THE STONE SOUP STORY

Once upon a time, somewhere in Eastern Europe, there was a great famine. People jealously hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. One day a peddler drove his wagon into a village, sold a few of his wares, and began asking questions as if he planned to stay for the night.

[No! No! It was three Russian Soldiers! - Lee Crocker]

[Wait! I heard it was a Wandering Confessor! - Doug Quinn]

[Well *my* kids have a book that uses Russian Soldiers! - Bert]

[Look, who's writing this documentation, anyway? - Monte]

[Ah, but who gets it *last* and gets to upload it? - Bert]

"There's not a bite to eat in the whole province," he was told. "Better keep moving on."

"Oh, I have everything I need," he said. "In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you." He pulled an iron cauldron from his wagon, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a velvet bag and dropped it into the water.

By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. As the peddler sniffed the "broth" and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.

"Ahh," the peddler said to himself rather loudly, "I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with CABBAGE -- that's hard to beat."

Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a cabbage he'd retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot. "Capital!" cried the peddler. "You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salt beef as well, and it was fit for a king."

The village butcher managed to find some salt beef...and so it went, through potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was indeed a delicious meal for all. The villagers offered the peddler a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell and traveled on the next day. And from that time on, long after the famine had ended, they reminisced about the finest soup they'd ever had.

***

That's the way Fractint has grown, with quite a bit of magic, although without the element of deception. (You don't have to deceive programmers to make them think that hours of painstaking, often frustrating work is fun... they do it to themselves.)

It wouldn't have happened, of course, without Benoit Mandelbrot and the explosion of interest in fractal graphics that has grown from his work at IBM. Or without the example of other Mandelplotters for the PC. Or without those wizards who first realized you could perform Mandelbrot calculations using integer math (it wasn't us - we just recognize good algorithms when we steal--uhh--see them). Or those graphics experts who hang around the CompuServe PICS forum and keep adding video modes to the program. Or...


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