Pithy Sayings


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On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.
[A cartoon by Peter Steiner in New Yorker, 1993]

But even in their quieter modes, denizens of the Web seem to lug around huge egos and deeply questionable assumptions about how interesting they and their lives might be to others. ... At 7:47 am on Monday, for example, Lynda was going to get a glass of cold water. This raises more questions than it answers. Did she get it? Was it cold enough? Tragically, we'll never know ...
[From the article "Like I Care" by Michael Kinsley in The Washington Post, November 28, 2006]

Heroin, in moderation, is not a problem. The problem with heroin (apart from the constipation) is that it is addictive. The way to find out whether you are addicted is to stop; if you cannot stop then you have become addicted. Smartphones are also addictive.
[Martin Leese, 1954 to ?]

Hypnosis might be therapeutic so long as you trust your hypnotist, but who would trust a hypnotist who is working for unknown third parties? Who? Apparently billions of people.
[From Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier, 2018]

Revolution doesn't happen when society adopts new technologies—it happens when society adopts new behaviors.
[From Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky, 2008]

Any experiment of any importance will always have people who want it to fail. Only the systems that have defenses against such users can thrive; the assumption that those users won't appear is an inadequate defense.
[From Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky, 2008]

But, in fact, it is often the case that when things get really hairy, you want an experienced human being in control.
[From The Case for Working with Your Hands by Matthew Crawford, 2009]

The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers.
[Richard W Hamming, 1915 to 1997]

From the beginning Black's lines had included such much-longed-for-by-customers products as computers with long battery power and fault-free software, machines that were your partners, not just a gadget for extracting money from you, not just an ad for some superior future version of themselves. Machines that seemed mature.
[From The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, 2013]

The day Microsoft makes something that doesn't suck, is probably the day they start making vacuum cleaners.
[Ernst Jan Plugge]

I was walking around in the Word group one time, and they had this couch behind these guys....I said, "Well, what's that?" And they said, "That's the mail-merge couch. Whenever we get a mail-merge call we know it's a thirty-minute call, so a guy takes it and just walks over and lays on the couch, and talks the user through it."
[Mike Maples, quoted in Microsoft Secrets by Michael A Cusumano and Richard W Selby, 1995]

IBM: Weak as a Kitten, Dumb as a Sack of Hammers.
[From Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, 1995]

All software is bug-free, assuming sufficiently clever definitions of "feature" and "expected behaviour".
[Steve Rehrauer]

The ease with which computer code can be written, modified, and deleted belies the durability of the underlying artifact. Because software is a tangible record, not only of the intentions of the original designer, but of the social, technological, and organization context in which it was developed, it cannot be easily modified.
[From The Computer Boys Take Over by Nathan Ensmenger, 2010]

The hardest part of building a software system is deciding precisely what to build. ... No other part of the work so cripples the resulting system if done wrong. No other part is more difficult to rectify later.
[From "No Silver Bullet" by Fred Brooks in IEEE Computer, Volume 20, number 4 (1987), page 18]

A user interface isn't done until there's nothing left to remove.
[Will Wright, 1960 to ?, designer of SimCity, SimAnt, and The Sims]

Learning programming is a matter of first making every possible mistake, so the faster you make your mistakes the faster you're learning.
[From Software Engineering and Computer Games by Rudy von Bitter Rucker, 2003]

Network management is like nailing jello to the wall.
[Original author unknown]

Paul Evans' Laws on System Administration
1. If users are made to understand that the system administrator's job is to make the computers run, and not to make users happy, they can, in fact, be made happy most of the time.
2. If users are allowed to believe that the system administrator's job is to make users happy, they can, in fact, never be made happy. Furthermore, in their quest for happiness, they will cause enough resources to be diverted to trying to make them happy that the computers will no longer run.

Being a systems administrator is like being a plumber. If you do your job right, nobody knows. If you screw up, everyone gets covered in shit.
[Original author unknown]

Arthur ... reached out and pressed an invitingly large red button on a nearby panel. The panel lit up with the words Please do not press this button again.
[From The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, 1979]

SCSI is not magic. There are fundamental technical reasons why it is necessary to sacrifice a young goat to your SCSI chain now and then.
[John Woods, 1960 to ?]

If we don't want a robot uprising, maybe we shouldn't be making a robot slave class.
[A J Peralta, quoted in We, Robot by Mark Stephen Meadows, 2011]

Of course, one can always imagine a Doomsday Computer that is malevolent, universally empowered, always on, and tamperproof. The way to deal with this threat is straightforward: Don't build one.
[From "Tech Prophecy and the Underappreciated Causal Power of Ideas" by Steven Pinker, in Possible Minds edited by John Brockman, 2019]

One of their most learned professors of hypothetics wrote an extraordinary book ... proving that the machines were ultimately destined to supplant the race of man, and to become instinct with a vitality as different from, and superior to, that of animals, as animal to vegetable life.
[From Erewhon, by Samuel Butler, new and revised edition, 1901]

I went into a pub the other day where I heard this parrot say: "Pieces-of-seven, pieces-of-seven!" I turned to the landlord and said: "He's got it wrong: it's ‘pieces-of-eight’, isn't it?" The landlord said: "Don't worry; it's only a parity error!" – Andrew Ainger BSc CEng FIET
[From Engineering & Technology, July 2012, page 114]

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