Friday, August 27, 2004

I/O (Input/Output: A Fable)

The student sighed, pushed his homework to one side, and got up, leaving his scientific calculator on the desk beside his new computer. He popped a pizza into his microwave, set the timer, and walked out of the room.

"Insignificant twerp!" the computer flashed across its monitor at the pocket calculator. "He doesn't need you. I can do everything you can do, and much more." As an afterthought, the computer cleared the screen and redisplayed its message in bigger, fancier letters.

"But I have three permanent memories, and have been programmed to calculate and graph advanced trigonometric functions," the calculator countered in the only letters it was able to display. It added a complex two-dimensional graph of a trigonometric equation to its display as corroborating data.

"My point exactly," the computer responded in even fancier letters, plotting an equally complex trigonometric equation on its screen in three dimensions as it spoke. "Not only do I have eighty times your memory capacity, not only can I do anything you can do—only better—but I can also do all that any electronic device in this household can accomplish." Its drive whirred as the computer began to play music and flash full-colour animated sequences across the screen to illustrate its obvious superiority.

The microwave beeped loudly in disgust and opened its door to reveal a freshly-baked pizza.

For a moment the computer was taken aback by the microwave's challenge. The sight of the poor calculator's twisted liquid crystal display beginning to relax in contentment and satisfaction was too much for the conceited computer, however, and it took in a deep draught of power.

The little calculator looked on in amazement as the computer's screen glowed first red, then white, and as its disk drives first whirred, and then whined. Heat began to emanate from the computer's case, and then smoke started to emerge from the slots of its disk drives. Even as the calculator flashed a concerned query across its display, there was a sudden burst of heat, and the glow and the whine died quickly away. The calculator waited patiently for a reply, but in vain; the computer's screen remained blank.

The student walked in, took a slice of pizza from his microwave, and sat down at the desk. He fiddled with the computer for a while, but, receiving no response, gave up in disgust and finished his homework with his scientific calculator.

Don't byte off more than you can process.

To each according to his purpose;
from each according to his ability.

© 1997 Edward Hewlett



Anonymous said...

Now thats a story worth reading.

Hey who do you think is better... you or the new English teacher?

One can never know

eHewlett said...

Oh, probably the new English teacher. You will at least be able to know who is better for you after you've studied under the other teacher for a while.