The Meaning of Life? A computer tip based on the number 42

This computer tip needs a little explaining.  The subject might throw you off a little; I am not talking about the famous move The Meaning of Life (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085959). No, it goes much deeper then that.


 


It all started when I read The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (http://www.douglasadams.com/creations/hhgg.html). In case you have not read it yet, which you really should have by now. It started out as a trilogy in 4 parts and ended with having 5 parts. Yes, I am well aware that a trilogy should have 3 parts, after you read the books; it will all become clear as mud. In the series a question is asked of the supercomputer Deep Thought – What is the meaning of Life? To be exact, for the computer to find The Answer of Life, the Universe, and Everything (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Answer_to_Life,_the_Universe,_and_Everything). The answer can back as 42. Yes 42. Actually Douglas wrote it like this:


 


“Seven and a half million years our race has waited for this Great and Hopefully Enlightening Day!” cried the cheerleader. “The Day of Answer”…”Never again will we wake up in the morning and think Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Does it really, cosmically speaking, matter if I don’t get up and go to work? For today, we will finally learn once and for all the plain and simple answer to all those nagging little problems of Life, the Universe, and Everything!”


 


 …the large computer terminal sat in sparkling glory on the desk’s leather top, as bright as if it had been constructed yesterday.


 


 …”Shhh…I think Deep Thought is preparing to speak!”


 


 …”The Answer to the Great Question…Of Life, the Universe and Everything…Is…Forty-two“, said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.


 


 …”Forty-two!” yelled Loonquawl. “Is that all you have to show for seven and a half million years’ work?”


 


 “I checked it quite thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem…is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”


 


 “But it was the great question!…” howled Loonquawl.


 


 “Yes,” said Deep Thought with the air of one who suffers fools gladly, “but what actually is it?”


 


 “Well, you know, it’s just Everything…” offered Phouchg weakly.


 


 “Exactly!” said Deep Thought. “So once you do know what the question actually is, you’ll know what the answer means.”


 


Ok, so let’s look at the “42” answer closer. Get out your ASCII chart (http://www.lookuptables.com). Find an ASCII 42 on the chart. You can also open Notepad, Hold down the Alt (Alternate Key http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/A/Alt_key.html) and type 42 on the keypad, then let go of the Alt key.



 


In either case what do you get? * (Asterisk, splat, star, shift-8). Yes the famous wildcard (http://www.computerhope.com/jargon/w/wildcard.htm).



 


Now for the long awaited and winded computer tip. Open Windows Explorer. Highlight any folder structure (the c:\Windows folder will do nicely) and hit the * on the numpad (http://www.elmlane.com/ez_tutor/pics/numpad.gif). This tip works on all Windows versions and has for many years. It even works in MMC’s like Active Directory Users and Computers or Site and Services J


 



Douglas Adams had it right, ASCII 42 or * is the meaning of life, at least for computer geeks. It’s a wildcard and can be used for lots of things. If you are LINUX fan try this command rm –r * (ok, maybe that is not a good idea, but it sure is fun to do from the root).



 


Yes, I know I am weird, no need to tell me. Yes, I know I am a geek, putting a book, numbers, an ASCII chart, and computers together (MacGyver would be so proud of me http://rdanderson.com/macgyver/macgyver.htm).

6 thoughts on “The Meaning of Life? A computer tip based on the number 42

  1. Wow………Thank you so much. I knew there was a profound logic behind his decision of the number 42. Finally I can sleep at night, :-p

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