Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Bug - Ellen Ullman

I finished off another book recently. It was The Bug by Ellen Ullman.

It was a good book. A compelling story, I finished it quickly. It's the story of a computer programmer named Ethan who is working on a software team delivering a large database system. Set in 1984, they are developing the now familiar windowing system for the first time.

In the story the system GUI suffers from a defect, a software flaw. This is a very vexing problem as it occurs quite sporadically and typically at inopportune times such as when a sales person is demoing to a potential major client.

The book is the story of Ethan's quest to find and fix the bug, which is apparently in Ethan's code. In the story Ethan's struggles to fix the problem UI-1017, aka Jester, coincide with major problems in his personal life. Also the startup company Teligentsia is struggling and going through chaotic periods as startups often do. As the weeks and months pass and the issue is unfixed and pressure steadily increases Ethan acts increasingly erratically.

As a software developer myself I could relate to this book. The author's portrayals of programmers are surprisingly accurate. It is a rare book that features programmers prominently so it was an enjoyable read. That said anyone who works with others in an office would enjoy this book. I recommend it.

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