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Encyclopedia > Hex (Discworld)
Characters from
Terry Pratchett's Discworld series
Anthill inside
Character details
Full name: Hex
Description: An elaborate computer powered by magic
Associations: Unseen University, Ponder Stibbons
Location: Unseen University
Story appearances
First seen: Soul Music
Also in: Interesting Times

Hogfather
The Last Continent
Going Postal
The Science of Discworld
The Science of Discworld II: The Globe
The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch
Terence David John Pratchett OBE (born April 28, 1948, in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England[1]) is an English fantasy author, best known for his Discworld series. ... // This article is about the novels. ... Anthill inside, anti-alised version. ... Unseen University (UU) is a school of wizardry in the fictional Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork, staffed by a faculty composed of mostly insane and inane old wizards. ... In the fictional universe of Terry Pratchetts Discworld series of books, Ponder Stibbons is a wizard in Unseen University. ... Unseen University (UU) is a school of wizardry in the fictional Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork, staffed by a faculty composed of mostly insane and inane old wizards. ... For other uses, see Soul music (disambiguation). ... Interesting Times is a novel in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. ... Hogfather is the 20th Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. ... The Last Continent is the twenty-second Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, first published in 1998, that parodies Australian people and culture, as well as the famous Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max movies, as well as the popular Australian song Waltzing Matilda Synopsis Spoiler warning: After being dumped onto the... Memorial of the 1986 post office incident in Edmond, Oklahoma. ... The Science of Discworld is a 1999 book written by novelist Terry Pratchett and popular science writers Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. ... The Science of Discworld II: The Globe (ISBN 0091888050) is a 2002 book written by novelist Terry Pratchett and popular science writers Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. ...

Other details
Notes: Uses ants for binary information, hence the sticker

Hex is an elaborate, Heath Robinson/Rube Goldberg-esque, magic-powered computer housed at Unseen University (UU) in the city of Ankh-Morpork, in author Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. William Heath Robinson (May 31, 1872 - September 13, 1944) was a British cartoonist and illustrator, who signed himself W. Heath Robinson. ... Rube Goldberg sketch from the collection of Ropes & Gray Reuben Garret L. Goldberg (July 4, 1883 - December 7, 1970) was a cofounder and president of the American National Cartoonists Society. ... A BlueGene supercomputer cabinet. ... Unseen University (UU) is a school of wizardry in the fictional Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork, staffed by a faculty composed of mostly insane and inane old wizards. ... Ankh-Morpork is a fictional city-state which prominently features in Terry Pratchetts Discworld series of fantasy novels. ... Terence David John Pratchett OBE (born April 28, 1948, in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England[1]) is an English fantasy author, best known for his Discworld series. ... // This article is about the novels. ...

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Hex is a computer unlike any other the Disc has ever seen (which is not particularly hard since all other 'computers' on the Disc consist of druidic stone circles). Hex runs and evolves under the watchful eyes of apprentice wizard Ponder Stibbons, who becomes the IT manager at UU because he's the only one who understands what he's talking about. The Discworld is the setting for all of Terry Pratchetts Discworld fantasy novels. ... In the fictional universe of Terry Pratchetts Discworld series of books, Ponder Stibbons is a wizard in Unseen University. ... Information technology (IT), as defined by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA)is: the study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems, particularly software applications and computer hardware. ...

Contents

Evolution

Hex has its origins in a device that briefly appeared in Soul Music, created by student wizard Skazz in the High Energy Magic building. In this form it was simply a complex network of glass tubes, containing ants. The wizards could then use punch cards to control which tubes the ants could crawl through, enabling it to perform simple mathematical functions. For other uses, see Soul music (disambiguation). ... Subfamilies Aenictogitoninae Agroecomyrmecinae Amblyoponinae (incl. ... Punched cards (or Hollerith cards, or IBM cards), are pieces of stiff paper that contain digital information represented by the presence or absence of holes in predefined positions. ...


By the time of Interesting Times Hex had become a lot more complex, and was constantly reinventing itself. Part of it is now clockwork, which interfaces with the ant-farm via a paternoster the ants can ride on that turns a significant cogwheel. Its main purposes were to analyse spells, to see if there were simpler "meta-spells" underlying them, and to help Stibbons with his study of "invisible writings", by running the spells used to bring the writings into existence (these spells must be cast rapidly, and each one can only be used once before the universe notices they shouldn't work). In other words, data compression and information retrieval. Interesting Times is a novel in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. ... Gear with escapment mechanism For other uses, see Clockwork (disambiguation). ... A paternoster at the University of Vienna, NIG (Neues Institutsgebäude), late 1950s, still in operation A paternoster or paternoster lift is an elevator which consists of a chain of open compartments (each usually designed for two persons) that move slowly in a loop up and down inside a building... In computer science and information theory, data compression or source coding is the process of encoding information using fewer bits (or other information-bearing units) than an unencoded representation would use through use of specific encoding schemes. ... Information retrieval (IR) is the science of searching for information in documents, searching for documents themselves, searching for metadata which describe documents, or searching within databases, whether relational stand-alone databases or hypertext networked databases such as the Internet or World Wide Web or intranets, for text, sound, images or...


In Hogfather Hex contained several things that nobody remembered installing, and was asking about electricity. It was at around this time that the wizards become concerned that it may be trying to become something they don't understand. Hogfather is the 20th Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. ... Lightning strikes during a night-time thunderstorm. ...


By The Science of Discworld Hex was capable of "once and future computing"; increasing its abilities simply by deducing that the required processing power would exist eventually. Presumably this requires a high expenditure of magic, as it has not been mentioned again. This virtual memory appeared as translucent silver towers superimposed onto the real Hex. Hex was sufficiently intelligent by this time not to tell the wizards what it was doing, in case it worried them. The Science of Discworld is a 1999 book written by novelist Terry Pratchett and popular science writers Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. ... Virtual memory is an addressing scheme implemented in hardware and software that allows non-contiguous memory to be addressed as if it is contiguous. ...


By the time of The Science of Discworld II: The Globe Stibbons had hooked it up to the University's clacks tower, and it worked out all the codes, meaning the University can now use the clacks for free, and has the Disc's first modem. (The legal issues have been carefully considered by Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully, who concluded that no-one was going to find out so they may as well do as they please.) The Science of Discworld II: The Globe (ISBN 0091888050) is a 2002 book written by novelist Terry Pratchett and popular science writers Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. ... The clacks in Terry Pratchetts Discworld novels is a network of semaphore towers stretching along the Sto Plains, into the Ramtops and across the Unnamed Continent to Genua. ... A modem (from modulate and demodulate) is a device that modulates an analogue carrier signal to encode digital information, and also demodulates such a carrier signal to decode the transmitted information. ... Mustrum Ridcully is a fictional character in the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett. ...


In The Art of Discworld, Pratchett explains that "the wizards invented something sufficiently computerlike that computerness entered into it". The Art of Discworld is a descriptive book of the world of the Discworld as portrayed in Terry Pratchetts Discworld series. ...


Description

Currently, Hex is activated by initializing the GBL, which Stibbons reluctantly admits means "pulling the Great Big Lever" (similar to the Internet slang BRS (Big Red Switch)). This releases millions of ants into a much more complex network of glass tubes that makes up the bulk of Hex, hence the sticker on Hex that reads Anthill inside, a pun on Intel’s ad slogan Intel Inside. Hex "thinks" by controlling which tubes the ants can crawl through, thus allowing it to perform increasingly complex computations if enough ants are provided (i.e. if there are enough bugs in the system). This is a reference to Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach, in which there exists a sentient ant colony, with the ants acting as neurons. Hex can now be given input through a huge wooden keyboard, in analogue writing by means of a complicated mechanical eye designed by Hex itself, or vocally through an old hearing trumpet, and gives output by means of a quill on a hinged lever. It is all powered by a waterwheel covered in male sheep skulls (in other words, RAM). When it is particularly busy, an hourglass comes down on a spring - another sideways reference to Windows. Another apparently important feature is an aquarium, so the operator has something to watch when Hex is working (screensaver). Hex's long-term memory storage is a massive beehive contained in the next room; the presence of the bees makes this secure memory, because attempting to tamper with it would result in being stung to death. Big Red Switch (BRS) is a hacker term for the shutdown button or power switch on a computer, especially the red Emergency Pull switch on IBM mainframe operator consoles. ... Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC, SEHK: 4335), founded in 1968 as Integrated Electronics Corporation, is an American multinational corporation that is best known for designing and manufacturing microprocessors and specialized integrated circuits. ... Look up bug in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Douglas Richard Hofstadter (born February 15, 1945) is an American academic. ... GEB cover Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (commonly GEB) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Douglas Hofstadter, published in 1979 by Basic Books. ... The term input has a variety of uses in different fields. ... // Information processing In information processing, output is the process of transmitting information by an object (verb usage). ... An overshot water wheel standing 42 feet high powers the Old Mill at Berry College in Rome, Georgia A water wheel (also waterwheel, Norse mill, Persian wheel or noria) is a hydropower system; a system for extracting power from a flow of water. ... Species See text. ... Random Access Memory (usually known by its acronym, RAM) is a type of data storage used in computers. ... Hourglass in wooden stand An hourglass, also known as a sandglass or sand timer, is a device for the measurement of time. ... Microsoft Windows is the name of several families of proprietary software operating systems by Microsoft. ... For other uses, see Aquarium (disambiguation). ... A screensaver is a computer program originally designed to conserve the image quality of computer displays by blanking the screen or filling them with moving images or patterns when the computers are not in use. ...


There is also a mouse that has built its nest in the middle of Hex. It doesn't seem to do anything, but Hex stops working if it is removed. Hex also stops working (with the error message "Mine! Waah!") if the FTB (Fluffy Teddy Bear, a gift from the Hogfather, whom Hex believes in, having been instructed to do so) is removed. Stibbons is concerned by these signs that Hex might be alive, but insists that it only thinks it is. Feral mouse A mouse (plural mice) is a rodent that belongs to one of numerous species of small mammals. ... Hogfather is the 20th Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. ...


Hex can apparently be shut down completely by means of a Big Red Lever. This seems to worry it. In computing, the Big Red Button has historically referred to the red momentary electrical switch used to reboot a computer system. ...


Ponder Stibbons has connected Hex to the Unseen University's clacks tower giving it the equivalent of an internet connection. It has since cracked the system allowing the wizards to send clacks for free. Whether or not this is actually legal is a question the faculty is carefully not asking. The clacks in Terry Pratchetts Discworld novels is a network of semaphore towers stretching along the Sto Plains, into the Ramtops and across the Unnamed Continent to Genua. ...


Oddly, The Science of Discworld puts the name Hex in small capital letters, hex, that are the same type as when Death speaks. In The Science of Discworld II: The Globe, Hex is written as it is here. In typography, small caps (short for small capitals) are uppercase (capital) characters that are printed in a smaller size than normal uppercase characters of the same font. ... Death is a fictional character in Terry Pratchetts Discworld series. ...


According to The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch, another Hex-like machine has been invented by the smaller magical university of Braseneck College. This is much simpler than the original, however; according to Stibbons, Hex is technically a Very Big Thing, while the Braseneck device is barely a Quite Big Thing (the next step up would be a Great Big Thing, every particle of the universe being modelled within it; apparently these terms are quite exact, as when the Lecturer in Recent Runes postulated that the Braseneck wizards would try and build an Even Bigger Thing, Ponder Stibbons corrected him. Apparently a Very Big Thing is capable of pushing boundaries twice as big up to three times as far as a Quite Big Thing).


Hex can be seen as a reversal of Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law, which states that Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Hex, as apparently the most advanced form of magic on the Discworld, has now become effectively indistinguishable from technology. Sir Arthur Charles Clarke (born December 16, 1917) is a British author and inventor, most famous for his science-fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, and for collaborating with director Stanley Kubrick on the film of the same name. ... Arthur C. Clarke formulated the following three laws of prediction: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. ...


Inspiration

The inspiration for Hex, which evolves through seemingly unexplainable upgrades like extra cheese, a CWL (Clothes Wringer from the Laundry, for crunching numbers and other things) the FTB protocol (Fluffy Teddy Bear) and "small religious pictures" (icons), came from Pratchett's own early experiments with unfathomable upgrades on his ZX-81. Nuvola icons for KDE are available in PNG format, which come in six sizes, and SVG format, which is scalable On computer displays, a computer icon is a small pictogram. ... ZX81 interfaces A 16K RAM pack that plugged into the rear of the ZX81 The optional ZX printer; a simple spark printer using aluminised paper. ...


The name is a play on the multiple meanings of the word "hex"; a hex can be a "magical spell" and also an abbreviation of "hexadecimal". It may also be a play on HAL 9000, or on TLAs in general. In mathematics and computer science, hexadecimal, base-16, or simply hex, is a numeral system with a radix, or base, of 16, usually written using the symbols 0–9 and A–F, or a–f. ... HAL 9000 (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) is a fictional computer/character in the Space Odyssey series, the first being the novel and film 2001 A Space Odyssey, written by Arthur C. Clarke in 1968. ... The TLA (three-letter acronym or three-letter abbreviation) is a TLA and is the most popular type of abbreviation in technical terminology, and is also very common in general language. ...


In 2001, a new SGI Origin 2800 supercomputer was installed as part of the University of Leicester's Centre for Mathematical Modelling. With Terry Pratchett's blessing, the new machine was named HEX after the computer in the Discworld novels. University of Leicester seen from Victoria Park - Left to right: the Department of Engineering, the Attenborough tower, the Charles Wilson building. ...


Quotes / Error messages

  • ++?????++ Out of Cheese Error. Redo From Start.
  • Mr. Jelly! Mr. Jelly! Error at Address Number 6, Treacle Mine Road.
  • Melon melon melon
  • +++Wahhhhhhh! Mine!+++
  • +++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++

N.B. Please do not actually try to reboot the universe. This error means that Hex detected something not possible even by the standards of the Discworld. It references to the impossibility to divide by 0 which is not possible in the real world. The Discworld is the setting for all of Terry Pratchetts Discworld fantasy novels. ...


Hex's messages are often delimited by the sequence +++, which recalls the escape sequence in the Hayes command set, a standard used in modems. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Most dialup modems follow to a large extent the specifications of the Hayes Command Set, a specific programming language originally developed for the Hayes Smartmodem 300 modem. ... A modem (from modulate and demodulate) is a device that modulates an analogue carrier signal to encode digital information, and also demodulates such a carrier signal to decode the transmitted information. ...


"REDO FROM START" is the somewhat unhelpful error message produced by the BASIC interpreter in many early home computers when non-numeric characters were entered in response to a prompt for numerical input. Screenshot of Atari BASIC, an early BASIC language for small computers. ... An interpreter is a computer program that executes other programs. ...


Appearances

Hex was mentioned in the following books:

Interesting Times is a novel in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. ... For other uses, see Soul music (disambiguation). ... Hogfather is the 20th Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. ... The Last Continent is the twenty-second Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, first published in 1998, that parodies Australian people and culture, as well as the famous Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max movies, as well as the popular Australian song Waltzing Matilda Synopsis Spoiler warning: After being dumped onto the... Memorial of the 1986 post office incident in Edmond, Oklahoma. ... The Science of Discworld is a 1999 book written by novelist Terry Pratchett and popular science writers Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. ... The Science of Discworld II: The Globe (ISBN 0091888050) is a 2002 book written by novelist Terry Pratchett and popular science writers Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. ...

External links

  • Interview with Terry about Hex and the ZX-81

  Results from FactBites:
 
Hex (Discworld) Information (1136 words)
Hex can now be given input through a huge wooden keyboard, in analogue writing by means of a complicated mechanical eye designed by Hex itself, or vocally through an old hearing trumpet, and gives output by means of a quill on a hinged lever.
Hex's long-term memory storage is a massive beehive contained in the next room; the presence of the bees makes this secure memory, because attempting to tamper with it would result in being stung to death.
Hex's messages are often delimited by the sequence +++, which recalls the escape sequence in the Hayes command set, a standard used in modems.
Hex (Discworld) at AllExperts (1117 words)
Hex can now be given input through a huge wooden keyboard, in analogue writing by means of a complicated mechanical eye designed by Hex itself, or vocally through an old hearing trumpet, and gives output by means of a quill on a hinged lever.
Hex's long-term memory storage is a massive beehive contained in the next room; the presence of the bees makes this secure memory, because attempting to tamper with it would result in being stung to death.
Hex's messages are often delimited by the sequence +++, which recalls the escape sequence in the Hayes command set, a standard used in modems.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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