November 12, 2010

This blog post is *personal* in nature.

The legacy of a nobody

I work hard, and try not to let the future bother me. I don’t make 10 year plans, hell, I’m lucky if i know where I’ll be in 30 days time. I don’t make massive future plans, because I’ve found that everything can change massively week-to-week, and hastily made plans are often proved unservicable. I suppose this is par for the course when working in IT. There’s a sheer unpredictability when working with the internet, long hours and late nights along the way, but basically all computer systems listen to Murphy’s Law.

You will be interrupted mid-holiday, mid-wank, or if you’re really lucky (or unlucky…) mid-shag. When you have a network to maintain, I like to think it’s like a parent with a child. Especially a toddler. There’s always the haunting suspicion that something will happen, requiring emergency attention, although these things tend to be a lack of disk space, rather than a pea shoved into an unsuitable orifice.

All that aside, these days, I find myself wondering more and more; “what will my legacy be?“. That is to say, when I’ve died, how will I be remembered?

I’m gay, and genetically messed up enough to be unable to have my own children, this alone is something that troubles me occasionally. Not the being gay bit, but being unable to continue my family’s genes. Under the circumstances, that might be a good thing.

In my father’s and my own eyes, my grandfather was a great man. We both learned a great deal from him, both about engineering, and life in general. A great deal of my skill with metal and wood, and design comes directly from his influence. My interest in computing is mostly my dad’s influence, at an early age, with an Apple IIe. I guess I’m just trying to say that my ancestors are greater than me. Greatness being totally subjective, of course, but I still get the massive feeling that there’s something epic missing.

For a very long time, I looked at my peers who had had children with a sense of disdain. Perhaps a something wasted, by having spawned so early on, but I now realise, at least they have done it. At whatever stage of life, at least they had the chance.

Perhaps I could term my computer systems as my children. If that were the case, then I’d have had more than two dozen, over the last 10 years. Under this metaphor however, there’s no longevity involved. Aside from some minor things which I know are still there, the majority of the systems with which I’ve worked have now ceased to be. Servers and Networks which I’ve designed and implemented have been replaced by smarter and faster ones. It’s like a destructive evolution. One that leaves no fossils, no trace of earlier systems, and their designer.

I haven’t published any papers, written any journals, sown my seeds of academic greatness (ha!), or computational excellence. If I died tomorrow, there would be very little to mark my place in history.

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Written by Tom O'Connor, an AWS Technical Specialist, with background in DevOps and scalability. You should follow them on Twitter