Well, it USED to work just fine!


It's the mid-1990s, and this IT pilot fish is working on a big infrastructure project -- replacing computer control equipment that dates from way back in the 1960s.

"I was sent to a very remote site to provide software support to help with some troubleshooting on the plant floor," fish says. "There was an issue with an analog input on the new control computer. The client's field engineer was sure it was software, so I installed new software, which was extensively tested in the lab.

"Then the remote unit was rebooted -- and the issue was still present."

Next step: Swap out the analog input board. That doesn't fix the issue either, so the field engineer gets out his meter and checks the signal input circuit from the control unit to the device. No trouble found there, and the problem remains.

Then fish and the engineer take a walk around the equipment, eyeballing the hardware and cabling to look for any obvious problems. Still nothing, but the engineer gets an idea. He pulls out his oscilloscope this time and rechecks the circuit.

Sure enough, there's so much heavy electrical equipment that it's generating lots of induced noise on the line. The old-school gear from the 60s wasn't bothered by it, but it's enough to make the analog signal unreliable with the modern equipment.

Engineer tells fish he'll submit a repair ticket for the problem, and that's the end of it as far as fish is concerned.

But many months later, as the project is winding down, fish gets a call from the same field engineer, who asks if fish ever fixed the analog input problem in the site software.

"Remembering the field trip, I asked if he had fixed the noise on the analog circuit," says fish. "The engineer suddenly remembered the issue and said he would check.

"I never got another call about the issue. Seems it was hardware after all."

Suddenly remember a true tale of IT life? Tell Sharky about it. Send me your story at sharky@computerworld.com, and you'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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