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Computers for the Computer Illiterate

The chatty lady sitting next to me at work today is functionally computer illiterate. She can use the work computer after much training, but otherwise, they're a very huge mystery to her.

So I explained computers to her. She said that I'm the first computer person who's ever told her that computers are stupid, but she can believe it. Here, I rehash and expand on my lecture...

Computers are stupid. Computers are so stupid that if you gave one legs and told it to walk off a cliff, it would, assuming it knew how to use the legs, because you'd have to tell it that too. How well a computer behaves depends on how good the instructions it has are. The people who write instructions for computers are computer people. Computer people are often very bad at talking with normal human beings. Therefore, a computer that is given instructions by a computer person is not likely to be good at talking to normal human beings. And when the normal human being asks a computer person about it, the computer person is going to explain it using fancy computer person words, and the normal person is just going to look at them like they're an alien.

Furthermore, most computer programs are not written by one computer person. Oh, no. Most computer programs are written by committee. And almost every different program is written by a different committee. Sometimes the committees talk to each other to make sure that the instructions will get along when they're put on the same computer together. A lot of the time they don't. A lot of the committees assume that only computer people will ever be using the program, so the computer people using the program will know how to talk to the program, so they don't bother to make the program react nicely when someone who isn't a computer person tries to talk to the program.

So there you have it. Computers are stupid, and are told what to do by committees of aliens.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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