Binary

“Why am I not one with the machine?”

Exay had been working for four hours straight when he had become exasperated and said those words. Bart had been working quietly (or at least attempting too) alongside him in the comfortably lit drawing room till his friend’s passionate outburst (as close to a passionate outburst as you could expect from Exay) had diverted his attention. He didn’t live with Exay and his roommates but was there most of the times anyways.

“You say that a lot, but you’ve never bothered to explain what you mean.”

“It will take a long time to explain.”

“We’ve been working for quite a while now. A break wouldn’t do us any harm. Maybe you can explain it while we send some packages.”

While Exay prepared the packages to be sent, he began talking “A lot of people don’t really know how to code. I mean they know how to code but they don’t really know why they are doing what they doing. I don’t profess to knowing everything, or even a little of how much I would like to. But since the past few years I’ve wondered if at a, let’s call it the binary level, coding is nothing but as abstract a subject or topic as philosophy.”

Bart wondered if he knew anybody else who would use the word profess so casually in a conversation. Regardless, he didn’t want to interrupt Exay so he allowed him to continue.

“Do you know what a shell is with regards to computing?”

Bart did but very vaguely. So he took the easy way out and said that he didn’t because he knew that regardless of his answer, Exay would nevertheless explain what a shell was.

“A shell is how you interact with your machine. Or, to be more precise, the machine’s operating system. At the core of an operating system is its kernel. It’s like the engine of a car. As such, it is the first thing loaded during the startup, and then it manages everything else. To make your operating system do anything, you need to interact with the kernel, and the shell is what facilitates that interaction, usually through some line commands or a graphic user interface.”

Bart was glad that he hadn’t said that he knew what a shell was. He had just heard it mentioned a couple of times and had gauged by context what it roughly was, but he basically didn’t know anything else about it.

“Ah I get it. So can you change or modify the shell? I assume changing how you interact with the kernel could open up a lot of possibilities.”

“Exactly. So a lot of the people who code and want to improve their workflow work very closely with the shell they use and modify it quite a lot. Most people don’t use a graphical user interface and modifying the shell and setting it up to your liking makes your workflow much smoother.

But there is another thing that should be considered. When you modify the shell, you’re coding at a slightly deeper level. You’re interacting directly with the operating system and you can change it pretty dramatically. In a way, it almost feels that you’re molding the machine into how you want it to be. But there is a limit to it. There are some fundamental things about the shell that you cannot change. Usually it doesn’t bother me too much but I’m currently working on a project where I wish I could just be one with the machine, it would make my life so much easier.”

“That makes sense. For a while I was afraid you were going to ramble about how the machines are going to take over and if you can’t beat them , join them” Bart replied.

“Oh the machines are definitely going to take over. It’s just a matter of time.”

 

Bart came back from the bathroom and he noticed something was odd in the living room. It took him a while to realize that Exay wasn’t there. He was hungry and wanted to ask Exay if he wanted something to eat too. He called out his name and checked the other room’s, but couldn’t find Exay. He tried calling his phone. It was ringing, but he could hear it ringing from somewhere within the sofa cushions, so it meant Exay hadn’t taken it with him. That’s when he noticed that his laptop was still on.

It just had a single line on the screen, everything else was black. Bart couldn’t read it from where he was standing, but he felt paralyzed, not wanting it to read what he thought it would.

No, Exay couldn’t have done it.

He moved slowly towards the laptop. Eventually he was close enough to read what was written on the screen.

It said “Please restart your computer to finish the upgrade.”

 

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