Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Ancient Geek V.2.0 (Beta)

Photo: IBM archives.

I remember being particularly useless in my first ever job, where it was my daily task to rapidly advance the ageing process of the already- harried production controller in a factory that produced metal housings and racks for electronics systems. The company had installed an IBM minicomputer, a System 32 which was later upgraded to S34, 36 and 38. The decision was taken to implement MAPICS – Management Accounting and Production Inventory Control System (I remembered that. Didn’t even Google it! Not bad, huh?). This was a particularly brilliant decision given than MAPICS was designed for a chemicals manufacturer and we were a sheet metal factory.

In an extraordinary process, the entire business was redesigned to fit the software. The drawing office system was completely rebuilt, job cards going out to the factory floor redesigned, the stock system completely redone and even the workflow in the factory was rebuilt to accommodate the demands of ‘the machine’.

Even back then, I remember wondering why the machine didn’t accommodate the business rather than forcing the business into the arduous and painstaking job of accommodating the machine. I've been wondering that about technology ever since.

The production office was filled with older gentlemen. They weren’t a bad bunch, but belonged to a different England, the England of Pinewood Films, tank tops and pipes. And they didn’t like the computer one bit.

I, on the other hand, loved it. It didn’t take long for me to notice that MAPICS flashed the names of its (RPGII coded) subroutines (I remember AMEM00 in particular, for some reason) on the green-text terminal screens. Logically, avoiding the awful and tortuous menu system that the program used, I used to key these in and bounce directly to the subroutine I wanted to be in. This made me a lot more efficient in the way I negotiated my way around the software but, as hindsight tells us, meant that I took no parameters with me as I went from routine to routine. The resulting massive system crash took weeks to build up to and was apparently particularly spectacular when viewed from the DP department.

The DP manager eventually found me. He wasn’t happy. In fact he was utterly distraught. After he had calmed down, he decided that as he couldn't kill me (as he had originally, apparently, intended) or even sack me (my boss deciding that training up another callow erk was more trouble than putting up with me), I would probably be better off inside the tent pissing out in future and so I became ‘Mr Computer’ for my office full of recalcitrant Luddites.

My lifelong love affair with computers had started...

(BTW, I googled it later. MAPICS has only got one 'A' it appears as the 'and' doesn't count in the acronym)


halfmanhalfbeer said...

It's also where Technology's lifelong fear of being McNabbed started too I hear.


Oussama said...

Interesting, you guys actually redesigned the business. In my first job they tried to redesign the program to reflect the business.

On a more serious note, Technology should force some change that reflects increased efficiency and productivity. In reality both the software and the business should compromise to keep the best of both worlds, otherwise called customization

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