Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Recall and Recollection

Interesting evolution is always unexpected. The evolution of species plays out over eons; it is only through the long-lens of hindsight do we see it. But software evolution can be quick, yet interesting. It is not uncommon for a component to have changed its spots over just a few iterations. Software’s eponymous softness -- its malleability to change -- helps it evolve quickly, yet significantly. But other artifacts of our lives, even those hard to touch, evolve too.

I have seen a mirror morph into a photo frame. It is not one of those full length mirrors where one can see oneself, whole and more. The mirror stands where it has stood last thirty years, on a chest of drawers, resting against wall. It is a table mirror, roughly the size of an A4 sheet, with borders brown, but not baroque. The brown has become more distinguished with age. With age, the borders have also gathered pictures. Pictures from an age when photography was an occasion; and photos were few and precious. The pictures are of different sizes, and of different people. They capture those people as they were, and as they will be. Starting from the rim, the photos have eaten inwards into the mirror. There is hardly room for fresh reflection.

I have also seen photo frames that have not morphed into mirrors. Usually, they can hold countless pictures, can change them in sequence, turn them bright or dim, and even play music per the picture’s mood. They are digital photo frames. They just need to be turned on.

Today, with technology, we have space for infinite recall, and time for little recollection. But memory has its own ways. In the fullness of time, it flattens the peaks and flatters the plateaus. Looking at a mirror, we see the now; not what was or will be. We need a photo frame for that.

I see the morphing mirror as a fine metaphor for the changing needs that drive evolution. With progressing life, reflection and recollection has blended into one, the mirror has become a photo frame. In the life of software, as operating circumstances change, a component tunes to its newer needs. The more unexpected an evolution, deeper is the signature of Life.