“Close to the Machine” – Ellen Ullman

by poolik

I’ve managed to stay in a perpetual state of learning only by maintaining what i think of as a posture of ignorant humility. This humility is as mandatory as arrogance. Knowing an IBM mainframe – knowing as you would a person, with all its good qualities and deficiencies, knowledge gained in years of slow anxious probing – is no use at all when you sit down for thw first time in front of a UNIX machine. It is sobering to be a senior programmer and not know how to log on.

There is only one way to deal with this humiliation: bow your head, let go of the idea that you know anything and ask politely of this new machine, “How do you wish to be operated?”. If you accept your ignorance, if you really admit to yourself that everything you know is now useless, the new machine will be good to you and tell you: here is how to operate me.