Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight-byte Epiphytes

As the Timber Press Web and IT Manager, I'm probably one of the nerdier people in the office.

Well, I should probably qualify that, given that from my desk I can see coworkers who are probably thinking right now about graphic novels and/or Star Wars (don't worry, office-mates, I will keep your identities safe from the Internet ... for now). To say nothing of the discussions I've had with members of the editorial department on the finer points of grammar.

Fine, I'm one of many nerdy people in this office. But I'm the only one I know of to have taken an interest in a particular old book I found one day while perusing the extensive backlist in our library. That book is Computer Graphics in Biology, and this is the story of my adventure with that book.

No, wait, don't stop reading yet! I appreciate that it takes a certain kind of nerd to be interested in a computer book published in 1986, and I further appreciate that you might not be that kind of nerd. After all, there's probably a reason we didn't go on to publish a whole lot more books on the intersection of computer graphics and biology -- say, AutoCAD and The Arborist: a Guide to Plotting the Perfect Pruning, or perhaps Variegated Virtual Reality: Why All Gardens in the Future Will Require a Different Kind of Glove.

Technically, Timber Press didn't publish Computer Graphics in Biology, either. That credit goes to our erstwhile imprint, Dioscorides Press. It was part of a series titled Advances in Plant Sciences, though subsequent volumes (including Adventitious Root Formation in Cuttings and Isozymes in Plant Biology) were decidedly more for nerds of a greener stripe.

I'd like to tell you more about the book, but frankly, it's a bit of a slog to get through, unless you happen to like plants (check), computers (check), and possess a technological masochism that precludes you from enjoying the advances made in computing since 1986 (sorry, but here I must draw the line).

I did, however, make it far enough through the preface to find a reference to "the recent upsurge in graphical man-machine interfaces, notably the WIMP (window, icon, mouse, pointer) system seen on the Apple Mackintosh [sic] and Commodore Amiga computers". Oddly, though such things are in fact quite popular today, I can't say the same for the "WIMP" acronym. Not sure why that didn't catch on.

Anyhow, both computer graphics and Timber Press have moved on, and I'm happy to report that there's not a lot of discussion of Fortran in the office these days. But don't let that stop you from submitting your proposal for Eight-byte epiphytes -- I can promise that, if no one else will, I'll at least give it a once-over. But, sorry, we can't accept submissions on 5.25" disks anymore.

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