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NT in the high streets – a Xmas tale

The old Digital Nervous System is getting a bit dislocated in Electronics Boutique

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It's the week before Christmas in London's Oxford Street, and The Register is visiting a branch of Electronics Boutique to obtain £60-worth of megadeath for the little mites, bless 'em. As you'd expect of a major software store at this time of year, Electronics Boutique is throbbing - except for the check-outs, that is. As we slowly inch our way along the barely-moving queue we notice that the staff are spending an awful long time standing very still and staring at the EPOS equipment. When we get there, one of them observes that it's now averaging a minute per card validation. "ISDN?" we ask. Indeed it is, says the assistant, and it's supposed to take a maximum of 15 seconds. As The Register's plastic climbs towards a new record wait time, we chat some more. When this happens, apparently, the store staff have difficulty in getting anyone in the supply chain to own up to what's not working. It could be the EPOS equipment, it could be the lines, it could be something out there in serverland or it could be the validation networks themselves. Our first offer of plastic having climbed beyond four minutes, the transaction gets cancelled and we helpfully give them an Amex instead (Amex uses a different validation system, so this should help them isolate the problem). That won't work either, and as the salesman makes a desperate attempt at voice validation, that stops working too. Helpfully, he tilts the screen over so we can see that it's refused to validate. Not just us either. Electronics Boutique in Oxford Street in the week before Christmas is unable to take plastic. Oh dear… But there's something else on the screen that interests us some more. It's the word "Microsoft." This looks very much like the sort of NT-based EPOS system that Microsoft, in close alliance with ICL, has been pushing in the UK recently. Your EPOS equipment is basically a client on the network, so it can play a full part in your corporate Digital Nervous System. When it's not down, that is. We chat some more to the salesman as we proffer cash. "Oh, I wouldn't buy an EPOS system from them," we observe helpfully. He says he didn't ask for it (well, he wouldn't have, would he?) and tells us it now takes twice as long as previously to cash-up at night. We decide to lay off in case our enquiries start threatening the poor lad's career, and head off into the crowd, musing on the distributed computing model. ®

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