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137 thoughts on computers and technology, and an error message

Published Sunday, November 17, 2013 @ 2:28 AM EST
Nov 17 2013

[A] computer is a stupid machine with the ability to do incredibly smart things, while computer programmers are smart people with the ability to do incredibly stupid things. They are, in short, a perfect match.
-Bill Bryson

A computer cuts your work in half and gives you back the bloody stumps.

A computer is only as good as the people who are employed to replace the people who were made redundant by the computer.

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila.
-Mitch Ratcliffe

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.
-(If Error Messages Were Haiku, www.pcpoetry.com)

A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you didn't even know existed can render your own computer unusable.
-Leslie Lamport

A lot of what appears to be progress is just so much technological rococo.
-Bill Gray

A successful technology creates problems that only it can solve.
-Alan Kay

All programmers are playwrights and all computers are lousy actors.

All scientifically possible technology and social change predicted in science fiction will come to pass, but none of it will work properly.
-Neil Gaiman

All technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent.
-David Ross Brower

An idiot with a computer is a faster, better idiot.
-Rich Julius

Any idiot can use a computer. Many do.

Any problem in computer science can be solved with another layer of indirection. But that usually will create another problem.
-David Wheeler

Any research done on how to efficiently use computers has been long lost in the mad rush to upgrade systems to do things that aren't needed by people who don't understand what they are really supposed to do with them.
-Graham Reed

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
-Arthur C. Clarke

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.
-James Klass

Artificial intelligence is the study of how to make real computers act like the ones in movies.

As far as we know, our computer has never had an undetected error.

As practiced by computer science, the study of programming is an unholy mixture of mathematics, literary criticism, and folklore.
-B.A. Sheil

Asking if computers can think is like asking if submarines can swim.

At the source of every error which is blamed on the computer you will find at least two human errors, including the error of blaming it on the computer.

Bad command or file name. Good typing, though.
(Computer error message)-Unattributed

Bad things come in threes. However, when dealing with computers, the fourth thing is always the start of the next group of three.

Cheese in an aerosol can is the greatest advance in technology since fire.
-James Angove

Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
-E.W. Djikstra

Computer Science: A study akin to numerology and astrology, but lacking the precision of the former and the success of the latter.
-Stan Kelly-Bootle

Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.
-Joseph Campbell

Computers are man's attempt at designing a cat: it does whatever it wants, whenever it wants, and rarely ever at the right time.

Computers are such time-saving devices. In fact, I've just spent the last three years trying to print out an envelope.
-Elayne Boosler

Computers can do better than ever what needn't be done at all. Making sense is still a human monopoly.
-Marshall McLuhan

Computers can now keep a man's every transgression recorded in a permanent memory bank, duplicating with complex programming and intricate wiring a feat his wife handles quite well without fuss or fanfare.
-Lane Olinghouse

Computers can still barely open a printer port, much less the pod bay doors.
-Lee Gomes

Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don't need to be done.
-Andy Rooney

Don't anthropomorphize computers. They hate it when you do that.

Don't explain computers to laymen. Simpler to explain sex to virgins.
-Robert A. Heinlein

Engineers are always honest in matters of technology and human relationships. That's why it's a good idea to keep engineers away from customers, romantic interests, and other people who can't handle the truth.
-Unattributed (From Engineers Explained)

Enter any eleven-digit prime number to continue.
-Unattributed (Computer command prompt)

Even though today's technology provides us with mountains of data, it is useless without judgment.
-Felix G. Rohatyn

Every time you turn on your new car, you're turning on 20 microprocessors. Every time you use an ATM, you're using a computer. Every time I use a set top box or game machine, I'm using a computer. The only computer you don't know how to work is your Microsoft computer, right?
-Scott McNealy

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.
-Alice Kahn

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
-Richard P. Feynman,
in his analysis of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. Academy Award winner William Hurt portrays Dr. Feynman in "The Challnger Disaster," a drama based on the late Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist's final book, "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" If you missed last night's premiere, it will be rebroadcast again tonight at 9 pm on The Science Channel.

Having a computer is like having a small, silicon version of Gary Busey on your desk. You never know what's going to happen.
-Bill Maher

Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.
-Buckminster Fuller

I have a computer, a vibrator and pizza delivery. Why should I leave the house?

I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my telephone. My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my telephone.
-Bjarne Stroustrup

I may be just an empty flesh terminal relying on technology for all my ideas, memories and relationships, but I am confident that all of that, everything that makes me a unique human being, is still out there, somewhere, safe in the theoretical storage space owned by giant multi-national corporations.
-Stephen Colbert

I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image.
-Stephen Hawking

I think everyone in this country should learn to program a computer. Everyone should learn a computer language because it teaches you how to think. I think of computer science as a liberal art.
-Steve Jobs

I think it is time we learned the lesson of our century: that the progress of the human spirit must keep pace with technological and scientific progress, or that spirit will die. It is incumbent on our educators to remember this; and music is at the top of the spiritual must list.
-Leonard Bernstein

I was shocked upon viewing Internet porn while surfing the Web last night. Then I realized my wife must have wired the mouse on our computer.
-John Alejandro King (The Covert Comic)

If moral behavior were simply following rules, we could program a computer to be moral.
-Samuel P. Ginder

If the Catholic church couldn't stop Galileo, then governments won't be able to stop things now.
-Carlo de Benedetti (re: regulation of information technology.)

If we had a reliable way to label our toys good and bad, it would be easy to regulate technology wisely. But we can rarely see far enough ahead to know which road leads to damnation. Whoever concerns himself with big technology, either to push it forward or to stop it, is gambling in human lives.
-Freeman Dyson

If you can't beat your computer at chess, try kickboxing.

If you don't know how to do something, you don't know how to do it with a computer.

If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled, and no one dares to criticize it.
-Pierre Gallois

Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining.
-Jeff Raskin

In a way, staring into a computer screen is like staring into an eclipse. It's brilliant and you don't realize the damage until it's too late.
-Bruce Sterling

In all technologically 'advanced' countries, fashion has replaced tradition, so that involuntary membership in a society can no longer provide a feeling of community.
-W.H. Auden

In computer science, we stand on each other's feet.
-Brian K. Reid

In the computer business, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and benchmarks.

In the long run, everything is a toaster.
-Bruce Greenwald (on innovative technologies)

In the old days, writers used to sit in front of a typewriter and stare out of the window. Nowadays, because of the marvels of convergent technology, the thing you type on and the window you stare out of are now the same thing.
-Douglas Adams

It is only when science asks why, instead of simply describing how, that it becomes more than technology. When it asks why, it discovers Relativity. When it only shows how, it invents the atomic bomb, and then puts its hands over its eyes and says, "My God, what have I done?"
-Ursula K. LeGuin

It's a truism in technological development that no silver lining comes without its cloud.
-Bruce Sterling

Let's be frank, the Italians' technological contribution to humankind stopped with the pizza oven.
-Bill Bryson

Levitt's First Law of Information Technology: If it's free, adopt it.

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor.
-Wernher von Braun

Memory is like an orgasm. It's a lot better if you don't have to fake it.
-Seymour Cray (re: computer virtual memory)

Misuse of reason might yet return the world to pre-technological night; plenty of religious zealots hunger for just such a result, and are happy to use the latest technology to effect it.
-A.C. Grayling

Most undergraduate degrees in computer science these days are basically Java vocational training.
-Alan Kay

My perception was/is that while the rest of the computer world was striving for Fault Tolerant Software, Microsoft was working on Fault Tolerant Users.
-John Robinson

Never let a computer know you're in a hurry.

Never trust a computer you can't throw out a window.
-Steve Wozniak

Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road.
-Stewart Brand

Our entire much-praised technological progress, and civilization generally, could be compared to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal.
-Albert Einstein

Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.
-Isaac Asimov

PCMCIA stands for either Personal Computer Memory Card International Association or People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms.

Read, read, read and put away computers. Forget the Internet, that's all crap.
-Ray Bradbury

Reading computer manuals without the hardware is as frustrating as reading sex manuals without the software. In both cases the cure is simple though usually very expensive.
-Arthur C. Clarke

Science is everything we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else.
-Donald Knuth

Science is to computer science as hydrodynamics is to plumbing.
-Stan Kelly-Bootle

Some technologies do their job perfectly and tend to stick around. The spoon is one example, the lawn-roller another. Paper may well be a third.
-Unattributed (From The Economist)

Technological man can't believe in anything that can't be measured, taped, or put into a computer.
-Clare Boothe Luce

Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.
-Aldous Huxley

Technology [is] the knack of so arranging the world that we need not experience it.
-Max Frisch

Technology frightens me to death. It's designed by engineers to impress other engineers, and they always come with instruction booklets that are written by engineers for other engineers- which is why almost no technology ever works.
-John Cleese

Technology is anything that wasn't around when you were born.
-Alan Kay

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.

Technology is not in itself opposed to spirituality and to religion. But it presents a great temptation.
-Thomas Merton

Technology is really civilization, let's face it.
-Arthur C. Clarke

Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge.
-Daniel J. Boorstin

Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology.
-John Tudor

Technology today is the campfire around which we tell our stories. There's this attraction to light and to this kind of power, which is both warm and destructive.
-Laurie Anderson

That's the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers.
-Jerry Pournelle

The British don't make computers because they never figured out how to make them leak oil.

The Buddha resides as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain.
-Robert Pirsig

The computer industry has frequently borrowed from mythology: Witness the sprites in computer graphics, the demons in artificial intelligence, and the trolls in the marketing department.
-Jeff Meyer

The computer industry is a chicken on growth hormones, sloshing around in a nutrient bath with its head cut off.
-Peter Sugarman

The computer is a moron.
-Peter Drucker

The computer revolution hasn't started yet. Don't be misled by the enormous flow of money into bad defacto standards for unsophisticated buyers using poor adaptations of incomplete ideas.
-Alan Kay

The computer saves man a lot of guesswork, but so does the bikini.
-Evan Esar

The difference between e-mail and regular mail is that computers handle e-mail, and computers never decide to come to work one day and shoot all the other computers.
-Jamais Cascio

The entire body of computer science can be viewed as nothing more than the development of efficient methods for the storage, transportation, encoding, and rendering of pornography.

The fault lies not with our technologies but with our systems.
-Roger Levian

The first time a person gets a screwdriver, he's going to go around the house tightening all the screws, whether they need it or not. There's no reason a computer will not be similarly abused.
-Theodore K. Robb

The goal of Computer Science is to build something that will last at least until we've finished building it.

The human race has today the means for annihilating itself-either in a fit of complete lunacy, i.e., in a big war, by a brief fit of destruction, or by careless handling of atomic technology, through a slow process of poisoning and of deterioration in its genetic structure.
-Max Born

The Internet was done so well that most people think of it as a natural resource like the Pacific Ocean, rather than something that was man-made. When was the last time a technology with a scale like that was so error-free? The Web, in comparison, is a joke. The Web was done by amateurs.
-Alan Kay

The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is by accident. That's where we come in; we're computer professionals. We cause accidents.
-Nathaniel Borenstein

The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.
-Edward R. Murrow

The only thing God didn't do to Job was give him a computer.
-I.F. Stone

The only truly portable computer language is profanity.

The power to hurt... has evolved in a direct relationship to technological advancement.
-Roger Zelazny

The protean nature of the computer is such that it can act like a machine or like a language to be shaped and exploited.
-Alan Kay

The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.
-E.O. Wilson

The Republic of Technology where we will be living is a feedback world.
-Daniel J. Boorstin

The Web brings people together because no matter what kind of a twisted sexual mutant you happen to be, you've got millions of pals out there. Type in "Find people that have sex with goats that are on fire" and the computer will ask, "Specify type of goat."
-Richard Jeni

The world is just filling up with more and more idiots! And the computer is giving them access to the world! They're spreading their stupidity! At least they were contained before- now they're on the loose everywhere!
-Harlan Ellison

There are more computers running Windows than VMS. There are also more cockroaches than humans.
-Kevin G. Barkes

There are two kinds of computer users: those who have lost data and those who will lose data.

There is a computer disease that anybody who works with computers knows about. It's a very serious disease and it interferes completely with the work. The trouble with computers is that you play with them.
-Richard P. Feynman

There is an evil tendency underlying all our technology- the tendency to do what is reasonable even when it isn't any good.
-Robert Pirsig

There is no data to support that computers make business more productive... most companies have merely found faster and cheaper ways to do dumb things.
-Gary Loveman

There is no escaping from ourselves. The human dilemma is as it has always been, and we solve nothing fundamental by cloaking ourselves in technological glory.
-Neil Postman

This computer makes me all frowny with pure nougat-filled hatred!
-Jhonen Vasquez

Unlike human beings, computers possess the truly profound stupidity of the inanimate.
-Bruce Sterling

We are reaching the stage where the problems we must solve are going to become insoluble without computers. I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them.
-Isaac Asimov

We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.
-Douglas Adams

We build our computer [systems] the way we build our cities: over time, without a plan, on top of ruins.
-Ellen Ullman

We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
-Carl Sagan

While modern technology has given people powerful new communication tools, it apparently can do nothing to alter the fact that many people have nothing useful to say.
-Lee Gomes

Whom computers would destroy, they must first drive mad.

Why is it drug addicts and computer aficionados are both called users?
-Clifford Stoll

Without software, a computer is just a lump of plastic- whereas with software, it's a lump of plastic that can permanently destroy critical data.
-Dave Barry

Writing is a slow and a difficult process mentally. How you physically render the words onto a screen or a page doesn't help you. I'll give you this example. When words had to be carved into stone, with a chisel, you got the Ten Commandments. When the quill pen had been invented and you had to chase a goose around the yard and sharpen the pen and boil some ink and so on, you got Shakespeare. When the fountain pen came along, you got Henry James. When the typewriter came along, you got Jack Kerouac. And now that we have the computer, we have Facebook. Are you seeing a trend here?
-P.J. O'Rourke

Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that
-(If Error Messages Were Haiku, www.pcpoetry.com)



Remember that potential race condition I warned you about in the coding implementation meetings? You know, the one you condescendingly dismissed in front of your in-house staff of snickering, cognitively challenged ex-baristas? The condition that could never happen 'in the real world' and therefore could be ignored?
Guess what, Skippy? Some other process on the system- perhaps one from that odd location called 'reality'- just changed the offset into the next available customer acccount number table.
Fortunately for you, I ignored your explicit refusal to authorize the time necessary to write the code to lock and release the table offset. I did it on my own time out of a sense of professional pride and responsibility. If I hadn't, this application- and, through the resulting series of cascading failures, your entire production system- would have reduced this server to a puddle of molten silicon.

The arcane segmentation fault it would have thrown would have corrupted the entire account number sequencing mechanism. Your crack team of outsourced, clueless code monkeys would have taken weeks to identify the cause, let alone correct it. And who are we kidding? You would have been on the phone to me in under an hour, pleading- no, demanding- that I supply a patch, immediately and at no charge, because it's in a part of the code that I wrote and, therefore, is my fault, despite the fact it behaved exactly in the inane manner you decreed.
I would have then directed you here: https://tinyurl.com/nak5n7c
It's a capture of that portion of the aforementioned video conference meeting where I warned you about this problem and spent ten minutes describing situations in which the condition could occur- and your response, accompanied by the smirks and giggles of your obsequious minions.
This message will appear in the production run log file only this one time and will probably not be seen by anyone, since you only check log files when something crashes and burns. You never check for non-fatal processing errors that should be corrected but aren't because that would be contrary to your policy of ignoring the smoke emanating from your hat until your hair ignites.
Anyway, in the unlikely event someone does read this, you should also check the report date function two modules down. As written, the end of month summary publication will at some point display a cover date of February 30. I pointed this out in our last meeting and would have corrected it, but it required access to another function in another module which I couldn't access. You said you'd have Bjorn fix it. Let me tell you about Bjorn. His real name is Walter. He changed it to Bjorn because he thought it would improve his chances of being hired. Walter is only vaguely aware of his surroundings and, if you look right now, is wearing mis-matched socks.
You're welcome.
And I'm still waiting for that last check.

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