#1-3
01 января 1987

Shoutburst 2 - no hex please, we're british.

<b>Shoutburst 2</b> - no hex please, we're british.
 NO HEX PLEASE, WE'RE BRITISH.
        by Ron Cavers

In 1714 a British patent was
obtained for a new machine.

It was over 150 years later
before a commercially successful
model was produced (by the
Yanks, of course) and the
typewriter slowly eased its way
into our lives. 
Most people are aware that the
QWERTY keyboard system was
incorporated to prevent the
mechanical type bars from
jamming when typing at any speed
greater than mine and, as we
then had to wait another 100
years for the electronic
typewriter, it is forgiveable
that the QWERTY system should
stick in spite of some heroic
attempts to dislodge it.

What has this to do with Hex?
Well, when computers arrived,
the obvious solution to storing
information in electronic form
was to use (put simplistically)
bank, after bank of switches
which could exist in two states
- either on, or off. 
Thus a bank of eight switches
could be set to, say,

OFF/ON/OFF/OFF/OFF/OFF/OFF/ON

and this could be recognised as
the eight-bit binary number
01000001 which in turn could be
converted to its decimal
equivalent of 65.

Great. But the early computers
didn't start off with the ready-
made languages, like Basic, Lisp
and Pascal, the programmers had
to get in there and convert
their real-world numbers and
letters directly into binary -
which was a bit of a headache to
say the least. So hexadecimal
came into general use as a sort 
of halfway house where decimal
numbers could be converted to
base 16 counting (Hex) which in
turn could be converted to
binary - and back again - the
whole process being easier than
a straight conversion. I think
the inevitable happened -
programmers began to "see" the
Hex equivalents of the real
world far more easily than they
ever did with binary and decimal
just became a nuisance. Thus the
myth was born that machine code
programming should be done in
Hex.

Now, in electronics, things
moved far more rapidly than they
ever did in mechanics - in both
senses! High-level programming 
languages were developed and
Assemblers used to write machine
code. The need for Hex has long
passed - we still need binary
and any machine code programmer
has to be aware that this is how
the real world is represented in
the machine and occasionally the
conversion still has to be made
depending on the program being
written - but bear in mind that
an 8-bit binary to decimal
conversion table can be held on
a single sheet of A4 paper or a
specially written program used
(see elsewhere in this issue) so
there is no need to use Hex as
an intermediary.

I am a very open-minded
individual (too easily swayed, 
sometimes!) but I challenge
anyone who may be reading this
to convince me that Hex is in
any way useful. The only time I
ever use Hex is in trying to
interpret the results of a
package that allows me to
assemble machine code in decimal
but refuses to do anything else
except in Hex. Refuses to let me
peek a decimal address, trace
from a decimal address, break in
at a decimal address, or
anything that will allow me to
run and test my code under
controlled conditions using
decimal.

Until you have done this, you
have no idea how absolutely
frustrating and infuriating this 
is - you finally leap to your
feet clenching fistfuls of hair
screaming - "FETCH ME THE
PROGRAMMER WHO WROTE THIS, I'LL
MAKE HIM EAT IT WITH LIQUID
PARAFFIN!"

Make no mistake, programming in
machine code is harder than in
Basic but don't let anyone kid
you that you need to work in Hex
- it just isn't true!

So, back to the typewriter
analogy. If the golf-ball or
daisy wheel typewriter had come
along in time could we have
easily made the change and got
rid of QWERTY? Speculative and
pointless. However, I do not
think this is true of Hex. It is 
my opinion that we have just
passed a crucial crossroad in
the life of Hex and now is our
last chance to get rid of it
FOREVER!

So strike up the band!
Take up the banner!
March on ... er, Whitehall.

NO HEX PLEASE, WE'RE BRITISH!.



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