Taking my job more seriously


Durga puja

I generally take my work very seriously. However, the following from SICP was still my favorite quote

"I think that it’s extraordinarily important that we in computer science keep fun in computing. When it started out, it was an awful lot of fun. Of course, the paying customers got shafted every now and then, and after a while we began to take their complaints seriously. We began to feel as if we really were responsible for the successful, error-free perfect use of these machines. I don’t think we are. I think we’re responsible for stretching them, setting them off in new directions, and keeping fun in the house. I hope the field of computer science never loses its sense of fun. Above all, I hope we don’t become missionaries. Don’t feel as if you’re Bible salesmen. The world has too many of those already. What you know about computing other people will learn. Don’t feel as if the key to successful computing is only in your hands. What’s in your hands, I think and hope, is intelligence: the ability to see the machine as more than when you were first led up to it, that you can make it more.

However, couple of days back I was lying in a cold room with a doctor probing my Thyroid gland with ultrasound beams. She went on explaining the details of the tumor that I had, pointing to the screen. In my mind I was thinking about folks who have to code for these things and how careful they need to be.

The first thing I did when I came out of the room is search for whether .NET Compact Framework gets used for these kinds of equipment. Of the hundreds of pages I hit the one titled "Control System for Lung Ventilation Equipment with Windows CE , Microsoft .Net Compact Framework and Visual Studio Team System" struck me. Mostly because it had two products I personally coded for (NETCF and VSTS). There were even more life saving equipment listed on the search page.

It was a very humbling experience. I made a little vow, I’ll be more careful when I code from tomorrow.

Comments (3)

  1. Norman Diamond says:

    What an impressive way to learn to take your job seriously.  Thank you for posting this story.

    Now, although you probably (probably) didn’t work on lots of other components of Windows CE, here’s something you might want to look into.  Suppose an input device is connected to that lung ventilation equipment and the input simulates a combination of Ctrl+Alt+Del or Ctrl+Shift+Esc.  Someone could suffocate.  Please teach your colleagues to take their jobs seriously.

    Keep the sense of fun, tell jokes, play games, but keep these separate from the product.

  2. hch says:

    Norman:  that makes no sense.  There’s no ctrl-alt-del notion in windows ce.  On top of that, when you build your own ce device you compile the OS yourself including any and all source code.  Even if the same scenario happened on XP/Vista it would merely log the computer and have no effect on the running software.

  3. Norman Diamond says:

    "There’s no ctrl-alt-del notion in windows ce."

    You mean there’s no defined functionality for Ctrl+Alt+Del in Windows CE.  Unintended functionality has included hanging the system.  If Windows CE is used in lung ventilation equipment it sure does need some examination to make sure it’s not going to hang itself and suffocate the patient.

    When I first saw it (not on medical equipment fortunately), the tester had not intended to simulate input of Ctrl+Alt+Del.  The tester only reported that our program made the machine hang.  It took a while to figure out that the tester’s operations had turned into a Ctrl+Alt+Del and that had hanged the system.