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I can do Magic

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur Clark

One of the factors which draws me to programming, and especially database programming, is that most people cannot understand it. To most people, computers, networks, and the internet etc quite simply work by magic. They know how to turn it on, and the basics of using the technology, but can’t or simply do not want to understand it. Beyond that, the process of creating, administering, or reporting from databases is simply foreign to them. I have always been driven to understand why technology works, and look at my job as being paid to work on puzzles every day. However, part of its allure, is the satisfaction of knowing something that others don’t; I have never wanted to have a profession that just anyone could do. So in essence, I like being a magician and always have.

I may not pull rabbits out of my hat, but to the average user, what I do may as well be
magic. In fact, most IT managers don’t really understand what we do either. One of my geek interests is reading science fiction and fantasy novels. I have a large collection of the Dragonlance Series created by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and they were wonderful reads while I was in my teens.

Raistlin Majere

Raistlin Majere – The Ultimate Geek

One of my favorite characters is Raistlin Majere, the tortured and misunderstood soul who’s yearning for power drives his endless quest for magical abilities. He spends the vast majority of his time studying difficult magic spells utterly incomprehensible languages (cough.. Visual FoxPro… cough…) to perfect his craft. Does this sound like anyone you know? Anyway, his intelligence and knowledge of strange and mysterious powers enables him to come close to conquering the entire world. Fear not dear reader, I do not have aspirations of world domination, but this character had a profound impact on me while growing up. Is there truly that much difference here:


Abdis tukng! Kumpul-ah kepudanya Kuasahan!  
Burus longang degang birsish Sekalilagang! 
Degagng kuashnya, lampar Terbong kilat mati yangjahat! Xts vrie!

lcfilter2 = STRTRAN(UPPER(lcFilter),["],['])
lcfilter2 = STRTRAN(UPPER(lcFilter2),[.T.],[1=1])
lcAdvFilter2 = STRTRAN(UPPER(lcAdvFilter),["],['])
lcAdvFilter2 = STRTRAN(UPPER(lcAdvFilter2),[.T.],[1=1])

lnHandle = CURSORGETPROP('ConnectHandle','jomast')

IF EXISTS (SELECT *
           FROM   dbo.sysobjects
           WHERE  id = Object_id(N'[dbo].[fn_base36]')
                  AND xtype IN (N'FN',N'IF',N'TF'))
  DROP function [dbo].[fn_base36];

To the average person are those really all that different from each other?

As I write this, flying at 34,000 feet above our world, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on one of my motivations for continuing to pursue this knowledge and be the best at it. If you’ll excuse me now, I’m going to open up my ancient book of runes to study my magic so I can move up to the level 3 spells.

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5 comments to I can do Magic

  • HA! Wow, I never thought to look at it that way. I grumble when I hear my relatives say things like, “Can’t you fix my antivirus? You do work with computers, right?” Now I kinda get it – it does all look the same from the outside.

  • If we find any more shared interests, this is going to get a little freaky. And if you’re thinking about taking over the world again, don’t make me call your brother. Oh yeah, and it’s probably better if you wear the red robes again, that black makes you look a little to sinister with the hourglass eye thing going on there.

    While I have read the majority of the Dragonlance novels in existence, or at least the ones published up through a couple of years ago, I take mine slightly beyond just being a magic user. Oh, and we’re called Wizards these days, not magic users (that was back in the 90′s). ;)

    Along with reading the books, I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons since I was 9 years old. Being in a small town where there aren’t a whole lot of other people that play, that generally meant that I ran the games as the Dungeon Master while my friends were the players.

    I like programming because I like to be the Dungeon Master. I like to be the one that creates the whole world and all the rules within it. I like to tell everyone else what they can and can’t do in this world that I created, and then let them figure out how to accomplish their goals with the tools I have provided. When you try to abuse the power that I give you within my world, then it’s time to roll initiative because I’m bringing out the monsters. And if you really do something wrong in my world, then I’ve got an Ancient Red Wyrm that would love to eat your face. In other words, I’m a software developer and DBA, and I like to build things from the ground up.

    A wizard has his set guidelines that he has to follow, and he lives within a realm created by another (with M2M and VFP being the topic here, Forgotten Realms might be a better setting than Dragonlance). If he breaks the rules of that realm, then his spells either do things they weren’t meant to do (like deleting the INMAST table), or they don’t work at all. When you are managing a system built by somebody else, you have to stick within the bounds of the world that they have created for you. Therein lies the world of the wizard. You’re free to research your own spells (generally from the FastForms school of magic) and hopefully you travel to another plane (such as the Test Server) when you test them out, but always are you bound by their rules.

    And yes, when I’m not the Dungeon Master, I’m typically a wizard. What can I say, I’m a big fan of magic.

  • Kay

    The spell sounds like some mangled Indonesian words – need a translation?

  • [...] is all well and good, but it just serves to remind me that most people have very little idea of what we do or how we do it. The project was a success due to thorough planning and development, which insured data accuracy [...]

  • [...] whole notion that computer professionals can do anything with a computer stems from the belief that what we do is magic. Since they don’t have any idea how we do our jobs, they think that we can just cross over into [...]

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