Missed it by THAT much

It's just about Y2k time, and this pilot fish is assigned to a college's accounting department, where he has lots of duties -- and one very taxing responsibility.

"Aside from keeping their software running, one of my tasks was to transmit our annual 1099 data file to the IRS," says fish.

"At that time the IRS used a BBS-style dial-up system to collect 1099 data files. Unfortunately the college had just converted its phones to VoIP. Dial-up modems didn't work over the college's VoIP, so I put in a request for access to an old-fashioned twisted-pair phone line."

And soon he gets a call from a telephone tech, who tells fish, "You already have a phone in your office."

Fish repeats what he already said in his written request: Dial-up modems don't work over VoIP, the IRS has a dial-up site, and the deadline for uploading the college's 1099 data to that site is only a month away.

"We'll work on it," phone tech says.

A month later, fish takes the file home, where he still has an ordinary phone line, and transmits the file from his own computer.

The following year, fish puts in another request for a modem-compatible phone line -- and this time does it four months ahead of the deadline.

"We'll work on it," tech says -- and four months later, fish transmits the file from home again.

"This pattern kept up year after year, with both me and my supervisor submitting requests for a suitable phone line with no success," fish says.

"Then one day I was passing my supervisor's office and noticed that the college's Executive Vice President for Information Technology was there."

Fish sticks his head in the door and tells his boss, "Hey, I'm not sure I'll be able to send that college data to the IRS from my home computer this year. I think it has a virus."

EVP/IT: "What? Why do you have college data on your home computer?"

Supervisor and fish explain the situation to the EVP. They show him multiple tech request tickets, some marked "on hold," some "under review," and some just completely ignored.

And they bemoan the risk of the college's sensitive financial data on an aging, privately owned computer used by all members of fish's family, and sometimes even the neighbors.

Next morning, fish arrives at work to find a phone tech finishing up installation of a regular phone line in his office.

"That was the same year the IRS replaced their old-fashioned dial-up system with a modern website," says fish. "The phone line that had taken so many years to install became obsolete before its first use."

Sharky's been asking for your true tales of IT life since Y2k too. Send me your stories at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt every time I use one. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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