Are you a romantic? Know any nerds?
I’m both. Today my romantic side lectured the nerdy side on why Jane Austen is so great. Maybe your nerd might be interested.
Nerds know about computers and the software and hardware. What follows is simplified, but generally speaking is how all computers work.
Closest to the user is a program, like chrome. That program sits on top of the operating system, and that sits on top of the “shell” which sits on another operating system that runs directly on the processor.
Readers = computers. We accept a file (book), getting information.
Now, lets talk about files.
Files means several things. There are raw data or text files, there are files that are proprietary to a program, there are files that are themselves programs. Files can also be “compiled,” and then there are a whole class of files that are compressed. A compressed file can be any or all of the above files.
In general, a text file has little information for a given size, while a compressed file has the most.
Fellow nerds, here’s where the fun begins.
Ordinary books by ordinary authors are equivalent to text files being read by the browser. Very low information content for a given size, almost no interaction capability.
Good books by great authors are like getting a compiled program complete with data files. There’s a lot more going on between the pages than you see at first glance. The book itself tells you how to run the program and read the data, so that you get an enhanced experience. You can usually tell that you’re reading such a book because the author will tell you.
Then there’s Jane Austen. At first glance her book looks like a simple text file. Then you realize that there’s a program buried inside. It’s not just any program, because she doesn’t tell you it’s there. It sits in your brain and begins running, and it starts running on the data supplied by the book. It’s a text file that speaks directly to the processor.
But it doesn’t end there either. Because you can also feed it data from your life, your world, the real world. And the program keeps running, giving you insights that weren’t there before.
Then you go back and read the book again, and again. The book is a text file. The book is a compiled program. And more.
It’s compressed. It’s compressed in such a way that it LOOKS like an ordinary text file. But when you read it and it sits in your brain, it unspools, slowly, surely.
I figure that if P&P were written in uncompressed form, it would be somewhere around a half million words. The book currently clocks in at 120,000. That’s a 75% compression ratio.
So, the next time your non-nerdy friend tells you they are reading P&P, treat them with respect. That’s no ordinary text file they are handling.