As a child, it bothered me the way that the Star Trek world interacted with technology; the idea that a human being would need to say “evasive maneuvers” made for an awful UI and a wild misunderstanding of how fast computers can shoot lasers at each other. Hidden from my bulky cathode ray emitting box, the real future was being predicted by Donald Duck, and Randall Munroe is the Donald Duck of programmers.
Let’s start with what doesn’t count
- Geohashing uses a number that will only be available in the future (e.g. the closing price of a stock in a month) to generate a hash that maps to a place that won’t be known until the future. If he had left it as a comic, someone would’ve built it, but alas, Randall made a reference implementation
- If you changed your password because he ran some numbers for you, I’m not counting it either.
Even without those, here’s a list of things that a colour-less webcomic has sarcasmed into existence:
- M-x butterfly, based loosely on a 1988 play by David Henry Hwang, made its way into emacs — it’s even animated!
- import antigravity seems to just open up itself — unless you count a geohashing algorithm
- Stacksort is nature’s perfect sorting algorithm: it connects to StackOverflow, searches for ‘sort a list’, and downloads and runs code snippets until the list is sorted. Best of all, it actually works
- There’s at least one random shopping bot live in the world, spending its $50/month budget. Co-incidence? I think not
- Up Goer Five (The only flying space car that’s taken anyone to another world) was the thing that made a guy make this thing here (Hamlet!).
- Code to play meta-regex golf by Peter Norvig
- XKCD 806 proposes a system where saying “shibboleet” on a tech support call indicates that the caller is tech-savvy and they are transferred out of the standard script to a person who knows a minimum of 2 programming languages. An ISP in the UK is proudly XKCD/806 compliant.
- Munroe keeps a page of people recreating XKCD 249
I was sadly unable to secure funding for cat-proximity testing.
Please let me know if I missed any.