Saga of a woman old enough to know better who lets her life be governed by the ridiculous hobby of breeding and showing dogs, musing on life, the twenty first century, Cameron and his mini-me, and the occasional sheep.

Friday, July 23, 2004


This post is by way of an apology to anyone out there who actually reads this. It seems that the blog was set up to receive comments only from registered Blogspot Bloggers - a default setting which I hadn`t noticed.  I think I have now rectified this, so if you feel you have anything to say - say it please - I`d love to hear from you!

I wonder if computers are getting beyond me at last.  I wonder this every year, and have done so since  the sixties, when I hung out with a lot of Cambridge mathematicians, and some of them got into this great new computing thing, and I went along for the ride.

I remember one Sunday I got a call from A, who was a computer language expert with ICL.  (The new cutting edge language at that time was Fortran...)   He was one of ICL`s troubleshooters, and had just had an emergency call from a subsidiary of John Brown, which made marine engine components - the mainframe had been asked to print out test results and was spewing out garbage.  "Come on out with me," he said:  "It`ll be a laugh and all you need is a clipboard and you can punch some cards for me." 

(No, that isn`t a swinging sixties sexual euphemism - go read your history of computers.)

Well, we got there and it was emergency stations.  They didn`t actually have a flashing sign saying RED ALERT and sirens going, but the atmosphere was there.

You have to think your way back forty years.   Welcome to the Palaeolithic.  Computing`s  stone age.    No PCs.    Computers were mainframe and huge  and were being installed in big firms as the Latest Thing which would Revolutionise Production. 

This one certainly had.  Production was at a standstill.  The little manager stood there, sweating buckets.  Although it was Sunday he had called in all the staff, and they stood there in a line of misery.  The firm`s new toy, which he found terrifying and incomprehensible, had been broken on his watch.  He had the access log in his hand and it was obvious that unless Deep Thought over there started doing what it should, the last name on that log could collect his jotters.

As was usual then the mainframe occupied a glass room, airconditioned at positive pressure.  They were delicate beasts.   A repeated the last procedure in the log,and sure enough, out came yards of listingpaper covered in gibberish.  He prepared to do a diagnostic and I got the cards ready.

It all looked very serious and suddenly became too much for one of the young lads in the line.  He let fly what we used to call at school a Silent But Deadly.   The mainframe`s airconditioning obligingly circulated the odour with alarming efficiency.  When it reached the little manager he went purple.

"Who did that?  Stand forward the man who did that!  The thing`s  already broken down - and that will finish it!  It`ll never work now!"

Neither of us kept a straight face - A suddenly found he had to inspect the tape reels very closely and I found the clipboard very useful.

And no, we didn`t get it to work. 

What part the fart played in its demise is a matter of conjecture.

I suppose the fact that they don`t affect my PC is a measure of how far we`ve come.......

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