Nature WatchLos Altos smells wonderful, like honeysuckle plus a lot more - I think this is the springtime fragrance Thomes Wolfe used the term "spermy" to describe. (This not to be confused with the tragically lost or cast away "Peanuts" character "Shermy".) Still no sign of jacaranda blossoms; surely not even el Niño can prevent them? The atmosphere here in Mountain View is also balmy; yet driving into Los Altos I always notice how the scents become more intense over there.
This is the text I mentioned transcribing yesterday. In "Why (Some)
Large Computer Projects Fail" <1>,
Robert N. Britcher says he found this hand-written history in the rubbish left behind
a closed-out AAS office:
A Brief History of the Advanced Automation SystemA young man, recently hired, devotes years to a specification written to the bit level for programs that will never be coded. Another, to a specification that will be replaced. Programmers marry one another, then divorce and marry someone in another subsystem. Program designs are written to severe formats, then forgotten. The formats endure. A man decides to become a woman and succeeds before system testing starts As testing approaches, she begins a second career on a local television channel, hosting a show on witchcraft. An architect chases a new technology, then another, then changes his mind and goes into management. A veteran programmer writes the same program a dozen times, then transfers. The price of money increases eight times. Programmers sleep in the halls. Committees convene for years to discuss keystroking. An ambitious training manager builds an encyclopedia of manuals no one will use. Decisions are scheduled weeks in advance. Workers sit in hallways. Notions about computing begin in the epoch of A, edge towards B, then come down hard on A + B. Human factors experts achieve Olympian status. The Berlin Wall collapses. The map of Europe is redrawn. Everything is counted. Quality becomes mixed with quantity. Morale is reduced to a quotient, then counted. Dozens of men and women argue for thousands of hours: What is a requirement? A generation of workers retire. The very mission changes and only a few notice. Programming theories come and go. Managers cling to expectations, like a child to a blanket. Presentations are polished to create an impression, then curbed to cut costs. Then they are studied. The work spikes and spikes again. Offices are changed a dozen times. Management retires and returns. The contractor is sold. The software is blamed. Executives are promoted. The years rip by with no end in sight. A company president gets an idea: make large small. Turn methods over to each programmer. Dress down. Count on the inscrutability of programming. Promote good news. Turn a leaf away from the sun. Maybe start over.
A lot of this weekend was spent creating a new animation for this site's home page; watch for it tomorrow.
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<1> which can be found in Software Runaways by Robert Glass Back