Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Enterprise - 52

Tom was showing me how to do more code. He didn’t have to, but he did. We’d spend a few hours over by his desk. I’d watch as he typed into his command window, that black, forbidding realm once so far out of reach. Abbreviations instead of words. Sometimes just letters. C. P. It was cold, that’s for sure. I came from the comforting world of elaborate exposition, of explanation. Words, words, words. Words when you really didn’t need them. A reality insulated by language. But here was a reality stripped down close to its core, distilled to basic syntax. Symbols. The prompt.

What was weirder was that even this language was a compromise, an accommodation of human needs. There were levels to it. When you’re done writing code, Tom said, a compiler took it and turned it into machine language. The language machines understand. Therefore, the language humans don’t. I got the sense of us tossing our vain and sweaty efforts across some kind of screen, or through a looking glass, beyond which something took place that was essentially mysterious and may or may not suit our needs.

If the compiler didn’t like what it saw it choked on the code and threw up all kinds of warnings and errors, messages of reproach from the other side.

Life at work proceeded in this manner, a few hours at Tom’s desk, the rest of the day at mine; writing little scripts for the Product, trying things, failing, trying again a different way, failing a different way. Of course I didn’t realize how good I had it at the time. Life was still full of aggravations great and small. Mostly small.

We’d grown tired again of our lunchtime options. By now we were going to the closest deli, to minimize exposure to the cold. It was an excruciatingly generic place: the hot food bar, the cold; the rows and rows of protein bars, the gourmet chips; sun streaming through the smudgy storefront window to illuminate the floating dust.

I was in the habit of buying the Italian hero. And it wasn’t bad.