He was afraid of the dark. We all are. It’s not the darkness we are afraid of; rather it’s the thought of what lurks behind that darkness which scares, even though we know nothing scary really exists. He knew that, but the dark screen gave him an eerie feeling. He had been working non-stop for the last 18 hours. The fatigue showed as he dragged his heavy eyes across the laptop computer screen. He had developed a program and was now doing an integration testing of the modules. All the complex modules had worked correct but the first simplest program he was testing was failing.
Computers are an interesting creation. He always liked comparing the computer and the human brain. If the human brain is considered the pinnacle of God’s creation, then the computer is a pinnacle of the human creation. They can never go wrong. An automobile with a computer at its heart can go wrong but not the computer itself. The parts which make up a computer can go wrong but not the computer itself. But still the computer was just a terminal. It could do nothing on its own. It needed a program to run it. It was the program in it that made it look intelligent. Without the program it is nothing more than a light bulb.
“Check the code; review the database queries” the words of his friend echoed in his mind. He liked history and zoology but had got into computers by chance. It was through his friends he had learnt the programming languages and was where he was today. But again, today was different. The simplest module which added 2 numbers was giving incorrect results. It was as if the computer was trying to play a game. He decided to run the tests one last time before digging into the code. He pressed 1 as the first input and 2 as the second. The screen displayed “Result = 4” much to his dismay. He pressed 2 as first input and again 2 as second input. The display was “Result = 4”. It seemed to trick him. He pressed 5 as the first input and 7 as the second. The screen displayed “Result = 4”. He was unable to understand. Maybe the computer was alive. Maybe it was trying to con him. Maybe the screen was about to explode in his face. The very thought of the screen exploding in his face sent a chill down his spine. He dismissed the thought and tried to focus on the problem. The test results didn’t seem to help. There was some problem and the only way was to get into the code. He glanced at his watch and it showed 2:46 AM. He was trying hard to keep his eyes open and focus on the problem. He decided to quickly scan the logic and clicked the open source code button. The screen suddenly went complete black. He did not understand what had happened. He clicked some buttons but nothing happened. He tried to restart his computer but nothing seemed to respond. It now became clear. The computer was alive and really playing a trick on him. Something strongly told him to get away from his computer before it exploded in his face. He immediately got off the chair and moved away from the computer. The dark screen seemed to have started the countdown for the explosion and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He dashed into his bedroom. The cool air in the bedroom eased him a bit. He put his head on the pillow and that was the last thing he remembered.
Daylight was pouring through the window as he slowly opened his eyes. The faint hiss of the cool air flowing through the AC vents was the only sound. He lay on the bed and began to think of the previous night. He was trying to solve the problem when the computer had suddenly gone blank. He got out of the bed and walked into the living room to his computer. The open laptop computer lay there unexploded. In the daylight the computer appeared nothing more than a dumb machine. The battery had died and the power cable was off the socket. He fixed the power cable and started the computer. He opened the source code and scanned down to the “Add” logic. The first 2 lines were to read the first and the second input respectively. The third line was “Print Result = 4”.
“The computer can never go wrong” the words of his friend echoed in his mind.
~Narendra V Joshi