load 'em.
So take your touch-tone Princess phone
And stick it in your modem!"

Dejected and sad I left her,
Ashamed at what I had done.
Flesh and blood I'd surrendered
For a silicone son-of-a-gun.

I sat down to my Computer,
And then, I turned her on.
She warmed to me as usual
And sang to me this song:

"Don't worry about your girl friend.
She wasn't the one for you.
I'll be loyal and faithful
My limited warranty through.

"I'll keep your checkbook for you
Like a microcomputer should.
I'll follow your stocks, track investments,
Give you recipes for your food.

"I'll answer your phone, write your letters,
And though you may not believe it,
I'll measure your stress and your tension,
And suggest ways to relieve it.

"Video games we'll play together,
Have lotsa fun you 'n me.
We'll battle torrents and whirlwinds,
And sail the mighty sea.

"I won't have bad breath in the morning
Or put curlers in my hair.
I just need a dime's worth of current
And a little bit of software.

"I'll be loyal and faithful.
To you I shall ever be true.
My Basic desire is service,
My functions are all for you."

I stopped her seductive output
With my final touch of her switch.
Her amber went dark and dismal,
Her blinkies ceased to twitch.

I traded my Computer
For a bunch of roses red.
I took them to my girl friend
And got her back instead.

"I'll never touch her keyboard
Or view her monitor.
I'll never feed the printer.
I'll cease to be a bore.

"I'll never stuff her disk-drive
Or warm her up, to boot.
I'll be a macro-lover
And not a micro-brute!"

So now we're wed and happy,
Have children, one, two, three;
Yet--sometimes--in my dreams--I
Tickle ctrl-C.
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------77----
Date: Sun, 13 May 90 20:05:44-020
From: onomata@bengus (nissan ephraim)
Subject: Nemesis, Ultrix

Re: Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0014. Wednesday, 9 May 1990.
(2) From: brad inwood <INWOOD@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: computer personalities

> But then came
> the peripateia, and Orestes was transferred to the secretaries for
> administrative work -- and in fact to the same technophobic secretary!
> So poor Orestes suffered a sex-change and deification in one swoop and
> became Nemesis.

Please observe that Digital's version of Bell's UNIX, is ULTIX.
Seemingly they coined the term from "ultra" and an ending looking like
the ending of UNIX. However, the name happens to be also the feminine
form of Latin "ultor" ("avenger"). Thus, "The Avengeress". [Against
Bell?] Whereas ULTRIX supports networks, we had some drawbacks with
running AI programs, and also because of some commands and online
documentation missing. The Avengeress is mistargeting...

> Meanwhile we hired new secretaries, with no trace of resentment for
> machines. Their computers remain unnamed to this day. And so, by the
> way, does my own. I wonder if there is anything typical in this story.

Perhaps it means the new secretaries have not such a background in the
classics as the former one (too skilled for the job?). Perhaps it also
means we like to know our foes by name, whereas mere instruments that do
not arouse passions would not get a proper name.

On the other hand, I guess the technophobic secretary had a good
ergonomic intuition: indeed, instead of accepting dreariness with
nameless problems, she surrounded her workplace with fictitious
characters from the classics she is fond of. It made problems heroic,
and made them show also a pleasant aspect. Having problems with Orestes
& Co. means you, too, are in Wonderland. After all, socialism, too,
either Marxist, or Tolstoian, or Gordonian Zionist (with its post-Gordon
Work Religion) also tried to make work look appetizing by cute and heroic
conceptualization. (Pasolini's "Lavorare stanca", "Work is tiring", was
a heresy from this viewpoint.)


Ephraim Nissan

Department of Mathematics & Computer Science,
Ben Gurion University of the Negev,
P.O. Box 653, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel.

BITNET address: onomata@bengus.bitnet