The Maven Once upon a weekend weary, while I pondered, beat and bleary, Over many a faintl

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The Maven Once upon a weekend weary, while I pondered, beat and bleary, Over many a faintly printed hexadecimal dump of core -- While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some Source user chatting, chatting of some Mavenlore. "Just a power glitch," I muttered, "printing out an underscore -- Just a glitch and nothing more." Ah, distinctly I remember that old Teletype ASR, And the paper tape dispenser left its chad upon the floor. Eagerly I thought, "Tomorrow, maybe I will go and borrow From my friend an Apple micro -- micro with a monitor -- So that I can chat at leisure, and then throw away my paper -- Lying all across the floor. And the repetitious tapping which had nearly caught me napping Woke me -- and convinced me that it could not be an underscore; Appearances can be deceiving, so I sat there, still believing; "My terminal must be receiving more express mail from the Source -- That's it -- my terminal's receiving new express mail from the Source; Posted mail and nothing more." But my curiosity grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, I stood up and crossed the room to see what waited there in store. Sticking up from the terminal were three inches or so of paper; Carefully my trembling hand tore off the scrap, and then I swore -- "What is this?", I cried in anger -- here I threw it to the floor; Blankness there and nothing more. Deep into its workings peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, What could cause the thing to stutter, dropping twenty lines or more? But the ribbon was unbroken, and the "HERE IS" gave no token, I thought the Teletype was broken, so I typed the number "4"! This I typed, and then the modem echoed back the number "4" -- Merely this and nothing more. Back then to my work returning, with my temper slowly burning, Soon again I heard a tapping something louder than before. "Surely," said I, "surely that is just another RESET message; With my luck, there's probably expensive data to restore!" -- As it chattered, still I sat there, trying to complete my chore. "'Tis the Source and nothing more." Such a simple program, really -- just to fill 1K of memory With the Fibonacci series, but when it reached 144, It had failed to set the high bit -- suddenly, I thought I had it! But, just as I found the bug, my train of thought derailed once more -- And the Teletype's loud bell rang, then it sat just like before -- Rang, and sat, and nothing more. Suddenly, I couldn't stand it -- Just as if someone had planned it, Now the paper, like a bandit, rolled its way across the floor! As I put it back, I spied two words: CHAT TCX122 -- Which I knew must be the Maven, chatting from the Eastern shore. Presently the terminal received and printed one word more -- Quoth the Maven, "#4?" Such a message I was having difficulty understanding, For his letters little meaning -- little relevancy bore; Though I must admit believing that no living human being Ever could remember seeing evidence of Mavenlore -- Tell me now, what kind of Maven of the saintly days of yore Could have written "#4?" But the Maven, waiting for me to reply, transmitted only That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. Nothing farther then he ventured; silently the Teletype purred -- Till I scarcely more than murmured: "Stars and garters, what a bore!" -- Whereupon the terminal abruptly started with a roar; Then it typed out, "#4?!" Startled at the stillness broken by reply so tersely spoken "Doubtless," said I, "what we have here could not be a line error. Failure to communicate, perhaps -- it's late and getting later -- But I've never seen a greater unsolved mystery to explore." Then I knew I'd never rest until I solved his semaphore ... "Who am I, the Prisoner?" But the Maven didn't answer; no more data did he transfer, So I wheeled my Herman Miller office chair across the floor; Then upon the plastic sinking, I betook myself to linking Logic unto logic, thinking what this ominous bard of yore -- What this unknown, unseen, unsung, unrepentant bard of yore Meant in typing "#4?!" This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing To the dour and cryptic Maven now whose words I puzzled o'er; This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining On the seat back's plastic lining that the lamp-light fluoresced o'er, But whose flattened plastic lining with the lamp fluorescing o'er Shall compress, ah, little more! All at once my thoughts grew clearer -- as if looking in a mirror, Now at last I understood where I had sent the number 4! "Look," I typed, "I was just testing -- did you think that I was jesting? Why was it so interesting that I typed the number 4? Did you think that you were chatting to some foolish sophomore?" Quoth the Maven, "... #4?" "Maven!" said I, "Great defender! Venerable comprehender! Whether you began this chat, or were a victim of error, Mystified, and yet undaunted, by this quandary confronted," -- (Could my terminal be haunted?) -- "tell me truly, I implore -- Can you understand my message? -- tell me, tell me, I implore!" Quoth the Maven, "#4!" "Maven!" said I, "Great pretender! Ancient Jewish moneylender! By the Source that now connects us -- by the holy Oath you swore -- Tell me in your obscure wisdom if, within your distant modem, You receive my words unbroken by backspace or underscore -- Tell me why my Teletype prints nothing but the number 4!" Quoth the Maven, "#4?" "Be that word our sign of parting, bard or friend!" I typed, upstarting -- "Get back to your aimless chatter and obnoxious Mavenlore! Leave no token of your intent -- send no messsage that you repent! Leave my terminal quiescent! -- Quit the chat hereinbefore! Type control-P (or escape), and quit this chat forevermore!" Quoth the Maven, "#4..." And the Maven, notwithstanding, still is chatting, still is chatting Over my misunderstanding of his cryptic "#4?"; And I calmly pull the cover and remove a certain lever From the 33ASR, which I never shall restore; And a certain ASCII number that lies broken on the floor Shall be printed -- nevermore! (with no apologies whatsoever to anyone) ...the Dragon


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