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Introduction

Introduction

I was annoyed when Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov at chess in May of 1997. Kasparov, previously undefeated, was the best humankind had to offer. Yet, IBM's computer, Deep Blue, still beat the pants off him. Irritated conspiracy theorists contend that Deep Blue was a front, and that-like Dorothy's wizard behind the curtain-Bobby Fisher was actually calling the shots from the back room. If only it were so.

The fact is that computers have been annoying us for decades. Remember how ticked off Dave was when HAL began returning the error message "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that" (in 2001: A Space Odyssey)? And let's not forget poor Dr. Smith's frustration with that infernal robot nattering, "Danger, Will Robinson" (in Lost in Space). Talk about your kernel panics!

But none is more annoying than the computer sitting on your desk. Just replace HAL with a web browser and replace "I'm sorry, Dave" with "Could not open your page because the server could not be found." Even in today's point-and-click environment of graphical interface widgets and gratuitous animation, software is designed to make the hardware happy. If this weren't the case, the computer would just be an inefficient heating unit, and the keyboard would have no effect whatsoever. The hardware, in turn, is designed to facilitate software. So where does that leave you? Sitting in front of a big screen scratching your head and wondering, "Why won't it do what I want?"

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