1

This is a part of the text about virtual machines in computers.

What does "an element of original sin" mean here?

Is it referring to the game "original sin" ?

I love virtual machines (VMs) and I have done for a long time. If that makes me “sad” or an “anorak”, so be it. I love them because they are so much fun, as well as being so useful. They have an element of original sin (writing assembly programs and being in control of an entire machine), while still being able to claim that one is being a respectable member of the community (being structured, modular, high-level, object-oriented, and so on).

  • 3
    No, it's not referring to the game Original Sin, but the Christian concept of original sin, i.e. when Adam & Eve disobeyed the Lord, ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and initiated the Fall of Man (introducing death into the world, and so on). It's not clear to me how the author is employing that metaphor, except perhaps to say assembly language, the first, original, means of instructing a computer (outside of breadboards) was the entry point, or gateway, to the industry of computation itself, and now the geeks who love it (geekhood being the state of sin he finds himself in). – Dan Bron Sep 21 '15 at 12:21
  • I second Dan Bron. Also, the writer already gives the meaning of his(?) "original sin", i.e. "writing assembly programs and being in control of an entire machine". I can relate to that kind of thought, programming can be very tempting when you feel that you are in charge of everything. In other words, everything is under your control. (That's kinda like playing God, isn't it?) – Damkerng T. Sep 21 '15 at 12:27
  • @Dan's guess at the intended meaning may indeed be correct, but it's all a matter of opinion. Personally, I'm not even convinced the writer necessarily knew exactly what he meant - I certainly can't see any obvious connection between "original sin" (the Christian metaphor for "Man is by nature evil") and writing in assembly language. But come to that, I can't see how working within a VM significantly or inherently affects any of the issues raised by the writer. It just looks like woolly thinking to me. – FumbleFingers Sep 21 '15 at 12:35
  • @FumbleFingers I think the original author meant VM as in e.g. JVM (which does indeed have a bytecode) not e.g. VMWare (which doesn't in any meaningful sense). – Dan Bron Sep 21 '15 at 12:49
  • @FumbleFingers I wonder if the author intended "mortal sin" instead of original sin. Machine-dependent, tightly-coupled code is considered a terrible thing in today's developer culture, but I don't think it was really software engineering's fall from grace. – ColleenV Sep 21 '15 at 14:53
3

"Original sin" is a core element of Christian theology: the notion that as a result of the first man and woman's disobedience to God all succeeding generations are born inherently inclined to sin.

The author uses the notion humorously here to say that the things she enjoys most about programming, such as taking direct control of the hardware by writing in assembly language, were characteristic of the very early days of computing and are a sort of antisocial behavior in the contemporary environment—an atavistic regression to the guilty pleasures of the first hackers.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.