Microserfs. By Douglas Coupland
Note: There are many sections of text in this book that may look like nonsense or garbage if you haven’t read the hard copy. They’re original text. Some of these are supposed to be a computer’s “subconscious files”; in some instances Finereader broke them into blocks and read them in the wrong order, and I let them be. Figured it was only fair.
I have only omitted the instances where Coupland does something like fill two entire pages with nothing but the word ‘machine.’
Early Fall, 1993
This morning, just after 11:00, Michael locked himself in his office and he won’t come out.
Bill (Bill!) sent Michael this totally wicked flame-mail from hell on the e-mail system-and he just wailed on a chunk of code Michael had written. Using the Bloom County-cartoons-taped-on-the-door index, Michael is certainly the most sensitive coder in Building Seven-not the type to take criticism easily. Exactly why Bill would choose Michael of all people to wail on is confusing.
We figured it must have been a random quality check to keep the troops in line. Bill’s so smart.
Bill is wise.
Bill is kind.
Bill is benevolent.
Bill, Be My Friend. . . Please!
Actually, nobody on our floor has ever been flamed by Bill personally. The episode was tinged with glamour and we were somewhat jealous. I tried to tell Michael this, but he was crushed.
Shortly before lunch he stood like a lump outside my office. His skin was pale like rising bread dough, and his Toppy’s cut was dripping sweat,
Leaving little damp marks on the oyster-gray-with-plum highlights of the Microsoft carpeting. He handed me a printout of Bill’s memo and then gallumphed into his office, where he’s been burrowed ever since.
He won’t answer his phone, respond
to e-mail, or open his door. On his doorknob he placed a “Do Not Disturb” thingy stolen from the Boston Radisson during last year’s Macworld Expo. Todd and I walked out onto the side lawn to try to peek in his window, but his Venetian blinds were closed and a gardener with a leaf blower chased us away with a spray of grass clippings.
They mow the lawn every ten minutes at Microsoft. It looks like green Lego pads.
Finally, at about 2:30 a. m., Todd and I got concerned about Michael’s not eating, so we drove to the 24-hour Safeway in Bellevue. We went shopping for “flat” foods to slip underneath Michael’s door.
The Safeway was completely empty save for us and a few other Microsoft people just like us-hair-trigger geeks in pursuit of just the right snack. Because of all the rich nerds living around here, Redmond and Bellevue are very “on-demand” neighborhoods. Nerds get what they want when they want it, and they go psycho if it’s not immediately available. Nerds overfocus. I guess that’s the problem. But it’s precisely this ability to narrow-focus that makes them so good at code writing: one line at a time, one line in a strand of millions.
When we returned to Building Seven at 3:00 a. m., there were still a few people grinding away. Our group is scheduled to ship product (RTM: Release to Manufacturing) in just eleven days (Top Secret: We’ll never make it).
Michael’s office lights were on, but once again, when we knocked, he wouldn’t answer his door. We heard his keyboard chatter, so we figured he was still alive. The situation really begged a discussion of Turing logic – could we have discerned that the entity behind the door was indeed even human?