Throwback Thursday: Not hardware, not software...

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This pilot fish works for a company that makes automated optical inspection equipment that's installed all around the world. But at one overseas site, it's all going wrong.

"None of the field engineers can make any sense of it, and the customer is threatening to pull us out of the production line and throw us out completely if we don't get it fixed right now," says fish.

"The president makes the command decision that the director of software must fly out with a complete workstation and the source code on a CD to debug and fix the system live on the line."

Fish arrives, talks to the local rep and unpacks the workstation. The rep plugs it into the 230-volt outlet available on the production line and throws the power switch.

Black smoke appears from the machine, a sure sign that the power supply has just been fried because the switch wasn't moved from the 120-volt U.S. setting to the 230-volt position.

A few hours later, a new power supply arrives. Fish makes very sure the switch is properly set. The machine boots fine, and it isn't long before fish finds and fixes a software glitch.

Then he waits to make sure that everything's working.

It's not. "Every board going into the machine is being rejected with hundreds of faults," fish says. "The customer's manager complains that this is 'typical' of our equipment.

"I then notice that they are inserting the boards backward at the start of the production line. Our machine is rejecting them because they really do have hundreds of faults.

"Red-faced manager runs to shut down the line after only a few hundred boards -- with parts costing a few hundred dollars each -- are scrapped."

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