For sale: New PCs, never used

It's some years back, and this pilot fish is working on a computerization project at a bank branch in a town that's out in the sticks when a local woman asks him for help.

"She wanted me to visit her at her home," fish says. "I agreed, and as promised arrived at her home one Saturday morning.

"She told me she had new PCs that she wanted help finding a buyer for. OK, I said, show me the computers and I'll see what I can do."

She leads fish to her dining table and points to a box in the middle of it. "Here's one of them," she says. "There are five in total like this one -- all of them brand new!"

Just by the look of the still-sealed box, fish can tell it's been in storage for some time. When did you get these computers? he asks.

"Oh, it wasn't me," she says. "My late husband came home with them five years ago. He wanted to open an office, but he died before he could install them."

I'm sorry to hear that, fish says -- and he means it, because he can guess what's coming next. Can I open the box to look at the computer? he asks.

"Yes, go ahead. But they're new," she says.

Fish opens the box. Sure enough, the PC is in pristine condition, still in its wrappings. And, sure enough, the model number tells fish that it's an antique that can only run MS-DOS at a time when the whole world has moved on to Windows.

I'm sorry, ma'am, fish says. This computer is too old. No one can buy it.

"What?" she says. "But they're new!"

They're too old now, fish repeats, even though they are still in their original boxes, unopened. You've kept them too long. There's no way I can help you.

"But how come?" she asks, baffled. "These computers are new! No one has ever used them!"

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