All of the terminals in the warehouse had two things in common: one, they needed to be air-dusted frequently because of all the cardboard fibers and dust in the warehouse, and two, they had all accumulated an impressive pile of masking tape labels written in Sharpie. The labels were like the rings of a tree, revealing the history of the system. You could peel back the label INITWAREHS07 to reveal that the system used to be X-DATAPROC, before that it was SYSXDS, and before that it was ENIAC.

All of the machines had been repurposed, re-repurposed, re-re-repurposed, and so on. The Frankenstein boxes all crawled along, crashing frequently, but one of the systems in particular was prone to extreme mood swings: VL-LBLSTA1. This was the system used at label station 1, or, more accurately, the only label station in the warehouse. It was responsible for re-labeling items in the warehouse with price stickers.

VL-LBLSTA1 was a 286 clunker running DOS 4.0 while all of the other terminals were Pentiums running NT. And this was by design – the "label maker" software only worked on DOS 4.0. The time they tried installing it on a powerhouse 386 with DOS 6.0, the software wouldn't even load. Not that being on DOS 4.0 was working that much better for the machine. It had to be rebooted every half hour or so if you were lucky enough to actually initiate a reboot before the damn thing crashed on its own. Its frequency of crashes was legendary, matched only by those ridiculous Apple commercials where the PC can't go fifteen seconds without cras##NO CARRIER

Foreman George

This system wasn't just any machine; it was the only system performing a mission-critical function. It crashed so frequently that even the most computer-ignorant luddites had learned how to CTRL-ALT-DEL. Fortunately, Jeff, the on-site tech guy, was more than eager to help. Speaking to the warehouse foreman who we'll call "George", Jeff voiced his concern.

"So, George, why don't we just stop using the old label maker software and get something more stable?"

George didn't even pause to think, he blurted "no budget" dismissively.

Jeff thought for a moment about how they could replace the software, even if it was just a temporary solution, without having to spend any additional money. "All the other machines have Office, why don't we just write a quickie Excel app?"

"No budg-"

"I can do it," Jeff volunteered, "and then when the budget frees up, we can upgrade to something better." At least for the short term, an Excel app on a stable system would be better than anything on a bipolar 286.

"K. Print the code and bring it straight to me when you're done. I'll be sure it gets over to IT." Sure, it wasn't a "thank you" or "that'd be great," but Jeff would take what he could get.

That evening, Jeff sat and hacked at Excel, and in under a half hour, he had a working lightweight app. He printed up the code as instructed (knowing that electronic media wasn't allowed to be brought in), and handed it off to George.

Later that week, when Jeff asked George about it, George replied that "since it didn't originate from someone authorized in the IT department, the request was denied." Bummer, Jeff thought, it was a cool little app.

Where Credit is Due

Months later, VL-LBLSTA1 died completely. Probably a motherboard issue, but the technicians weren't willing to rule out suicide. Anyhow, Jeff saw a cart with an old Pentium machine being wheeled over to replace the old label machine, and later noticed that the machine had Excel open. And it was running Jeff's software!

Still more months passed, and Jeff never heard a word, a syllable, or even a grunt of acknowledgment for his application. And curiously, when he asked George about it, he was just brushed off. IT wasn't saying anything either. Apparently someone in IT had taken all of the credit and the glory for the app. But hey, he at least had to do some work, manually retyping all that Excel VBA from the printouts. I mean, that counts for something, right?