Maybe a paperweight next time?

Sometimes being on the scene is the easiest way to solve a mystery.

It’s the late ’80s and pilot fish is a junior programmer working on terminal emulation software for PCs to access various mainframe systems. He periodically ships out updates to customers on 5.25-inch floppy disks.

A few days after the latest update, Fish receives a call from a customer who says the floppy disk she received appears to be blank.

Not a problem, Fish says, I’ll overnight a new copy. But after few days pass, the customer calls to say that this disk is blank as well.

Puzzled, fish talks the situation over with his manager, who tells him to hand-deliver two copies of the software. Fish books a flight, hotel and rental car, then heads to the airport as soon as he can throw a few things into a bag at home.

He’s at the customer’s office the following morning, hands over a disk and says, “Pretend I’m the postal person and I’ve just delivered the envelope and you’ve opened it. What usually happens next?”

“Well,” replies the customer, "I normally don’t have time to handle it immediately, so I put it here.” Customer places the floppy on the side of a government-issued metal filing cabinet and holds it in place with a very large magnet. And like the two floppies before it, this one is promptly erased.

But fish suddenly sees his boss’s wisdom and pulls out the second floppy…

Sharky says don’t erase your true tales of IT life. Send them to me at sharky@computerworld.com. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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