The lifeline

Flashback to the 1990s, when this very seasoned ex-mainframer is winding down his career by managing a midrange system at a manufacturing site, according to a PC tech pilot fish there.

"Fred was literally counting down the days to retirement," fish says. "He had managed to arrange a schedule that had him coming to work at 5 a.m. and walking out the door promptly at 1 p.m. to play golf, every single day."

But one day a console operator tells Fred that the AS/400 is reporting a problem with a hard drive. Fred calls IBM and a technician arrives the next day and gets to work.

A few minutes later, Fred walks into fish's repair depot with his face white as a ghost, sits down on a stool and says, "I'm dead."

What's wrong? fish asks. Turns out the tech discovered that all but one of the AS/400's drive were toast -- and when he powered up the system, that one died too. The tech is replacing the drives and loading the OS, but the system won't have any of the programs written over the years from the corporate programming group.

OK, just restore from backup, fish says as he continues working.

"That's why I'm dead," Fred says. "I haven't backed up in five years!" As fish picks up his screwdriver and his jaw off the floor, Fred explains he's been feeling overwhelmed for the past few years and has just let the backup duty slide.

Fish is horrified, but he agrees to sit with Fred as he calls their boss at corporate. She listens, sighs and then says, "Well, don't we have another site that's been running the same programs?"

That brightens Fred up considerably -- the boss not only hasn't killed him, she's thrown him a lifeline. Boss conferences in the AS/400 tech from the other site and explains that she needs a copy of his backup sent to Fred overnight.

"The tech hemmed and hawed," says fish. "Finally he explained that he hadn't backed up his system in two years and would have to do so right now before sending the tape out.

"WHAAAAAT?!? we heard the manager exclaim. Then without missing a beat she began telling Fred and the other tech that they had better come up with a backup plan right away and submit it to her the next day."

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