Pride comes before a fall
A long time ago in the days of proper
computers there was a big development taking place for a new
computer that would never go wrong.
It was being designed for use in a telephone
exchange and as everyone wants to be able to use their phone
at any time and no-one wants lose contact in the middle of a
call it was important to design a computer that wouldn't let
Our group, up north, had been designing
the microprogram bit that was the brains, and our southern outpost
had been designing the other bits.
The first fully constructed machine
was built in a big factory near Poole in Dorset.
A long time had been spent making sure
it all worked well.
A full system actually consisted of
lots of small computers connected together and these monitored
each other to detect any mishaps.
If something went wrong, clever hardware
sorted out the problem.
The system even told you what to do
to put things right.
There were about a dozen large racks
each containing lots of shelves, in each of which there were
about 24 circuit boards.
One day we were invited down to see
the culmination of the work which had been taking place over
the last couple of years.
We were wined and dined and at last
led to the computer room wherein was the first "System 250",
so named because the read-write access time of the core store
used by the computers was 250 nanoseconds.
We were shown to our seats in front
of the system and an engineer proceeded to tell us about their
work and the specifications of the system.
"ANY fault can be detected and
a print out on that teleprinter will indicate the nature of the
problem and the action to be taken", the young chap said
to the assembled throng.
"To make it easy", he said,
"We'll demonstrate by unplugging a printed circuit board.
We CHALLENGE you to defeat the system!
Each one of you can select a board and
my associate, Peter, will unplug it and you'll see what happens".
The first visitor rose to his feet and
walked over to the system.
When he pointed a finger at the fifth
printed circuit board in the fifth shelf of the fifth rack, Peter
unplugged the board.
The teleprinter rattled and out came
the result "Board XYZ failed.. replace with a new board".
"That code is the one for the board
that was removed", explained Peter.
We were all impressed.
The board was replaced and the alarm
lamp which had been glowing, went out.
One by one the visitors rose and made
their selection only to see a perfect diagnosis and repair.
Allan stood up and walked over to the
"There must be a way of defeating
it", he thought.
"Of course there had been not a
little rivalry between the design groups and after all we should
have had the job of building the system after all.
Unfortunately politics had got in the
way and the work had gone south.
Let me see
the last rack
doesn't look very impressive
only a couple or three shelves
just two boards in the middle"
"allow me", I said, without waiting for Peter to do
the honours, yanking out the right hand board.
The teleprinter that had been humming
to itself suddenly went very quiet.
"You can't have that one, that's
the one that controls the teleprinter".
"Do I win the challenge",
Peter did well, he ended up Managing
Director of the business!