I Call This Progress

My mother would phone me, and she would start conversations by saying “my computer did” and I would gently (or not so gently, perhaps) point out that computers only do what you tell them to do. Software has no agency.

Now, I grant you, some times you wish a box would come up, and in very plain English it would say to you “I am about to delete your entire file. I realize that may not be what you wanted me to do, so why don’t you go and have a cup of tea and think about this very carefully. I’ll be here when you get back.”

All of this is a long winded way of saying that I was doing some tinkering with ARIS the other night. It’s the sort of tinkering that I am very capable of doing, although I don’t do it that often. It just wasn’t working. I was working through the steps. I could see where it should work, and I could see where it patently wasn’t working. There was something missing.

I was looking at my watch, and I was wondering if it was too late to call Sys Admin at home and howl for a bit. (It was.) I wanted to blame ARIS badly. I itched to blame it. I was swearing. Howling. Mr. Spit came in and I carefully showed him what I was trying to accomplish, walking him through the steps. He humoured me by watching something that made no sense. He observed “there’s a lot to that program, isn’t there?”.

I was incoherent. I wanted to blame ARIS. It’s just that voice in my head that said “software has no agency”. I wanted to blame the program, but I knew, in a sick and certain sort of way that I was the squishy human bit and it was the immutable and logical software, and chances were excellent really that the squishy bit was buggering something up.

Anyway. I walked away for a few moments, and then I came back and realized what I was doing and why it wasn’t working.

Dear ARIS:

I’m sorry for the things I said about your mother. I’m sure she’s a nice woman, really. I’m regretful about what I hoped would happen to your lines of code and I’m sure no one would actually want to light strings of zero’s and one’s on fire with a vat of kerosene. I didn’t actually plan on torching the server you are installed on, and my threats to rename you “bloody stupid ARIS that doesn’t <bleep> work” and get t-shirts were a bit overblown.

Friends again?

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4 Responses to I Call This Progress

  1. a says:

    I am the nominal support person (i.e. the person who relates the problems to the actual tech support) for our lab, and for one person, I had to post the PICNIC acronym. He has a talent for choosing unwisely when those dialogue boxes pop up. We spend a lot of time cursing our digital imaging system (computers, cameras, servers, Photoshop, and an information tracking program)…even though it’s really not their fault.

    (That is: Problem In Chair Not In Computer)

  2. HereWeGoAJen says:

    Hmm, I don’t know. I still blame the computer for the time it smelled like it was on fire and then refused to turn back on. I am certain that I did nothing to deserve that.

  3. Aunt Deb says:

    Somewhere between the Hardware and the Software…is the “Jellyware”. Thats us. It is intrinsic to our nature that we get to do stuff to computers and they have to take the blame. It is written in our contract.

  4. Natalie says:

    LOL Been there so many times. Sucks.

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