"I know it's real — I saw it in a demo!" provokes uproarious laughter among those who know software charlatans and their tricks. Nothing is easier to fake than a computer demonstration ... and no form of fraud is harder to detect, by a naïve observer, than a rigged program. Demos pretend to exhibit a generality and robustness that real software developers struggle for years to achieve. The presenters of a demo tread a carefully-demarcated path, show off features that only work in a narrow context, use rigged data sets, and display spurious output screens. How could anyone know? It looks great — as long as nobody asks to touch the system themselves, to run it against real problem sets, and to ask it unanticipated questions for which no canned answer has been pre-coded. Then, the house of cards collapses and the demo-givers either retreat or start offering excuses. Don't trust a demo that doesn't let you take the controls. And even then....

Tuesday, March 21, 2000 at 20:36:04 (EST) = 2000-03-21


There is a story I heard at a computer science club meeting from
the president (this was Fall 2001 semester), which said that, to demonstrate Windows NT somewhere, the Microsoft guys used something like three ultra-expensive minicomputers linked together (sort of Sun Spark quality, I think). Thus, their OS looked incredibly fast, because they were using hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hardware!


(correlates: SummertimeQuips, NextPlease, SigilOfPower, ...)