Joe Dellinger

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Please tell us about yourself

I like to think that I’m a scientist who happens to work as a geophysicist. Surprisingly, that attitude seems to have served me well in my profession, and has led me down many unexpected paths.

When did you first hear about Madagascar?

I had a minor role in helping to standardize classic SEPlib back in the 1980’s at Stanford, and was pleased to see that someone later “cleaned it up” and made a proper package from it. I first knew of that effort as “RSF” quite a while ago, long enough that I’m not sure exactly what year it was – around 2001?

From your contributions to Madagascar/Vplot, which one is your favorite?

My favorite story is that I was working with Steve Cole on adding dithered grey-scale plotting to vplot. Steve wrote a subroutine to do various kinds of dithering, which I was then able to hook in as an automatic option that would activate whenever the user tried to plot grey-scale graphics on a device that could only do “presence of absence of a black dot”. I showed one of the very first test runs to Jon Claerbout, I think on our Varian printer. A grey-scale image of Claerbout’s face. (The paper on that Varian came out soaked in some sort of nasty fluid and you had to let it dry!) Claerbout thought that was great, and said, great, now do it for all our other printers! I said… it’s already done! When I recompiled vplot all those other devices automatically gained the same ability. He was disbelieving. So as he watched I reran the exact same command but piped to “lprpen”… and out came Claerbout’s face out of the ancient line printer. Worked first try. Claerbout was flabbergasted.

What advice would you give to those who wish to learn Madagascar or to contribute to it?

By contributing to a large software package that spans decades you can experience a bit of the joy of a medieval cathedral builder. It’s a good feeling of making your contribution to something big. I love seeing that code I wrote in the 1980’s is still alive and being used today.