Monday, January 14, 2013

So much smartness gone to zero

On the desk was a thick volume describing the "IP Multimedia Subsystem" (the architecture and design of voice telephony in carrier Internet Protocol systems - it's as complicated as it sounds). It was surrounded by books on DNS (Domain Name Service), Internet Security, MPLS VPN Design, Broadband Access Architecture .. so on.

The Library didn't want any of them. They hesitated over a fat biography of Oppenheimer ("American Prometheus") and were up for the odd science popularisation ("Not Even Wrong"). With no little embarrassment the rest were pushed away.

So 90% of my 'donation' was repackaged into my shopping bags and off I trundled to the charity shop. What would the British Heart Foundation make of sophisticated books describing the engineering of the most advanced and complex system in the world today (possibly excepting the LHC), namely, the public Internet?

The lady on the counter took possession of my pile indifferently. I apologised, saying it was unlikely they would get much interest on her shelves.

"Doesn't matter," she replied, "We have a bookman who comes and collects."

And well they might, but I fear these erudite volumes will still end up as pulp.

I know how much time and effort goes in to writing a technical book (I have written one). The checking of facts, history and protocols; the writing and rewriting to make arcane technical stuff as interesting and comprehensible as possible. Within five to ten years, it's all obsolete and the value of the work has discounted to zero. (But it was not wasted).