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Wands from a Muggle Perspective

by David Haber

The wand is a very important tool in the lives of witches and wizards of the Harry Potter universe. I believe the magical wands of Harry Potter's world could actually be tiny hand-held computers. This is a look at those wands, from the perspective a muggle computer programmer, using actual examples from the Harry Potter books.

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Reader Comments: (Page 3)

I'm not really a technical type of person, so the first time I read the article I'm like.. is he serious? What?
Then I read alot of the comments of the article. Way to connect Muggles and wizards without the inconvenience of a half-blasted-away living room and a pig's tail poking out of your pajamas.

Posted by Ashley from Missouri on April 16, 2007 6:11 PM

Great article, but what would the code be for something like the patronus charm? How could the 'wand' know if a picture is happy?

Posted by Mike from Kent, UK on May 19, 2007 3:35 PM


I have a feeling that if the picture was happier it would be sharper, brighter, and more colorful. An angry or depressed picture would probably be dark and dull.

Posted by Ashley R. from Missouri on June 6, 2007 11:11 AM

Regarding the patronus, maybe the connection is an electromagnetic pulse which is stronger with the happier emotion of the wizard holding the wand. Like a biofeedback program.

Posted by Patty from Quincy MA on June 9, 2007 10:18 AM

It would be cool if they made a miniature computer shaped like a wand that had java software with voice recognition, a motion sensor, an extremely strong battery, and the computer would have the ability to convert the electrical energy into the type of spell being cast. If you concentrated hard enough, you could send out a large amount of positive energy, negative energy, or both, in order to perform a spell.

And they could set all this up in a harry potter amusement park where people could actually dual in an actual full size model of hogwarts and spend a week there doing cool fake magical spells.

Posted by Alienweeble from stafford, va on June 24, 2007 1:54 PM

A very funny article -I found myself hoping the wands won't crash or freeze in the middle of a spell and then when you call the help line and ask if there's anything that avoids the problem the guy whose head's in the fire doesn't tell you "Nah...that's Windows, it just does what it does."

Posted by Catherine from a forest in central Illinois on July 5, 2007 5:38 PM

Hopefully the Magic operating system works a lot better than Microsoft.

The amusement park idea was pretty good, Alienweeble...but how would the wand-computer translate the positive/negative energy into a spell?

Posted by Bekah from Ohio on July 10, 2007 07:50 AM

Oh my goodness that was incredible.
I would want my wand to run on linux.

Posted by Sam Johnson from Bountiful, Utah on July 15, 2007 8:10 PM

Sam: A Linux wand might be cool, except you would want to restrict all but root access, because a wand with multi-user access I think would be a bad thing...

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on July 16, 2007 06:59 AM

I was just wondering about the wands' upgrade feature. Of course, when Snape invents a new spell and programs his wand to interpret it correctly, that work fine as long as he's using his own wand. But what about Harry's?

It seems to me that wands have to be interconnected permantly, in some kind of wWAN (wand wide area network). In this way, when one wand's programming is changed, all other wands would upgrade immediately.

I could also imagine different wWAN for different regions, like a latin-based one for Europe and Northern America, an Aztec- or Incan-based South American wWAN - and probably a variety of wWANs, or rather wLANs, in Africa...

Posted by Christoph from Karlsruhe, Germany on July 16, 2007 07:16 AM

Very nice. Interesting and well explained. I always thought there was a scientific explanation to magic, and here's the proof. I mean, religious people who think you'll go to hell for reading HP really ought to get out more. I like this article a lot.

Posted by C. J. from Utah on July 19, 2007 12:13 AM

I disagree on one or two points.

I understand your Object-Oriented bias, but it seems to me that object-binding is inferred, not formal, otherwise rote object-references would be required for all spells, and no new object-references would work until they had been impressed into the wand or the magical plenum by practice. In GOF, "Accio Firebolt" was practiced to perfection, but "Accio Trophy" worked in the Riddle graveyard on the first try.

Also, considering the importance of runes in the Wizarding world, it's more likely that the magic (of wands, and perhaps in general) is written in Forth (back in the early Doctor Dobbs days, there actually was a Forth dialect called Runic), considering how bind-runes are built. About the only syntactical sugar in Wizarding magic is their preference for Latin (which makes sense as a safety precaution, using a language for live ammunition). Forth definitions are about that sparse.

Posted by siaru from boston suburbs, ma on July 23, 2007 7:52 PM

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