Low Tech Solutions to High Tech Problems

When I got to work today I walked into my co-worker’s (Michael’s) office and saw this:



Data was scrolling by on the screen in rapid fashion. So I asked him what he was doing and he said he got tired of mashing the inner-butt-n  (that’s the way we say “pressing the the return key” in Texas). Works for me. He could have probably written a custom shell script with proper error checking and whatnot, but why, when the stapler was sitting right there.

I always thought the best programmers were basically lazy. They always seem to find ways to get more done in less time. When I was a young programmer my goal was to write a batch job that would run all month. That way I’d only have to come in on the first to kick it off for the next month. I never quite got there but I had fun trying.

Which reminds me of something that happened at my first programming job. I worked for an oil company that had more money than sense. We had two of everything. We actually had two Cray’s. Anyway, my boss had one of the very first transportable computers, a Grid. The Grids were very futuristic back in 1982. They looked pretty similar to what we have today. So anyway, my boss told me this story after returning from trip with his brand new Grid. He said he was on the airplane and decided to get his new toy out and play with it. So he gets it out of the bag and sets it up on the tray (I guess it was after the flight had taken off due to the electronics restrictions, oh yeah, they didn’t have those then!) – so anyway, he starts getting all the stuff out of the bag and getting organized, and by this time he says everyone within 10 rows is staring at him because no one had ever seen a laptop computer before. And he’s looking around smiling at everyone, thinking yeah this is pretty cool. Then he gets the last part out of the bag, … a power cord.

and he looks at the power cord …

and he looks around the cabin for a place to plug it in …

and he looks at the power cord again …

They didn’t have batteries on those early models. (they didn’t have ethernet jacks either, but they did have a 1200 baud modem BUILT IN!)  So anyway, he sheepishly puts the computer back in the bag and pretends to sleep for the rest of the flight.

Here’s a picture of the Grid computer (notice the wire running out the back <grin>):

My favorite low tech solution though was provided by a friend of mine that got a job right out of college working for an oil company. His first assignment was to fix a bug in an extremely complex reservoir simulation program. Apparently they had been trying to fix the bug for months.  The bug manifested itself by producing a result for one of the calculations that was always off by 1. And they just couldn’t figure out where the error was. They ran test case after test case through it and it was always off by 1. My friend worked on it for a day and then demoed it for them and it worked flawlessly. When asked how he did it, he said “Well, I just went to the end of the program and added 1 to the result”.


Your comments are always welcome.


  1. Michael Fontana says:

    Yeah, well, this is exactly the sort of thing I might notice and write about. Very humorous, thoroughly enjoyable. Perhaps we’d be in competition with each other? I can tell a similar story about some of the first portables. A friend of mine was a college professor who had one of the first Osbornes. It was almost useless (too big and slow) but he used it for presentations and lectures, and seemed to be doing pretty well with it (as long as he didn’t have to expose how useless it really was. He owned stock in Osborne, poor guy….

  2. […] il suo blogroll sul blog di Kerry Osborne. Ho trovato subito due bei post, uno intitolato “low tech solutions to high tech problems” e l’altro “Statspack still works in 11g“.  Il primo più divertente e […]

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