Vakkotaur (vakkotaur) wrote,
Vakkotaur
vakkotaur

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How to suck the fun out of something.


Turn it into a contest between people. That's it, at least for me. Even if "it's all in fun" or "it's only a game" it winds up being taken too seriously by some. It doesn't matter what it is. I've found that anything I do for fun or relaxation is suddenly no longer fun or relaxing if it becomes a competition with others. And that's true, even if I win the contest. I don't mean that there ought to be no competition at all. I'll admit it's an appealing idea, but I recognize it's an unworkable one. Even without anything formal, there will be the perception of competition by some.

The only competition I don't mind too much is with myself. How far can I go? How much can I do? What can I do? One example of this is from many years ago when the Apple //e was still new. Print Shop had just come out and I had seen the simple folding greeting cards it could generate. As I didn't have a copy of Print Shop and wanted to do the greeting card bit, I had some work to do.


The cards were a picture or two on a page, and then offset another picture or two, upside down. When the page was folded twice, there was a picture on the cover and a picture inside. Doing the printing offset was simple enough, but I needed to turn an image over. This turned out to be a non-trivial thing on an Apple ][ series machine. There were two high-resolution (for the time) graphics pages and I started by copying the start of one to the end of the other... and found I had scrambled the image rather badly.

I worked out that the high resolution graphics pages were a triad of octets of octets of lines, and that only seven bits of a byte were displayed. Much of this was an artifact of Steve Wozniak's scheme of having the video refresh also be the memory refresh, a design that kept speed up and parts count down, but made graphics a headache. I set to work to deal with this curious arrangement and eventually had an AppleSoft Basic program that could flip an image over. It took over twenty minutes to do this, but it worked and I made my first computer-generated greeting card.

Twenty minutes was, of course, a far too long run time. One thing I was doing over and over, at the core of all the loops, was the bit-flipping for reversing the seven displayed bits. There was a way for Basic to call a machine language routine and I used that, writing the bit-flipper in machine code and leaving the rest in Basic. The result was significant improvement: The runtime was decreased to about five minutes. For the time, this wasn't just too bad, but eventually it started to bother me. And I figured the rest was really just loops, and how hard could they be to translate into machine code?

So I went to work on it again and eventually got all the loops working right in machine code. Now the change was dramatic. The new runtime was about 5 seconds. It was at this point that I showed it off to sistaur who only then made the remark that "it takes too long." This was done to get a reaction from me, and it worked. But eventually I looked over the program and something started bothering me.

The original machine language bit-flipper, the one I hacked out fairly quickly to decrease the Basic program runtime, was pretty much unchanged and it was making a bunch of memory calls at it shuffled the bits around. Having first used the 1802, the 6502 of the Apple seemed register-starved, but it did have a more potent set of commands. After puzzling over it all for a while, I rewrote that part and managed to get rid of the memory calls and did all the bit shuffling in the registers. With this change the runtime was down to just over a second.

I was only competing with myself. I wasn't up against anyone trying to get done before me, or write a program that had more features, or did the job faster. It was just me. And I felt pretty good about it every step, at least when I finished that step.


Later, in ham radio I found that I liked the idea of communications but too much was contesting. That's not communications except in the most technical sense. It could be done by machine. Big deal. I didn't care about getting some bit of paper or other, and never even bothered with the Rag Chewer certificate - which is at least not a contest in any sense, and haven't actively pursued Worked All States, let alone things like DXCC. WAS might be nice, but I actually wanted to talk with people and not just enter a short strip of bare information in a logbook. My first real DX (overseas) contact was a big disappointment as it was with contester rather than a communicator. I think I don't care much for Field Day for similar reasons: it's just another lousy contest. Big deal. Oh, the setup might be interesting, but that's about it.

I also discovered that I didn't really dislike physical activity. I don't mind a walk, or a hike, or cross-country skiing, or cycling, and probably a bunch of other things. But I found that I liked or tolerated them only as long as they weren't part of a contest. Team sports are right out. I find them interminably boring and silly in an unamusing, even stupid, way. I wouldn't mind company on my presently solo activities, but it would need to be just to do these things not alone rather than have them turned into contests. I neither want nor need to be in a race.

Tags: competition, fun, psychology
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