It was with fun that I read the latest article on this subject from Infoworld. At one time or another everyone working for a large company has found themselves as the victim. It does not matter if you are IT geek, Corporate user, or just poor customer. The stories are always fun, yet also troublesome.

My absolute favorite happened in the early 90’s. I was involved in a large project for a bank that got gobbled up by Bank Of America. But that’s a different story.

The project involved the deployment of IBM mini computers (size of large side by side refrigerators) in some 100 locations in the lower 48, and connect 300 branch offices to them. It was a fun project, if just for the size of it. Of course there were a few issues. The hardware was hardly mainstream, and the search for programmers was a global effort. In fact the internal phone directory looked like it had been lifted from the UN.

My good buddy Don was dispatched to England to check out some new recruits. We needed to locate 10 more programmers and England seemed to be an active spot for people that we needed.

Don came back from the recruiting trip and explained that he had found the expert in programming in CSP. I was happy! We needed another whizz kid. It was some two months later that Mary turned up. It takes time to go through the whole hassle of Visas etc.

With more than 100 people churning code, my job was to be the place where the buck stopped. As the Systems guy, I had to deal with the really icky stuff. When a mini crashed, I’d have a 1000 pages of fun reading. You get quite good at dealing with Hexadecimal notation.

Late one night I got a call from the folks running the ‘end of month’ reports. Something was badly wrong. The numbers all seemed good, except for the one page final report that had to be on the desks of the ‘suits’ in two days.

The good news was that the next day was a vacation, so four of us agreed to meet at 8am and find the issue. There was no reason to call in the 100 other people, we just needed some quiet time to look at the problem.

We were all adults, and wading through thousands of lines of code sounded like a bad idea. Instead we looked at the input and output of each process. Everything looked fine. The issue seemed to be in the all important, yet trivial one page report. Input did not match the output.

It was not hard to spot the issue, the high powered programmer we had hired could not code herself out of a paper bag.

The technique each month was to wait until the rest of the processing was done and then hard code the results into a template.

It was an entertaining adventure now that I look back on it. But it was very far from entertaining at the time.

Good times……

Simon Barrett    

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