Good copy? Bad copy? No 'copy'

It's decades ago, and this banking company is upgrading its check processing system to let local branches help out with the checks that have been deposited, according to a pilot fish in the know.

"Instead of just sending deposited checks by courier from each bank or branch to the main operations center each night, banks got new equipment so they could key in the info from deposited checks at the local branch, then courier in both the checks and a disk with the keyed information," says fish.

"Most of the banks got someone experienced in typing to do this -- often a senior secretary who didn't need much training. And the instructions specifically included making a backup copy of the floppy, to be kept at the local bank."

One morning the operations center can't read the floppy from a small-town bank, and it happens that a young IT staffer is out at that branch for the day. Operations calls him and asks him to see if the bank actually made a backup copy and, if so, to bring it back so they don't have to re-key all that day's deposited checks.

IT guy asks and is directed to the woman who does this keying -- a formidable lady in her 60s who's also the executive secretary to the bank president.

Do you have a copy, like the instructions say? IT guy asks her.

"Certainly," she replies, "I make a copy every day. They're right here." And she reaches into a drawer, pulls out a thick file folder, and hands it to him -- filled with carefully dated photocopies of the front and back of the floppy disks.

IT guy: But this won't work! It's not a good copy!

Secretary: "That is a very good copy. You can clearly read everything written on the label, and even see the serial number on that floppy thing."

IT Guy: It is not a good copy. You did it wrong!

Secretary: "That most certainly is a very good copy. And I've been making copies since before you were potty-trained, young man. I'm not going to sit here and let you tell me I did it wrong!"

She stalks out of the room -- and after the IT guy recovers from his astonishment, he calls Central Operations back and tells them to get started on re-keying that bank's checks.

"Some investigation following this revealed that about a third of the banks had similar backup 'copies' made on their Xerox machines," fish says.

"New instructions were soon issued, including details on how to create a second floppy disk to be held at the local bank -- and carefully avoiding the words 'make a copy.'"

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