Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Sci-Fi Allegory about a Country

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In January of 2311 AD, XVAC, the greatest mainframe (or so it was believed) had started to print nonsense. Crucial tasks were being postponed, and the motherboard was getting overheated with the processing of random, meaningless data which was just flowing back and forth in the buses.

A crack team of engineers was called in to diagnose and fix the situation.

After more than twenty days of investigation, this was the summary of their lengthy technical report:


REPORT XXIV, Final Summary, by NCG Systems INC.
  • As we all know, XVAC is an approximation of a formal system and runs compiled programs written in XLANG
  • Unfortunately, XLANG has 23,000 logic errors in its specification.  A program written in XLANG will work after thousands of patches and non-formal fixes, and then too only occasionally.
  • We are amazed that the system has lasted so long.  It should have failed long ago, but since the system load was only 20% till last year, we understand why only now we are facing a crisis.
  • In fact, not only the language is badly specified, the compiler XCOMP is a vestige from a much older system (CVAC).  It was written to compile code with human support, and to compile only two programs in one year.
  • The printer has no accounting, hence it has been used to print private jobs of power users for so long.  Since there is a priority system, unprivileged print jobs never even start.  Even when the program wants to print something meaningful, the printer prints gibberish because its ribbons have become frayed and its heads worn out.
  • The memory of system is being taken over by the ADWORD program.
Here are our recommendations:
  1. Respecify XLANG so that programs written in it are coherent.
  2. XCOMP, the compiler, needs to be rewritten from scratch given the new conditions.  
  3. The time sharing environment in which the binaries run needs to have clear policies so that frivolous users cannot overload the system.
  4. The printer needs to be replaced and print accounting instituted.  The printer must not have any priority system.  It should print on a first-come-first-served basis.
  5. The ADWORD program should only be run at night when the usage is minimal.

For the perplexed:

XVAC: The government of India
XLANG: The constitution and the IPC
XCOMP: The judiciary
CVAC: Colonial times
The printer: The Police
ADWORD: The media

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