Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bleeding fingers, and programmer’s forma mentis

Family man life. After both me and my wife cut our fingers with the (extremely sharp) twin blades of our herb chopper, I decided it was time to make a simple blade protection with paperboard.

What I did is documented in the following photos. As you can see, the result is not a piece of art, but at least it works. Fingers are now safe.

What makes me thinking is the fact that my wife admitted she couldn’t even think she could make such an object, and while I was working on it she could not figure out what I was actually doing !

In my head, on the contrary, it was everything very clear. So clear that I did not need for measures, plans or even pictures on a sketchbook. Even the small triangles I cut on the sides of the strip (needed to curve the paper around the blades) were extremely natural to make.

Now, this is my thought. This object is not art and it is definitely not an example of high engineering. But it works and was extremely simple to build. This is not the creation of a genius but, still, not all the people have the ability to create objects this way.

I think it is a skill that almost all programmers have. A sort of ‘forma mentis’.

We probably share it with carpenters, bricklayers or designers, whereas interpreters (like my wife), writers, teachers, actors or speakers probably lack of. It is the ability to figure out something that does not exist yet, and the ability to understand, in detail, how to make it real.

This is actually what we do every day.

Do you think I’m right ?