NTK

Wizard of Transformation, actually

I am a wizard in the magical Kingdom of Transformations and I slay dragons for a living. Actually, I am a systems level programmer. One of the problems with systems programming is explaining to non-computer enthusiasts what that is. All of the terms I use to describe my job are totally meaningless to them. Usually my response to questions about my work is to say as little as possible. For instance, if someone asks what happened at work this week, I say “Nothing much” and then I change the subject.

With the assistance of my sister, a mechanical engineer, I have devised an analogy that everyone can understand. The analogy describes the “Kingdom of Transformation” where travellers wander and are magically transformed. This kingdom is the computer and the travellers are information. The purpose of the computer is to change information to a more meaningful form. The law of conservation applies here: The computer never creates and never intentionally destroys data. With no further ado, let us travel to the Kingdom of Transformations:

In a land far, far away, there is a magical kingdom called the Kingdom of Transformations. A king rules over this land and employs a Council of Wizardry. The main purpose of this kingdom is to provide a way for neighbouring kingdoms to transform citizens into more useful citizens. This is done by allowing the citizens to enter the kingdom at one of its ports and to travel any of the many routes in the kingdom. They are magically transformed along the way. The income of the Kingdom of Transformations comes from the many toll roads within its boundaries.

The Kingdom of Transformations was created when several kingdoms got together and discovered a mutual need for new talents and abilities for citizens. They employed NTK, Inc. (Numinous Transformational Kernels, Inc.) to create this kingdom. NTK designed the country, its transportation routes, and its laws of Transformations, and created the major highway system.

Hazards

Because magic is not truly controllable, NTK invariably, but unknowingly, creates dragons. Dragons are huge fire-breathing beasts which sometimes injure or kill travellers. Fortunately, they do not travel, but always remain near their den.

Other hazards also exist which are potentially harmful. As the roads become older and more weatherbeaten, pot-holes will develop, trees will fall on travellers, etc. NTK engineers are called to fix these problems.

Wizards

The wizards play a major role in creating and maintaining the kingdom but get little credit for their work because it is performed secretly. The wizards do not want the workers or travellers to learn their incantations because many laws would be broken and chaos would result.

NTK’s grand design is always general enough to be applicable in many different situations. As a result, it is often difficult to use. The first duty of the wizards is to tailor the Transformations laws so as to be more beneficial and easier to use in their particular environment.

After creation of the kingdom, a major duty of the wizards is to search for and kill dragons. If travellers do not return on time or if they return injured, the ruler of the country contacts the wizards. If the wizards determine that the injury or death occurred due to the traveller’s negligence, they provide the traveller’s country with additional warnings. If not, they must determine if the cause was a road hazard or a dragon. If the suspect a road hazard, they call in a NTK engineer to locate the hazard and to eliminate it, as in repairing the pothole in the road. If they think that cause was a dragon, then they must find and slay it.

The most difficult part of eliminating a dragon is finding it. Sometimes the wizard magically knows where the dragon’s lair it, but often the wizard must send another traveller along the same route and watch to see where he disappears. This sounds like a fail-safe method for finding dragons (and a suicide mission for the traveller) but the second traveller does not always disappear. Some dragons eat any traveller who comes too close; others are very picky.

The wizards may call in NTK who designed the highway system and Transformations laws to help devise a way to locate the dragon. NTK also helps provide the right spell or incantation to slay the dragon. (There is no general spell to slay dragons; each dragon must be eliminated with a different spell.)

Because neither NTK nor wizards are perfect, spells to not always work correctly. At best, nothing happens when the wrong spell is uttered. At worst, the dragon becomes a much larger dragon or multiplies into several smaller ones. In either case, new spells must be found.

If all existing dragons are quiet (i.e. have eaten sufficiently), wizards have time to do other things. They hide in castles and practice spells and incantations. They also devise shortcuts for travellers and new laws of Transformations.

Changes in the Kingdom

As new Transformations kingdoms are created and old ones are maintained, NTK, Inc. is constantly learning new things. It learns ways to avoid creating some of the dragons that they have previously created. It also discovers new and better laws of Transformations. As a result, NTK will periodically create a new grand design which is far better than the old. The wizards determine when is a good time to implement this new design. This is when the tourist season is slow or when no important travellers (VIPs) are to arrive. The kingdom must be closed for the actual implementation and is leter reopened as a new and better place to go.

A final question you might ask is what happens when the number of tourists becomes too great for the kingdom to handle in a reasonable period of time (i.e., the tourist lines at the ports are too long). The Kingdom of Transformations has three options: (1) shorten the paths that a tourist must travel, or (2) convince NTK to develop a faster breed of horses so that the travellers can finish sooner, or (3) annex more territories so that the kingdom can handle more travellers.

Thus ends the story of the Kingdom of Transformations. I hope this has explained my job to you: I slay dragons for a living.

(actually, to be perfectly honest, I tame dragons and learn their magic. …a technomage, natch)

 

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