Ethan Levin is a programmer, responsible for the interface of new database software. This is 1984 and it's the first software of its kind where databases across a network are talking to each other. Many investors are involved in this company and pushing for this software to launch quickly. Berta is a QA tester and one day, by moving her mouse a fraction below an open menu, the entire program freezes. This is a critical level one bug and it happens to be from Ethan's code.
While Ethan tries to find what is causing this bug, he's also having problems at home. His girlfriend leaves for a trip to India with a mutual friend and Ethan is pretty sure she has cheated on him. Work is consuming him and he isn't making any time to fix his personal life.
This book speaks about a technical world, but in language that non-technical people can understand. That said, if you have absolutely no interest in tech, I'm not sure there's enough in this book to be appealing. The story moves forward very slowly, which usually I find boring, but I really enjoyed Ullman's writing style which was enough to keep me engaged.
Having been a developer in the past, the interactions between programmer and QA were pretty spot on. It's always the other person's fault. How many times has a developer said "user error" to a QA tester? And though I've never been there myself, I've seen that bugs can absolutely consume people. Everything about Ullman's writing felt authentic to me.
First Line: "A computer can execute millions of instructions in a second."