Monday, June 21, 2010

Indistinguishable from magic

Spent an irritating half-hour or so today at work fiddling with a piece of software that was having some sort of personal problem.

Eventually I closed the application, reopened it and it worked fine again.

Imagine if we accepted that as a standard of design functionality for the other things we use on a daily basis. The car suddenly stops turning right; to repair it we have to stop the car, shut off the engine, get out, get back in, start the engine and drive away. We don't understand why it went wrong, why it stopped working wrong, and how we fixed it.

We'd junk the bastard in a heartbeat.

And yet, we - those of us not part of Macintosh World - accept this level of computer hardware and software malfunction as normal and expected.

Honestly, sometimes I think we're a tiny bit afraid of our digital masters, like the thunder-worshiping monkeys we were. We tinker cluelessly with powers we don't understand...


Big Daddy said...

According to senior software engineer I worked with "Windows is a non-deterministic environment" which explains why shutting down and restarting sometimes works. Even the almighty Linux needs an occasional daemon restart sometimes.

Ael said...

Remember, software does not obey the intuitive rules of physics. The mathematics are non-continuous and cannot be collapsed into larger aggregates.

Furthermore, internal states matter deeply and are invisible.

There is nothing human made which is more complicated than the insides of a typical windoze workstation.

FDChief said...

That's kind of the thing here; we use these implements all the time, for many different jobs, but don't really understand how they work.

We're like neanderthals worshipping the God of Fire; we expect it to do what we want it to do in teh same way we expect magic to work - just "because". And when it doesn't, we have the same response - go through a set series of actions designed to "get the magic to work again".

Excuse me, I have to go bang two rocks togther now...