Alcohol and Computers

Posted 1 Oct 2000 at 11:52 UTC by jmg Share This

Does alcohol and computers mix? How many of you have actually mixed them and succeded? Probably only a few of us have mixed them successfully.

Well, not necesarily successfully, as if you mix them to often I'm sure that there is an acident that is waiting to happen, like the one that I'm typing right now.

How many people have been working with computers for the past 20 years or so, and finally gotten tired of them? I haven't reached the 20 year mark, but will in a couple years and have spent way to much in the software world. I can be dead drunk and still not be worried of doing an "rm -rf /" on my system (yes, I dare to su to root while completely and totally intoxicated).

What have you guys done to finally unwind after just being wound to tight with too much knowlege about computers and not enough time/interface to be able to do about them?

I've reciently picked up photography (a couple years ago), martial arts (a month ago), among possibly reawakening my interest in astronomy (got a 6-3/4" hand ground mirror to mount some time), but I still have too much time on my hands after working my computer job to pay the bills.

I've reciently thought about getting into computer hardware, more along the lines of ASIC design, but I doubt that will last beyond five to ten years from now. What will I do when I'm 32 and a millionaire?

Or was I to drunk while I wrote this? Will I get demoted from Master to Dimwit? Let the jury decide (yeh, I know I've been very bad about holding a diary conversation, but I've been trying to get better, honest!)

very well, thank you..., posted 1 Oct 2000 at 12:51 UTC by eMBee » (Journeyer)

provided that you take the at least 98% pure stuff, alcohol should provide a good cleaning fluid.

but don't use it for anything else.
alcohol and humans just don't mix.

greetings, eMBee.
ps: sorry, could not resist this one

tasty!, posted 1 Oct 2000 at 20:34 UTC by brg » (Journeyer)

On alcohol and computers: At Berkeley, "Don't drink and su" is advice given to every sysadmin wannabee. That said, I think computing drives a lot of sysadmins to drink. "Liquid recovery," I'm told it's called. On the other hand, most of the CS students I know just go home and sleep, being too tired to think of anything else. As for the possibility of success in mixing them, I would guess that the best mix is a very little bit of good alcohol and a lot of good computers.

On unwinding: I like to read and play video games to relax, which isn't too uncommon. Some of the better-written fantasy/RPG video games have many of the relaxing qualities of books, I think, and require little mental effort while being entertaining (and they have wonderful music). I used to love to grow vegetables, which I haven't done since moving to Berkeley -- my backyard would need some work in order to be made suitable for growing, which I haven't done yet. But digging in the dirt can be very therapeutic.

I dunno about you, but I find what little I've tasted of ASIC design frustrating. Read (or write) philosophy instead; it puts things in perspective.

Not at all..., posted 1 Oct 2000 at 22:54 UTC by Uruk » (Apprentice)

Programming while under the influence of more than 2 beers is always very frustrating for me. It makes me feel like I felt when I was brand new to programming; endless frustration at having to recompile because you forgot that semicolon at the end of the line, silly mistakes that wouldn't normally be made, and having a hard time thinking about the encompassing scope of a program. (As in, if I'm writing function foo, what's going on above and below foo in functions that get called before and after it)

I can do it, it's just slow, annoying, and very error prone. And more often than not, I end up rewriting it all the next day anyway. So I don't do it at all anymore if I can avoid it (and 99.9999999999999999999% of the time, I can.)

Good for leisure programming, but not marathon..., posted 2 Oct 2000 at 01:22 UTC by mojotoad » (Journeyer)

I've found that light drinking during leisure programming can be somewhat beneficial, at least at it pertains to the light-hearted mood it can keep you in.

If you drink too quickly and get too buzzed, then it does impair your thinking and design skills (duh!). But I usually find that if it's on the tail end of a mondo coding session, fatigue will get me before the buzz.

Now, surfing for porn with a buzz, in the other hand...

er...make that "on the other hand"...



Re: Alcohol and Computers., posted 2 Oct 2000 at 05:37 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

i am concerned. you must have far too much $$ to waste, both on good beverages and computers. to mix these two together, some would say, is a good way to alienate both geeks and alcoholics at the same time. please, the next time you wish to dunk a computer in best bitter, send the computer to me and give your pint to a random person at your favourite pub.

but seriously. looking for past-times? if you are creative and programatically inclined, you probably have good maths skills: join a choral society (if you're not a frog in disguise), or a musical instrument. learn one, that is, not join. me, i picked something weird where my lack of skill tended not to matter too much: a small 12th-17th century music group, and we quietly played and experimented with other like-weirded-individuals, and then retired to the mill (cambridge) to consume fruit wines and beer, and did some tiny concerts (but not at the mill).

good luck in all your endeavours and whatever you do, enjoy it.

lots of love, luke

Drinking and Computing, posted 2 Oct 2000 at 09:39 UTC by hanwen » (Journeyer)

I've noticed some oddities that I developed while programming intoxicated:

  • Variable and classnames get this funny touch:
    class Single_malt_grouping_item { .. };

    Pitch_interrogate_req spanish_inquisition; // nobody expects it


  • In a certain sense, being drunk improves my programming: since I am less smart when I'm drunk, I have to take more effort in making the code understandable: I get cleaner code.

  • I get into a bold mood. Grand RefactorMercilessly binges are typically initiated on a friday evening with a glass of whiskey next to the keyboard.

  • I always regret programming when drunk the day after, because that is the time I sit gazing at GDB what could possibly be wrong with my code. The devil is in the details, and that devil is always kindled by sprits. After painful debugging, I usually notice the + where there had to be a - .

When I was in college..., posted 2 Oct 2000 at 18:01 UTC by Svartalf » (Journeyer)

Some of my best coding was when I was stumbling drunk. That was back when I had less control over my attention span (ADHD sucks if you can't focus- I couldn't back then; which is why I did poorly my first two years of college...)

I suppose I could do it again. Code whilst plastered. I'd rather not. I do well sober nowadays- and I detest the lack of control that drunkeness brings.

oh yah... big time, posted 2 Oct 2000 at 22:11 UTC by gstein » (Master)

I couldn't even begin to count the number of times that I've been in front of the computer while buzzed, drunk, or completely blind stinking hammered. Heck, there are even some emotes at the Lima Bean MUD talking about me logging in while drunk :-)

As for programming, that hasn't really been a problem. After twenty- plus years of it, writing programs while drunk is no big deal. Hehe... I recall fixing some bugs in mod_dav while rather stupified.

Of course, I think surfing and game playing are the most common things that I do after tying one on.

Back to the original question: do alcohol and computers mix? I'd have to give that a big yes :-)

I Agree that it Depends, posted 3 Oct 2000 at 02:17 UTC by jrf » (Master)

I think it really depends on what you are doing and how much you have had to drink. If I am smashed I can barely read the code let alone work on it, if I have a light buzz I usually just feel ultra comfortable at ye olde console (which I think has been the biggest opinion here).

Of course for some reason, doing home administration setups and donkeying requires me to be 3 sheets to the wind because my patience runs out. In one bout I actually installed four operating systems on the same system (no not multi boot) just to get the damn thing to work - believe me - if I were sober I would have given up a lot sooner.

Like any good fool to relax I enjoy movies, music and of course games of all sorts, but that is not to say getting bashed and trying to win an obfusication contest wouldn't work well.

Drink and the CS lab, posted 3 Oct 2000 at 19:48 UTC by ceri » (Journeyer)

Just last night, i went out, and drank too much. (too much as in still intoxicated the folloing morning). i found it made computer lab that much more intresting (and just a little surreal).

Really though, it made trivial things (such as driving emacs) highly fustrating. Dont do it kids!

Drinking and coding, posted 4 Oct 2000 at 06:35 UTC by chakie » (Master)

I don't usually like using computers when drinking. It's normally a good recipe for disaster or embarassment.

A few years ago when I still actively studied CS I used to do my weekly programming assignments with a friend of mine. It usually took a few hours, and when we saw that we had something that would work we usually opened a few bottles of wine to celebrate the success. Needless to say the solutions sometimes needed an extra few hours of work, and the code (and comments in the code!) would be quite fun/embarassing to read afterwards. Especially if the code had to be shown for the entire class on a video projector or similar.

Could lead to situations like:

"Er, well, we were a bit, er, unfocused when we wrote that code. But it should work. At least we think it worked when we did it. I think."


"Ahem, we didn't write those comments! Someone must have hacked my account and inserted them there."

I do remember one time when I got home from a fairly wild party and thought I'd dial up and check my mail. Sure, it took me 15 minutes to get both my login and password correct the the same time...

An incident I can't (and wouldn't) repeat, posted 5 Oct 2000 at 23:05 UTC by zed » (Journeyer)

I generally don't even drink enough to get buzzed, and it's been years since I've been drunk. However, once, a long time ago, I did (intentionally, alone, and in private) get hammered to the point where I no longer remember the night.

It left its results on the screen I saw in the morning, however, which was doing a passably smooth colorscroll in two directions. I groggily broke the program, and found myself in a BASIC interpreter. A list showed only a long run of POKE statements.

Apparantly, I had taught myself enough assembly that night to write a colorscroller, hand-compile it, poke it into memory, and execute it. Although I had some rudimentary knowledge of assembly, I certainly didn't know anything about x86 graphics before that night, though I did have the necessary reference materials on hand. Unfortunately, I didn't retain the knowledge.

Unfortunately, I managed to either power down the machine without saving the program or lose the file in the interim, because I once looked for it some years ago to see what I had done, and couldn't find it. Although I'm sure it's nothing exceptionally complex, to this day I've never gone back and taught myself enough x86 assembly to be able to write such a thing again.

Don't Code While Intoxicated, posted 7 Oct 2000 at 23:42 UTC by dej » (Journeyer)

Do not write code while intoxicated. I speak from experience.

The last (and hopefully only) time I did so, the result was bad enough to get reported in the Toronto Star.

I was programming for the Toronto Free-Net, writing a utility called "diskhog" that checks the amount of disk space a user is taking up, and threatens file removal if the user is vastly over quota. This program kept some (non security sensitive) state in the user's home directory, and I didn't trust reading $HOME. Rather, I used the result from getpwuid():

if (!(pw = getpwuid(getuid()))) {
    fprintf(stderr, "Who the f--- are you?\n");

Of course, "f---" was spelled out in all its glory.

This program went into service and ran just fine for about three months.

NIS on SunOS 4.1.4 uses the old BSD db routines, which have limits on the hash table size. Once the number of users in the password file exceeds 25000 or so, NIS simply stops working unless you hack it the right way. And getpwuid() fails.

So, one fine evening, when a user dialed into the TFN, she saw this on the screen:

sh: 25445: memory fault
Who the f--- are you?

at which point the modem would hang up.

This situation persisted for an hour and a half, until the sysadmins could log in, track it down, and temporarily disable the affected program.

Don't drink and code. Seriously. :-)

Cleaning, posted 8 Oct 2000 at 17:52 UTC by strlen » (Journeyer)

I use alcohol to clean my monitor and my keyboard (no, it doesn't desolve the markings on the keys). You should too, makes it clean and shiny. And on LCD monitors too, once again it doesn't disolve them. Now there's jokes in Russia about the 1970's "IT's", that they used to drink the alcohol that was to be used to clean the mainframes.

coding drunk is fine..., posted 10 Oct 2000 at 14:36 UTC by jauderho » (Observer)

Not that I advocate drinking of course :) but the biggest problem I've had when coding drunk is that the monitor refuses to stay in one place. Other than that, the resulting code works fine usually.

When to drink; also, try a language/sport, posted 13 Oct 2000 at 05:48 UTC by inri » (Apprentice)

I do math more than program, but I think they're related enough to draw some parallels. Basically, I don't drink and derive ;-) nor do other mathematicians whom I know; it's pretty pointless. That is, you have difficulty solving problems, and most all math you do is wrong and worthless (as opposed to hackish and buggy, but still kinda working code). Even regular drinkers I know only drink after having stopped work for the evening. OTOH, grading goes by much faster if you have a glass of wine (or two).

By contrast, one spring I worked in cleaning up dorms, and we seriously thought about getting stoned one day, as it wouldn't impair our preformance too much.

The conclusion I draw is that activities that are thought-intensive or not robust (proofs, code that works) tend to be bad ideas/frustrataing to do when drunk/impaired (note that driving both requires thought/reactions and is not robust (if you hit something say)), while activities that don't require much thought and have a high margin for error (grading, mopping) are (reasonably) okay to do while drunk. So algorithm design prolly requires soberness, but menial aspects of programming may be okay while tipsy. Maybe documenting your code drunk?

Re: your query on how to spend time. I'd suggest learning a language (currently learning nihongo = japanese); this has the added benefit that you can then read books/watch movies in that language, using up more time. Also, language learning is a pretty mechanical, time-consuming process, so maybe you can do it while drunk (j/k)? Alternatively, pick up a sport; many people (geeks definitely included) don't get nearly enough exercise, and sports can be fulfilling and relaxing to boot, in addition to being healthy and time-consuming! I'm currently practicing aikido, a japanese martial art with no competition and no attacks; it's very soothing and friendly, at least around here (if you find falling on the mat (and then throwing your partner on the mat) soothing and friendly ;-).

Also, I second Luke's suggestion to pick up a musical instrument (in my case, piano and voice: piano is pretty easy to get started at (press key, get sound), and more solitary, while voice has a higher barrier to entry (sing a note! no, the other note! can't you hear the difference??), but is rather more social (plus, it's easy to carry and you can do it anywhere, though you might get stares in the cereal aisle) (or cube farm)).

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!

Share this page