What we have here is a failure to system integrate

It's the 1970s, and this small scientific computing company makes specialized minicomputer-based systems -- which means profits are small too, says a Fortran programmer pilot fish there.

"One day our VP let out an anguished roar so loud all of us heard it," fish says. "He had just opened that month's electric bill, but instead of the usual $200 or $300, it was for well over $10,000!

"He went on a screaming rampage into every room of the building, looking for the culprit. He finally found it in the high bay area where the hardware was assembled.

"Here's what happened: A severe natural gas shortage hit the nation the previous winter. All gas customers were asked to limit consumption if at all possible.

"Our company's response was to shut off the gas heating units and install electric resistance stack heaters in the ductwork. This meant new thermostats had to be installed to control this more expensive type of heat.

"On the old thermostats, the heating function was no longer connected to anything. But the cooling function remained connected to the air conditioning units. Did I mention that the new thermostats were mounted next to the old ones? Can you say Murphy's Law?

"In the high bay, the heating thermostat was set to 80 and the cooling thermostat was set to 70. As a result the heating and cooling ran continuously and the temperature was holding steady at 75 degrees -- for a month!

"The next day, locking covers were installed over all the thermostats in the building."

It's a new year, but Sharky needs the same old thing: your true tales of IT life. Send them to me at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt every time I use one. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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