Out of Sorts

By Dave Aronson, based on a character by Reginald Bretnor. It was posted to the Gaggle of Groaners listserv. Dave asks that we provide a llnk to his home page.

Ferdinand Feghoot the Fourteenth was a grizzled veteran at embedded software, but even he occasionally ran across a processor he hadn’t worked on before. The boss called him into the office one day….

“Ferd, we’ve got to write some software for an absolutely ancient computer. I want you to cobble together a general sorting routine for it in assembler.”

“Sure, boss. What’s the processor?”

“I was afraid you were going to ask that! It’s a Mumblefrotz 2000.”

“Oh, no! Gack! I had successfully avoided them for so long….”

“Well, it’s not quite so bad as it seems. As it just so happens, I have written some sorting routines for it. We don’t need anything very efficient, like quicksort or Fegsort, so the basic concepts out of the old data-specific bubblesort routines I wrote will do just fine, though you’ll have to combine and tweak them. You’ll find them in this old issue of Bit.”

“Uh, boss? Don’t you mean Byte?”

“Nope. As I said, this hunk o’ junk is ancient. It even predates Byte magazine!”

“Okay… let’s see here… oh, geez, just look at that code! No structure to it whatsoever! Such meaningless variable names! No comments! To use the technical terminology, yuck! Boss, I’m so… ashamed of you!”

“Well, yeah, it was rather a quick and dirty kluge, I gotta admit. It was from, as Shakespeare wrote, my salad days, when I was green of judgement. But you know how much I’ve learned in the past few decades, and how I hate that old crap. Please make sure that your code is nicely structured, well commented, and so on.”

“Well… okay, boss, I’ll…

hack up your bubbles in your old Bit mag and style, style, style!”

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