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Build a business case: developing custom apps

Episode 4

"I...uh...was wondering if you'd check this over for...uh...accuracy," the head of IT says, handing over a stack of about two inches of paper.

"What is it?" I gasp, fearing the worst - that it's a business case for a new and inventive way for the company to flush its IT spend down the proverbial crapper.

"It's a personal thing - my autobiography."

"Your...autobiography."

"Yes, it's called Press return to continue and is about my life in computing from the early 60s till now."

"Didn't you used to work in an insurance company?" the PFY asks.

"Yes, and they were one of the earliest adopters of computing! We used to code people's information onto punch cards, then send them off to the central office for them to be batch processed overnight, and the cards with errors were marked and sent back to us, and then we'd have to use a lookup table to find out what the error was with the data that had been..."

"I'm sorry," the PFY gasps. "I think I just went into an insulin coma."

"Oh, are you a diabetic?" the head gasps.

"No, but I think I know what it feels like when the darkness closes in," the PFY sighs.

"Anyway," the Head continues. "Because of the cost of repunching cards I recommended we change to Mark Sense cards which meant that we could simply use a pencil and an eraser and reuse..."

"Wait!" I cry, before the head can continue. "Don't spoil it for me, I'd like to read it for myself!"

"Oh, of course, good point. It's a bit of a read, if I say so myself!"

Which is what worries me...

"You don't mind if I take myself off somewhere quiet to run over a couple of chapters?"

"And I could look at a couple too so we can get back to you quicker," the PFY offers.

"I...I don't see why not - you've nothing important on?"

"Nah, a database recovery, some system tuning and a couple of helpdesk calls - nothing that can't wait..."

"Excellent."

...Later at the pub...

"Listen to this," the PFY says, moving his pint aside and pointing to a chunk of text "...'and it turned out that the engineer had installed the 380-B1 backplane instead of the 380-B2, which took us almost two days to discover because although the 380-B1 was an eight bit bus it had a parity complement option, which the engineer hadn't noticed'."

"Riveting stuff," I concur. "But I think I can top that with three pages of a stack dump that once came off a console printer - which he proceeds to diagnose instruction by instruction..."

...Later that same day...

"So what did you think?" the head asks excitedly as he catches us trying to sneak back into the office to get our coats and leave...

"Well, overall..." the PFY starts.

"..it's a page turner," I say.

"Yes, you can't wait to see how it ends," the PFY adds.

"Anything I should change?"

"Well, maybe go a little lighter on the technical detail and a bit more into funny anecdotes?" I suggest.

"Oh you mean like the system 380 backplane mixup?" he chuckles.

"Not exactly. I think you should be aiming more at funny-ha-ha then funny-I-want-to-kill-myself."

"What are you saying?"

"That the mainstream buyers would probably like to hear more about you pushing a pie into Bill Gate's face," I say.

"Or the time you got rat-arsed at a trade show, hijacked a segway and drove it into a swimming pool," the PFY suggests.

"Or when you gave Richard Stallman a free beer..."

"But I've never done those things?!"

"It's an IT autobiography - you're expected to lie about things," I say. "You know, how you discovered the 'byte' while you were working with some Christmas tree lights one day or how you had a vision for the internet which you accidentally disclosed over drinks at a University pub one day."

"Yeah," the PFY adds. "And when you write about yourself you have to imply that the so-called technologists were really as thick as a VAX architecture guide and how YOU played THE pivotal role in guiding them to their discovery."

"But people know who discovered things!"

"They THINK they do - but once you release your book 'HOW JOBS, GATES, WOZ and ELLISON SCREWED MY KIDS OUT OF THEIR INHERITANCE' people will start wondering..."

"I haven't got any kids!"

"Of course you don't," I say. "Because you didn't have enough royalties from your stolen intellectual property to pay for their lifesaving operations!"

"Put that in the book!" the PFY advises "...then steal some photos of kids off MySpace - ones with a cute dog in the picture work best - and age the image up a bit with Photoshop."

"So you're suggesting I lie?"

"A)It's computing, and B) It's an autobiography," the PFY says. "People know they're going to be lied to."

"And you think it'll sell?"

"Better than you'd think," the PFY predicts. "But publish a couple of chapters on the web first to get a bit of interest going..."

...

Three days later the amount of paper on the head's desk has grown astronomically - and that's just the lawsuits! Who could have guessed the man would embraced the idea of lying so totally.

"And to think," I say to the PFY. "We worked with the man who wrote DOS."

"And C."

"And Fortran. And helped invent the transistor, the microchip and wrote most of Vista in his spare time."

"Ah well," the PFY sighs. "They can't all be winners."

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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