Allen F occasionally feels out of place. As a software developer in a large, scientific research lab, he's one of the few people not running around in a lab coat, mumbling about things like how to stabilize the latest batch of tretonin, or how only an idiot would name it isoprovalyn instead of hydrozapam. In fact, Allen doesn't even get to wear a lab coat.

Despite not being one of the PhD'd researchers, Allen's work is pretty important. He's the one that develops simulation programs that the biologists and chemists use to save countless weeks of research time. Of course, just as Allen is unsure of exactly how the researches use the data his programs generate, the researchers really have no idea what it takes to write the programs.

As Allen quickly learned, developing simulations programs is more tedious than difficult. Because they'll run for days on a cluster of very expensive computers, and especially because the derived data will be used in future simulations and tests, it's fairly critical that the simulation programs are error-free. This means that Allen has to spend a significant amount of time debugging and re-debugging the code on his workstation. And that's where the tedious parts come in.

To crunch numbers as fast as possible, the simulation programs are designed to grab every byte of available memory and peg every core on the CPU at 100%. Obviously, that doesn't leave much computing power for anything else, which means that Allen can do little more than watch his as his computer labors away for the five, ten, or thirty minutes that it takes to run his program locally.

After realizing that almost half of his day was spent staring at his screen, Allen requested a second workstation so that he could focus on email, requirements analysis, and other tasks while his computer slaved away. He figured that, with $200,000 spent each year on lab coats alone, surely he'd be granted a second computer. Surely, Allen was wrong: his request for second computer was denied. After all, his productivity was more than adequate, as the researchers were always raving about his hard work.

Allen wasn't quite sure what to make of that, but got back to work nonetheless. Or at least, watching his computer work. He did, however, start paying more attention to the researcher's compliments.

"Those cordrazine simulations worked out perfectly," a researcher said later that week, "always impressed by how you can read that code."

The following day, a PhD stopped over as Allen blankly stared at his screen. "Err, I hate to break your concentration," he remarked, "but how's the metazine-8 program coming along?"

"Hey," a chemist said as he walked by, "how come our simulation doesn't have those cool visualizations!?"

A day later, another PhD popped-in, interrupting another staring session. "I've always wondered," he said inquisitively, "does it look like that when it runs on the cluster? It's almost like something out of the Matrix or something!"

And then it dawned on him. Allen had recently switched his XScreenSaver to XMatrix, which displayed animated green glyphs from the Matrix movie. Prior to that, he had been running Coral, CloudLife, and other screen savers that "organically" drew different dots over the screen.

"Yep," Allen replied jokingly, "and once you get used to looking at it, you can see the woman in the red dress."

Eventually, Allen purchased a computer with his own money and set it up as his second workstation. Not only did it improve his actual productivity, but his perceived productivity shot up through the roof. With him actually typing away as the green glyphs scrolled down the screen, many were convinced that he was actually developing the Matrix.

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