Gasp, it’s Sunday and there’s a new entry!
You can learn a lot about a person by the words he or she uses. One person I knew in high school, I think he aspired to be a poet or something. I was in a few classes with him where we had creative writing assignments, and he always chose to somehow put the words “derelict” in each of his works. It’s a nice, fresh word that kind of leaves your mouth feeling funny, but it’s definitely one of those words you should only use once a year. That’s about nano-Hertz.
I found out that you can track parts of my education by following how the meaning of certain words change. Today’s word is “vector” and since it’s lineage in my life is quite long, you’re going to have to click to read on.
In middle school and early high school, I was all about web design. My cousin had been a great influence and helped me explore where this could go. Anytime a website seemed remotely relevant to some task, I was on it. I think you know you’re really excited about something when you try to find a million and one places, however inappropriate, to use it. You could almost say that I wanted to make webpages, no matter how derelict they would become. Anyhow, I think it was the term “vector graphics” that first introduced me to the word “vector.” Vector graphics were magical things that didn’t become blurry when you zoomed in. Sweet.
Eventually, my interests moved into the maths. I was on the school’s math team, participated in competitions, and went to not one, but two math camps. In school, I ran out of math classes to take so I took a class in Modern Geometry at San Jose State. One of the techniques of proving certain properties was to treat our geometric lines as vectors on the complex plane. I know, “vectors on the complex plane”—what the heck does that mean? I learned that this word “vector” popped up in geometry and little lines with arrows on them. (I would later learn about matrices and vectors in college—much to late for any serious math student, which would explain why I’m not a math major now :).
As I have done for most of my life, I eventually copied my brother and became interested in programming. Some of this was residual from all the web design stuff, but I don’t think I really took it seriously until my last year of high school. In computer science lingo, a “vector” is a collection of objects that can grow in size. Does anyone know why it’s called this? I guess in maths, vectors have an arrow above them, and vectors in computer science… grow, like an arrow?
Now, fast forward about four years, to when my computer science education is arguably a bit more mature. In those years, I went astray into the world of crypto and computer security, but finally ended up on graphics. In computer graphics, performance plays a major factor in almost everything you do, mainly because you want to generate a new image 60 times a second, on top of all the other crap your application is doing. Everything is going parallel, and one form of parallelism, is to “vectorize” code. All this means is to run the same instructions on different data at the same time. You store your data in vectors, and add vectors together. I suppose this one actually fits quite well with the mathematical definition of a vector.
This is about as far as the word “vector” has taken me thus far. But according to google, I still have quite a journey ahead of me.