And THAT'S how you get real-world experience

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It's the early 1980s, and this young mainframe programmer pilot fish has a job at a big manufacturer -- but not a lot of real-world data-processing experience.

"I was about as green as green gets," fish admits. "But I was working as a Cobol programmer at a large company that had mainframe terminals scattered across the country.

"One day, after making changes in some code, I went to compile it. Halfway through, the mainframe crashed, hard. As soon as it came back up, I resubmitted my compile job and, as fate would have it, the mainframe crashed again at roughly the same point in the compile.

"Odd coincidence, I thought. I knew they had just completed upgrading the Cobol compiler to a new version, and I wondered if that might have something to do with the crashes, but I tried again.

"After the third crash, I mentioned my suspicion to the senior systems analyst. But he assured me that there was no way the compiler could do this.

"By the fifth nationwide crash, the senior systems analyst was running around asking, 'Who's running process XYZ? It's crashing the system!'

"I stepped right up and said, 'I told you it was my job.'

"He still had a hard time believing the new compiler could crash the system. But needless to say, I didn't submit any more compiles the rest of the day."

Tell Sharky your real-world experiences. Send me your true tales of IT life at You'll get a stylish Shark shirt every time I use one. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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