Book Review: How to Build a Working Digital Computer

From: Ward D. Griffiths III <>
Date: Wed Mar 3 09:04:59 1999

On Wed, 3 Mar 1999, Doug wrote:

> I did a web search to see if I could find anybody who had built this
> paperclip computer. I didn't have much luck, but I found somebody who
> mentioned a song called "You Can Build a Mainframe from the Things You
> Have at Home." Has anybody heard this song? Anybody have the lyrics?

It's an old filksong, I know I've got it on a tape entitled "The
World's Funniest Computer Songs". When I get home tonight I'll see
about posting lyrics/order info. The tape has some dynamite stuff.
"Uncle Ernie's Used Computer Babbage's Birthday Bargain Bash" is
especially on-topic for this list.

Let's see, one of my favorites has a transcription of its lyrics
around somewhere, hang on, ...


Threes, revision 1.1
Lyrics by Duane Elms
Music by Leslie Fish

 Deep in engineering, down where mortals seldom go
 A manager and customer come looking for a show;
 They pass, amused, among us and they sign in on the log
 They've come to see our pony and they've come to see our dog.
      Three things to be wary of: A new kid in his prime,
      A man that knows the answers, and code that runs first time.
 Summoned from our cubicles, to conference room we go
 We bring our dog and pony, 'cause we know they'll want a show,
 Watching while we enter, with a shifty, restless eye
 The customer sits waiting in his pin-striped suit and tie.
      Three things never trust in: That's the vendor's final bill
      The promises your boss makes and the customer's good will.
 The pony kicks his heels up as the doggie does his trick,
 And hams it up with vigor as we lay it on real thick;
 The customer just watches as we do this song and dance
 Then reaches for his briefcase, only giving us a glance.
      Three things see no end: a loop with exit code done wrong,
      A semaphore untested, and the change that comes along.
 From briefcase then there comes a list of things we must revise;
 And all but four within the room are taken by surprise.
 And all but four are thinking of their last job with remorse,
 The customer, the manager, the doggie and the horse.
      Three things hold no secrets: files that somehow hit the net
      The boss's secretary, and the third thing ... I forget.
 First, twenty-one new features that we somehow must add in
 Then, thirty-seven changes show up, much to our chagrin;
 And this thing's just inadequate, and that thing's just plain wrong
 And, by the way, your schedule plan's about three months too long.
      Three things it is better far that only you should know:
      How much you're paid, the schedule pad, and what is just for show.
 The customer proceeds to go through each change, line by line
 Excruciating detail which no logic can divine;
 And when it ends, there's only four not sitting there agog
 The customer, the manager, the pony and the dog.
      Three things never anger: First, the one who runs your deck,
      The one who does the backup and the one who signs your check.
 Now we are contract software types who spend our days and nights
 Imbedded in the system, down with all the bits and bytes;
 And none but us can tell full well the damage done today,
 It's what they do not know for which they're gonna have to pay.
      Three things are most perilous: connectors that corrode
      Unproven algorithms and self-modifying code.
 The manager and customer are quick to leave this bunch
 They take the dog and pony, and they all go out to lunch;
 Now how will we avenge ourselves on those who raise our ire?
 Write code that self-destructs the day the warranties expire.
      Three things trust above all else: Your knowledge of your craft,
      That someone turns a profit, and that you will get the shaft.

Ward Griffiths
"the timid die just like the daring; and if you don't take the plunge then 
you'll just take the fall"                                Michael Longcor
Received on Wed Mar 03 1999 - 09:04:59 GMT

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