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Posted by Eisch
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on Wednesday, 04 November 2009
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A history dotted with computers

Posted by Eisch
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on Tuesday, 16 June 2009
in Digital Blogs
At the tender age of 18, I thought I had cracked it when I was accepted for an aptitude test by IBM and passed.  Reality struck when I was told they had no further budget for new employees that year and I would have to wait another three months to be considered again.

Thinking if I was good enough for IBM I was good enough for anybody, I applied to a global petroleum company to be a computer operator.  After an interview in front of a panel of sour-faced managers, I was accepted as a member of their work-force.  Hurray!  It was only when I pitched up for my first day at their large Head Office that I discovered I had been hired as a junior clerk in the Accounts Department!

For a while, the nearest I got to the computer was to look at it (an IBM 1401) through the glass that surrounded its secure, air-conditioned environment on the first floor, on my way to and from the punch room (which was a much more fun place to be, filled as it was with charming young ladies) - or in the taxi that took me and boxes of punched cards to and from the Hollerith Centre, where the cards were sorted and processed to produce boxes and boxes of continuous stationery.  It was that prinout that consumed my normal working hours, ticking off the entries against the input documents.  Aah, fond memories of Ledger 7, Main Account 902!

A few years later, I was briefly responsible for the company's first "on-line" terminal, which allowed me to manage a database of filling stations while sitting in my 8th floor office.  Over the course of a year, the terminals were installed in 16 branch offices and I wrote my first user manual (how to use DORIS - the Dealer Outlet Reporting & Information System).  I even wrote a short (very short) Fortran program!

After that, my career moved away from computers until I met up with another IBM, a Series 1, in Swaziland.  That's when I learned that if the IPL switch was in the wrong position, the computer would not start.  (For the youngsters, the Initial Program Load was the equivalent of the boot sequence.)  How did I learn this valuable lesson?  Because I called the computer consultant (at consultant rates for ravel, time and accommodation) all the way from Joburg when all my attempts at starting the machine had failed.

Later, having learned more wisdom from said consultant, I managed the project to transfer a large company's accounting systems from an ICL to an IBM environment.  I wonder if the Millennium Accounting Software range still exists?

PCs made life with computers much easier - as long as you could handle the control characters that made Multimate work - and later, as long has you could live with the occasional "blue screen of death".  I have to confess that I continue to use and abuse the Microsoft products, having never had the courage to cut the umbilical cord and go completely OSS.

I do sometimes wonder how different life would have been if IBM had employed me from the start.  Should I blame them or thank them?
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The older I get

Posted by Eisch
Eisch
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on Wednesday, 27 May 2009
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At the considerable risk of being labelled sexist, why is it that men mellow with age but women get waspish?  In my home, I periodically get blamed for everything that happened since Adam and Eve tried the apple - and the same accusations are tabled time after time.  Yesterday, I witnessed a much harsher version of the same thing at a friend's house.

We were trying to enjoy a relaxing glass or three of SA's fine wines but the mood was destroyed by the lady of the house harping on about all manner of things that her poor husband was apparently responsible for - from giving the gardener better tools than her to failing to put petrol in her car.  This was not just about the days activities, though - she dragged in all sorts of ancient history about him never being good enough for her, or to her.

What amazed me is that there was no recognition that I am a friend, in their house for a social hour or two, with no interest in her diatribe.

As Rex Harrison used to sing, "Why can't a woman be more like a man?" 
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AARTO not smarto

Posted by Eisch
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on Wednesday, 27 May 2009
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In the recent good old days, you zoomed past the camera, they took your picture, sent it to you in the normal snail mail and asked for your contribution to the Metro fund.  If you "forgot" to pay on time, it could lead to summons or even arrest at a road block, but that was your problem.

AARTO comes on the scene and now every picture of you has to be collected from the Post Office - and if you don't collect it promptly, you lose the opportunity for a 50% discount on the fine (which has, coincidentally, doubled in value).

Now, my PO is in Halfway House and I work in Braamfontein, so I have to take time off to go and stand in the snail pace queue to collect something that I used to get out of my PO box at a time convenient to me.  Where's the progress in that?  Why can't I have the option to register my details with AARTO and have them send an unrecorded item to me?  I'll take the chance that I might lose one occasionally - they will send a reminder, once the 32-day discount period has elapsed!
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Traffic cops DO make a difference

Posted by Eisch
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on Thursday, 05 February 2009
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On Monday, I was convinced that the traffic cops do little or nothing to speed the traffic flow on the highway (yes, I am a "Ben Schoeman" commuter).  On Tuesday, I was still pretty sure that made no dofference, although it was a little difficult to tell, in view of the effect of the heavy rain.

Yesterday, I was convinced that they DO make a difference.  With the sure knowledge that there would be no retribution, the yellow lane became the fast lane.  Streams of minibuses, interspersed with the occasional bakkie and sedan, were hurtling along at speeds the Gautrain would have been proud of (and as close together as the Gautrain carriages).  Emergency lane for emergency vehicles?  Not a chance!

The net effect, of course, was to exacerbate the bottlenecks (Woodmead, Buccleuch and Allandale), turning a one-hour journey into a two-hour plus nightmare.

Come back, JMPD, all is forgiven!
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Cyberdumb

Posted by Eisch
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on Friday, 09 January 2009
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OK, now let's try this one again!

Yesterday, I commented that the ghastly promos on DStv had improved my reading capacity over the holidays (switch off TV, open book...).

This morning, I almost reached the point where I will turn off the radio and listen to good music instead.  If I hear that snivelling idiot abusing our national anthem to extol the non-existent virtues of "384 kilobytes" one more time...

I cannot believe that anyone has been persuaded by this cringing excuse for an advertisement to actually buy the service.  I am amazed that, in our over-sensitive society, nobody has demanded the advert be taken off the air for lack of respect to our national vanity.

Much more of it, and our sports fans will be singing these new words at the beginning of each international match - becacuse they are inmprinted and more easily remembered...
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It's not what you say, it's when you say it

Posted by Eisch
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on Friday, 09 January 2009
in Digital Blogs
OK, let me try to say it for the third time!

This headline caught my eye today:
Infor serves up integrated supply chain planning across Wedgwood group

The release (on ITWeb, of course) was published today - 4 days after the Waterford Wedgewood group announced that "...certain of their businesses are facing bankruptcy...".  EOH might want to paly down the contribution that Infor is making to Wedgewood's success, at least until they get get a new investor to bail them out!
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Catch 22

Posted by Eisch
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on Wednesday, 17 December 2008
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Earlier this year, I decided I would accept the option of taking a cash payment from a retirement fund.  No problem with that, but SARS would need to issue a tax directive.  They refused.

That's when I found out that my accountant had omitted to deal with an outstanding amount of tax due from ten years ago and had missed a couple of more recent returns.  Ouch!  But, no problem with that, let's just get on with submitting the outstanding paperwork and solve the problem.

Well...that took a while, but finally, I was assured that all was well and the tax liability had been reduced (thanks to the late returns).  So, I asked the fund to apply for the directive again.  It was refused.

Then it became a case of having to deal with the SARS Call Centre, to find out the reason.  First time out, they couldn't tell me "because one of the systems is down".  How long before it's fixed?  "We don't know, it's been down since yesterday."

It was working the next day (fortunately) but all they could tell me was that two returns had not been assessed and that the information was still to be passed to the directives department.  I asked for the matter to be escalated (good word, that - remember it if you need some action at SARS) and was given a case number to use in following up.  When can I follow up?  "Well, tomorrow's Friday, then there's Monday and Tuesday is a holiday, so call on Wednesday."

Today is Wednesday.  The call centre's AVR answers and offers the usual options but instead of connecting me with anybody or anything, it terminates the call!

So, why don't they admit they have packed up for the holidays?  And how do you report the problem if you cannot get to the Call Centre?
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Grass is/is not greener

Posted by Eisch
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on Thursday, 14 August 2008
in Digital Blogs
Two stories caught my eye this morning.  One from the BBC about the cost of communications in Britain:

Britons are spending more time using communications services but paying less for them, says an Ofcom report.

...
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My AlcoSurvey

Posted by Eisch
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on Sunday, 22 June 2008
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Have you ever not been able to remember what you did the night before?
I can’t remember.

Have you ever woken up naked at a Chinese Restaurant?
No – but that might be because I have never fallen asleep naked in a Chinese Restaurant.

Ever wake up in someone else's bed?
Yes, but alcohol was only partly to blame.

Where do you buy your booze?
Wanderers, Woolies, wherever...

Ever puke in a bar or night club?
Yes – but in the loo, oh, and once in the ashtrays.

Ever get kicked out of a bar or night club?
Kicked out, no.  Carried out, yes.

When do you plan to drink alcohol next?
Tuesday.

Biggest regret while drunk?
Having my friends drop me off at home.

Are you a happy or angry drunk?
Very happy =)

Ever get busted with a fake ID?
What’s a fake ID?  I did get asked my age on my 18th birthday, though.

When is the last time you blacked out?
I can’t remember (see above).

Have you drunk more than 1 shot of Stroh Rum in one night?
First and last time, to cap an evening in Windhoek.  3 shots...

Have you ever had a jello shot?
Nope.

Do you get bad "beer goggles"?
Nope.

Ever get drunk and sleep with "just a friend"?
Yup.

Ever make out with a friends significant other?
Nope.

What do you do to try and sober up?
Some sleep and black coffee.

Ever gotten a DUI or DWI?
No, but should have...

Ever tried to kill someone at McDonalds at 3 in the morning?
It’s all I can do to go to the Big M when I’m sober!.

Parked in a flower bed?
No, but I did collide with the fence around the dogs’ yard.

Have your friends ever told you they're concerned about your drinking?
Only on the way home.

Ever drive through someone’s yard?
No, unless the dog’s yard counts.

Ever woke up with no pants and not remember who took them or when?
No, thank goodness.

Ever stop puking to get in a fight?
I’m too small to fight.

Favourites:

Beer?
Hansa, Heineken

Liquor?
Scotch (on the rocks).

Wine?
South African...  OK, Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet – you get the picture

Mixed Drink?
Not any more.

Shot?
Not any more.

My Unique question:
Do you prefer to buy the first round or the last round?
The first round if I want them to remember I bought a round, the last one if I can limit it to the “survivors”.

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