Friday, April 20, 2007

"The Pacifist" (short story): Tale of a naughty computer

This comedy is about a computer that rebelled. Or was made to. Or may be the programmer rebelled.

This is primarily the story of the dynamics of a software development team, with a Dilbertian flavor. But you should be able to connect with the story if you work in any kind of project team.

There are portions that are dated - like programming a computer by also tinkering with its circuits, or by adding static data to a piece of software by installing physical memory banks & loading them from a tape. But this story is from 1950s. Modern views of software were not yet in. And none of this comes in the way.

Story summary (spoiler).
A team is enlisted to build a piece of software for military operations. Team includes some very talented engineers.

Twist is in the form of a clueless, Pointy-type, manager who has got the position because of extra-curricular skills. And learns some very embarrassing lessons in managing highly technical staff.

Fact sheet
The Pacifist, short story, review
Author: Arthur C Clarke
First published: 1956
Rating: B

The story appears in the following collections.

  1. "Tales from the White Hart"
  2. "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke"
  3. "Across the Sea of Stars"

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