Author’s note: I began writing columns for IEEE Micro in April of 1995. This is the 100th column. To mark this milestone this column offers a parody of James Thurber’s 1939 story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” In the original story Thurber described Mitty’s shopping trip with his wife in Waterbury, Connecticut. What would be a typical day for a Mitty-like programmer in today’s Silicon Valley? Would he find a more hospitable or inhospitable set of rhythms and economic archetypes?
“We’re going through.” The commander’s voice was like thin ice breaking. He wore a full dress uniform, with a patch rakishly pulled over one eye. His loyal puppy stood at his side, staring into the horizon.
“We can’t make it,” said Lieutenant Berg with a foreboding tone. “There is a hurricane coming, if you ask me.”
“I’m not asking you, Lieutenant Berg,” said the Commander, who began pushing on the power dials on the complicated dash. The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. The crew bent to their various tasks in the huge Navy cruiser…
“Not so fast! You’re driving too fast!” said Katie. “What are you driving so fast for?”
“Hmmm?” said Wally. He looked at his supervisor, in the seat beside him, with shocked astonishment. She seemed unfamiliar, like a strange woman who yelled at him in a crowd.
“I don’t like it when you crash a virtual vehicle.”
“You know I don’t do it on purpose.”
Katie rolled her eyes. Wally drove on in silence for a few moments longer, his attention caught by a rendered ripple on the water.
Wally Madhavani made the boat stop in front of a shack on an uncompleted dock, so Berg could disembark. Suddenly Lieutenant Berg’s face turned red, and he fainted to the ground. He froze where he lay.
“Oh, now look what you did.” Katie could not hide her exacerbation. “The captain’s aide cannot transition between surfaces without his magic overshoes.”
“He shouldn’t need magic overshoes to get off a boat.” pleaded Wally. He stared at the screen, unsure why the boat’s energy force stopped Berg.
“We have been through all that.” Katie rose from her seat abruptly. “I have to go to a hair appointment. I will be back tomorrow. Just fix the beta. And remember: we have to figure out how to throw a bone to that dog.”
She began walking out of the room, muttering to herself. “Programmers! Always ad-libbing. They major in CS, but they think it means ‘creative scripting.’”
MBAs are so damn cocky, thought Wally Madhavani, as he got up from his seat, stretching. Just follow the script. Just fix this and don’t ad-lib. Our start-up was doing fine without them, but, nooooooo, the VCs wanted “adult supervision.” They promised a den mother, but we got a shrew. If not for the stock options I would’ve quit by now.
He opened the door to the street and headed toward University Avenue.