323: Ballmer Peak

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Ballmer Peak
Apple uses automated schnapps IVs.
Title text: Apple uses automated schnapps IVs.


Steve Ballmer is a key figure of Microsoft (and its CEO since 2000), which employs a lot of programmers. He is known for energetic outbursts and outlandish (drunken?) behavior in public (videos of which tend to go viral).

The curve in the comic states that, while generally decreasing with drunkenness (BAC; blood alcohol concentration), the skill of a programmer gets terrific with just the right level. The peak has been named after Steve Ballmer, presumably because it depicts a relationship between drunkenness and competence that Ballmer, in his state of seemingly constant intoxication, would fit well.

Programmers sometimes have a reputation for heavy drinking habits. Hackfests and programmer conferences tend to offer copious amounts of alcohol. The comic suggests a reason, but it is turned into a sideways jab at Windows ME (a version of Microsoft Windows widely criticized for its bugs and general lack of usability) as Cueball uses it as an example of what badly controlled alcohol intake leads to.

As stated by Randall later on in this speech (at about 10:00), the peak occurs at a BAC of 0.1337%, which is a reference to leet.

The title text suggests that Apple is delivering alcohol (schnapps) directly to the bloodstream of its programmers, in precise quantities, via automated IV; Intravenous therapy.


[A graph with "programming skill" on the X-axis and "blood alcohol concentration" on the Y one.]
[Cueball is making a presentation with the graph.]
Cueball: Called the Ballmer Peak, it was discovered by Microsoft in the 80's. The cause is unknown but somehow a B.A.C between 0.129% and 0.138% confers superhuman programming ability.
Cueball: However, it's a delicate effect requiring careful calibration – you can't just give a team of coders a year's supply of whiskey and tell them to get cracking.
Spectator: ...Has that ever happened?
Cueball: Remember Windows ME?
Spectator: I knew it!

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There might be a joke also about the fact that schnapps can be made out of apples, but I'm not too sure about it though (don't know, for instance, if the average American guy will think of apples when talking about schnapps). - Cos (talk) 13:40, 7 February 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for the hint, I did add a small statement on this.--Dgbrt (talk) 19:27, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
I would have thought apple uses something like Schnapples (hint: don't look it up at urbandictionary.com). 12:28, 28 June 2013 (UTC)

The Ballmer Peak definitely exists, though the needed alcohol level is most likely higher and might be different for each person (source: I tried it myself). But be prepared for some WTF moments the next day (surprisingly in the positive way). Zilti (talk) 16:43, 28 April 2013 (UTC) Is there any hope of citing the fact the Apple uses automated IVs of Applejack?

The Trivia section cites "the above mentioned speech at Google" - however, no speech at Google is mentioned above it. Amoorthy (talk) 19:07, 17 April 2014 (UTC)

It was the source of ,1337 but I was looking for it myself, so I have changed the text to make this clear Kynde (talk) 21:43, 22 April 2014 (UTC)

I support this theory. Once I came back home drunk (to some level) and for a strange reason I had a hell of a programming night. I never forgot. And also thought it was the alcohol. Although that never repeated again with programming, it happened again with physical exercises. I think this phenomenon can be applied to many/all other activities too. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)