True Story No2


Wire-less.. far from it!

This story tells of an incident when the manufacturing computer system was just getting going. Everything had to have a code. If it didn't have a code you couldn't get Purchasing to order it.

A young engineer from the laboratory engaged in breadboarding printed circuit board prototypes wanted to construct his circuit. In those days one had to actually build something to prove it worked before embarking on a printed circuit design. Not all functions were available in chip form and the interfacing of the various bits was fraught with difficulty. Not having any wire to join up the transistors, and the lab storeman being off sick that day, he went off to Purchasing to order some.

"Lets look at the new computer printout of codes" was the response.

They turned the pages of the vast tome to the descriptions commencing with "Wire" then proceeded to define more closely their requirement.

At last armed with a code for connecting-up wire they placed their order with BICC (the local company who made such stuff).

Now most local companies, with whom we regularly traded, knew our codes. Many codes were specially formulated to call up specific qualities of goods, for instance released to various "Ministry Requirements" …hence the need for CV numbers for valves etc. No doubt BICC had their own computer system and when an order from our company arrived it was processed without question.

One day (long after the young engineer had forgotten about the wire because by then he'd found some in the bottom of a drawer in his lab bench) he was called to the front door of the factory.

Outside in the narrow street stood a huge articulated lorry (they were called "Queen Mary Lorries" if I recall correctly…I've no idea why). On the back of the lorry towered an enormous drum of cable. Rumour has it that it stood the best part of 50 feet above the road although this may have been a slight exaggeration.

Whether the code for the wire had been copied incorrectly by the Purchasing clerk, the computer operator, the supplier's ordering clerk, one of the supplier's manufacturing staff or what…nobody ever let on. Fortunately we had a very big warehouse over the road where we used to store stuff that might come in useful one day…


Return to Story Page