Back to the bleeding-edge future

Flashback to the 1980s, when the data center where this pilot fish works is on the bleeding edge of technology: a new, top-of-the-line IBM multiprocessor mainframe.

"After it was installed, we started to run our normal workloads -- and then we started getting all sorts of system dumps," says fish.

"We all looked at the various dumps and didn't see an issue. The instructions in the software that weren't working should be working. We called IBM and reported that the hardware wasn't working the way it was supposed to."

The trouble ticket is escalated, and eventually a senior field engineer arrives. He looks at the dumps and agrees with the data center team. He calls in the senior sales engineer on the account, who finally agrees that something isn't right.

Meanwhile, one of the data center's system programmers writes a quick program to demonstrate that the new hardware isn't working right. He starts the program running.

Ten seconds later, it fails.

"The senior field engineer and the senior sales engineer talked to each other," fish says. "Then they stopped talking and picked up the phones. The proverbial skies went black as IBM started shipping all their people to us."

The army of IBM engineers pores over the system dumps -- and finally proclaim that, yes, it's a hardware error.

A field engineer fires up an IBM program to test the hardware. After 15 minutes, the diagnostic program reports that one of the wires that go into the high-speed buffer is several inches too long.

A tech replaces the wires, the mainframe is started up again -- and the machine starts working the way it's supposed to.

"Two hours later, all of IBM left and we were more or less satisfied that we were all good," says fish. "I turned to the senior sales engineer and asked why they didn't run the diagnostic on the wire in the first place.

"He answered, 'That's what happens when you're on the bleeding edge.'"

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