Computer programming has come a long way since the days when the major programming languages were machine code and assembler 360 and programmers wore leather caps, goggles and white coats.
Already in the 1980’s, in the pioneering programme “The Mighty Micro”, Chris Evans of the BBC introduced the public to a second generation of programming languages and, in particular, to Basic. Those, of course, were the days before the Internet, digital photography and MP3 files – in short before today’s exploding multimedia computing age.
As an I. T. lecturer in London I introduced people of all ages to HTML, (hypertext mark-up language) which helped them to build their own web sites. Today, things have gone far beyond that; the Semantic web, organized by the world wide web consortium, otherwise known as W3C, aims at providing common data formats on the web with the use of semantic content in web pages. This will eventually provide a unified structure facilitating the interchange of documents and data which once were unable to communicate with each other. Clearly, HTML in this situation has its limitations and a whole spectrum of new programming languages have been developed and are for ever in course of development including RDF, OWL (web ontology language), XML and SPARQL.
If anyone reading this thinks all this is beyond their ken it’s beyond mine too and beyond most people’s on this globe except for those gifted with the highest minds. Rigorous logic and creativity combine in these super-brains to lead us into the ever-expanding fields of knowledge and relationships which enrich any positive use of the web.
One person able to comprehend the implications of the semantic web and contribute significantly to its development happens to be one of my oldest friends in this part of the world. Danny Ayers, who lives in the charming village (or hamlet even?) of Mozzanella in the central Serchio valley near Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, has been a major figure in this field for some years and has a significant number of volumes he has collaborated in lining his shelves.
Teleworking is, of course ideal for this kind of programming occupation and the contrast between a community which, until relatively recently, knew no television or even phones, where agriculture and pastoralism remain a major feature, and the state-of –the-art activities of Danny are all the more startling.
Apart from programming, Danny is well into music-making using both digital and analogue instruments In addition to synthesisers he has six guitars, other plucked instruments, a drum kit and keyboards arranged in an impressive array and making an even more impressive sound.
The impetus for getting all this stuff together and working is Danny’s recently completed move to a new house in Mozzanella. As he states, “the fact that the new house has a lot more sunshine seeping through its windows than the old and that the views from it are absolutely superb makes a great deal of difference to the creative spirit.”
Just because one is a wizard at programming the semantic web doesn’t mean that simple rural crafts are neglected. In the afternoon that I visited Danny he completed a wooden spoon most useful for dealing with scrambled eggs and presented it to me complete with my initial on it.
I’ve just realised that I’m writing all this on Danny’s birthday and that he has reached one of those birthdays which end with a zero on the age (plus a one, I’m informed.).
So Buon Compleanno Danny and long may you thrive on the semantic web and in carving both spoons and axe handles!