And you think YOUR compile cycle takes forever...

It's just a few decades back, and this small consulting firm has won a government contract to create an invoice interrogation and payment system for a military supply center, says a pilot fish on the scene.

"We developed our system on our DECSystem-20 in house. We ran all kinds of tests and believed we had completed code," fish says.

"Then we had to migrate it to their system -- a plug-compatible clone of an IBM mainframe running Cobol, JCL and OS/MFT."

But that's not as simple as it sounds. The actual code editing doesn't happen on the mainframe -- it's done on a separate midrange machine. Then the code is converted to electronic images, so the overloaded mainframe thinks it's reading in a deck of punched cards through a card reader.

How overloaded is that mainframe? Even though fish's team is granted top priority, as a group they're lucky to get two compile/test cycles completed per day.

A typical day begins with getting coffee, discussing progress with coworkers, checking the results of the previous night's run, correcting some code and submitting it.

Then just before noon, it's back to the minicomputer to see what the results of the mainframe test run have been -- and, if the team is really lucky, to start another review/edit/submit cycle.

"Around 4 p.m., the same cycle would repeat," says fish. "In between those times? Newspaper reading, horse handicapping, football pool planning, weekend trip planning, whatever.

"We were going stir crazy just waiting around!"

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