on call Welcome back to On-Call, Registertracks readers’ reminiscences of technological trials and tribulations.
This week meet a reader we’ve regomized as “Walter,” who in the early 1990s took a temp job for a finance company that financed car purchases.
“The job was simply to enter and validate funding requests from the public and have management notify the public and shops that funding had been cleared or declined,” recalled Walter.
In his first week, Walter got to work on an application that required a green screen monitor. Walter determined that what he was actually using was a terminal connected to an IBM AS400, Big Blue’s minicomputer.
But when he showed up for work the second week, a shiny new computer from Digital Equipment Corporation was sitting on his desk.
This beast featured a Pentium PC, a full two megabytes of memory, and a whopping 400 megabyte hard drive.
That rotating rust contraption stored a program that added color and motion to the AS/400 application.
But this leap into modernity and the wonderful world of client/server lasted barely a week, because when Walter showed up for his third week of work he was greeted by police cars in the parking lot and crime scene tape for everything. left of the building. front door of the office building.
Said door showed clear signs of having been broken into, the once-fashionable crime in which criminals would steal a car, drive it through a shop window or office door, take some of the loot, and then they accelerated
The Ram Raiders often targeted high-end fashion or jewelry stores.
This batch had lifted the finance company’s shiny new PCs. Which was less stupid than it sounds: new Pentium PCs were definitely a four-figure buy at the time.
Cue panic: As Walter tells the story, the company he was working for processed hundreds of thousands of pounds in loans every day. Executives, from the local office manager to the head office suits, were terrified that the organization would not be able to do business during the weeks it would take to obtain and install the replacement PCs.
That’s when it was pointed out that the green screen terminals remained on site, locked in an upstairs room, waiting for the IT team to come pick them up for disposal.
The AS/400 also remained in its place, in a locked room with its lights blinking merrily.
Thirty minutes later, a downgrade of the terminals was completed and work resumed.
“We confirmed that the new app meant nothing and there was a collective sigh of relief,” Walter said.
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