|>>|| No. 6291
She pointed at the beige hardware. "How come this old shit is always that same color?"
His forehead creased. "There are two theories. One is that it was to help people in the workplace be more comfortable with radically new technologies that would eventually result in the mutation or extinction of the workplace. Hence the almost universal choice, by the manufacturers, of a shade of plastic most often encountered in downscale condoms." He smirked at Chevette.
"Yeah? What's two?"
"That the people who were designing the stuff were unconsciously terrified of their own product, and in order not to scare themselves, kept it looking as unexciting as possible. Literally 'plain vanilla,' you follow me?"
Chevette brought her finger close to the microbot; it did a funny little fall-back-and-shuffle to avoid being touched. "So who's into this old stuff? Collectors?"
"You'd think so, wouldn't you?"
"I don't get it," Chevette said.
"Consider," he said, holding out his hand to let the little 'bot offer him the driver, "that when this stuff was new, when they were writing multi-million-line software, the unspoken assumption was that in twenty years that software would have been completely replaced by some better, more evolved version." He took the driver and gestured with it toward the hardware on the shelves. "But the manufacturers were surprised to discover that there was this perverse but powerful resistance to spending tens of millions of dollars to replace existing software, let alone hardware, plus retraining possibly thousands of employees. Follow me?" He raised the driver, sighting down its shaft at her.
"Okay," Chevette said.
"So when you need the stuff to do new things, or to do old things better, do you write new stuff, from the ground up, or do you patch the old stuff?"
"Patch the old?"
"You got it. Overlay new routines. As the machines got faster, it didn't matter if a routine went through three hundred steps when it could actually be done in three steps. It all happens in a fraction of a second anyway, so who cares?"
"Okay," Chevette said, "so who does care?"
"Smart cookies," he said and scratched his soul patch with the tip of the driver. "Because they understand that all that really happens, these days, is that ancient software is continually encrusted with overlays, to the point where it's literally impossible for any one programmer to fully understand how any given solution is arrived at."
"I still don't see why this stuff would be any help."
"Well, actually," he said, "you're right." He winked at her. "You got it, girl. But the fact remains that there are some very smart people who like to have this stuff around, maybe just to remind themselves where it all comes from and how, really, all any of us do, these days, is just fixes. Nothing new under the sun, you know?"