Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What a difference 1 character can make

One of the fundamental problems with computing is that it requires us humans to be less than human. 'Course, that true in life as well, oftentimes.

Maybe I should rephrase that - the problem is that too often to go through a day PROBLEM-FREE requires us to be less than human.

Two examples:

I've heard a story about NASA losing a Mars Lander because of a misplaced comma. Now, you would think that something that simple would either have beebn caught before the satellite was a tad out of reach, but it wasn't. (Granted, the story could be apocryphal, but let's assume it's relatively true for the purpose of illustrating my point.)

For the machine to work properly, it required the programmers to work like a machine - something that is impossible for humans to do on an extended period of time. (Humanity has some significant advantages, don't get me wrong!). This causes problems for both the machine and for the humans trying to get work done. Work gets lost, machines lock up because of human error, etc. etc.

Second example:

I sold the 8500 on ebay. The website - the machines - everything required me to work like a machine and not make a mistake for the transaction to go smoothly. Unfortunately, the 8500 was advertised as a PowerMac 8600 - related to the 8500, but different!

....and in all my proofreading I never caught the error.

Unfortunately I shipped the thing off. Fortunately, the recipient let me know about it, and has given me a chance to fix the error.

**sigh** There are days I ***WISH*** I could be a machine!