Once upon a time there lived a young codeslinger. From the technological backwater of Tucson, he dreamed of coding challenges that would test his wits and determination. Coding challenges that make most coders cower in fear. Coding challenges that would make him a legend.
Tucson was not devoid of technology, but it was mostly technology that once was. The big gangs had pulled out long ago. The others were mostly lone codesligners; IDEs for hire. The important thing though, was none of them had time for a young upstart.
So, he packed his meager belongings and headed further West, the golden hills of California singing a siren song of wealth and challenges for anyone brave enough. He didn’t even bring his IDE (Integrated Development Environment), choosing instead to leave it behind for whomever should take up residence here next. Yes, he’d buy himself a set of shiny new IDEs when he arrived in San Francisco, the .COM capital of the world.
For years he lived his wildest dreams. The .COMs were all they said and more. The money flowed in plenty. Every town it seemed had its own, personal El Guapo. The one challenge they feared above all others. Then he showed up, IDEs blazing and their problems fell like Goliath to David’s pitiful stone.
Many times he was asked to stay and a few times he even tried. But in the end, he would again, pack his things and leave. You see, he never cared for their cause. He did not have the same motivation. He was not a mercenary in the usual sense, seeking only the money, but he did seek challenge every bit as greedily. The sedentary life of slow, but continuous progress simply did not suit him.
Every so often, he’d meet other codeslingers, maybe run in a gang for awhile. Most abide by the same code, so they were easy company, even if they disagreed on their weapons and tools of choice. One gang in particular came very close to being home for him. But the leader was just a bit too successful. Not so successful he’d built up an entire town looking to him for support; just successful enough to buy a bit of Internet of his own. Now he slings code just for fun and local charities.
It wasn’t all glory and rides into the sunset. There were hard times as well. When the .COMs turned into the .BOMBs the streets were filled with ruffians, wannabes and the just plain desperate. Our hero saw this, but it was mostly at a distance. His worked continued but dark clouds followed everywhere. It dampened and bled the soul.
Although he’d made it clear time and time again he cared nothing for their cause, it was not always possible to avoid their politics. In one particular town, the local businessman had hired a very large team of codeslingers, including our hero.
This businessman had decided the local codeslingers were worthless and lacked the skill needed for serious codeslinging on the scale he envisioned. While not the first time our hero and his fellow codeslingers had received a cool or lukewarm welcome, this town was downright hostile. The gang was good though. Filled with great talent. At first, the local hostility was given no more attention than gnats or horseflies. Over time however, the pointlessness of it became bothersome. Eventually, lines were drawn in the sand and they found themselves defending something they fundamentally didn’t care about, other than the fact promises and commitments had been made.
When it came time to deploy to the final site and begin testing, he should have been elated, his goal so close at hand. Instead, like Johnny Dangerously, each day he crossed the street to work dodging a clown show of bullets and taunts. Heart and soul weary, he pushed on until one day, he was delivered a message, literally from above.
The project you see, had started with so much hope. “Automation,” a passion of his, was the goal. The town had a unique problem. Its business was surplus. Each year they would sweep up the leftovers from last year’s fashions at bargain prices. They would then turn and sell them at highly discounted, yet profitable prices. However, because there was no way to even guess at the volume of product available each year it was difficult to prepare in advance. Sometimes, they would literally lose product for generations, only to rediscover it buried in their warehouses years and years later.
This new system would eliminate that. Everything would be tagged, scanned and tracked throughout the entire process. Not only would the town know precisely how much of what they had, they would know exactly where it was at all times. For him, this was the project of a lifetime; the one he had been waiting for.
The petty politics however, had long since soured it. With these thoughts sniping at his soul, he made the quarter mile walk from the front door to the codeslingers room inside. That’s when the message came, straight from above. A shirt, still wrapped, fell and landed right in front of him. Looking up, he saw he stood just below a ninety degree turn in a high speed conveyor system. As he watched, another bin careened around the bend and disappeared deep into the warehouse. Before it did though, he noticed the bin had no lid on it.
He stood baffled, wondering why anyone would put a ninety degree bend in a high speed conveyor and then put a bin with no lid on it. Looking down at the shirt that had just conquered friction, only to be defeated by gravity, he realized this shirt had just disappeared from his system. When someone went where the system told them it would be, they would not find it. In fact, the only person other than himself who would know where this shirt went was the zamboni guy driving around cleaning the floors.
What he should have done, would have done, was pick up this shirt, storm into the engineers’ office and demand to know what chowder-head allowed this to happen. He should have. Once upon a time, he would have. Hearing for the first time, the fluttering of his ragged soul in the wind, he knew the challenge alone was no longer enough. In fact, victory was not even enough. He needed a cause he could believe in.
Looking up, he stepped over the shirt, hoping it at least fit the zamboni guy…