Whatever happened to taking a test drive?

It's the early 1980s, and the corporate department where this pilot fish works decides to replace its aging minicomputers with the hottest thing in departmental IT: the IBM System/38.

"But the budget wouldn't support a brand new one, so we bought a used system from a Japanese company," says fish. "Several people in other departments were heard to jokingly wonder if the new system would speak Japanese.

"It was shipped over to us and then sat without power in the computer room for several months while the rest of the project -- terminals, twinax cables, modems, software and user training -- slowly ground forward.

"I was the day-shift computer operator, so it behooved me to learn about this new technical wonder. One day, I took a long, hard look at the 'new' system as it sat there. As I looked carefully at the green-on-black CRT console screen, I could see characters burned into it.

"They were kanji characters! It really did speak Japanese!

"I pointed it out to my supervisor, and that was one of the few times I ever saw her speechless.

"She passed the word up, and the company went into a panicked scramble to find an English-language interface card in time to make the project deadline.

"They made it, but just barely. Apparently, no one else ever really looked at their new technical wonder. If I hadn't noticed it, the results would have been humorous, but not productive."

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