Monday, December 10, 2007

Don't Blame the System. Blame the Part.

In his latest Weekend Wandering, David McMahon asked the question: Have you ever sworn at a computer?

My answer David's question is, "No. I've worked far too long in the IP industry to ever cuss at a machine for mistakes that were the result of something other than its functioning." You can stop here if you don't want to read a litany of things that can go wrong in computer systems and why it isn't the machine's fault.

Computers today are a collection of systems, part mechanical, part software, and part human operator. A computer traditionally is just the hardware, useless without the rest of it but still, just a machine. Something other than its mechanical functioning is what most computer mishaps are. If the system crashes it is most likely the software design and not the equipment. If the browser crashes after opening a webpage it is most likely a bug in the browser that doesn't work with something on the webpage, again, not the computer's fault. I don't want to think about how often Firefox has crashed after I viewed one of CNN's videos.

Or it could be my fault. If my work gets lost because of a crash this was not the machine's fault. It was mine because I didn't save it early or frequently enough to protect myself. If I get a bug, worm, or virus and whatever else there is out there today it might be because I didn't take proper precautions or opened an email without thinking. But it might also be something new or a trusted friend who accidentally sent me the little nasty.

What a lot of people choose to forget is that computers aren't smart. They are very dumb, fast machines that need specific instructions to do what you want them to do. If I tell it to do something in a way it doesn't understand I can almost guarantee you that the machine will give me an error message or, thanks to the OS designers, ask for more instructions.

Yeah, I know, Microsoft bashing is a popular sport these days. But, for all its problems with security, Windows designers are first and foremost programmers and they know so much more than the rest of us about how to protect themselves that they have forgotten more than we will ever know. They are also human and get used to having those protections in place which is probably why they forget to give them to us. They also know how often they have to recode a piece of software which is why they put in so many "are you sure" and "give me more info" messages that pop up all too frustratingly at times. They were trying to be kind to the novice and even the intermediate computer literate when they did that. If we really hate the company we should probably stop supporting it with our dollars and change machines or the OS. There are other options out there.

All of the above doesn't mean I haven't cussed at a situation I found myself in because of something that happened with the computer. I just know better than to get mad at the dumb machine. Chances are it was that old infamous, "operator error" in the first place. This means, "I'm a dummy too."


San said...

Well, Lee, to answer David's question, I never hesitate to cuss computers that freeze, engines that won't turn over, toasters that burn my pop tart, or paper racks that refuse to open up and dispense their goods after being fed my hard-earned quarters. I once kicked a paper machine so hard, it toppled right over. I had to jump out of its way to keep from having bones broken. And guess what? That paper rack snapped open and, in a kind of convulsive shock reaction, disgorged a heap of newspapers on the sidewalk.

A bonanza to be had by all passers-by who had been previously ripped off by that lousy, bottom-feeding piece of scum.

I felt like Robin Hood.

All in a day's work.

Lee said...

Way to go Santa San! Give that machine what for! I'm glad you weren't hurt in the process. :)