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Computer keyboard. Keys worn. On it lie the hands of Johnny Snakes. Working as a computer programmer for the past 7 years, he was well acquainted with his keyboard. Together they have completed over 32 previous projects. The keys knew that every morning, they’d feel Johnny’s fingers dance over them like a well choreographed ballet. Johnny had recently finished a project with over 34,000 lines of code and his trusty keyboard never failed him. Today was no different, Johnny knew he’d need to count on it again- he was being assigned another project.
“Good morning Johnny,” said Rusty, his boss.
“Good morning Mr. Bonestein,” Johnny replied while giving a friendly smile. “What will I be working on today?”
“Well,” Rusty paused and thought of how to word what he wanted to say. “Your project is unusual, Johnny,” he explained, “It is unlike any of your previous projects.”
“I’m up for a challenge, Mr. Bonestein,” Johnny firmly stated. In his head, however, he was contemplating whether or not he actually was. If he failed this project, he knew his career would be over.
“Are you sure, Johnny?” Rusty interrogated.
“Yes sir,” Johnny spoke in a weak voice, “I’m pretty sure I can-“
“Johnny,” Rusty interrupted, “I cannot have any doubt in you or this project.” Rusty walked closer to Johnny, who was sitting in his office chair. “Do you accept this project?”
“Yes,” Johnny abruptly said, almost yelling. He sat in his office chair while Mr. Bonestein placed the papers on his desk and walked out of his office. He glanced at the top of the manila folder containing the project’s details and saw the words TOP SECRET.
Johnny wasted no time. He opened the folder Rusty had placed on his desk. He saw the schematics of a missile, tons of pages of different specifications, and other documents which he would have to base his program off of. He found the page he was looking for which described the objective of his new project. As he read, sweat began to form on his hands and he felt butterflies in his stomach. He would have to build a program to guide a missile into a target within 1 inch of accuracy. He began thinking of different solutions for this problem and settled on one that he thought would be the fastest and most efficient. Johnny knew the next step after planning was to start implementing his ideas- which he also called “the hard part.”
Johnny booted up his computer and opened his integrated development environment, where he writes his code. He began by making a simple program that could calculate the distance to the target. In order to guide a missile, he had to think like a missile. He programmed feverishly for hours on end, finally coming up with the first iteration of his program. When Johnny tested his program in the debugger, which he uses to find errors in his program, he found that it was always off by a few feet. How could this be? Johnny had accounted for wind speed, target distance, rocket fuel remaining, and the weight of the missile itself, but the program didn’t lie. Johnny had made a mistake. He knew he would have to fix this bug and fix it fast. Just as Johnny was going to begin rummaging through his near-50,000 lines of code, his boss walked in.
“Johnny!” Rusty exclaimed, startling Johnny. “I’m glad to see you’re working hard.”
“Yes sir,” Johnny asserted, “I made a few tests and have been working out the kinks in my program.”
“Good to hear, Johnny. I am here to inform you of some rather dire news.” Rusty looked kind of troubled. If it was anything to do with programming, Rusty knew hard it could get. He was, after all, a programmer for over 20 years.
Johnny looked at Rusty with a stern face. “What is it, Mr. Bonestein?”
“You have only 3 hours before I need this program submitted, Johnny,” Rusty said with a sort of grim look on his face.
Johnny was dumbfounded. “How could I possibly finish this in 3 hours?” he thought to himself. Snapping out of his speechlessness, Johnny accepted this deadline. He couldn’t go against his boss, at least, not on this project. “Okay, “Johnny apprehensively nodded. Johnny shifted back into his programming groove and began searching for bugs in his program. With great speed, his program was increasing in accuracy and efficiency by the second. Johnny squashed bug after bug and he knew he was getting closer to his goal. He ran the debugger and found that the missile was nearly hitting the target, being only a foot off each time. He knew he had to hurry as time was not on his side.
Johnny had 2 hours left. The first hour of his 3-hour deadline was spent well, he thought. Now, he had to make his program able to target anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds. He thought of possible ways to do this and decided to use a GPS. The missile would update 50 times every second, sending its location, speed, and altitude to satellites. It would then measure this distance to its target, which Johnny had programmed to input using a text message, and launch. Johnny was proud of this because he knew no other missile system was as simple as the one he programmed. The missiles guidance system was working perfectly, but now Johnny had to finish up working on how accurate the missile is. Johnny was ready for the final step- debugging.
Slowly but surely, Johnny fixed problems with his code. Every time he ran another test, he saw the missile grow closer and closer to that 1 inch target. There was something strange though- every once in a while, the missile would veer off course for no apparent reason. He had to squash this bug in his program or he knew he would fail. No where could he find the bug. He searched every character of his now-64,000 lines of code. Nothing. Johnny felt doomed and decided to take a 10 minute break. He knew, due to experience, that breaks help him regain his focus. Johnny grabbed a quick bite to eat, drank some mountain dew, and headed back to his office.
Johnny knew he only had 1 hour left on his project. With time crawling closer and closer to the deadline, Johnny was in an all-out panic. He was editing code nonstop to find this last bug in his program. Johnny’s hands were moving so quickly they appeared to be in two locations at once. The computer screen was filling with hundreds of lines of code a minute and with 4 minutes left, Johnny found the last bug. His code was complete and he tested his program in the debugger. With a great sigh of relief, he submitted his program to Rusty and left his office, heading home after the long day at work.
The next day, Johnny was greeted by Rusty and a firm handshake at the test site.
“Excellent job, Johnny!” Rusty exclaimed, with a smile. “All preliminary tests have been successful and we are ready for real-world tests.”
“Thank you, Mr. Bonestein,” Johnny modestly replied. “I’m eager to see what my work will be used for in the future.”
“Oh, just some more top secret stuff you don’t need to worry about any longer,” Rusty joked. Johnny laughed and appreciated Rusty’s friendliness. “The test will begin in 5 minutes, though,” Rusty began, “so let’s go the safe zone.”
On the way to the safe zone, Johnny was disturbed by thoughts of his program ultimately failing. He knew there were tests done, but he was still unsure of himself. Never has he worked on a program of this scale or of this importance. Rusty and Johnny finally reached the safety zone, where they would watch the program in action. Over the intercom came a voice saying “Beginning test sequence. Please enter the safe zone.” Johnny was extremely worried now. His hands were trembling and his mouth was dry. He knows this is either his moment of triumph or his moment of failure. “Tests beginning in 3. 2. 1.” Johnny heard the growl of the missile’s rocket starting up and blasting off. In a matter of seconds, the test was over. There was a roar of excitement from the other observers. Johnny was surprised and immediately began to feel a smile grow across his face. He had done it.
Johnny woke up the next morning and was relieved he finally could relax. He grabbed a glass of orange juice and just before he was about to take a sip, his phone rang. He answered it hesitantly and expected to hear that he was called into work today. Instead, it was Tony Soprano, the CEO of the company he worked for. Mr. Soprano told Johnny that due to his brilliant work, the project stayed under budget. Johnny was also told he was getting a promotion due to his hard work and determination. Johnny felt accomplished; not only had he finished his project on time, he also made the missile better than what his boss had asked. Nothing, he felt, could stand in his way between him and his computer.