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To quote Arthur C. Clarke:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Used to be I looked on technology with wonder and amazement. I wanted to take it apart, understand how it worked, figure it all out. Technology was magical. I'm older, I know more and I spend my days creating stuff that, hopefully, fills other people with that kind of wonder. But lately I've found my own awe for technology has been seriously curtailed. More often I'm just annoyed that it isn't as elegant or seamless or as polished or perfectly delivered as it seemed to be in my youth. It all looks broken and awkward, or cobbled together and poorly tested.

Has programming ruined your ability to enjoy technology? Have you stopped wondering in awe and just started saying, "They could have done this better" every time you pick up a bit of technology?

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you are not alone. +1 –  Reigel Sep 22 '10 at 1:15
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When I know that the only thing between me and the behaviour that I want from my device is a little special case somewhere in the code... which I can't edit... it just drives me nuts. So yes. Definitely. –  romkyns Mar 30 at 12:32

11 Answers 11

up vote 36 down vote accepted

It has ruined my ability to enjoy technology in fiction.

I can suspend my disbelief whilst the hero of the [book / film / drama] can withstand numerous karate kicks, fire an infinite number of bullets, leap across a 50ft gap between two buildings, fall from a great height onto a pile of conveniently stacked boxes etc.

What makes me shout at the screen in disbelief is when the hero then steps up to a computer, and:

  • performs a search with some application that has more apparent power than google.
  • hacks into a supposedly secure system with a few key presses and a wink.
  • copies the entire hard disk to a memory stick in a matter of seconds with a convenient "% complete" window (which just happens to work with the operating system of the computer he's copying)
  • does anything that involves zooming an image from a CCTV camera to get a high resolution print out of the suspects face. AAAARHG!!!!
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CSI Miami ARRRRG –  Matt Ellen Sep 22 '10 at 8:56
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"I'll just create a VB-GUI to track the killer's IP address and we can go pick him up!" - If I could vote up more than once, I would. –  Jasarien Sep 22 '10 at 11:34
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Actually, I once watched a show where camera zoom lens was a plot element. So the tech guy is explaining what that thing does and he takes live input from a camera and zooms and zooms and zooms and in the end, you only see few black and white pixels. And then he explains why the zoom lens was needed. –  AndrejaKo Sep 22 '10 at 12:30
    
Amen to this one. Has any movie ever presented computer technology well? Hmm...that's another question! –  Ian C. Sep 22 '10 at 14:33
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+1 And when they receive an email in films the message "YOU GOT MAIL" is prompted in full screen :) –  Jonas Sep 27 '10 at 21:57

I still enjoy technology as a programmer, but some small things like counting bullets in a gun on a show/movie (always seem to have infinite bullets) and little things like that distract me. I also notice bugs in programs and video games very fast and my friends don't know what I'm talking about (which makes me laugh). {And my use of parentheses\braces in normal posting\emails, lol.}

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I wouldn't be a programmer if I didn't enjoy technology in the first place. So no. Technology changes very, very fast. There's always more new things to enjoy.

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I’m less excited by mediocre technology now.

But I think I’m more impressed by and excited about the great stuff, because I know how hard it is to make great stuff.

And I’m excited that I can be involved in making great stuff — that’s a much more lasting and fulfilling kind of excitement than the thrill of something new and shiny when I was young.

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You read my mind! No need to post my own answer ;) –  Joel J. Adamson Sep 22 '10 at 16:28
    
@Joel: aw! Thank you. –  Paul D. Waite Oct 20 '10 at 12:40

Maybe it has.

But there is hope in the next generation. My youngest really likes to take things apart and create new machines with the parts he took. Reminds me of me, way back.

I still like wondering how things work. I resolve to mind experiments and sometimes, when the screws are to tight, I gladly help him, taking things apart.

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When I started programming most "normal" people though of computers as essentially magic, and I routinely had to try to explain how they were really fairly normal devices, subject to the same physical laws and limitations as anything else. Although it would have been a fair amount of work, I knew I could design a build a CPU if I really wanted to -- and while I never build an entire CPU, I did design and build enough pieces of logic complex enough to have a solid understanding of what that would take, not just a theoretical speculation that I had to be possible.

Now, most people think of computers as quite normal. A while back as I was eating supper, two waiters at the restaurant discussing choices of laptops -- and doing so in an informed, intelligent fashion. At the same time, I look at processors with operating frequencies well into the microwave region, with multiple independent cores, each containing multiple, independent execution units, doing speculative, out-of-order execution, branch prediction, register renaming, caching, etc. -- and now I'm the one who's convinced that they're barely short of magic.

If anything, I think knowing about programming makes technology even more fascinating and enjoyable.

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Keep Sturgeon's (second) Law in mind: “Ninety percent of everything is crud”. When one studies how the sausage is made, one loses one's taste for sausage. But one also gets a deeper appreciation for the other 10% of everything that isn't crud. (I can't really keep the sausage metaphor going—perhaps because I haven't actually studied how it's made.) And one can wonder at and be inspired by the 1% of everything that is truly great.

I wouldn't have my rich respect and admiration for the inspired achievements in programming if I didn't program for a living.

I love listening to writers talk about other writers they admire. As they learn the craft, I'm sure it's easy to be disillusioned at all the cruddy writing out there. But most (if not all) great writers are avid readers—and find joy in the works of those they respect and are inspired by.

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+1, I was about to post something very like this. –  MAK Sep 22 '10 at 13:41
    
Sounds like I need to avoid crud a little more often. –  Ian C. Sep 22 '10 at 14:35

It didn't ruin my love for technology. I just complain more now because I know how the magic in programming works already. Also, it's not like programming is the only field in Technology. The magic never ends.

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Programming has no more ruined my ability to enjoy technology than knowing biology has ruined my ability to enjoy a flower.

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Given I actually was a Bio major during my undergrad years and concentrated in botany, I can dig that statement! –  MIA Sep 22 '10 at 4:48
    
+1. Personally, knowing how something works only adds to the appeal. –  Chinmay Kanchi Sep 22 '10 at 13:34
    
Yeah: I'm a biologist who spends most of his time programming. I'm enjoying both still. –  Joel J. Adamson Sep 22 '10 at 16:27

Almost every time I have picked up a program I saw a bug, future feature, or improvement. Most of the time I actually think (theoretically) how it would be done. And most of the time I'll file a bug report or post in the forum if the software company actually tries to get feedback from its customers.

I wouldn't say that its ruined my ability to enjoy things though. Gaming is still fun, most programs are still fun, and even most websites are still fun to visit; all regardless of the bugs that I notice. Most anyway are small, things that would escape testing, or they are huge UI improvements that a developer wouldn't of noticed since it makes sense to them.

I still like my technology.

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Nope. I just look to different fields to find the magic these days.

  • Exotic cars: who hasn't drooled over a veyron?
  • Medicine: I forget who, but someone recently synthesized a living cell(1). The physical technology wasn't amazing, but its application was.
  • The quantum computer created a few years back at D-Wave in Vancouver

Various others.

(1) The details of this are fuzzy, but I recall being thoroughly impressed with the work.

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2  
Not only did they synthesize a living cell, but they embedded its website address into its DNA! –  AndrejaKo Sep 22 '10 at 12:32
    
@AndrejaKo, linkage? –  CaffGeek Oct 1 '12 at 20:59
    
@CaffGeek Unfortunatley, I don't have a link right now. I think it was made by JCVI, so you can start digging there. –  AndrejaKo Oct 1 '12 at 22:59

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