Column

Do admins dream of electric sleep?

Amy Kucharik

In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams wrote, "He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it." In the case of IT pro Bill Smith, however, he knows whose dream it is -- his wife's -- and she's not enjoying it.

Bill, a systems and network administrator right here at TechTarget, responded to my recent editor's note. In the note, I described a dream I'd had that I found pretty amusing. I dreamt that I had written a book, and it became a bestseller. The part I thought was funny was the subject of the book: Learn to dance -- for geeks. Part one dealt with the important topic of rhythm, apparently something geeks might not inherently grasp. In this chapter, I instructed erstwhile chair-ridden techies to "get up and move to the beat." My method was simple: "Play an old Devo MP3, or something by They Might Be Giants. If you don't have any music close at hand, pop in your DVD of the Matrix or even StarWars. Start marching around the computer room in time to the Imperial March, or let your hips sway along with your favorite Gary Numan song. Be careful not to trip over any cables."

I figured that work was getting to me, and I started to wonder whether people who worked in IT would have even more amusing dreams about their computers, servers or co-workers.

When Bill read my note, he laughed out loud. "Hard enough, in fact," he said, "that my wife asked

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what was so funny, so I read the segment to her." Bill said his wife is no stranger to technology. "She knew her way around VAX when she was in college, and she does a pretty good job troubleshooting Windows-related problems, considering she's had no formal technical training," Bill told me. "Being married to a geek, she also can empathize with those of us that work in the IT industry."

She may empathize in the waking hours, but the nightmare existence of the on-call IT admin creeps through her subconscious when she sleeps. As Bill put it: "She said, 'You know, I have my own nightmare about that stuff, you know. I dreamt that we were getting married, and you had a pager. Just before you were supposed to say, "I do," it went off with a critical message.'"

A fellow editor told me that she was also affected by the IT job of someone close to her. She said, "My old boyfriend was a computer programmer, and would wake me up with the pitter-pat of his fingers 'typing' on my thigh." One wonders whether that's why they broke up.

But nobody has computers on the brain like IT pros themselves. Webmaster Meg MacDonald said if she starts dreaming about work, she wakes up "thinking about open issues and code fixes."

Andy Canfield, a software professional who lives in Roiet, Thailand, sent me his poetic IT dream description:

I remember a vivid dream, several years ago,
in which there was toothpaste on my data.
I remember seeing those records,
each one a strip of hex digits,
with toothpaste lying on the top
just like it would on a toothbrush
(of course, a toothbrush is only the size
of two or three bytes; these were 80 byte records).

It's debatable what Jung or Freud would say about toothpaste and data -- maybe Andy wants to clean up his code? -- but I found out I'm not the only person who wonders about this stuff. I came across a Web questionnaire asking for people to describe their computer-related dreams for publication on an e-zine, "Electric Dreams."

So, what keeps you up at night? Send your tech- or work-related dreams in an e-mail. I'll publish the best ones, and send a book from my Linux bookshelf to the first, fifth, ninth and 42nd respondents.


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