Homicide

“HAL proceeds to kill the crew of the spacecraft, as science fiction computers are wont to do, until the last remaining astronaut, David Bowman, debugs the computer into submission by physically removing HAL’s modules from service, one by one…. As every programmer knows, real computers do attempt to kill you, only more slowly and less dramatically than their science fiction brethren. A recent software development project reacquainted me with this characteristic when, like Bowman, I faced my own homicidal HAL.”

That’s veteran PragPub author James Bonang, introducing his delightful article in the next issue of PragPub, in which “the unexpected discovery of a venerable artifact leads Jim to examine tools and techniques that can help you eliminate memory errors in C++ code.”

It’s a wide-ranging and deep-digging article, which touches on Tutankhamen’s tomb, the HAL-9000 computer, an old issue of Dr. Dobb’s Journal extracted from the garage, life expectancy in the Middle Ages, failure prediction for Hubble gyroscopes, and the art of finding memory leaks in C++ code.

In the May PragPub, coming out on Wednesday, May 3.

Author: Michael Swaine

Michael Swaine is a writer and editor. He helped launch the first personal computer newsweekly, InfoWorld. He co-authored Fire in the Valley, the seminal tech history book on which the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley was based. He was editor-in-chief of Dr. Dobb’s Journal and has written for and edited several other magazines. His latest creation is PragPub for The Pragmatic Programmers. He and his partner Nancy Groth own Summer Jo’s, an organic farm, restaurant, and bakery in Grants Pass, Oregon.