Last night, I dreamed about computer performance.
For part of the time that I worked at one company, I was in their
'performance' group. I was supposed to make the computer run as quickly
as possible. The faster the computer ran, the more work that it did
per minute, which meant they were able to charge the customer more per
minute, which meant more profit to the company.
I never really felt that I was good at it. I understood the general
idea, but somehow I never was able to translate the idea into practical
For example, I knew that when you press enter on your keyboard (to do
something at an ATM, say, or to make a move in a computer game, or to
write an email), the computer had to start a program which would do what
you wanted. Doing what you wanted at the ATM might mean telling the
bank to transfer money from one account to another, or making a move in a
computer game might mean taking the character on the screen and moving
it two inches, or writing an email might mean taking the text that you
had written and sending it to someone else. Each of those actions
would have smaller steps that had to happen - for example, telling the
bank to transfer money from one account to another would mean confirming
your identity, then reading a file to find out what your bank account
information was, then determining if you had enough money so that it
could be transferred, and so on. Each of those steps breaks down
further. The fewer of those steps that you can do, and the faster that
you can do the ones that you need to do, the faster the computer can do
work - it ran faster.
I dreamt that I was still working at that company, and someone asked me
to set it up so that he could keep track of how often a specific problem
occurred. I knew we used a specific form for that. I looked for the
form, but we had no more. A coworker told me that I would have to print
more, but when I went to print them, the printer had controls that I
did not understand, so that after four hours, I had wasted a lot of
paper and still did not have what that guy needed. About that time, he
saw me and asked what I was doing. When I told him, he expressed
astonishment, saying, but I didn't want the paper form? Why would I want that? Its just a waste of paper. And
in thirty seconds he told the computer to start keeping track of what
he wanted to know, and to alert him when it became a problem. Done.
I was stunned. I have to remember this, I thought. Someone else might want to be able to do that. And then ten minutes later, I tried to remember what he had done.... and I could not.
I'm a smart guy, but I don't think that I was an effectual guy. And up to today, the difference never occurred to me.
At least, I don't think so.