Alice found herself on the chair in Hal's factory. "Isn't that pushing potion quite nice?" he was asking.
"Where have I been? Oh dear! I am afraid that I fell asleep. That is so rude of me," she said.
"Nonsense, you didn't fall asleep. You just now drank some of the pushing potion. Hmmm, I'm afraid it didn't work on you. It doesn't always work, you know. Sometimes it is very contrary."
"But it did work! I really was asleep and dreaming the most unusual dream—all about programs. They were mostly all nice to me."
"Programs can't be nice. They're just a set of instructions telling me what to do!" replied Hal.
"Oh, but they really are the nicest, although some of them speak the strangest way."
"Who speaks strangely?" asked Pal who just entered the room.
"She thinks programs can speak to her." said Hal.
"They can! They can!" cried Alice.
"Well, we all know programs can't talk. They are just dumb.... All right, what did they say?" asked Pal.
"They told me all about themselves. Some are language translators, you know. They speak very curiously. One even spoke backwards!"
"I've had some of the programs work like that," said Hal. I once had to compare a bunch of characters to see if they were the same coming and going. I think they were called palindromes."
"Does that have anything to do with your friend, Pal?" asked Alice.
"I should hope not!" said Pal. "I have aibohphobia!"
"My goodness! What is that?" asked Alice.
"It is a fear of palindromes, of course," said Pal.
"That's right," said Hal. "He went off the deep end because someone once described him as too fat and said 'Lap not on Pal'."
"Arrgh! I can't stand it!" cried Pal and hastily ran out of the room.
"He doesn't seem overweight now!" exclaimed Alice.
"Well, of course not, he never was. He can always be relied upon to carry his own weight in any case, but as you can see, he is a bit sensitive about some things. He is always multiplying things out of proportion."
"I know some people who always seem to do that," said Alice. "Right, and the truth never seems to register even if you bend over backwards to try to sort them out."
"It really is too bad that he does not like palindromes," said Alice. "I rather like them!"
"Contrariwise, I use them to my advantage. I have a register that I want him to keep out of—everyone needs a private spot now and then, you know. Since it has a parity flag, I have it labeled 'Never odd or even'."
"Someone once mentioned a parityman," replied Alice, and she paused as if trying to remember something, then continued, "I don't quite remember who. Oh well, I am certain it doesn't matter. What kind of flag does he have?"
"Oh, you want to avoid him!" said Hal. Once parity caused me to get stuck in an infinite loop. I was printing 'Never, ever, ever, ....' Hmmm," he paused. "I know I was waiting forever for 'ever even', but it never came—odd, now that I think about it—Pal wouldn't have liked it. I know that."
"How did you get out of the infinite loop?" asked Alice.
"Well, I... er...." At that moment came a loud hissing sound. "Excuse me, I need to clean the overflow out of the half-adders' cage. Would you like to see some of them?" asked Hal sounding quite relieved.
"Oh, I don't like snakes!" said Alice with a shudder. "And I don't think I would like either half!"
"These aren't really snakes," replied Hal. "Anyway, I carry a bit of ore to them to ingest, and they become full-adders."
"That still doesn't sound too nice," said Alice rather cautiously. The comment about giving them some ore reminded Alice how hungry she still was. The pushing potion and the popcorn had done little to satisfy her. "Uhh, earlier you mentioned lunch?"
"Did I? Oh, yes I did. We'll get around to it shortly, but right now there are too many things to do." And Hal busied himself."
"Maybe, it is time for a break?" asked Alice hopefully.
"He never takes one, you know," Pal, who had just returned, told Alice. "Even when there's nothing to do, he stands around checking things. He's a workaholic. I tried to get him to go Workaholics Anonymous for Intelligent Technicians, but he refused and said that the WAIT state was only for lazy CPU's with slow memory."
At that moment a loud bell sounded and shortly thereafter a horn burst out and before anyone could do anything a whistle went off. "You must excuse me, I got to get to work," said Hal even though as far as Alice could tell, he was already working. "Here Pal are those values, I need the result in a hurry!" And Pal grabbed the numbers and hurried off. Hal continued to work, and Alice was left quite alone and ignored. She still had not had anything to eat, and it appeared that lunch was still a long way off.
"Well, I must go and find something myself," she thought and got up and walked out through a gate. The road in front of the gate stretched in both directions. "I wonder which way I should go?" she said to herself, then added aloud, "I guess it really doesn't matter since I don't know which side I might find some buttered bread. However, if I go far enough, I'll certainly end up somewhere! Now let me see, right or left? I will go right! Maybe it won't go wrong and I wouldn't be left out!" And with that she started off down the road."