Because that's the way we do it, that's why


Flashback a few decades, to the days when the bank where this IT pilot fish works has a problem with users who copy files onto floppy disks -- the kind that are actually floppy -- and then label them using ballpoint pens.

"Pressing hard with a pen would damage the disk within and cause read errors," fish says. "People persisted in doing this, despite repeated warnings.

"Finally, some smart person at Central Operations found appropriate felt-tip pens in an unusual purple/lavender color, ordered a few gross of them, and sent a box to every branch, with instructions that only these special purple pens were to be used on the floppy disk labels.

"And Operations Receiving started sending nasty notes to any branch that sent in a disk with a label not in that purple pen. In a few weeks, read errors decreased greatly.

"That was many, many years ago.

"Not long ago, meeting with my personal banker at a branch of that same bank -- after five mergers and three name changes -- I heard bankers in a neighboring cube copying problem files from one PC onto a thumb drive to send to headquarters. One of them started to write the branch ID on the drive, and the other one said, 'No no -- you have to label that in purple, or it won't work right at headquarters.'

"It was a young guy who couldn't have even been born yet when purple pens fixed a problem with floppy disks. But he had been trained by someone who had been trained by someone...from back then."

Sharky's purple prose starts with your true tale of IT life. Send it to me 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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