zondag, september 19, 2010

Dreamed a Dream

The other night, I had a terrible nightmare. The bell rang. Two international software gurus stood at the doorstep (no wait, it gets even scarier than that). They asked me if I wanted to be a jury member. The thing was, they told me, everybody felt that it was high time for a new breakthrough in programming languages. Years and years the same, there was a clear lack of pezaz in the industry. So somebody had launched the idea of a talent competition, in the style of American Idol, the X Factor and Britain‘s Got Talent, in which programming languages had the chance to present themselves. It sounded good to me and I had nothing much better to do anyway. I cancelled the few boardroom meetings I had that day and went along with the software gurus. At the studio, I found that Paula Abdul was a jury member as well. To me, this was just another confirmation of the incredible, multiple talents this lady has.

We endured waves and waves of auditions. There were many cool dudes and dudettes with low-hanging jeans, tattoos and in general a surfing look & feel. We saw Python, PHP and the very hip duo Ruby and Rails. Also, there was the 12-year old teenage star Go: despite her age and lack of experience already in the priceless possession of an arrogant attitude. Smart beats, excellent copy work, but a bit empty: we saw many like that passing by.

Then, a grumpy guy entered the stage. He looked at us contemptuously from behind his glasses, as if he felt that it was nonsense having to do this audition. Sighing, he unpacked an impressive number of instruments. He started to set up his gear. Lots of stuff had to be tuned, configured and connected. A complex task, that much was clear. Every now and then, we got a disdainful look. We were amateurs, and he wanted us to realise this. After 15 minutes, still no note was produced. The jury president was already sound asleep but suddenly woke up and sounded the horn. Time was up. Java shrugged his shoulders, like he couldn’t care less. He left the podium, shaking his head.

Later on, an almost similar incident happened with C#. Never mind that.

A lot of improvising was going on. There were the cousins Visual Basic, ASP and Javascript, each with quite frivolous acts. Talent they had, I will admit that. Also, they had a very good feeling for what pleased the crowd. If necessary, they would completely change their performance half way, if that gave more applause. Without hesitation, Javascript jumped in the arms of miss Abdul to deliver a crazy trumpet solo. She had to giggle (which I thought was very charming). All sorts of things went wrong during the performances and nothing much seemed to be rehearsed. But the audience wrecked the place and there were some standing ovations.

Then there were the 4GL exotics. Inconceivable inventors that seemed to have spent years at home – in complete isolation – to create their act. And many local programming contests they had won indeed with their powerful, generating tools. But everybody was performing in his own, self-invented language that nobody else understood. “Nice for in the country side” miss Abdul mumbled “but this just won’t cut it in the big city”. Well, she ought to know.

We saw many other auditions. There was this arty girl from the Bay Area named Flash who delivered a stunning, avant-garde performance in a very fancy dress. But rumour had it that the biggest music publisher in the world had stopped supporting her. And there was the magic mystery act of Apex. Claiming that all her instruments were ‘high in the sky’ she somehow managed to produce the sound of a full band with nothing on stage. Several people in the audience suspected fraud and demanded disqualification.

Just before the end, an older man with greyish hair came on the podium. Muffled chuckling could be heard. The jury member asked him what he did for a living. “I am an assistant clerk for already 45 years” he declared proudly. Somebody in the audience burst out in hysterical, uncontrolled laughter. Then Cobol started to sing: a complex, beautiful aria, delivered slowly but surely in the most flawless way. Impressive, although some people openly doubted the ‘X factor’ of this amiable gentleman.

Now it was time to judge. It was a mess and I will not bother you with the details. In the end, it was a tie and I had to make the final decision. There was shouting from everywhere. I was sweating all over. "Don't worry" miss Abdul whispered in my ear “nobody is watching this nonsense anyway”.

I woke up, screaming. The bell rang. Two international software gurus stood at the doorstep. A recursive dream. All I needed.

This week published on Capgemini's CTO blog

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