It's one thing you just can't have too many of

Flashback to the early 1980s, when this project manager pilot fish is working to help bring an aging factory into the computer age.

"I was in charge of getting planning and inventories on line in a new system," fish says. "After a year, the money ran out for the project, but they wanted to keep me on and have me do development work.

"Among other things, we were using the one and only IBM PCJr to create a quality response process using the dBase II database system."

In this case, "one and only" really does mean there's a single PCJr computer, and fish uses it to create a database of all of the quality data, and another database of customer requirements.

Then he puts together a dBase program to generate a printed report that can be signed by the quality manager and sent to the customer, with a copy also going into the customer's file.

And -- since it's being done on IBM's first attempt at a home computer -- all the software is stored on floppy disks.

"There was a senior programmer, Fred, who was upset that I got to do the programming on the new PC," says fish. "He stopped by frequently with questions. He made suggestions that wouldn't work, and told everyone how he could have done it better.

"I took a few days off for some job hunting, and when I got back I learned that the program wouldn't work. I did some troubleshooting and found some code had been added that had the wrong syntax. An hour later, it was working again. I made a backup copy and gave it to the quality manager, just in case."

Fish gets the new job, which is half a continent away. But before he leaves, he makes an extra backup copy of the program disk and tapes it to the back of his filing cabinet.

Then fish flies to some meetings at his new employer. But while he's there, he gets a phone call from the quality manager, who says the system stopped working. Fish tells him to make a copy of his backup disc and use that to run the program.

But he can't. Quality manager explains that fish's original went missing the day he left, and the quality manager has been running from his backup copy, and now it doesn't work.

"I told him where he could find my secret stashed copy, and that he should make a copy of it and not tell anyone where it was," fish says. "He said he would have Fred handle it.

"A week later he called again -- to ask if I had hidden another copy somewhere else."

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