Volume 33 Number 4
By Michael Desmond | April 2018
One. Hundred. That’s the number of columns David Platt has written for the back page of MSDN Magazine since he first came on board back in February 2010. And appropriately enough, the 100-column milestone lands in this month’s April issue, coinciding with April Fools’ Day.
David is no stranger to humor (though his humor can get a little strange). His April 2011 column, “The Cat Butt Factor” (msdn.com/magazine/gg983482) remains one of my all-time favorites. Guest-written by his then-20-year-old cat Simba, the column featured gems of wisdom amid the kitty litter, including this summation of his owner’s technical prowess:
“He’s supposed to know this stuff. He’s written more than a dozen books on programming Windows, he teaches it at a major university and Microsoft designated him a Software Legend back in 2002. And a cat’s butt has made him repave his hard drive, more than once. He thinks it’s wrong. I think it shows how we cats really run the world.”
There’s also the challenge that Simba posed to developers to write programs that can weather unpredictable events—like cats lounging all over PC keyboards: “Legend says that the Internet was designed to survive a nuclear war. Your programs ought to survive the attack of a cat’s butt.”
True wisdom, there. Over the years, David has written again and again about difficult UIs and the terrible costs they impose, including “This Is Not a Drill” (msdn.com/magazine/mt845656), “A Measure of Displeasure” (msdn.com/magazine/mt826357) and his very first column, “The Human Touch” (msdn.com/magazine/ee309884). He’s taken aim at the computer-deficient medical field, the tectonic forces reshaping education, and the high-risk lifestyle of selfie-obsessed smartphone users.
You might be tempted to think that David’s column is a parade of rants, jokes and complaints, but you’d be wrong. Columns like “Jose, Can You C?” (msdn.com/magazine/dn574807) and “Imagine That” (msdn.com/magazine/hh456410) celebrate the achievement and drive of those new to our shores. He’s honored the accomplishments of giants like Grace Hopper, Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie, and provided a glimpse into the amazing efforts of young student programmers creating a mobile app for physicians treating patients with congestive heart failure.
It can be a tricky thing, putting an outspoken author on the back page of a company-owned magazine, especially one who writes repeatedly about his love of “pouring oil on troubled fires.” And yet here we are, 100 columns later, celebrating the slow-motion balancing act that’s brought David’s unique wit and wisdom in equal measure to MSDN Magazine.
It brings to mind a quote from one of my favorite Don’t Get Me Started columns, “Left Brains for the Right Stuff” (msdn.com/magazine/mt703442). In it, David celebrates the scientists, programmers and mathematicians who put humanity on the moon, and recounts a line he overheard from one of the scientists talking about the effort at the time:
“We didn’t know what we couldn’t do. So we just went ahead and did it.”
I think that just about sums up the experience for all of us, present company included. Thank you, David, for 100 months of unpredictable wisdom. And be sure to pass on our thanks to Simba, too.
Michael Desmond is the Editor-in-Chief of MSDN Magazine