Sometimes you really need an engineered solution

This pilot fish works for a big manufacturer, writing software that's used on production lines so operators can monitor automated processes.

"The operator should be able to look at the main screen from several feet away and be able to tell at a glance how well the line is running," says fish. "This means I have to use specific fonts and all my screens have to have a common layout, so if operators are moved to another line they will be familiar with the software.

"Recently we began building a new manufacturing line, and the manager in charge of the line wanted to add one more station to the line -- but all he had was a 10-year-old, 15-inch monitor that had a maximum resolution of 1024 by 768."

On a screen that small, fish's software is totally illegible. He tries to explain to the manager that the best thing to do would be to spend $75 or so on a new display. Fish even suggests that the manager order a large display for himself so fish can just move his existing 17-inch display over to the line.

But for some reason the manager won't agree to that -- and for weeks he argues with fish and fish's boss, trying to get fish to redesign the entire application that's used on all the lines just to accommodate the old 15-inch display.

Fish's boss even offers to give the manager a monitor -- no luck. Apparently it's not the monitor, it's the principle of the thing.

After two months of impasse, the line needs to be moved, and fish starts in on that project. He's working with an older line engineer and grumbling about the issue when the engineer stops him.

"Is this the display?" he asks fish, picking up the monitor.

"Yeah, that one," says fish.

"Whoops," the engineer says. He drops the monitor, which crashes to the floor, shattering the screen.

The engineer grins. "I hate when that happens," he tells fish. "Looks like he'll need to get a new display."

Reports fish, "Oddly enough, the manager accepted the fact the monitor was damaged during the move and ordered a new display for himself, and asked us to transfer his old monitor to the line."

Transfer your story to Sharky. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. 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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