Monday, 10 August 2009

The day she popped the ultimate question...

A typical lazy evening. Aided by a glass of red, I sat at the desk tweaking my fantasy football team. What could be better? My wife sat on the bed, looking at property on the laptop. Click, that's nice, click, like what they've done there, click, look at those curtains, click, what kind of human being would paint a room that colour?

"So," she said, looking up from the bed. "How do computers work?" Find a man emersed in all things football and knock him off his perch. Not an easy question either. Mo, a software developer, was momentarily at a loss. What he needed was a cloak of anonymity.

My wife's lack of computing understanding has always amused me. Note, she's far smarter than me, far better at doing life, far more aware, far more eloquent. But she simply uses computers, to her the computer is one of life's great imponderables. As long as they work she is happy. I, on the other hand, am a computer geek. After working in my current job for close to six years, and five years of marriage, my wife confesses to know very little about what I do. (As an MI5 operative that suits me fine). He works in IT, she'll tell her friends, something to do with finance.

Roused from fantasy football bliss, I struggled impotently to answer the question, deciding to keep things simple. "Think of it in terms of layers," I said, "a bit like an onion. Putting it very simply, at the core is the hardware. The memory, which stores data and instructions, the processor, which executes the instructions and all the input and output devices. The operating system sits on top of all this, so you don't need to worry about ones, zeros, data and instructions. You just use it."

Suspecting that her interest was waning I cut to the chase, leading on to my own career. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to fill her in. "In the olden days coding was a cryptic kettle of fish, you had to understand nonsense like machine code that looks like someone was just having a laugh. These days writing code is very different."

I pulled my soap box out of my pocket, blew off the dust and climbed onto it. "Modern languages have evolved to be extremely clean and legible, shielding us from boring stuff like memory and whatnot. Integrated development environments make it a lot more fun. Clean code written to high standards and following best practices is actually very understandable. You could look at some of my code and know exactly what it is doing."

"Right," she said, "come and look at this house."

64 comments:

Mr. Condescending said...

Mo I actually checked to see your post at 630am but I was too sleepy to comprehend yet.

I know the same situation you're in! All my ex girlfriends would never understand any detail of my work.
I wonder if your wife will now tell people you program onions and stuff.

otherworldlyone said...

I'll bet she tuned you out as soon as you said "onion". Should have related it to decorating, or chocolate, or sex. Somehow.

♥ Braja said...

Well, what the hell else would she say? Is there something you think is missing?

Oh, I know what it is....

The link.

Cora said...

Yep. I don't understand computers either. Nor cars. But as long as they work, I'm happy.

:-)

ellen abbott said...

I was following right along until you switched to a foreign language. Could you repeat that in English please?

Comedy Goddess said...

That's great!
Now could you please explain the need for a Fantasy Football Team?

jpooh said...

It's like this: the computer itself, the hardware, is like the foundation of your house. Software is like the electricity and plumbing (all the "working bits") and the OS is like the house itself - what binds it all together. None of them is worth a damn without the rest.

As for coding environments, I could go off on a tangent about THAT all day. Is your code well-structured and commented, Mo?

Mr London Street said...

I bet the characters in Microserfs never had this problem.

Call Me Cate said...

Sounds like a lot of discussions at our house. If I'm having trouble sleeping, I ask him to explain the current mortgage crisis.

blueviolet said...

Yep, you lost me right about the same time you lost your wife.

You were good up to that point though.

I had to come over because The Rambler mentioned ya. :)

Sassy Britches said...

And now for the most important question: what did you think of the house, then?

Ananda girl said...

That woman is brilliant!

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I'm like your wife (and do spend time looking at real estate for fun), while my hubs is less techie than even I am. He still asks me to load photos into his facebook profile.

ladytruth said...

The beautiful thing about it all was that she actually allowed you to finish speaking! When it comes to technology, we don't really care how it works as long as it works :)

Eric said...

Did she even let you start addressing pointers, linked lists, and btrees? Or how Intel flips the bytes where other architectures are left to right oriented as you would expect?
I'll bet you didn't get a chance to cover stack vs. heap differences either.

Andrea's Sweet Life said...

Ooooh, I like how she operates!

And I admit, Mo, my eyes started to glaze over there for a minute. Sorry.

So, did you like the house?

Captain Dumbass said...

Ya, I'm more in the 'it should just work' category. How's your dream team doing, though?

Gwen said...

101110101 00101 1111001.

What did I just say? Is it dirty?

Simon said...

The thing I most loved was your mixed metaphors – I think ‘In the olden days coding was a cryptic kettle of fish…’ was my favourite.

Soda and Candy said...

I ask my husband questions like that all the time with complete faith that he'll have the answer, regardless of whether it's his field or not.

C.B. Jones said...

It's almost at the point that asking how computers work is like asking why men are so infatuated with breasts.

It shouldn't have to be explained.

JennyMac said...

I thought the onion analogy was quite smart. However, mentioning "code" and offering to show some was verbal Ambien. LOL.

Stacie's Madness said...

roflmao.
I like her. :D

Michel said...

And I STILL don't understand computers! You lost me at "onion" or it might even have been at "colour."

diane said...

Do fantasy football teams wear bikinis or thongs?
I don't remember much else about what you were talking about, I woke up in my own drool on the desk.

Princess Andy said...

yeah, you kind of lost me at the onion thing-y 'cause then i started to imagine caramelized onions.

sorry.

i'll try to read it again and replace the food analogy using dog poo.

andy

rubbish said...

Hope you've got Eduardo in your team, he's going to score shitloads this season.

Valerie said...

lol- well, she should of known better than to ask. It's like asking my fiance an engineering questions. I only really wanted to know about 60% of what he ever tells me.

Hit 40 said...

Ladytruth had an interesting comment. Are you glad that she let you finish talking? I usually cut my husband off if has lost me or if it was not the question that I asked. He gets sex when ever he wants it...

so its all good.

Matthew said...

My wife does exactly the same thing. We even do open house inspections of places we can't afford and have no intention of buying.

Altidore. Average striker, below average teams. Goal ratio...should be okay. Probably cheap, too.

The Jules said...

10 print "what?"
20 goto 10

run

bernthis said...

You lost me right after onion. sorry. OH and did you like the house?

Ms. Salti said...

I'm with your wife.. better not to understand it all.

chris hale said...

My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81. I remember the good old days when one could spend two hours inputting a program from 'Sinclair User' magazine, only to fail because the magazine had missed out a comma or somesuch!

I'm afraid I, too, am only a user, but would dearly love to have a deeper understanding of the machinations of my little box!

cactus petunia said...

Personally, prefer the "they're just magical" explanation. Kinda like Fantasy Football.

Harmony said...

Upon reading your onion analogy (because I am 10) I thought "Ogres are like onions". They have layers too you know? Perhaps Parfaits would have held her interest..not everybody likes onions.

Harmony said...

Oh...and to keep up with the theme, I know nothing about computers. Except when they are broken..I know when that happens.

Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) said...

What really cracks me up is I completely understood what you were saying. The roles are reversed in our house - hubby will want to know how the computer works, and if I dust off my soapbox and try to explain it to him, he gets a glazed look in his eyes. But the same goes when he's talking from his Electronics Engineering standpoint, so we're even. ;)

Courtney said...

Um...what?

Amy said...

I'm with your wife. I still can hardly fathom how telephone wires work, or fax machines.

Tennyson ee Hemingway said...

I actually feel about 10% smarter now. Thanks

Girl Interrupted said...

I thought that was a rather good analogy Mo!

I would've used a chocolate eclair, myself.

Gaston Studio said...

Definitely not a geek here, but I think comparing it to an onion was simply brilliant... but then you lost her with the followup explanation of exactly how the onion thing works.

MI5 operative, good one.

Audra said...

Its just the way it is with us women folk. Someone asks what my husband does and I tell them Uh...something with computers. He used to get impossibly pissed off when I would say computer repair person. So now I say Um computers..networks...servers. Uh he fixes computers.

Bev said...

Ha! I had to giggle at "better at life." My husband says that to me all the time, too.

And I also have no idea how computers work. Huh.

Slyde said...

whenever someone asks me about computers because they think i know everything about them, i usually just make a smartass joke and play it off.

LiLu said...

This sounds like my life of conversation with my software engineer of a father.

When I started blogging and got interested in web design, I'm pretty sure he wept tears of joy.

Travis Erwin said...

When you say fantasy football I'm guessing you mean what we call soccer here in the US. Nevertheless I play fantasy football based on the NFL and I'm married so I can totally relate.

A Mom on Spin said...

Hate to say it. . .but I'm 100% with your wife. . .

I just use 'em. . .

Samsmama said...

You got to the onion and I started thinking about Shrek.

I have absolutely no clue what my husband does for a living. And when he talks to me about it, I go to my happy place.

the mama bird diaries said...

i totally get your wife.

the girl with the pink teacup said...

I have to say that I secretly feel a deep abiding sympathy with your wife's plight. Technology baffles me immensely, and frustrates me in ways that nothing else can. But I'm glad there are wonderful people out there like your good self who can comprehend these mysteries, and - most importantly - fix stuff when it doesn't work and when turning it off, then on again, gives no joy.

Lola Lakely said...

Now I can't get the image of biting into an onion out of my head. I don't know why I am biting into the onion but that might have to do with the anger I feel at my piece of crap laptop.

Kat said...

My husband was working out his fantasy American Football draft this morning. Gotta love some fantasy sport.

Just tell her they are magic next time. It works when my kids don't understand.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

I truly don't understand thing one about the area of law my husband does (patent), but I find the dry-erase board in his office filled with Good Will Hunting-esque notations oddly erotic anyway.

Nikki said...

It was a retorical question Mo sheesh. We never really wanna know how things work. Unless ur talking about something truly interesting like how to make a cake. I always listen when someone mentions cake. Cake is always interesting and there are so many different kinds you could get lost in conversation for hours! Um like I just did.

g said...

Oh my husband and I understand the details of one another's work - almost too much! We often have to call a time out, so we don't bore one another with details about budgets and spreadsheets and job searches.

Jeanne said...

I've worked with some excellent developers over the years, reading their code is like reading a novel.

Mine, on the other hand, is like reading a novel that was blown up and then pasted back together by a 3-year-old....

Soda and Candy said...

Mo, you've been memed.

: )

p-huong said...

I refuse to believe that a computer is like an onion.

I read an article about this one researcher who claims by the year 2000-somthing that he and his group can create an artificial brain programed by a shit load of computers. The article gave a water-downed explanation, but I still don't get it.

Alan Burnett said...

Came here via a recommendation from vodkamom. I must thank her for the recommendation. Great blog

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

I totally completely utterly 100% grasp and comprehend her lack of knowledge about the mechanics of computer operation.

As long as it works, I'm fine.

And when it doesn't, you get a new one and you're fine again.

The Rambler said...

Dude...you lost me. My brain doesn't compute computer like you :)

You sound like my husband when he tries to tell me about computers. I really try. It's not my fault my brain wanders when he starts talking rams and speed of whatever and how many gigs of memory. IDK.

So was the house nice? :)

Mr. Condescending said...

Don't leave us hangin mo, I'm waitin for monday!

As I have quite a few new readers since I became a "Jelly Biter" I've put this up here again. To understand the context you must read this post!