Not So Magical: Ants Invade Computers, Hex’s Real-Life Counterpart

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is a beloved collection of slightly metafictional adult fantasy novels. The series presents a parallel world to our own, where magical elements coexist with everyday life. Over the course of the series, Pratchett explores the intersection of these two worlds, often drawing inspiration from our own reality. One fascinating aspect of the Discworld series is the presence of Hex, a computer developed by the wizards at the wizard university. While initially a playful reference to punchcard data processing, Hex evolves throughout the series and becomes a significant symbol within the Discworld universe.

Hex, the wizarding world’s computer, is a quirky creation. It consists of blown glass tubes filled with ants, who navigate the tubes based on holes punched into cards by the wizards. Initially limited to simple calculations, Hex gradually gains complexity and plays a more prominent role in subsequent books. As it develops, Hex becomes filled with references and features, such as an “Anthill Inside” sticker, secure external memory in the form of a beehive, and even a mouse nest. However, the removal of certain elements, like the mouse or a teddy bear gifted by the Discworld’s version of Father Christmas, can halt Hex’s functioning.

While the idea of a computer filled with ants may seem amusing in the Discworld context, it turns out to be far less enjoyable in real life. Recently, a Reddit user shared their plight of having an ant-infested computer. The ants were not enhancing the computer’s processing power, as Hex charmingly suggests, but rather causing it to overheat. This problem, although initially surprising, appears to be more common than one might think. Several years ago, another Reddit user shared a gif showing their CPU/GPU infested by red fire ants, which are an invasive species in the USA. These ants are attracted to electrical equipment and can cause damage by chewing through wiring coatings, potentially leading to short circuits. Interestingly, when an ant is shocked by electricity, it releases pheromones to attract more ants, creating a constant cycle of infestation.

Getting rid of ants in a computer can be a challenging task. Due to their small size and resourcefulness, these invasive insects can be challenging to locate and eliminate completely. While one might be tempted to take extreme measures, such as burning down their house and relocating to Canada, there are more practical solutions. Seeking professional pest control services with experience in dealing with ant infestations is a recommended approach. These experts can safely remove the ants and take preventive measures to ensure a repeat infestation does not occur.

Shifting gears away from ant-infested computers, Rhianna Pratchett, the daughter of Terry Pratchett and an accomplished writer herself, has expressed that new Discworld games are possible if developers bring forward compelling ideas. However, the rights to the old 90s adventure games based on Discworld’s universe are currently unclear, potentially complicating any future game development.

While Hex, the ant-filled computer from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, fascinated readers and sparked a sense of wonder, the reality of ants invading computers is far less magical. Dealing with an ant infestation in a computer can lead to overheating and potential damage to the electrical system. Despite the amusing nature of Hex’s antics in the novels, real-life ant infestations require professional intervention for effective removal. As fans eagerly await the possibility of new Discworld games, the uncertainty surrounding the rights to the previous games adds an extra layer of complexity to the franchise’s future in the gaming industry.


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