CSUITE: ---------------------------------------------------------- Fish netting Contrary to popular belief

There's lots of Good Fish in the Sea


Netting for Beginners

by Alasdair McKay

( written for the "Katisha Scream" in the fall of 1995 )

It is now over three decades since I was first let loose on a networked computing system. This took place at Harwell, a research centre of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority about 20 miles south of Oxford. I was working on some numerical mathematical problems, which were about the only thing that computers were used for at that time. The programs I wrote then were fed, as a deck of punched cards no different in principle from the punched cards of Jacquard's loom of the 1790's or those of the mechanical organs of the late 19th century, into a card-reader on a small computer at Harwell. This small computer, with memory of about 4 Kbyte, then sent the program down a telephone line to Aldermaston several tens of miles away, where lived a much bigger computer on which the program would be run. I never saw this big computer and neither did most of the other people who used it. It lived in the top secret nuclear weapons laboratories. There were other links in the Atomic Energy Authority's computer network in these days. The farthest off node was at Dounreay, in the ancestral territory of Clan McKay in the far north of Scotland, about 500 miles from Harwell. I had seen the Dounreay computer the summer before (1963) as a student with the fast breeder reactor group there. It operated on vacuum tubes and was being replaced at that time.
The BIG machine at Aldermaston, STRETCH by name, was one of the largest computers in the world in 1964. It was about as powerful as an IBM-XT of early 1980's vintage - the sort of thing you would now have difficulty selling for $50. Computers and networks have come a long way since the early 1960's.

Family Communications

The first computer network I was ever able to use for personal communication was that of the Northumbrian Universities (NE England). This was in 1983, about 10 years after I had left the UK to come to live in Nova Scotia - but I was back for the better part of that year working at the University of Durham. My family was staying with grandparents in Newcastle, 20 miles to the north, and my wife, Pat, at intervals snatched between child-minding duties, was helping me with some of the computer work by using machines at Newcastle which were on the same network, but were much nearer granny and the children. We arranged our own method of communication by leaving messages for each other in a file to which we both had access. By such means, I received such messages as :
"Ipsa (our daughter Elizabeth) was sick all over Granny this morning."
" Get a pint of milk on the way home tonight"

Back to N.S. and on to Japan

The N.S. Provincial government, however, with whom I was misguided enough as to spend too much of my working life, were very slow to pick up on this marvellous way of communicating missives of such vital import , and it was not until 5 years ago when I went, in 1990, to work for a year with the Geological Survey of Japan that I encountered the Internet as such and began to use and explore it. The Internet is not as new as is often believed - it celebrated its 25th anniversary last September - but like many other innovations such as the motor car or the fax machine, it has only begun to make any impact on the lives of most individuals several decades after its invention. (The N.S. Economic Renewal Agency, in 1995, still seems to consider it a novelty.)


Only about a year ago I found Savoynet - an Internet discussion group about Gilbert & Sullivan. A discussion group is a means whereby you can receive messages about what other people are saying on a specific topic (in this case G&S) and which enables you to respond with a reply, witty or otherwise. Those of us who can never quite come up instantaneously in conversation with a crushing repartee, in true Gilbertian fashion, find to their delight that this style of quasi-verbal fencing gives them the thinking time that they need. As well as providing a duelling ground, such discussion groups give you immediate access to a large number of people with like interests and wide knowledge. Through Savoynet, I have tracked down a musical score of "Engaged!" or "Cheviot's Choice" and have received the new (ca. 1990) G&S operetta "The Wicked Waxworks". Savoynet is also the most marvellous place to moan about the liberties which the directors are taking with whatever piece your own society has currently in production. ( The mating of Josephine with Ralph's father's son, for example, drew howls of derision from around the world. ) That is not to say that Savoynet is frequented only by bigoted Wesleyan Methodists by any means. Ideas about innovative staging are there to be had. One that I recall was for the men's chorus in Act II of Ida to make their entry through the scenery with a very large battering ram. I suppose they must have had a good budget for scenery building if bits needed replacing each performance.
I have not been looking at Savoynet since last summer. One of the problems with discussion groups is that they can at times become too prolific in their generation of messages, and then it all begins to seem a bit too much like junk mail does in any other medium. There are, however, other ways to get in touch with G&S matters on the NET. I will say a little about these in connection with our own Society's offerings which have been mounted on the local Chebucto Freenet since late last year.

G & S Society of N S

You can now reach the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of N.S. in the Culture section of Chebucto Freenet under the heading Music. There are two ways to get to Chebucto Freenet. One is to dial up 494-8006 and log in much in the same way as to any bulletin board. The other way, for those already connected to the Internet in some other way, is to telnet to : chebucto.ns.ca. In either case, type guest at the login prompt, if you do not already have an account on CFN. A "main page" will be displayed. Choose the Culture link . You will see Gilbert and Sullivan Society under a subheading entitled Music. This link will bring you into our society's area.
I have not put a great deal of our own material there as yet. There is a list of past productions and a few contacts for the production team of "The Gondoliers". The introduction to our society reads as follows. If you don't like it, come up with some other ideas.

Society History and Aims

The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Nova Scotia was formed on 25th January 1977, by a group headed by A.G. Scott Savage with the aim of building a society of afficianados of light opera, of promoting cultural and educational programmes and publications and of bringing fully staged productions of operetta to Nova Scotian audiences. Since that time, it has mounted yearly [1] productions of most of the [2] works of Gilbert and Sullivan and has taken them to many stages throughout Nova Scotia from Yarmouth to Glace Bay. The Society's 1994 production of H.M.S. Pinafore won first place at the International Festival in Liverpool, N.S. The Society welcomes new members to its varied activities which are not wholly confined to staging shows. All we ask is an enthusiasm for music like Sullivan's and wit like Gilbert's. No members of the society receive any remuneration in connection with the activities of the Society. Non-members are employed by the society from time to time as orchestral musicians and as stage director.
The really intersting stuff, however, starts when you follow the link number 2 above entitled works of Gilbert and Sullivan. This link will take you off on a trip down to the States, where resides the :

Gilbert & Sullivan Archive Home Page

and this is your starting point for some real exploration of what you can do on The Web in the field of Gilbertiana and music in general. There is too much to describe fully here, but how about :
And much much more. Go and see for yourself.

Alasdair McKay tries to make a living at consultancy in geophysics and in haggis making. More details about these offerings appear at
http://www.haggis.ca to which you can link from here