When good computers go bad....or Dave vs HAL

May 23 2009

Working in the information technology industry is a lifestyle that brings great rewards along with intense frustration and head-slapping incredulity.

Computers have allowed man to travel to the most distant parts of the observable universe.  They are also the machines that...

  • Refuse to open a file due to "corruption"
  • Will stop playing a movie 2 thirds through it
  • Will no longer print to a long-time reliable printer
  • Blue-screen when you're doing a WebEx demo for an important deal (the worst)
  • Drop all connections to your trusted network
  • Randomly put squares all over your screen and then freeze

Indeed, it seems that the mighty computer is both an ally as well as a fickle enemy.  A device so cunningly aware of the times that you need it most, that its electronic synapses serve you a cold dish of callous defiance at precisely the most inconvenient time - as if on cue.

A calculating master of impeccable bad-timing.

It's the story of Dave and HAL

Poor Dave. 

  • He didn’t want to print...
  • He didn’t want to even watch a movie...

...all he wanted was the pod bay doors to open (hear it) - it was important to him.

Poor Dave!??

Poor HAL! – he’s the one that ultimately paid.  Being unplugged, de-commissioned and reduced to a slurring, nursery-rhyming (hear it) shadow of his former digital brilliance.  Was this any way for a computer of the flawless 9000 series to shutdown!?

Ruthlessly, HAL got what he deserved.  HAL was not longer living up to expectations, and no longer delivering his once cutting edge performance and computational subservience.  The humans wins.

And therein lies the all too familiar IT merry-go-round.

You buy a computer...
     ...it serves you well for a time...
          ...before it degrades and starts to fail...
               ... and you then have to de-commission it...

Just like Dave.

You know how the process goes.  You plug in your USB external disk drive and proceed to work through absolutely every folder on your c:\ drive looking for files that may or may not be useful to you.  After a triple-check of every folder, you click the start button to end, and watch for the last time as your computer winds down.  A bittersweet experience.

...just like Dave and HAL.
It happens.  Good computers go bad (or at least become obsolete).  And thus dawns a new day on the IT horizon, and another trip to the Dell website.  Another computer gone, another node in the CMDB down.  Another CI gone forever.

In memory of HAL...and all of the computers of PRD Software that are sitting "out the back"

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