Run a backup and check error logs, then we'll talk

Contract programmer pilot fish is working on a project to automate a steel rolling mill -- where giant ingots the size of cars are flattened into rolls and coils that can be used by other companies.

"Before we got involved, they would receive printouts of available ingots from the furnace pouring area and printouts of pending orders," says fish. "Information about which ingot was being processed and the settings for each piece of equipment was then communicated over the PA system.

"Our custom system provided that information on dumb terminals. The total IT knowledge required of the operators was hitting the tab key to navigate, pressing X to identify which ingot or order was being processed, and hitting Enter to register that choice.

"As we were training the union-member operator, he asked, 'Am I getting a pay upgrade? After all, I'm a computer operator now.'"

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