Erik’s promotion to Senior Software Engineer came after five years of cranking out high-quality software for his employer- a large ISP. Despite his heroic efforts, not every bit of legacy software from the Dark Ages had been eradicated. Some things were best left undisturbed- so long as they still worked.

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One day, the call center’s queue montioring program stopped displaying status and call data; the service desk ground to a halt. This monitoring application was a key cog in their customer service department’s daily operations. It routed calls to available team mebers, tracked how many calls were in the queue, and calculated how much life the callers would waste listening to awful hold music. While the service desk staff welcomed not having to answer idiots’ calls, their manager, Dan, was livid.

“Your crappy network is down!” Dan burst into the IT area. “No calls are coming in and the customers are going to get angry. This could ruin us!”

Erik tried to ping the server which ran the monitoring application. It was up, and so was the network. “The network is fine,” Erik replied. “And the call-center application is up. It must be your monitoring application.”

“I DON’T CARE ABOUT TECHNOBABBLE. FIX IT NOW, YOU PIPSQUEAK!” Bullets of sweat poured from Dan’s forehead.

“Settle down and I’ll go take a look at it,” Erik said. He headed for the service department. The HDTV monitor displayed an unchanging and outdated list of inbound and active calls. Erik realized that he’d never even seen the server which ran the monitor, let alone how the program displaying this dashboard worked. He traced cables for the big TV down under a desk. Beneath strata of random junk, he found an ancient laptop grinding away the last of its cooling fans’ lives.

Erik sneezed violently as he pulled the laptop from its bed of dust and set it on the desk. He lifted the lid and was greeted with nothing but an unassuming browser window, in full-screen, with two open tabs. One was the visual part of the application which powered the display. The other, however, was a mystery. It was a completely blank, and the title bar simply said “Feeder”.

The URL pointed to a script on the C: drive. He opened the source and found a gigantic mess of HTML and VBScript. It was meant to refresh data from the call database every minute, and then dump that into the display web page. Dan would then use what he saw on this big board to route calls to the appropriate people.

The Feeder script ran only once, when the Feeder page loaded. To keep the data up to date, the page needed to be refreshed regularly. The mysterious soul who built this relic accomplished that, not by using a meta-refresh, but through a third party browser plugin, which had crashed. Erik restarted the browser and brought up the website and its wonderful Feeder. The monitor displayed the current queue, and everything was back to normal. Dan started barking out orders and directives to his staff and directing calls. As he headed back to his desk, Erik vowed to make this legacy garbage his next improvement project.

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