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Monday, August 31, 2015

"The Soul of a New Machine"

We talk a lot about putting soul in our new machines.  The phrase comes from a book by Tracy Kidder.   Ira Flatow of NPR's Science Friday recently took a new look at this book.  There are TWO recordings in this link.  Both are worth listening to.  The second is an interview with the author, conducted at Google HQ in New York City.  Woz chimes in. 

At about 6:43 in the second interview, Ira Flatow and Tracy Kidder get into a little argument about how to pronounce the word "kludge."  I'm with Ira -- the fact that he pronounces it this way makes me think that we are using a New York, or at least and East Coast pronunciation. 

I am a big fan of Tracy Kidder.  His "Mountains Beyond Mountains"  is about Dr. Paul Farmer, a heroic physician who has dedicated his life to treating the poor people of Haiti.  "My Detachment" is about Kidder's stint as an army officer in Vietnam.   Kidder and his editor wrote a nice book about the crafts of writing and editing: "Good Prose."  "Strength in What Remains" is about the genocide in Burundi. 

Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" http://soldersmoke.com/book.htm Our coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmoke Our Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20


  1. Hi Bill,

    I was transplanted from "back east" and I always use 'clue dja" as in what a "kludge" or "kludge machine". So yeah maybe it is just a "New York" thing.


  2. I'm from Boston area originally, and we always pronounced it "Kloodge" (rhymes with Stooge)
    I've never heard it pronounced the other way. (Sorry Bill)


  3. Bill,

    Love that book (The Soul of a new Machine). Picked up my copy in 1982 while in Massachusetts attending the DEC Corporation school to learn to troubleshoot and repair the PDP11 mini computer and RL02 hard disk drives (whopping 10 Mb). While in Boston I was blessed to be able to attend "Applefest ’82" where I meet Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in person. I later visited the famed "Poly Paks" electronics surplus store in Lynnfield Massachusetts where they had electronic parts by the barrel. I have to agree with DaveL, the other computer hobbyists I hung around with pronounced "kludge" like "stooge" also. My American Heritage Talking Dictionary and the Merriam Webster on-line talking dictionary pronounces it that way too.

    Rick ~ N3FJZ


    From American Heritage Talking Dictionary:
    kludge or kluge n. Slang. A system, especially a computer system, that is constituted of poorly matched elements or of elements originally intended for other applications. [Origin unknown.] --kludge v. --kludg“y adj.
    WORD HISTORY: The word kludge is not “etymologist-friendly,” having many possible origins, none of which can be definitively established. This term, found frequently in the jargon of the engineering and computer professions, denotes a usually workable but makeshift system, modification, solution, or repair. Kludge has had a relatively short life (first recorded in 1962 although it is said to have been used as early as 1944 or 1945) for a word with so many possible origins. The proposed sources of the word, German klug, kluge, “intelligent, clever,” or a blend of klutz and nudge or klutz and refudge, do not contain all the necessary sounds to give us the word, correctly pronounced at least. The notions that kludge may have been coined by a computer technician or that it might be the last name of a designer of graphics hardware seem belied by the possibility that it is older than such origins would allow. It seems most likely that the word kludge originally was formed during the course of a specific situation in which such a device was called for. The makers of the word, if still alive, are no doubt unaware that etymologists need information so they can stop trying to “kludge” an etymology together.

  4. Bill -

    Switch over to CW and they'll never worry about the pronunciation.

    I remember the piano playing character, Schroeder, from Peanuts - on TV they always mispronounced his name, at least to my Milwaukee raised ears.

  5. Like Ira, my pronunciation has it sounding like fudge. I think I picked this up from listening to 75 meter AM in the Northeast during the 1970s. Perhaps someone could check with WA1HLR? How does Tim pronounce it?

  6. Cliff Stoll and Kludge: http://soldersmoke.blogspot.com/2013/05/cliff-stoll-definitely-has-knack-and-he.html

    And more etymology:


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