The Bug

by Ellen Ullman

May 6, 2003 | Hardcover

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The Bug is a mesmerizing first novel about a demonic, elusive computer bug and the havoc it wreaks on the lives of the people around it. This rare combination-a novel of ideas and a suspense-is a story about obsession and love that takes readers deep into both the personal and virtual life.

In 1984, at the dawn of the personal-computer era, Roberta Walton, a novice software tester at a SiliconValley start-up, stumbles across a bug. She brings it to its inadvertent creator, Ethan Levin, a longtime programmer who is working at the limits of his knowledge and abilities. Both believe this is a bug like any other to be found and fixed and crossed off the list. But no matter how obsessively Ethan combs through the depths of the code, he can''t find its cause. Roberta runs test after test but can''t make the bug appear at will. Meanwhile, the bug, living up to its name, "The Jester," shows itself only at the least opportune times and jeopardizes the fate of the company.

Under the pressures of his obsession with the bug and his rapidly deteriorating personal life, Ethan begins to unravel. Roberta, on the other hand, is drawn to the challenge. Forced to learn how to program, she comes to appreciate the intense intimacy of speaking the computer''s language.

As she did in Close to the Machine, Ellen Ullman brilliantly limns the space between human beings and computers-a space we all occupy every day as we peer into our monitors. Ullman has been a computer programmer for more than twenty years, and having switched from code to prose, she has shown herself to be a unique, revelatory writer. She is the insider who can articulate the realities of the technical world, taking readers to emotional and intellectual places fiction has never brought them before. With The Bug, Ullman proves she is not only a remarkable essayist but also a master storyteller.

Format: Hardcover

Published: May 6, 2003

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385508603

ISBN - 13: 9780385508605

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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The Bug

The Bug

by Ellen Ullman

Format: Hardcover

Published: May 6, 2003

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385508603

ISBN - 13: 9780385508605

Read from the Book

The PAUSE A computer can execute millions of instructions in a second. The human brain, in comparison, is painfully slow. The memories of a single year, for instance, took me a full thirty seconds to recall. Which is a long time if you think about it. Imagine a second-hand sweep going tick by tick halfway around the face of a clock. Or the digital readout of light-emitting diodes, with their blink, blink--thirty blinks--as they count off time. "Passport, please." The immigration agent at the San Francisco airport was a pleasant-faced young man, not at all threatening, the sort who does his job without particular fervor. "Countries visited?" It''s right on the landing card, I wanted to say, but I''d learned not to be belligerent in circumstances like these. "One. The Dominican Republic." He kept his face toward me, a certain blankness undoing his pleasant expression, as his hand disappeared under the counter of the little booth that stood between us. I knew he was putting my passport through a scanner. The first page of the United States passport has been machine-readable for years. Then we waited. "Nice trip, Miss, uh . . ." "Ms. Walton. Yes." "Roberta Walton." "Yes." The immigration agent looked down at his computer terminal, his hands still under the counter of the booth. Then he said, "Good weather there this time of year?" "Hot. Yes." "Humid?" "Yes. Not too bad."
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From the Publisher

The Bug is a mesmerizing first novel about a demonic, elusive computer bug and the havoc it wreaks on the lives of the people around it. This rare combination-a novel of ideas and a suspense-is a story about obsession and love that takes readers deep into both the personal and virtual life.

In 1984, at the dawn of the personal-computer era, Roberta Walton, a novice software tester at a SiliconValley start-up, stumbles across a bug. She brings it to its inadvertent creator, Ethan Levin, a longtime programmer who is working at the limits of his knowledge and abilities. Both believe this is a bug like any other to be found and fixed and crossed off the list. But no matter how obsessively Ethan combs through the depths of the code, he can''t find its cause. Roberta runs test after test but can''t make the bug appear at will. Meanwhile, the bug, living up to its name, "The Jester," shows itself only at the least opportune times and jeopardizes the fate of the company.

Under the pressures of his obsession with the bug and his rapidly deteriorating personal life, Ethan begins to unravel. Roberta, on the other hand, is drawn to the challenge. Forced to learn how to program, she comes to appreciate the intense intimacy of speaking the computer''s language.

As she did in Close to the Machine, Ellen Ullman brilliantly limns the space between human beings and computers-a space we all occupy every day as we peer into our monitors. Ullman has been a computer programmer for more than twenty years, and having switched from code to prose, she has shown herself to be a unique, revelatory writer. She is the insider who can articulate the realities of the technical world, taking readers to emotional and intellectual places fiction has never brought them before. With The Bug, Ullman proves she is not only a remarkable essayist but also a master storyteller.

From the Jacket

"The Bug is a mesmerizing first novel about a demonic, elusive computer bug and the havoc it wreaks on the lives of the people around it. This rare combination-a novel of ideas and a suspense-is a story about obsession and love that takes readers deep into both the personal and virtual life.
In 1984, at the dawn of the personal-computer era, Roberta Walton, a novice software tester at a SiliconValley start-up, stumbles across a bug. She brings it to its inadvertent creator, Ethan Levin, a longtime programmer who is working at the limits of his knowledge and abilities. Both believe this is a bug like any other to be found and fixed and crossed off the list. But no matter how obsessively Ethan combs through the depths of the code, he can''t find its cause. Roberta runs test after test but can''t make the bug appear at will. Meanwhile, the bug, living up to its name, "The Jester," shows itself only at the least opportune times and jeopardizes the fate of the company.
Under the pressures of his obsession with the bug and his rapidly deteriorating personal life, Ethan begins to unravel. Roberta, on the other hand, is drawn to the challenge. Forced to learn how to program, she comes to appreciate the intense intimacy of speaking the computer''s language.
As she did in "Close to the Machine, Ellen Ullman brilliantly limns the space between human beings and computers-a space we all occupy every day as we peer into our monitors. Ullman has been a computer programmer for more than twenty years, and having switched from code to prose, she has shown herself to be a unique, revelatory writer. She is the insider who can articulate the realities of the technical world, taking readers toemotional and intellectual places fiction has never brought them before. With "The Bug, Ullman proves she is not only a remarkable essayist but also a master storyteller.

About the Author

ELLEN ULLMAN worked as a computer programmer for over twenty years, entering the field when few women were part of the computing culture. She is the author of the cult classic memoir Close to the Machine and the fortchcoming novel The Bug. She currently writes for Harper''s, Wired, and Salon, and has been a regular guest commentator on NPR.

She lives in San Francisco, California.

Editorial Reviews

"Ellen Ullman, English major turned computer programmer, writes with humor and aplomb…Ullman takes her liberal arts sensibility and opens a fascinating window onto the culture of people obsessed with Activex controls, device drivers, and C++."
-Newsweek

"For someone sitting so close to the machine, Ellen Ullman possesses a remarkably wide-angle perspective on the technology culture she inhabits.… It's a ride we're all on, though most of us sit passively at the wheel; Ullman brings into sharp focus the blurry landscape whizzing by."
-Village Voice

"Ellen Ullman gives her extraordinarily realistic insider's perspective missing from the pundits who write about it secondhand. And male coders writing about their culture might not remember to include the life part."
-Stewart Brand

"Hundreds of books purport to tell us what the computer revolution really means, but none hold a candle to Ellen Ullman''s astonishing novelistic memoir, Close to the Machine."
-Patricia Holt, San Francisco Chronicle

"Ellen Ullman writes unsparingly of the vivid, compelling, emotionally riven souls who gave us our new machines. By turns love story, tense psychological drama and comedy of (very bad) manners, "The Bug" is an edgy and irresistible journey into lives all too rarely visited by literary types."
-Geraldine Brooks, Author of A Year of Wonders


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