What engineering has done to me

There is little doubt that one’s career effects one’s personality. This is particularly true of pharmaceutical drug testers and stewardesses. I have chosen to be a Computer Engineer. If you are a cheerful, extroverted, people person, look elsewhere for like minded people. If you are searching for excessively practical, overly analytical people, look no further than Engineering. There was a time when normal things got me excited, like a home run or a really good fight scene in a movie. Now I get excited when 0’s and 1’s are in the right order, or when the number of items in a list is a power of 2. I used to count from 1 to 10, now I count from 0 to F. Normal people have scars from motorcycle accidents and fights, I have them from a soldering iron accident and the time I upgraded from a 14.4 modem to a 56k. I once had keys on my key chain. All told, my key chain now contains: 2 pairs of pliers, 2 knives, 2 nail files, 2 Philip’s head screwdrivers, 3 flat head screwdrivers, a bottle opener, a pair of tweezers, a wire stripper, 2 wire cutters, an LED flash light, a tape measure, and two keys. Only one of the keys opens a door, the other opens my mail box. Whereas a normal person has a desk cluttered with paper, pens, and stuff like that, I have one cluttered with microcontrollers, protoboards, integrated circuits, and jumper wires. The other day I woke up with a weird pain in my back. I reached around and discovered that there was a diode in my sheets. I later found another in my shoe. And one in my belly button. I lent my Wii to a friend and it came back without a sensor bar, so I built my own. I happened to have the parts lying around.

It is not isolated to just me. The Engineering illness strikes all who come in contact with it. One day, the teacher accused someone of comparing two entirely dissimilar things. “That is like comparing apples with…” he began before his tenuous grip on the English language forced him to stop to search for the end of the age old idiom. The class, quite used to such stoppages, helpfully supplied the answer. “PC’s”, we replied. All of us. He shook his head and corrected us. Oranges. A whole class sat confused for a moment. “I have never heard of an Orange… oh… the fruit.”

To give you an idea of the depth of the mental poisoning that Engineering causes, keep this in mind. Computer Engineering is a new science. It didn’t appear early enough to gain the dignity of its own lexicon. We use preexisting terms. Here is a short list of every day terms and what they mean to you, as opposed to what they mean to me.

You say… You mean… We hear…
Flipflop Beach Footwear Memory
Cash Money Memory
Bite What you are afraid the dog might do to you Memory
Bit What the dog just did to you Memory
Ram A male sheep Memory
Prom A formal Dance Memory
Latch How you keep your gate closed Memory
Word What you are reading Memory
Long Word Antidisestablishmentarianism Memory
Buffer What the janitor uses on the floor. Memory
HD A big fancy TV Memory
Page What you are reading this on Memory
Segment Part of a TV show Memory
Stack A pile of things Memory
Heap A pile of things Memory
Register Where cash is kept Memory
Meg The daughter from Family Guy Memory
Gig A job for a musician Memory
Core The leftovers from an apple Memory
FIFO The middle of a giant’s favorite saying. Memory
Floppy Your pet rabbit Memory
Nibble A small bite Memory

The list goes on. Sector, Track, Cluster? You name it, it is memory to us. Before long we begin to forget the real meaning these words have and stick with ours. You talk to someone who has been in the field long enough and you can confuse them with the most common of phrases.

Non Engineer: Hey, man, you coming to the party? Bring chips and dip.

Engineer: What to you mean? Most of the chips I have are DIP. Unless you meant DIP and SMD, but those might be kind of tricky to solder at a party. Are you using a Breadboard or a PCB? Hello? Hello?

Or how about this.

Non Engineer: Sorry I’m late. I was waiting for the bus.

Engineer: Yeah, bus latency can be a real issue sometimes. Have you considered DMA?

I’m not sure why the more you learn the stupider you seem to others. I guess it is some kind of balance of nature thing. Either that or all of the lead fumes I’ve inhaled while soldering. I say, “You’d have to be a pretty hardcore bit flipper to do a hexadecimal core dump to a nixie display.” People reply, “USE REAL WORDS.” Now that I’ve noticed my education induced brain damage, I am trying to correct it. For instance, I plan to no longer ask if anybody “needs anything” when I am ordering transistors. No normal human NEEDS transistors. And I am going to fight the urge to point out that in my earlier example it was foolish to suggest you could dump hex to a nixie tube display because most nixies don’t have alphanumerics, unless they were the fourteen segment style ones, but realistically… Alright, I’m off to a bad start. Oh well, I’ll try again tomorrow. I’ve got to go draw up designs for an audio combiner that no one asked for.

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About Decoychunk

Editor, Writer, and general Knower-Of-Words, if there is text to be read on BrainLazy, Joseph Lallo probably has his fingerprints on it. As the final third of the ownership and foundation of BrainLazy, Joseph “Jo” Lallo made a name for himself when he lost the “e” from his nickname in an arm wrestling match with a witch doctor. Residing in the arid lowlands of the American Southwest, Joseph Lallo is a small, herbivorous, rabbit-like creature with the horns of an antelope. He sleeps belly up, and his milk can be used for medicinal purposes. Joseph Lallo is also author of several books, including The Book of Deacon Series, book 1 of which is available for free here.