Out of Sorts

The first book I wrote about data sorting was one of the training modules that formed part of PLAN: advanced facilities back in the mid 1970s. The knowledge was to come in somewhat useful many years later.

Pitfalls of software (part... I forget which)

Back from the shops, and with a soothing cuppa and a peach for my "lemonses", I now wonder why — having nearly finished rebuilding the MP3 lists largely automagically — my semi-obsessive personality prompted me to ask "Where's all my 'Orb'?" as letter "O" is largely undisturbed by their presence.

But wait! There they all are, present and correct, but stashed unhelpfully1 under "T" for "The". It very much reminds me of some of the fun I had in earlier CP/M days, and told Carol about in my New Year email to her in 1989:

Happy new year! A mild, quiet Christmas (during which [in only one evening] — the irony of the "one" will be clarified by a short, explanatory footnote[a] — I wrote my very first genuinely useful program on my Amstrad PCW to merge sorted ASCII text files, thus eventually producing two 87-page printouts (in author and title order) of the Mounce library — approximately 5277 volumes [but with several missing items that I know I loaned out but don't remember who to!])

[a] and laboriously edited the three data files (fiction, nonfiction, and science fiction) pre- and post-merge to globally remove and subsequently reinstate all commas and semicolons; then reworked the code to compare uppercase-only text strings in the way I'd set the data base program to when building record keys in the first place (but long since forgotten, of course) with the result that until I folded the data to upper case before making each comparison to match the collating sequence of the data base program used to output the data files in the first place each occurrence of an initial lower case letter threw the merge sequence out of kilter — what a host of pitfalls for the unwary, and how well hidden were various items in the manual [like exactly how reading in a line of text complete with innocent-looking punctuation from a serial disk file is fraught with tabbing problems (hence the global edits to conceal the punctuation])...

Date: 3 January 1989

A mere 5,277 books, heh? My, that was a long time ago!


1  Although Media Monkey is smart enough to ignore the definite article in Performer and group names when collating its media library list, after I'd exported the list into Office Libre's spreadsheet that, or my foolish decision to sort the raw data from it in Textpad before importing it into my web pages, (or quite possibly both), has proved my temporary undoing.