Really, you just can't ever have too many backups

Flashback a few decades, to the days when this consultant pilot fish has written a reservation system for a company that runs charter tours -- and it's about to become obsolete.

"I had developed the airline, hotel and trip options reservation system on a 1980s-era Basic/Four system, with about a dozen workers at CRTs," says fish. "Business was brisk, and the volume demanded more input stations than the current system could support.

"I was busily engaged in moving the application from that system to a PDP-11 minicomputer, and had spent a lot of time on a weekend at the tour operator's site making changes and testing."

The last thing fish does before leaving on Sunday night is to make full copies of the systems from both the Basic/Four and the PDP/11. That's not his usual practice, but he tosses those backups in his car and heads for home.

Next morning he turns on the TV to see all the local stations covering the same story, with live pictures of a building completely engulfed in flames.

And with horror, he realizes that building is familiar: It houses the tour operator's offices.

By the time he gets to the site an hour away, the building has been gutted to its brick walls. Fish finds the owners across the street, leaning on their cars and consoling one another.

"They really brightened up when I told them I had copies of all the software," fish says. "I also told them I had another client who had a Basic/Four system that was a similar configuration and was for sale.

"By Friday they had obtained another building, with phone lines installed with the same numbers, and I had the Basic/Four system up and running. A few weeks later the new software was up and tested, and we converted them to the PDP/11 on a weekend with no problem."

Sharky can never have too many true tales of IT life. Send yours to me at You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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