A Tail Of Two Fishes

(Apologies to Mr. Charles Dickens (R.I.P.) for the terrible punny title)

I've just completed a project where I had to type 6200 random digits and numbers, then check them a further three times, manually, without the aid of OCR software. This is a part of my file retrieval project, where I'm going over all of my old stuff - mostly Commodore Amiga disks and projects - covering the period 1990 to 1996. Due to 'bit rot', most of my Amiga disks have errors and if I haven't transferred the contents to a hard drive or CDR, it's lost. When I found a printout from a file that I'd printed as uuencoded text, I figured it would be easy enough to scan it, put it through OCR software and decode it, to retrieve the original file. Unfortunately, no OCR software has yet been written - or if it was, I can't afford it - that can make sense of blurred and faded condensed dot matrix print; hence, I had no choice but to resort to typing it all in. This took me about a day-and-a-half to complete, and it involved lots of typing, dictation, cursing, checking, typing, and checking again. Naturally, the reconstructed text had errors - '0' where 'O' should be, mainly (I wish I'd used a font with a dot in the '0'!). I was encouraged when I was able to partially-decode the file, but it still had errors. Uuencoding does not have a checksum or CRC, so errors go undetected: unless the line length disagrees with the length character, there's no way to spot an error. After reading/checking a further 12000 characters/200 lines of text, I'd completed it. The result was this:

Two simulated angel fish in a tank with sand and plants

('Orbital' is coloured black - black on a black background..). This is not so impressive, is it? I feel more proud of it because I know that I typed it all in - and at one point, I also spoke every character, so I could check the typed text without having to refer to the printout (eyestrain = headache). Here's what a bit of the original printout looked like:

Sixteen lines of tiny, faded random characters

Here is an excerpt of me reading out some of the data. Warning: it is really, really boring - imagine listening to the whole thing, slowed-down (speed, but not pitch, thankfully!), and you have some idea how tedious this was to do! I recorded this with Audacity and I enabled the voice-activation feature, allowing me to wander off from the microphone occasionally, to have a mug of tea or some water. speech_clip_2.mp3

On the printout, I explained that one of the fish was called 'Orbital' because I was listening to music from this group when I was designing the aquarium. I did not explain why the other fish - also an angel fish - is called 'Susan'. [Later: the example fish have preset names, and 'Susan' is one of them.]


Thank you to the writer of the original Aquarium program (see below). Also, thanks to the developers of the original LhA application (Stefan Boberg, Jim Cooper, David Tritscher), and the bold team of Japanese hackers who ported it to UNIX and many other platforms (Messrs. Tagawa, Yoshizaki, Momozou, Oki, Watazaki and Okamoto).

I am not sure of the name of the original application, but I think that it was '3D Aquarium Simulator', by Gieseppe Chiesa. You can find this on Aminet. You'll need MUI ('Magic User Interface'), which is available on Aminet (util/libs dir), and also from the sasg.com MUI page. Currently (05:02 on 10-Feb-11), I have not been able to run the program again - it crashes with a yellow 'Recoverable Alert' that repeats, over and over, until you reset the machine.

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