A specific combination of operating system and hardware. Some platforms are:

Linux/i386
Linux on Intel processor ("normal" PC hardware)
Win98
Windows98. We don't have to worry about hardware
Solaris/UltraSPARC
Sun's UNIX OS on the UltraSPARC processor
Linux/Alpha
Linux on a DEC Alpha processor.
FreeBSD/i386
FreeBSD on Intel

And the list could go on and on....

As you can see though, it is not always enough to specify the OS or the hardware to define a platform. Code compiled on Linux/i386 won't work so hot on Linux/Alpha, or Win98. Now it might work on FreeBSD/i386 or something, but that is because they are being tricky...

platform

Walking the platform, the guilt and the decisions came. One from the other. He was used to that, but not the power with which the decision and the guilt struck him to the concrete, gasping, in shame and in rage and in understanding.

A man's life? A missed train. Is there a decision here? There is. Couched in the soft hardness of the New York experience, the dilemma's very existence conjures an illumination of the shallow pretenses of the soul.

Witness the scene. A platform. New York City's Grand Central Station. The number 6 line, downtown. Two-forty-five a.m. on a Friday night. he returns from a night of mild drinking and major socializing on the West Side; returns to the south and down to his bed cocooned within the sandstone confines of the upright house. The house is not allowed to lean; the other houses near it hold it upright. Cohere, they shout silently. Withstand.

While in the walkway from the shuttle train (why they could never have brought the shuttle line the extra two to three hundred feet he has never been sure) the duotone of the doors closing on a train ahead of him and beneath. Does he run? He is tired. Fatigue clings to him like the cape he wears as a badge of indignance and personal distinction; swirling around his ankles and threatening, it seems, to drag him down. The decision, the first of the night, is made; not to hurry. To conserve energy through the maintenance of a staid pace, allowing the folds of the cape to swirl about him in a black drape of a shield, allowing him to ignore and remain aloof and forcing others to stare at him. A strange sort of shield to invite the intrusion it is designed to guard against, perhaps.

Below and ahead, the plastic rattling of the doors, and the invisible train retreating in to a tunnel. There is no directional association; although he is in the plaza one level above the train stop, there are no pitch and frequency cues to allow his brain to process a direction.

Nothing to do but descend and hope.

Why? Because the trains run thirty to forty minutes apart this time of night, and because of the thought of remaining standing another eon in the grimy confines of the station while thinking of the (empty) (soft) bed. Descending the stairs, he clears the cloak instinctively, thinking wryly of how unnatural the action still looks. The garment brings self-consciousness. A silly thing to wear.

Reaching the bottom, a discouragingly empty station. Save, of couse, for the five transit police officers gathered in a loose circle near the next set of stairs? Ah. Perhaps he can ask them. No sooner said than done, at least after he reaches them. Boisterously, they laugh over some unknown private byplay, as he approaches, noticing the sleeping men (two) on one of the platform's benches beneath him. Passing with eyes averted, he reaches the police, who turn to look at him expectantly.

"Excuse me…hi. Was that, uh, was that a number 6 that just went through?"

Realizing as he asks that this platform is empty save for him, the police, and the homeless, while the other has several travelers waiting patiently.

"Yep, it was; they're coming 'bout every twenty minutes."

"Thanks." There's not much else to say. Wandering the platform is, perhaps, the only sane option; otherwise, to stand in one spot and minutely examine the grimy tiled wall opposite. Not an attractive prospect.

Wandering starts with the downtown end. There is a darkened booth at the southernmost point of the station; inside, unattended consoles wink with orange, red and green indicator lights. They speak, soundlessly and wordlessly, of the passage of trains and signals through the tunnels beneath the city; clearly displaying their secrets to men not there. A microphone stands on the counter near the console. It is an old device; a tall, chromed announcer's mike that now is worn in the middle of the upright section where countless hands have gripped it.

The door in the back of the booth is closed, and he doesn't even know where it leads. Turning suddenly about (the cloak slides silently and gracefully in a parabola; this was the point) he begins to wander up towards the other end of the platform.

Exhaustion is a flavor at this point in time; it is a sticky fluid resting in the flesh, causing the unexplainable ache of night in muscles and bone. Each step brings a slow determination not to sit, or lean; concrete talks to the skeleton in jarring slaps of gravity and time. Gravity, it is said, sorts the living from the dead.

Gravity sorts the living from the dead. The thought repeats, and will not vanish gracefully. An elegant notion; although not entirely true; what about sleepers? What about those puposefully prone, awaiting signals, targets, visitors, rendezvous, sounds, mornings? What of them? Are they dead, or are they living?

The theory, perhaps, makes no mention of them. They are the undead and the unliving; inhabiting the middle ground between the polar states of living (upright) and dead (prone, involuntarily).

Another step. He passes the policemen, still idly chatting; they ignore him, classified as commuter, not a threat, weird. The cloak produces the last tagged identifier; perhaps that's the point.

There are several staircases up to the next (plaza) level; the policemen were standing at one that opened downtown. The next also opens downtown; the farthest one opens uptown, the stairs facing the nearby north end of the platform. Only five steps up, now; the white tiled sides of the stairs sliding by in slow symphonic sines.

Still no lights from the northern tunnel. Perhaps he's spent three minutes in the slow and careful passage of the platform; at most, then, seventeen to go, if New York police can be trusted on such an issue as train schedules. Of course, they should be trustworthy; why bother to lie on such an issue?

The bottom of the staircase draws even with our wanderer; he glances right as he passes the opening of the steps, to count the darkened spots of ancient chewing gum, long worked into the concrete itself, or perhaps the carelessly tossed wrappers of gum and chocolate.

There is a man there, at he bottom of the steps. He lies with his legs on the platform, and his torso supported by the first four steps. Slightly aslant, he leans to the left and towards our wanderer, his arms laid out before him in supplication and stupor.

Is this all? All that can be seen in the brief snapshot flash of the passing New York examination; performed thousands of times per day on those people passed on streets, in subways, in buildings, in lobbies, in elevators, in hallways. The silent evaluation of the other's intent and state; the instinctive response of the endangered animal that is the New Yorker.

Another look is passed, for reasons unknown. Our walker is almost abreast of the sleeper now.

There is blood on his lips.

There is blood on the stairs behind him.

And now, what? What there is is not in great quantity; many drops, perhaps. The lips are carmine with the stain; no motion can be seen.

Is he dead?

A brief curling throb as the heart misfires; what now? What to do? Is he asleep? Unconscious? Injured? Dead? The uptown wander stops abruptly, the gaze held by sickly fascination on the prostrate stranger.

There are police, immediately downtown, perhaps fifty feet. They haven't seen the walker since he passed beyond the staircase by which they stood. And now? Is he suspect? Did he do it? Did he hurt the other, cast him down?

How long before his failure to inform them becomes, itself, a suspicious act? How long before they wander up his way in normal patrol?

The fear begins to grow; sprouting up alongside the nausea and confusion. I should go back and get them. I might call from here. I might scream. The thoughts come, wash across, and recede, pushed by the next.

Lights.

Two of them, approaching from up the tunnel; two red, two white, now, and then the train. The number 6; faithful urban steed. The doors sigh open. Perhaps four people are in the car that stands hard by; none bother to look up from their weary travel isolation, and he boards the car, heart pounding, to find a seat. The doors close; shuddering, the train rouses itself to slide downtown.

As the car passes the middle staircase, two of the police officers can be seen, wandering towards the north end of the platform. Sauntering; no alarm, no cry, no warning. He did nothing to help. He did nothing wrong. He did nothing.

The tears flow silently, and I make it off the train, watching as it recedes from the empty station, before vomiting onto the winking steel rails.

As pointed earlier, a platform can be defined as something on top which you can run applications designed for it.

Basically "platform" is just a fancy name for "specific type of runtime environment" - that is, compiled code depends on specific libraries and specific operating system services. Most platforms these days use native code, which means that the platform is dependent of specific type of hardware and specific processor. A program written and compiled on Linux on IA-32 architecture will not run on Linux on Alpha architechture, or vice versa.

Then, there are platforms that are platforms over other platforms - in other words, platforms that are built as an applications for another platform. Usually this involves building a virtual machine that runs on any platform it's ported to the same way. Examples of VMs include Java Virtual Machine and Z-Machine. Other times, this is not the case, but they get close; Mozilla is basically something you can build applications for, so it qualifies as a platform.

As you may guess, "platform" is sometimes used very loosely. Some call systems that have nothing to do with running programs "platforms". Sometimes, a platform is just "something on, like, you do, like, stuff on, you know." Well, I guess the Everything would qualify as a platform - go get your own copy of the code from everydevel and build frosty cool web apps with it, if you want. Some even consider "web" in general as a platform.

However, as seen always, developing "platforms" instead of "programs" and "products" is mostly always slow, costy (well, maybe to some) and sometimes rather vaporous - even when all the betas work really nicely, no one seemed to believe they would run later on. Or the other way around. (See Mozilla, Java, Freenet, .NET)

(Is this philosophy?)

In the US, an automotive platform is frequently referred to as an Automotive Architecture.

In the automotive world, from a consumer's point of view, a "platform" is a set of characteristics shared between several vehicles.

From a manufacturer's point of view, it is the other way around: The platform on which a vehicle is built is the fundamental basics on which the rest of the vehicle can be built. This can be compared with building a house: If you build a foundation and then stop building, a skilled architect can turn the building into a whole array of different buildings, limited only by the limitations of the foundation.

Originally, an automotive platform would consist of the floor pan (engine bay + the steel structure on which the rest of the vehicle is built), with suspension and driveline.

Currently, however, the definition has started to blur - as more and more manufacturers make parts for each other, it is starting to be difficult to tell which families of platforms still belong together. Volkswagen Passat, for example, shares the platform with Skoda Superb: same suspension, same floorplan, and even the same engines. Not strange, perhaps, when keeping in mind that Skoda now is fully owned by Volkswagen. More interestingly, however is to observe that the swedish-desinged Volvo V40, is built on the same platform as the japanese-designed Mitsubishi Carisma. Similarly surprising is that the Jaguar X-type shares a platform with the Ford Mondeo, that the Dodge Viper is on the same platform as the Dodge Dakota, and that the Chrysler PT Cruiser shares most fundamental characteristics with the Chrysler Neon. The new generation Chrysler Neon shares the same platform as the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO - yes the famous rally cars.

Currently, then, the definition of a "platform", is where the general mount-points fall on a vehicle. When the mounting points fall on the same places (i.e the suspension and the car's body strengthening anchor points are the same), it means that the different vehicles can in theory be built on the same assembly line, thereby saving production costs.

On a more fundamental level, however, putting a lot of research and development into the fundamental levels of car design means that once a manufacturer has a good foundation, they can build a whole series of vehicles on the same platform. These vehicles will not only share many of the same components, which can then be mass-produced cheaply, but they will also share crash characteristics and other safety-related issues. It also means that once the basics are in place, manufacturers can concentrate on licencing the platforms to other manufacturers, or create a small army of vehicles built on the same platform.

Volkswagen's relatively new PQ35 platform, for example, is the basis of their New Beetle, Golf, Golf Plus, Bora and Passat vehicles. It also houses a series of completely different vehicles, such as the Skoda Octavia, the Audi TT, the Audi A3, the Seat Altea and the Seat Toledo.

As the automotive industry progresses into heavier co-operation and more competition, new platforms will be developed, but in today's mass-industrial world, buiding vehicles from scratch, with different underpinnings, is just not an option.

The term platform used in the "raised area" sense applies to places created to bring users from ground level to the operating level of a service, device, or action.

A railway platform is a place where customers can wait for the train, but its primary purpose is to bring people up to the level of the train's doors for easy access. This term can also apply to any passenger transport staging area or cargo loading dock.

A dais is a platform used for the express purpose of raising those who stand upon it over those who are standing around it. Used for speeches and presentations, a dais not only makes it easier to see the speaker from the crowd, it provides a visual reinforcement of authority for those using it for authoritarian purposes.

Platforms are also used to bring equipment operators up to the level of a device's controls or access panels, users up to the level of a service counter, or tourists up to a scenic view.

Plat"form` (?), n. [Plat, a. + -form: cf. F. plateforme.]

1.

A plat; a plan; a sketch; a model; a pattern. Used also figuratively.

[Obs.]

Bacon.

2.

A place laid out after a model.

[Obs.]

lf the platform just reflects the order. Pope.

3.

Any flat or horizontal surface; especially, one that is raised above some particular level, as a framework of timber or boards horizontally joined so as to form a roof, or a raised floor, or portion of a floor; a landing; a dais; a stage, for speakers, performers, or workmen; a standing place.

4.

A declaration of the principles upon which a person, a sect, or a party proposes to stand; a declared policy or system; as, the Saybrook platform; a political platform.

"The platform of Geneva."

Hooker.

5. Naut.

A light deck, usually placed in a section of the hold or over the floor of the magazine. See Orlop.

Platform car, a railway car without permanent raised sides or covering; a fat. -- Platform scale, a weighing machine, with a flat platform on which objects are weighed.

 

© Webster 1913.


Plat"form`, v. t.

1.

To place on a platform.

[R.]

2.

To form a plan of; to model; to lay out.

[Obs.]

Church discipline is platformed in the Bible. Milton.

 

© Webster 1913.

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