Software and Hardware

Charles Miller had an amusing blog entry about the hazards of computers. I am currently working with development of embedded systems software, so I spend a lot of my day plugging and unplugging PCI cards, comm ports, etc. My hands are covered with little scratches, cuts, and punctures.

Computer programming is supposed to be a cushy intellectual job, but it's amazing how much physical labor and torment programmers go through. RSI and sore backs are common. Electric shocks are common as well. We have to crawl around on floors to figure out which cable is connected to what. We've all over-strained ourselves carrying around big CRTs and servers. Many of us have had equipment racks fall on top of us. Incidents like these stress the importance of the first syllable of hardware.

I've heard that there are some programmers who never have to deal with hardware. The computer is off in some other room somewhere, and it is someone else's job to keep it running. Somebody else installs the device drivers, and configures the networks, and connects the keyboards and the monitors. I've always felt that these programmers are somewhat like the ivory-tower academics who never have to deal with the reality of computers. Without playing with the hardware, how can one really appreciate what the software does?

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