May we have this dance?
September 19, 2011
We would like to respond to the letter to the editor (“Fountain of boredom”) that ran in The Aspen Times on Aug. 4, authored by Pat Milligan of Aspen.
It is unfortunate that Nick DeWolf is no longer with us, since he created the soul of the fountain; but while he was with us he built four spare custom computers to run the fountain’s control systems. These four computers lasted a number of years but in the spring of 2010 the last spare was no longer working and there were no more spare parts available to make repairs with. To keep the fountain functioning, a new control system had to be built and this new control system would bring the fountain back to life.
The main piece of the system that makes Aspen’s dancing fountain unique among the fountains of the world, is the program that contains the mathematical models and randomized logic that gives the fountain a “mind of its own.” This program had to be rebuilt since the hardware that the old program was designed to run on was no longer available.
We could have replaced the program, the soul of the fountain, and picked one commercially available, but that would have forced the fountain into having a lobotomy by blanking out is uniqueness and its life would be gone.
As one of the pioneers of modern computer systems, Nick had written the program in a very “low level” language called “assembly language,” and it was written specifically for older computer systems and the custom hardware interface boards that he had designed. He spent many years perfecting the program and the hardware that gave the fountain its unique soul.
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It took considerable time and effort to translate what Nick had written in the old language into a new language, while attempting to preserve the fountain’s unique dances. The result is a completely new software and hardware system that will support the fountain well into the future.
We, the keepers of Aspen’s dancing fountain, have done our best to keep the fountain running during this process while continuing to please the local citizenry and summer visitors throughout the system overhaul only to find that there have been unwanted hiccups and watery splats, not pleasing to the eye; therefore, we have tackled the problems and done our best to successfully bring back the beauty and resilience of Nick’s original dances and hopefully to the delight of the audience of onlookers: Everyone, we urge you to have a look!
Maggie DeWolf, Aspen
Travis Fulton, Snowmass Village