Ever have a job or Career where you catch yourself saying things that sound like one liners for short stories? Things like “It’s a prototype, what do you want from me?”
Don’t get me wrong, being a system engineer and working in an R&D lab is a blast. It is the best job I have ever had. There are weeks where I feel like my brain is being pulled in too many directions. I get home, I want to write but as soon as I sit down, i see the cursor blink at the end of the last sentence I wrote and my brain draws a flat line. The next day at work, you troubleshoot an error on a prototype, you figure; “the Cache module error is because the prototype has no cache battery, just install a cache battery and the error will go away.” You install the cache battery and then it gives you a BIOS system error about the mezzanine cards. the fellow you are helping asks you why it is suddenly giving you this error and your brain draws the same blank as you get when you see the cursor blink. fortunately i am friends with this guy so he laughs when i say “it’s a prototype, what do you want from me?”
It also helps that an hour later we are vaping outside and trading insights into problems and he asks me, “So, when did you become a test engineer?” and an innocent bystander cracks up laughing.
One thing is for sure, after close to three years of working on various prototype equipment, it has changed how I write science fiction. In the first few renditions of Ascendant, Serrah had prototypes spun up quickly and they worked well. Now, you see the prototypes being planned out but not being used right away. the latest chapter, even though she has a prototype new form ready to use, she falls back on a trusted form. Blade Prime plans the proof of concept for a new tek form that will not be seen for three books. Seeing things come from proof of concept to Development Prototypes, to validation prototypes to Manufacturing validations builds, engineering samples, test samples, and the like, has been interesting.
My job started out as being the person setting up an end to end environment consisting of servers, blades, network, storage, and making it all work. support the test engineers when their prototype software comes up with an unexpected result or when the equipment breaks for some reason. Now, we have prototype hardware that adds complexity to the mix. we have to support that, and test it out. It has been awesome and I found that what I have experienced has made its way in how I write and how I see things coming out in the world.
People expect things to work perfectly and are critical of companies when they discover a problem. they don’t seem to understand the development it takes to get the equipment to the state it is currently in. they also don’t get to see how bad the proof of concept and the DP/VP equipment that came before the finished products were. Also, there is so much testing that can be done before a product goes into the wild. Knowing what some of the products we supported went through and what they started off as, i have a new found respect for a lot of equipment currently on the market.
I wonder what kind of stories were inspired by the phrase “It’s a prototype, what do you want from me?”