Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Power Surge

Fray arrived at his cubicle at BS Enterprises and turned on his computer. As he did so he spotted Sanchez already hard at work.

"Good morning Sanchez," he said.

"Morning Fray," Sanchez replied without looking up, "R. wants to see you immediately."

“What about?” Fray asked.

“The statistics report. It seems that there's a problem. You’d better get up there."

R.’s secretary wasn’t in and his door was closed. Fray knocked. “Enter,” said the voice from within.

“Morning R.," Fray greeted him, "you wanted to see me.”

R. was hanging up the phone. R. was thin to the point of being emaciated. His voice was high-pitched and had a nagging quality to it. “The statistics aren't right again. What is the matter with you? Can't you get anything right? Are you that useless? When you were hired you said you were a programmer. Well, get out and go program. And don't come back until the stats are right!” He waved his hand in dismissal.

Fray went back to his office dejectedly and took stock of his lot. R. wanted a program that would make the sales figures look good which no software package on earth could do. No package could do it because R. didn't sell. He was a lazy jerk and covered it up by berating everyone around him and pointing fingers. Fray needed to get out. It was time to fax despair. As Fray was thinking these things a brownout occurred. The lights flickered and it seemed to be a relatively innocuous brownout, but it sucked Fray into the CD-ROM drive of his computer. He didn't emerge somewhere in the hardware, but instead found himself displaced among the myriad software on his hard disk.

He cursed his sloppy file maintenance habits, as he had no immediate idea of where he was. His hard disk resembled a labyrinth, with sub-directories piled upon each other haphazardly and files stored in places they had no right to be. Also, being a furtive creature by nature, many of his files were either hidden or encrypted which didn't help matters at all. Luckily, he knew several computer languages and hoped that this would help him navigate his way up to the root directory. Once there, his plan was to wait patiently until another power surge, which were fairly common in the area, hopefully reversed the process and spit him back out into his office.

At the moment, judging by his surroundings, he seemed to be in the middle of some source code. As he strolled through the code he noticed several minor bugs in his program and jotted them down for future correction. Maybe this wasn't so bad after all. At least he got a different perspective on his programs and now realized why the statistics he had been giving R. for the past six months could be questioned.

When he got out armed with this new knowledge he would give R. a piece of his mind. Then, when R. fired him he would go out on his own and write a new debugging tool which would incorporate this revolutionary low-lying view. He would incorporate Virtual Reality into the debugging process so programmers could actually see inside their programs as he was doing now. Once he had the tool developed he would create a site where people could download the tool for a fee. As more developers hit his site to download the tool and word of mouth spread about its effectiveness he would charge more and more. He would award himself some very price-friendly stock options and then he would launch one of those astounding Internet IPOs, get rich and retire at 30. Visions of limousines, fancy dinners, fine wines and beautiful women danced in front of his eyes. Most of all though, he couldn't wait to see R. have a coronary when Fray told him what he thought of him. First he had to get out though.

Suddenly, he was violently upended, and sent tumbling around in an action similar to that of the spin cycle of his washing machine. Someone apparently was using his machine and he had been unfortunate enough to find himself unsecured as the hard disk thrashed. Eventually, the user stopped whatever they were doing and he picked himself up, battered and bruised, from the top of a left parenthesis. He hurriedly escaped from the program and ran smack into his anti-virus software. All those syringes pointed menacingly at him made him nervous. The software didn't recognize him. It probably thought he was a virus so he turned tail and ran, desperately looking for his explorer. He hoped that by following its path algorithm he would be able to navigate the maze he had created and find his way back up to the root. After many false starts and wrong turns he eventually did just that and came face to face with some hidden system files. He sat on top of the directory to await the next power spike, which usually hit around mid-morning.

A few minutes later, through the computer's speaker, he heard his office door open and a conversation ensue between two of his co-workers. What he heard struck terror in his heart.

"Well, we're almost done. Fray's is the last one. I don't know why he insisted on not upgrading to this Uninterruptable Power Supply before. Something about cost I guess. You know how Fray pinches pennies. Most of those surge suppressers he had weren't worth a damn anyway. The UPS is the only way to go," said the first voice.

A second voice replied, "Yeah, no problem now though. Once we hook this baby up it won't matter if the whole city blacks out. I did the research on this beast and it's guaranteed to run for six hours with this deluxe battery backup."

"What about power surges? Does the UPS really protect the machine that much against them?" asked the first.

"Oh definitely. Surges are a thing of the past," the second voice came back. "This model can withstand the worst spike the power company ever throws at us. Fray will never have to worry again. I wonder where he is. I can't wait to tell him the good news."

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