Monkey Poets and Integer Pointers

I have a confession to make. A rather big one. The kind of character-shattering revelation that might cause you to change your mind about me.

I don’t know what a pointer is.

There, I said it. I might as well have just come out of the closet, it’s that big a deal to an engineer. I mean, I know what a pointer is, theoretically. I just don’t know the first thing about using them, calling them, compiling them. So what’s a pointer?

Any electrical engineer worth his salt knows what a pointer is. It’s a software term in the C language. And I can’t get one to compile for the life of me. Really understanding the pointer… I haven’t the foggiest.

To put this in relative terms, this is like the rumored sophomore in college who’s been hiding from his classmates and professors a Big Dark Secret: he can’t read. “How in the world did he fake literacy this far?” you ask incredulously. I’ll tell you: the kid’s a master con man. Somewhere along the way, he figured out how to take tests and manipulate teachers.

So, what are the implications of my code confession? Have I actually conned my employers? Good God, I think I may have! Believe me, this isn’t something I’m taking lightly. It’s caught me off guard as well. It’s presented me with a sort of existential crossroads, causing me to reevaluate my role in life and work. Where does an engineer go from here? Especially in a field that intrinsically has a turn-over rate of information every 6 months, i.e., what you know now will be out of date in half a year. Keep up or die.

To illustrate further, I have this Dilbert cartoon fittingly posted on the bookcase in my office at work:

This very accurately describes the tenuous state of my self-confidence in my field. On far too many occasions, after careful examination of the fruits of my labor, I feel certain three simians on a coffee brake could put a lid on my day’s action items. Humbling, yes. Self-deprecating, perhaps. All I know is I’ve only got about a month left in this info cycle to cram for my pointer test.

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