The Trials of the Computer Imp

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There is considerable misunderstanding of how a computer does its work, and sometimes impatience during the "boot" process following switch-on. This note is intended to clear up some of these misunderstandings, and to evoke some sympathy for the poor imp responsible.

It is of course well known that there is a little imp who lives inside the computer and does all the work. When you demand that a calculation be carried out, the imp has to read your instructions from keyboard or mouse, carry out the calculations and paint the answers on the screen, as well as, when necessary, rubbing out whatever was on the screen previously. The imp does all this work with incredible speed and accuracy, so it is hardly surprising that he needs a rest at the end of the day, when you switch off the machine.

When you switch on again next morning, the electricity is used to give the poor imp an electric shock (= boot up the pants) to wake him up! Since he generally works by clockwork, he has to spend the first minute or so winding himself up so as to be able to keep going all day without further interruption. Of course, he has to do this with only one hand, while he eats his breakfast with the other.

These days many computers have Windows which seem to be made of particularly fragile glass that shatters occasionally without warning or provocation. The imp is especially sensitive to this, and the shock causes his spring to unwind suddenly, so he has to go through the winding up process again, referred to as a "reboot" because even though the imp is already awake he is suffering from shock and possibly concussion and so needs a kick to get him going.

His life is made even more difficult in some computers using "communications", because he is frequently interrupted in the middle of difficult calculations or a complex painting job to answer the phone when the imp in another computer rings him up, usually to demand information from a file buried deep in his filing system, difficult to find and covered in dust and cobwebs when he does find it. Have you ever considered how difficult it must be for him to keep the Windows and the screen clean with all that dust flying about?

If you doubt the truth of this, just take a look inside the box of a computer that's been in use for a few months, and you'll see how dusty it gets in there. Don't expect to see the imp, though. They're very shy, and always hide in the bathroom if someone peeps in the box. Yes, of course there's a bathroom. It's the grey square metal box in one corner, usually upstairs like in most houses. Don't be tempted to open it, because the imp will retaliate by giving you an electric shock if you do. How would you like to have a stranger walking in when you're in the bathroom?

That reminds me of another problem imps have to put up with. Did you know that when manufacturers make a new computer box, they don't put in a floor or any furniture! Fortunately, every imp inherits from his mother a board that he calls his mother's board, and it is just right to use as a floor to put his furniture on. Yes, of course he has furniture. It's not much, but what did you think all those little boxes and other bits fixed to the floor were?

So next time you have problems with your computer, show a little compassion for the poor imp who is doing his best in difficult circumstances.

Copyright © E.J. Fisher 2004

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