Fabulous Adventures In Coding
Eric Lippert is a principal developer on the C# compiler team. Learn more about Eric.
It's hard to believe it but it's true: I've been at this for an entire year. How the time has flown. In honour of my first blogoversary, today I bring you a story that has absolutely nothing to do with anything. I promised a while back that I’d tell you all the story of The Postmodern Gumballs and today's the day. Names have been changed to silly code names to protect the innocent. (All silly code names were approved by the people thus encoded.)
One day, long ago – let’s see, it must have been the summer term of 1992 – I bicycled in to school as usual. Except this time I stopped at the bulk food store in Highland Hills mall along the way and bought a big bag of sour gumballs. But these were not ordinary sour gumballs. They were incredibly awful-tasting sour gumballs. But these were not just incredibly awful-tasting sour gumballs. They were stale incredibly awful-tasting sour gumballs. Moreover, though they began excruciatingly sour, the flavour all drained out of them in about two minutes, leaving the chewer with a mouth full of bland, stale-tasting rubber and an intense craving for more.
I arrived way early for class. This was a small class, only eight students. I think it was 1B advanced algebra or calculus or some such thing. So I’m sitting there, popping awful gumball after awful gumball, when in walks Mr. Thingo. "Thingo!" says I, "Would you like some gum? These gumballs are not only bad-tasting and excruciatingly sour, but they’re stale to boot and highly addictive. Have a few."
"Sure, why not?" answered Thingo.
A few minutes later, The Singular Orbifold showed up. Thingo and I pounced. "Orbifold! Have some gumballs! They’re bad-tasting and exceedingly stale, and you’ll end up with a wad of disgusting rubbery goo in your mouth that you don’t dare swallow yet cannot spit out. Want some?"
"Sure!" said Orbifold, though to be frank, he looked slightly dubious.
A few minutes later, The Essential Singularity walked in. We three cornered her, chewing furiously.
"Ingrid, I mean, Essential Singularity! Would you like some sour gumballs? They’re stale and bad tasting!"
"No!" said The Essential Singularity. "Of course not!"
"But all your friends are doing it."
"Oh. Well, OK then."
And we all miserably chewed great grey gobs of disgusting gum for the next fifty minutes.
I’m salivating just thinking about it.
You see of course what the philosophical importance was. The four of us had discarded objectivity, rejected opinions of conventional authority and disdained those universally held ideological absolutes so incorrectly described as "truths". We broke down our hitherto established standards, categories, distinctions and boundaries. At least, we did all that insofar as gumball quality was concerned; we chewed The Postmodern Gumballs.