Why didn't you say that to begin with?

This software developer pilot fish is working on a system to allocate freight charges and audit and pay freight bills -- and he thinks it's coming along fine.

"But I came in one morning and found several managers, accounting types and others in my cube," says fish. "I was wary and asked what was up.

"The question they asked was, what have you done in your program to insure that the proper payables tape is used? This was before the days of data file catalogs and automatic error checking."

Fish walks the group through his program's process: It writes a date record at the front of the payables data on the tape, which will be checked against a date stored internally in the computer. If it doesn't match, the program will halt and print an error message on the console. If the operator inadvertently hits start, it will halt again and again -- a total of five times.

If the operator keeps restarting it after that, it isn't my fault any longer, fish says. But why are you asking about my program?

It seems that an operator recently mounted the wrong master payables tape in the Accounts Payable system -- and along with paying that day's bills, paid the previous day's bills a second time, the group tells fish.

There is a clerical process in place to avoid that problem: The checks go to the corporate treasury department to be signed, and a docket goes to the buying or traffic department to be verified before the checks are mailed.

But that process didn't catch the mistake. Sighs fish, "They asked the gentleman in charge of the process why he signed the docket allowing the checks to be sent. He said he always signed the docket.

"When asked if he read it, he said, 'No, when I took this job they told me I was supposed to sign the docket every day. They didn't tell me I was supposed to read it.'"

Sharky really will read your true tale of IT life. So send it to me 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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