Monitor is one of the most important German TV programs. It is broadcast on every third or fourth Thursday in the month on the ARD. The host is Klaus Bednarz. Monitor has covered many of the most controversial subjects in recent German history, including, for example, the nazi attacks on a refugee home in Luebeck or the recent financial affair of the CDU.

When you see a band play, there are usually black boxes on the front of the stage; if you see them from the side, you can see that they're roughly wedge-shaped, more or less like this:

     ___
    /   \
    \      \
     \         \
      \            \
       \------------/

Those are speakers, and they're called "monitors"; usually the drummer will have one or two monitors of his or her own back there. They're there so the band can hear themselves properly. But aren't they up there with the amplifiers?! True, and that's exactly the problem: Everybody's standing nearest his own amplifier, and the drummer is in the midst of a bunch of drums. The singer is probably right in front of the drums, but the singer doesn't have an amplifier at all: The voice is coming out of the PA speakers, usually off at the side of the stage. Everybody needs to hear the drummer, and the singer needs to hear his own voice if he's to stay on pitch -- and this and that; the point is, the main PA speakers are fine for the audience, but it's different on the stage. Monitors are important.

Have you ever heard a band in a bar, where the singer was woefully off pitch the entire evening? Chances are the monitors were broken, or weren't loud enough, or weren't even plugged in. All of these states are common on that level. The poor singer may have been making the best of an impossible situation. Then again, maybe the poor dumb bastard couldn't stay on pitch to begin with. That's pretty common, too, at least in the bands I've been in.

I seem to recall that the band usually gets a different mix than the audience does, but I've never played anyplace where the monitors actually worked, so I can't say for sure.

In computer science a monitor is also a construct used for process synchronization (introduced by Hoare). It is a piece of code or an object which achieves mutual exclusion on its own (of course appropriate commands have to be inserted by e.g. the compiler). This prevents the programmer from creating bugs by forgetting to call methods like unlock() or semaphore.v(). Also, a monitor can have so called "condition variables" inside it, onto which processes that entered the monitor can wait.

It is probably the easiest to explain a monitor using a producer consumer problem implementation in Java:

void produce()
{
    for(;;)
    {
        // do production of x
        synchronized(buffer)
        {
            while(buffer.full())
                buffer.wait();
            buffer.add(x);
            buffer.notifyAll();
        }
    }
}

void consume()
{
    for(;;)
    {
        synchronized(buffer)
        {
            while(buffer.empty())
                buffer.wait();
            x=buffer.removeFirst();
            buffer.notifyAll();
        }
        // consume x
    }
}

The sychronized blocks mark the code pieces which are part of the buffer monitor. This monitor has two tasks. First, it takes care that consumer and producer are not manipulating the buffer data structures at the same time. Second, it allows each process to wait until a condition becomes true (for the producer e.g.: free space in the buffer available?). If the conditions is false, the process blocks and other processes may enter the monitor. Once a process has modified the state of the monitor in such a way that a condition might have become true, it notifies all waiting processes. Those then compete normally for the monitor since only one of them can enter. The lucky one can continue to execute.

BTW, the above implementation is not very efficient so don't use it in real life.(And it hasn't been checked for syntax errors at all.)

Monitor is also the common name of the species of lizard of the Family Varandiae. While in the fossil record there is a great diversity of these giant lizards, there is currently only the genus Varanus which is extant. They can be found in Asia, Africa, Australia and the Pacific Isles. The only tropical environment lacking monitor lizards is South America, where the niche is occupied by the Teiidae, another family of giant lizards.

There are at least 46 species of monitors today, of which the Komodo dragon is probably the most famous. Some other well known members of the genus are:

  • Savannah monitor (V. exanthematicus) -- The most common of these lizards found in the pet trade. They tend to be robust and are not climbers, unlike many other species. They have a maximum length of around 4 feet, and can weigh up to 30 pounds or more. They may be the most tame of the monitor species.
  • White-throated monitor (V. albigularis) -- This species is also found commonly in the pet trade. It is very similar to the Savannah monitor, but reaches greater length (up to 6 feet).
  • Nile monitor (V. niloticus) -- This is one of the larger species (can grow to over eight feet) that can be found in pet shops, and they have a reputation for being amongst the nastiest of monitors.
  • Water monitor (V. salvator salvator) -- Also a larger monitor, and similar in appearance to the Nile. It has the reputation for being far more docile than niloticus.
  • Crocodile monitor (V. salvadorii) -- This animal can reach lengths of up to ten feet, and may be the most vicious creatures. Moreover, they are also arboreal, making captive care extremely daunting.
All of the monitor species are gorgeous, fascinating animals and are superb predators. They are almost all capable of delivering horrible bites and puncturing their caregivers with their claws. Despite the fair degree of risk associated with their care, you can find babies of most of the species identified above for sale by unscrupulous and uncaring profiteers.
OK, I know I shouldn't do this, but I'm a newbie and I have to make some mistakes along the way. There's a soft link below to the cut and paste node. That's all fine and good, but I didn't cut and paste this. Every single fucking word of it is mine. I have kept monitors in the past. I know the animals. If I had room, I'd have one right now. OK, /rant.
Over the past week I have determined that, if I were to buy a gift for the equipment in my office, my fax machine would like a copy of Alan Titchmarsh's "The British Isles, A Natural History" and my printer would like a copy of "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown. Today I shall consider the demands of my monitor, although I shall attempt to do so in an unexpected way as, of all the equipment on my desk, my monitor is the only thing which intimidates me. It stares at me. I stare back. But the monitor does not blink. It doesn't even have eyelids.

But first, should I consider my mouse? It is a passive thing, never answering back on those few occasions when I demand answers of it, and I do not think of it as possessing a soul. It is a parasite, feeding on the warmth and sweat of my hand, feeding on the dust and grime which coats my mouse pad, exercised with tiny movements of my wrist, senseless. Perhaps I could spinkle some fish-food over the mouse pad, as a treat, but I will not bother myself unduly with mouse pleasure. Similarly, my keyboard might warrant the taste of a soft drink, but it does not talk to me. Often at night I have been comforted by the soft green glow of my keyboard's NUM LOCK light; as sleep pulls me down, it is heartening to know that there is a light still burning somewhere, that there is a world outside my mind. When we pass from this earth, the machines will exist as living monuments to our once having been, and that is my faith. One day there will no longer be a SCROLL LOCK light, and each day thereafter will be slightly sadder. Perhaps for Christmas I shall hug my keyboard, or wash its keys.

What do monitors enjoy? Presumably they enjoy displaying information. Pictures, or text? I suppose, in the mind of a monitor, there is no difference. One screenful of pixels is much like another. Once upon a time there were distinct text and graphic modes, and monitors presumably enjoyed displaying one or the other, but that distinction is no longer as meaningful as it was. Except in the odd cult world of alternative operating systems, everything is now windows and icons and menus. Despite all the criticism heaped upon Microsoft, one cannot deny that their visionary innovation has shaped the world.

Can a monitor determine the significance of the image it displays? Fashionable thinking has it that all meaning is a social construct, indeed that all information and human knowledge is socially constructed - I do not know what the position is with regards to the individual, which is unfortunate as monitors are not social animals. An image of a urinal is of no more significance in itself than an image of a dying child, because the meaning of an image resides in the viewer rather than in the image itself, indeed it resides in the viewer's upbringing and condition, for no two people see the same urinal, or the same dying child.

This is is a reasonable thesis, although I question the perceived importance of reason; why should reason be held as superior to other, supposedly less valid theories of understanding? Why do we place more importance in the output of rational minds than in the impulses of the sexual being? It is interesting to theorise how a purely sexual perspective would consider the aforementioned images of a urinal and dying child respectively; who amongst us has not felt a twinge of erotic desire when witnessing news footage of starving children - a potent mixture of youth, nakedness, death and power - and who amongst us does not associate the public toilet with sexual congress? Who amongst us, for that matter, does not associate a small, starving child with sexual congress? I am glad that I am not alone.

Still and all, it is reasonable to assume that monitors can neither detect nor form a perception of meaning when they contemplate the images they are called upon to display. This gives me cause for relief, when I consider the type and quantity of images I cause my monitor to display; if my monitor had a moral sense, it would think ill of me, it would question my sanity. Without moral sense or a mechanism for meaning, monitors must therefore be purely sensual beings, they must enjoy speed and motion, clashing colours, crashing velocity, and for this reason I shall consider unconventional gifts. Trinny and Susannah's "What to Wear can Change your Life" clearly will not do. Indeed, books themselves are probably not appropriate. I am sure that my monitor is sick of words.

Once books are eliminated, there is really only one other medium; the computer game. And for maximum stimulation, there is only one presentation of the computer game medium, and that is the speed run. I have of late found myself mesmerised by speed runs of popular computer games, recordings of highly-skilled players blasting through their favourite titles at the fastest possible speed, using every trick in the book to complete each level of the game in as few seconds as possible. Some of these runs are masterpieces of kinetic fury, particularly the famous "Quake Done Quick" series, in which a particularly venerable title is subjected to the unfettered will of man. "Quake" lent itself well to high-speed tricks, but I do not believe a speed run of Quake would be an appropriate present, for it had a famously bland colour scheme, all browns and purples and greens. Other, more colourful speed runs - such as 'Super Mario 64', perhaps the most colourful game of all time - are, conversely, visually uninteresting on a kinetic level, as they are merely fast rather than tricky. It is not enough merely to complete a game as quickly as possible within the parameters laid by the game; the walls must be broken.

There is another. "Half-Life". Built on the same engine as Quake, but with more colours, there is a speed run for this game, which I shall display on my monitor. My monitor will be dazzled and amused by the clever uses to which limpet mines can be put, or the un-natural ways in which it is possible to bypass the bit with the tentacles, or the bit where you're on the little train and there is an electrified rail and some water and lots of those sonic dog things without heads, you know. Forty-five minutes, that's how long it takes to finish 'Half-Life'. I have seen this speed-run with my own eyes. For me, it is as worthwhile and emotional as an hour-long television programme on any topic. It is my entertainment, watching a professional gamesplayer complete a fondly-remembered game in double-quick time.

I shall turn the refresh rate down slightly, and use a lower resolution. Love is a thing. And so is mischief. One can spread love, and one can spread mischief. They are two sides of the same coin. Love and mischief.

Once upon a time, most Americans got a great deal of their news and entertainment from broadcast radio. With the advent of commercial television shortly after World War II, however, the situation changed. Radio went into a steady decline as more and more homes replaced their living-room receivers with the new magic box. Though the major radio networks consequently shifted their programming efforts to television, a few struggled to protect at least some part of their investment in radio, attempting to maintain audience share.

Among those few, the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) was perhaps the most active. The network had some success in 1950-52 with the all-star “The Big Show”, a star-laden program now regarded as variety radio's last great gasp. By the mid-1950s, though, it was felt that in order to keep radio viable, a new direction was needed. A new sort of program service, one that television couldn't easily duplicate. A program that might point the way to the future of radio programming. And one that would satisfy the demands of advertisers and network executives.

That program was Monitor, created by the then-president of NBC Radio, Sylvester “Pat” Weaver, creator of many well-known television shows, including The Tonight Show and The Today Show (both of which are still running), and father of film star Sigourney Weaver. Weaver's idea was to create a program that would air continuously each weekend, and feature news, music, talk, sports, interviews – a “magazine” show that listeners could tune in and out of as their schedule and interest permitted. As much as possible, the show would be broadcast live, and would not only entertain, but (as Weaver hoped) would at times educate its listeners as well.

Monitor, described by its creator as a “kaleidoscopic phantasmgoria”, debuted Sunday, June 12, 1955, from NBC's Radio Central studios in New York City, with an introduction from Weaver himself. The show was an immediate success; not only with listeners, but with advertisers and critics, who found the program's format a refreshing change from what had gone before. Monitor's various segments were presented by on-air personalities Weaver called “communicators”, and included some of the best-known names in broadcasting. Listeners might tune in and hear Joe Garagiola, Match Game host Gene Rayburn, Bill Cullen, humorist Art Buchwald, the notorious Don Imus, veteran newsman David Brinkley, and many others.

Often, there'd be comedians – Phyllis Diller, Elaine May and Mike Nichols, Bill Cosby, and Bob Newhart were among the bunch who lightened the mood. Indeed, notables from every walk of life might drop in to Radio Central to spend some time with Monitor listeners: psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers, cartoonist Al Capp, Sandy Koufax, “Galloping Gourmet” Graham Kerr, critic Gene Shalit, and Barbara Walters were just a few of the celebrities one might hear. Monitor didn't skimp on news and sports, either. Both were covered remarkably well, often by veteran reporters, honoring Weaver's dictum to educate and inform as well as entertain.

The program itself, and many of its segments, were introduced by the Monitor Beacon, a sort of jingle created of high-frequency telephone tones, mixed and filtered, designed to sound as if they were being dialed by an operator, and with the Morse code letter “M” (for 'Monitor') superimposed over the tones. The Beacon became an immediately-recognizable sound, so unique that former Monitor listeners know it well to this day.

Though Monitor was a grand success for many years, times and tastes change, and very few things last forever. As the 1960s gave way to the 1970s, radio listeners gradually began to look elsewhere for entertainment. Radio station affiliates started installing their own disc jockeys, taking audiences, and more importantly, advertisers, away from Monitor. The program had, in its heyday, saved NBC Radio for a time, but the future increasingly belonged to FM radio and themed stations. Monitor struggled to change, installing some star DJs such as Wolfman Jack and cutting back its scheduled hours, but to no avail; its audience was moving on. The program lasted until the weekend of January 25, 1975, and went out with a 12-hour retrospective of its most memorable broadcasts.

Today, Monitor is fondly remembered by many people (including the author) old enough to remember tuning in to it. It's likely that the program paved the way for modern radio magazine shows such as National Public Radio's All Things Considered, itself hailed by some as the successor to Monitor. Fans of the program have fortunately preserved many long segments that are available for listening at the Monitor Tribute Pages, listed below in the references. They're worth a listen, if only to hear how good broadcast radio could be.


SOURCES

Hart, Dennis and Hart Bradley., "The Monitor Tribute Pages ". Last revised October 2005. <http://www.monitorbeacon.net/> (January 2008)
Wikipedia. "NBC Monitor”. Last revised December 2007. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monitor_%28NBC_Radio%29>. (January 2008).

Mon"i*tor (?), n. [L., fr. monere. See Monition, and cf. Mentor.]

1.

One who admonishes; one who warns of faults, informs of duty, or gives advice and instruction by way of reproof or caution.

You need not be a monitor to the king.
Bacon.

2.

Hence, specifically, a pupil selected to look to the school in the absence of the instructor, to notice the absence or faults of the scholars, or to instruct a division or class.

3. (Zoöl.)

Any large Old World lizard of the genus Varanus; esp., the Egyptian species (V. Niloticus), which is useful because it devours the eggs and young of the crocodile. It is sometimes five or six feet long.

4. [So called from the name given by Captain Ericson, its designer, to the first ship of the kind.]

An ironclad war vessel, very low in the water, and having one or more heavily-armored revolving turrets, carrying heavy guns.

5. (Mach.)

A tool holder, as for a lathe, shaped like a low turret, and capable of being revolved on a vertical pivot so as to bring successively the several tools in holds into proper position for cutting.

Monitor top, the raised central portion, or clearstory, of a car roof, having low windows along its sides.

 

© Webster 1913


Mon"i*tor, n.

A monitor nozzle.

 

© Webster 1913

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