Happy holiday

Flashback to Thanksgiving circa 1970 -- the time of year when all the secretaries are pestering this computer operator pilot fish for old punch cards they can use to make Christmas wreaths.

"I had a programmer that had worked all night on the keypunch machine keying up a Cobol program deck, getting ready for year end," says fish. "After running this deck several times through the Cobol compiler and getting a clean compile, he dropped off the deck on my desk and asked that I run it through the duplicator and punch him out a backup deck."

But just as fish is about to do that, the phone rings at the console. Fish puts the deck of punch cards on the empty table next to the keypunch and answers the phone.

It's the maintenance guy, who wants fish to pull some floor tiles and check whether his air-conditioner repair from the day before has held and the leak was stopped. And as one thing leads to another, an hour has gone by before fish returns to the keypunch machine to make the backup deck.

And the cards are gone.

Down the hall fish runs, looking for the missing the deck. "I asked all three secretaries if they had picked up a deck of cards for wreath making," fish says. "No luck."

But after he gets back into the computer room, one of the secretaries calls him. It turns out her boss, the VP of programming, overheard fish's questions, and admitted going into the computer room, getting the deck and giving it to a secretary in Finance who had caught him in the hall and asked if there were any old cards.

So it's off to Finance fish goes, hoping that secretary has been too busy to start the wreath project.

No such luck -- the cards have already been rolled over, stapled and put into the wreath formation. Worse, they've been liberally rubbed down with white glue and generously sprinkled with chad. All that's left is to give the wreath a gold spray-paint job.

"The secretary was very upset about what she had done," says fish. "Having started her career in key punch, she offered to rekey the deck. The programmer still had his coding sheets, which he gladly surrendered. As I left, he asked if she would be nice enough to run the new deck through the Cobol compiler and debug his errors.

"She did give him the wreath after it was painted, and it hung in his office all year."

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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