Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Richard Gabriel

Richard Gabriel

Computer scientist, researcher, poet

Posted in developer, mac, poet, researcher

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Dick Gabriel - I am a computer scientist, a researcher. I study or have studied artificial intelligence, programming languages, programming systems, object-oriented languages, parallel computing, open source, programming and programming methodology, and lessons for programming from other design-like activities, such as built-world architecture, writing, and art.

My current research project is a natural language generation system called "InkWell," which uses large language├┐ databases, optimization techniques, and some machine learned stuff to generate text and poems that sound like specified writers; my goal is to model how creative writers think, including working with connotation and the sounds & rhythms of language - its noise. InkWell is my research colleague.

I am frequently introduced at talks as "the world's most famous third-rate computer scientist." I've written three computer-science related books. I program only in Lisp.

Hang on, that's not the whole picture..

Richard P. Gabriel / poet / fiction writer / essayist / photographer / guitar player / poem a day since March 2000 / small book of poems / large book on writers' workshops / lead writers' workshops at software and patterns conferences / some poem collections have been finalists or runners-up for poetry prizes / some essays have won awards / write sentences real good / (some say).

I collaborate with InkWell writing poetry / it like me writes poems by thinking about them deliberately, not by clever regurgitation / asked to write about "loud blues guitar music" InkWell wrote this haikuïsh poem:

  tuned adrenaline
my music
  a beat-boogied headful

I blend these two Gabriels, and the result is an annoyance and puzzlement to most. In this boundary I work on the concept of beauty as a circumstance of complexity.

I think, program, and write.

What hardware do you use?

Mostly Macintoshes, not because Apple is great - but because Macs supply a nice UI to Unix. I have a 2013 Mac Pro (64gb ram, 8 cores, multi-terabytes of storage, 2 27" Apple LED Cinema displays) / because InkWell is only 70KLOC but 25GB running size. Several MacBooks (both Air and Pro), a couple of Mac Mini servers for this and that, an iMac. A 1962 re-issue Stratocaster, a 1970s Les Paul Black Beauty, and 1970s 335, a Mesa Boogie Mark IV, a Marshall head, an A100 Hammond (B3 equivalent) + Leslie speaker, Canon 5D3 and various lenses. Kensington Expert trackball & Matias Tactile Pro keyboard for all my machines.

And what software?

LispWorks Common Lisp; a variety of Emacs-like text editors; Adobe: InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Acrobat Pro; TeX, TeXShop, LaTex; Keynote; Google Docs for collaborative writing; Skype and Hangouts for meetings. I run my own mail and web servers.

What would be your dream setup?

For InkWell I can use all the cores and memory I can get: I've written my own machine learning code, and InkWell uses a metaheuristic parallel optimization algorithm I came up with, so 256 cores seems about right; 64 terabytes of RAM should be enough. The Lisp system must be able to exploit all the cores and available threads as well as the memory space.

A couple of good 8K monitors and an accurate color calibration setup. The big Canons DSLRs are good but hard on travel not specifically about photography, so a decent-res mirrorless - something by Leica because of the glass.

A vintage Telecaster would be nice to have. I have a good tube amp for listening to music, but can always use more NOS tubes - some more (multiple of 2) Bendix 5992/6V6GTs would be great, but I think I got the last two on the planet.