automagically?

As a programmer, we’re often asked to come up with solutions to problems by using nothing short of magic.  This can come in two varieties: one is we have far too short of a time to make something work, and the other is making something work that seems impossible.  Sometimes there is a combination of the two, a hybrid piece of work from Hades, but the really stressful projects always fit into those three categories.

So today I read an article about how Microsoft had issued a patent for a magic wand that has just recently gone public.  I couldn’t help but find this hysterical, after all these years of performing incredible feats of magic on a daily basis, now I too can have a magic wand made by Microsoft to help.  Of course the technology is a lot more like the Wii-mote than a real magic wand, but I thought it was funny anyway.

So what’s this got to do with automagically?  Well, automagically is a term that gets used here and there as a combination of automatic and magic.  It refers to the mystical bit of programming that we pull off, along with the fact that those have requested the mystical bits think that it can be done with the waving of a magic wand.  My guess is that Arthur C. Clarke’s third law of prediction — “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” — may have had something to do with it.  I like to use it in situations like what I was finishing up yesterday, where you type in a zip code or city and state and the form “automagically” assigns the region and rep.   It’s not that it is anything great or a new thing — forms and databases have been doing this since the dawn of user interfaces — but when doing web programming, it’s a little bit trickier considering the limitations.  Of course it is made much easier with our friend jQuery and its ajax counterparts, but it still takes a while to put together the database and the administration and all the other fun stuff that no one would think of except for a programmer.