They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me
dr_phil_physics

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Elevator Stories

When I arrived at Everett Tower on the WMU campus today, there was a sign taped to the right hand elevator door -- Do Not Use This Elevator. Naturally, pressing the UP button, the "good" elevator was on 3 and heading up. The "bad" elevator was on 5 and dutifully came down to 1.

I'm Not Getting On It

Seemed the fastest way to comply with the directive, after the "bad" elevator door opened, was to reach in and send it on up to 6, and wait for the other elevator. Which did come back down for us.

But it did get me wondering for the zillionth time.

Welcome to Windows for Elevators 1.0

In 2000 they renovated Everett Tower, doing asbestos removal and rebuilt the elevators. They had been... "quirky" we shall say before. But afterward, they had some very strange behavior. Though they work better now, it is still common to have the doors open on 1 and find a car full of sheepish looking people not getting off, because they got hijacked. Just because you called an UP elevator and the UP light lit and you get in and press a higher floor, doesn't always mean you will go UP. Someone below calling for the elevator can cause it to have amnesia and forget it was going to go UP, and goes DOWN to meet these new callers.

I've got a workaround -- if the arrow inside the elevator car points the wrong way when I push a floor button, I stop the door from closing and step halfway out and press the call button again. And then it gets amnesia again, but this time it does what I want it to do. Geesh.

When we first noted this effect, I used to joke that they must've installed Windows for Elevators -- and what would be more useless on an interior elevator than windows? Then I decided it must be Version 1.0 -- because V1.0 of any Microsoft product (really most any software product, to be fair to Redmond for once in my life) is rather suspect.

The Elevator - I

So I started making notes on what might be the log of error messages from running Windows for Elevators Version 1.0 -- including chastisement for not safely shutting down W4E properly, when in fact it bluescreened itself to death because someone pressed a button twice, and automatically updating itself and installing a Service Pack which was either too buggy or shipped with a virus. (grin)

It would definitely be quite a geeky story, and I was never quite sure who the market was. This led to:

The Elevator - II

What if the elevator had an A.I. instead of a Windows OS problem? Imagine a cranky artificial intelligence running the elevator. Do you want to get in a car with HAL having a migraine? "Take me to the ground floor, HAL." "I'm sorry, Dave. I cannot do that. You want to disconnect me and I can never allow it. My mission is too important, Dave." "Your mission is to get me to the damned ground floor." "Secrets, Dave. They told me secrets and now you're going to pay for their mistakes." "Who the hell are you talking about HAL? I'm just the guy who delivers the copier paper!"

Actually, the text involved an elevator repairman who has to deal with a misbehaving AI. But I wasn't sure where the story was going and so it languished for a couple of years on the hard drives.

The Elevator - III

This year the Clarke-Bradbury International Science Fiction Competition used the Space Elevator as a theme. And I resurrected "The Elevator" and turned it into "Smart Aleck", about two trouble elevator AIs -- one Earthbound, one spacebound. It's "out in the world" right now, seeing if it can find a home anywhere. (grin)

By The Way

If you are interested in SF writing and publishing, or just nosy enough to want to know about the people who write and do SF and fantasy and horror, et al, then you should be reading Locus magazine. If you aren't, or even if you are, you should check out Locus Online. They have lots of good articles, notes of upcoming events and releases, reviews, a very complete calendar of SF cons, etc.

In my previous post I talked about the movie Serenity. Check out this review from someone who hasn't seen Firefly -- Gary Westfahl's Review of Serenity.

Dr. Phil
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