The Millions

To Your Left Is Coding, to Your Right Is Safety: Programming Stories

1.
The logic of novice programming goes something like this:

Run function (x, y)

If x is greater than y:

Do this

Else if y is greater than x:

Do that

Else:

Something else happens.

I quickly learned that computers don’t like choice, and they don’t like the unexpected. If you fail to anticipate every scenario or condition—say, that x and y might be the same number—it will shout at you and stop working. If you tell the computer that x is A and y is 6 it will shout at you and stop working. As a bad novice programmer, I know this from experience. Treat the computer like someone you don’t trust to turn off the lights and lock the door without careful instructions. Be that micromanager who tells his employee what font to use and how to stack the coffee cups. Forget all you’ve heard about AI and machine learning and algorithms. Novice programming is a bit like running army drills. First do this, then that. Then loop back and do it again.

I have a humanities brain, or at least it’s trained that way. I told myself I was a bad programmer could not resist a touch of Victorian sentiment. The marriage was not simply a logical consequence of the death of the first Mrs. Rochester. First this, then that.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Millions

The Millions7 min read
Storytelling Should Never Be Confused with Sociology: The Millions Interviews John Domini
John Domini’s new novel concludes his trilogy set in Naples after a fictional earthquake, engrossing readers in a gripping mystery. The post Storytelling Should Never Be Confused with Sociology: The Millions Interviews John Domini appeared first on T
The Millions5 min read
October Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)
André Aciman. Zadie Smith. Ben Lerner. Saeed Jones. Jeanette Winterson. It's October and brand new books are dropping like beautiful fall leaves. The post October Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month) appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions3 min read
We’re in a Rough Place in History Right Now: The Millions Interviews Carmen Maria Machado
The award-winning author of ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ on writing fiction for today, the tyranny of genre, and reading outside of our comfort zones. The post We’re in a Rough Place in History Right Now: The Millions Interviews Carmen Maria Machado