Think of them as "virtual colors"

It's the dark ages of IT -- so long ago, they call it "data processing" -- and this pilot fish knows her way around spinning tape reels, printers churning out green-bar paper and, especially, punch cards.

"In those days, all the input to our system was on punched cards," fish says. "This particular vendor-purchased system received input into five different jobs in the job stream. We had not yet figured out that the simplest way to do this was to put a program up front that just received a single set of input and sorted it into files for the appropriate subsystems.

"So we had the keypunch department punch the cards for each subsystem on a different color of cards, so the operators could easily load the decks. Program 1 got orange cards, program 5 got blue cards, and so on.

"Late one afternoon, I received a frantic call from IT Operations asking me to come down because there was a problem with the evening's production run. When I arrived, they showed me trays of cards ready for processing.

"Apparently the keypunch area had run out of multi-colored cards, because every tray contained buff-colored cards. In an effort to be helpful, the keypunch people had written, across the edge of the card decks: 'These cards are orange,' 'These cards are blue' and 'These cards are green.'

"The operator was in a panic, wanting to know if he should 'believe the cards.'"

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