A network? No! It’s just sharing, over wires.

You can fool some of the technophobes some of the time …

Computerworld  |  Shark Tank
Computerworld / IDG

It’s the ’90s, and pilot fish is doing some work for a small law firm where the senior partner considers that newfangled internet to be nothing but trouble. And that is the root of the firm’s problem with printing, which is very slow.

The firm has a couple of large laser printers, and the IT consultant who preceded fish in this gig had rigged things with parallel port switches and extenders so that everyone could get to them. It would often take 30 seconds to a minute to print a page. It’s a kludge of a solution that baffles fish: Why would an IT professional do such a thing, especially when the printers have Jetdirect cards already installed in them?

When fish recommends networking the printers, he gets his answer.

The junior partner is all for the idea, but the senior partner shoots it down. He’s “read articles” in law journals about the dangers of the internet, and he believes that any networking will leave his computers and files vulnerable to hacking from the outside. The guy is a committed technophobe — he doesn’t even own a TV!

This is when fish learns from junior that the previous consultant wasn’t fired; he quit because he “couldn’t work with someone like that and still provide quality service.”

Fish and junior then conspire to get senior’s OK. Fish renames his proposal as a “high-speed printer sharing system” and resubmits it. It’s accepted, and fish installs a Thinnet peer-to-peer network across the existing desktops. Printers now print at full speed, and the networked PC users (which doesn’t include the boss) can share files. The senior partner is none the wiser, though he grumbles about how fish could come up with such an elegant solution when their previous consultant couldn’t and “just wanted to put in a network.”

Fish is feeling pretty good, knowing that the office can work more efficiently and that he has in no way put its files in danger. But while it’s clear that the senior partner is technologically illiterate, fish figures he’s going to eventually catch on, and fish doesn’t want to be around to take the heat from such an experienced attorney. So, taking a cue from the previous consultant, he fires the law firm as a client, fish says, “because I too couldn’t work with someone like that and still provide quality service.”

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