credit: duesentrieb @ flickr Chest puffed out and walking absurdly fast, Dietrich called out various rooms as they passed. "Built in the 70s, you'll find our building is an absolutely stunning marvel – processing room! – of modern architecture. Top to bottom, function has – restroom! – dictated the form. You'll find no unnecessary extravagences – another restroom! – within these walls." His heels clicked and echoed as he led Chris S. and another fresh-faced recruit on the grand tour of RNTP's corporate building.

Chris had been trying to get a word in, and seized the opportunity as soon as he could. "Wow, this building is hu-"

"EXCUSE me," Dietrich's steps came to an immediate halt as he turned and gave Chris the stink eye. "Moving on. You will have no trouble finding – executive conference room! – your way around."

Their journey ended in front of a dark gray steel doorway with DICT flawlessly painted on the front. "This room is a shining example of what we intended," he said, dramatically opening the door to the sound of groaning metal. Chris and the other recruit stepped in to the room. It was drab, gray, dimly lit, and lined with empty shelves. There were no signs that the room had ever seen any use; no scuffs or chips in the floor, no marks on the countertop that jutted out from the south wall, not a speck of dust in sight. From about waist height to the ceiling, there were dozens of shelves that were deep but only a few inches tall. Two fully-stocked latex glove dispensers were mounted on the walls near the shelves for no reason that Chris could determine. No wallcoverings, no windows, just a cavelike bleakness wall to wall, floor to ceiling.

Dietrich eyed the men expectantly, so Chris let out a nervous smile. "You're impressed. Not surprising, this room is just wonderful. And the best news is that you gentlemen will get to work in this very room!"

Losing Time

Whether it was 7:00 in the morning or 7:00 in the evening, any sense of time had slipped away from Chris. His dark, windowless chamber always looked the same. Visits from his supervisor were few and far between and his fellow newbie's social anxiety kept him silent for much of the day. It was an internship spent in solitary confinement. Chris began tallying the days in his notebook.

On day 26, at what would have been sunrise, the door groaned open to Dietrich's face. "How are you sirs doing?" Chris's co-worker barely even looked up in acknowledgement. "Fi-," Chris began.

"This room has some great history," Dietrich interrupted, wide-eyed. "This was designed perfectly to accomodate a project." Maybe a project to see how long it would be before Chris or his colleague would go crazy and kill and eat the other? "We were working on a dictionary."

Chris blinked, and the room was silent. "So why-"

"We knew it would be a big one. 50,000 entries or so. Each entry would have three to five quotations. So, let's say, 250,000 quotations. Each quotation on its own punch card," he paused. "I mentioned this was years ago, right?"


"So all these shelves were planned to perfectly fit all these punch cards!"

By the time the building was completed, punch cards weren't even used by any of the company's systems anymore, but the room stands strong as a reminder of outdated technology. The shelves had been built to accomodate 41,945 cubic inches of punch cards, and had never seen hide nor hair nor hanging chad of a single punch card.

Chris continued his internship for another 38 tally marks, bringing his three months to a close. On his way out, Dietrich walked just as quickly, and his footsteps echoed exactly the same. As they moved past a door that Chris walked past every day, marked "VAX," he noticed the door was open. On his first tour when he started, the room contained a collection of VAX mainframes sitting on a raised floor. Now the room had a single small server off in a corner of the room. Yet again, a room's design had been made obsolete.

Fortunately, work has begun on a new room designed to store all of RNTP's Jaz disks; construction will be complete in the summer of 2023.

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