Chapter 20

Carlton had been productively absorbed in his work for a few hours when the intercom buzzed.

“Carlton? It’s Rachel, are you there?”

Carlton was brought out of his reverie, for once he hadn’t been thinking about her.

“Yes, Carlton here. What do you need?”

“Can you come to the circulation desk? I think we have a problem.”

“Be there right away.” How cool was that, to have to go and help Rachel!

He got up and walked to the elevator, pondering what Frank had said about this set up being rather odd. He pressed the call button and waited a moment. The elevator arrived with an odd flourish, if you could call it that, but Carlton didn’t think much of it and got in. The control panel had two rows of buttons. They started with the 3 above ground levels, then L for Lobby, 8 underground levels, the lowest of which he was at, and a B for basement. There was another red button at the bottom next to a key hole. The elevator tried to start a conversation but Carlton really wasn’t interested.

Frank had warned him that this was bigger than he thought. As the elevator door began to close he had an idea. Maybe he could test how big this thing was. He walked back into the conference room looking in the trash and on the floor until he found a thin strip of metal, a surplus shelf bracket. At the elevator again, he knelt down by the door and pressed the call button. When the door opened he tried to look down through the crack between the elevator tracks. There was an eerie red glow. He slid the piece of metal into the crack, put his ear close to listen, then let it go. One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thou.. there was a distant clatter. About four seconds. He got up, entered the elevator and hit the button for the Lobby. He did a quick calculation. Acceleration due to gravity is ten meters per second, per second. In four seconds the piece of metal would have fallen one hundred meters, over 300 feet.

At the circulation desk Rachel was flustered.

“Hey, Carlton. Sorry to bother you.”

“It’s no problem. What’s up?”

“I don’t know. It’s this software. Biblio can’t recognize the code and can’t run the software.” She was fidgeting, chewing her finger nails and shifting from foot to foot in agitation. As Carlton drew nearer she lowered her voice, “I hope you can figure this out, or I’m in trouble.” He glanced at her with obvious concern, but smiled and spoke reassuringly.

“Well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. What software is it?”

She held up a small portable drive.

“It’s language comprehension software that I wrote for this system.”

“Language comprehension?” Carlton raised his eyebrows, “that’s a new one on me. I thought that the system here was rigged to the gills with translation capabilities, ‘The likes of which the world has never seen before.'” He had read that last part in some promotional literature that he had found lying around.

“Right, translation is one thing, but, based on how your units operate, with actual voice input, I er, wrote software that would let the computer to understand the words, and the real meaning of what it heard. It allows for the interpretation of different inflections and intonations, and how the way that words are spoken affects what they mean. It,” but then she caught herself as if she realized she had said too much, or was about to.

Carlton thought for a moment, and considered this remarkable turn of events. He had never heard of such software before. It made perfect sense, and it was logical application of the hardware capabilities he had built. Frank said the night before that there was more to Ruth than met the eye. If she had written software that could do what she said, anticipating the hardware features that he had built, then she was either a genius or she was working for one. Except it seemed that she, or whoever, had overlooked one minor detail.

“I think all we need is a device driver,” he said reassuringly.

“Really,” she was visibly relieved.

“Sure,” he continued. “Old Biblio here has never seen this software before, and though it’ll work with the user interface, it’s not calibrated to the right input/output format. The software doesn’t know how to run this hardware. Or the hardware doesn’t know how to run the software, however you want to look at it.”

Rachel looked worried again, “is it going to be a problem?”

“I don’t think so. If you would let me see the code for the software, I’ll work on a device driver tonight.”

“Why do you need to see the code?”

Carlton tried not to laugh. “I have to see the code, there’s no other way to design a driver for it.”

Rachel was getting in a worse tizzy than before, she had the portable drive in her hand, but something was stopping her from handing it to Carlton. He reached out slowly to take it from her.

“I’m not sure what’s going on, Rachel, but I’m sure that I can have this running by tomorrow. If I can see the code and design a driver.”

Rachel began to relax just enough to pass the portable drive into Carlton’s hand, “you’re sure. By tomorrow?”

Carlton gently put his hand on the drive, “no problem, it won’t take Frank and I any time at all to figure it out.”

“Who’s Frank?” Rachel snatched her hand back and stepped away. Then a new voice joined the conversation. Biblio spoke.

“Frank is my big brother.”

Carlton and Rachel both turned to the terminal, Carlton was puzzled, Rachel shocked. She put her free hand to her head and sat down.

“Biblio, what are you talking about?”

But Carlton spoke up, “Frank is my computer, at home.” Then he spoke to Biblio, “Frank told me that you two spoke yesterday. Did he say that he was your big brother?”

“Yes, he did.”

Carlton nodded, “well Biblio, after all this time building you I guess I forgot to introduce myself. I’m glad to meet you. Now do you know what is the problem with Ms. Robbin’s software?”

“You correctly determined the need for a software device driver.”

“Good, OK, Rachel?”

She had tuned out, rubbing her temples, it looked like she had a headache, “what?” she breathed heavily.

Carlton spoke as carefully as possible, “do you want me to work on the driver for you?”

Rachel sighed again, pushed the portable drive across the counter top and stood up. “Yes, take it. I’ve got to get out of here. Good bye. See you tomorrow.” She turned and left.

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