His friends would say stop whining, they've had enough of that.
His friends would say stop pining, there's other girls to look at.
They've tried to set him up with Tiffany and Indigo,
But there's something about Mary that they don't know.

Back in 1988, a small start-up company had made a name for itself by creating and selling a spreadsheet application. Keep in mind this is prior to the domination of Lotus and Excel, so it was possible for an application that met the needs of their customers and did it well to be successful. In this case, successful enough so that the start-up was purchased by a large(r) company in the Silicon Valley. Since the purchase was actually for the software (and not solely to get the talents of the engineering team), development continued in Texas with the QA process taken over by their Silicon Valley master...er...owners. Mary was assigned to be the QA person looking after the application.

Very early in this relationship, Mary filed a bug. With a level of conciseness that is admired by politicians the world over, the bug read: "When too many rows of the spreadsheet are selected, the screen turns all curvy."

That's it. No steps to reproduce. No indication of the data that was involved. Nada. Zilch. Bupkis.

Now keep in mind that back in the 1980s (for those of you who didn't live through it), memory issues were quite common. The application itself was written in assembly language. And the environment on which it was running, an Apple IIGS, didn't provide any runtime memory protection. As a result, it was certainly possible that something in the application was blasting the memory used by the video driver. The engineers took the bug very seriously and worked themselves into a frenzy trying to replicate it.

Still, after a few days of frustrating effort, Steve, the software engineer in change of the application, closed the bug as "Cannot Reproduce".

Before the day was out, the status was bounced back to "Open". By none other than Mary. Still no additional details or steps for replication. Just the text of the bug, as you have previously seen.

This Sisyphean cycle of torment when on for weeks. A great deal of effort was expended attempting to chase down the cause. Or even reproduce it. And every time the team had thrown in the towel, Mary would pick it up and snap their butts with it.

Finally, about 3 months after the initial bug report, the Texas development team was relocated to Silicon Valley. Shortly after he settled into his new office, Steve went hunting for Mary. Turns out it was easier to find Mary then the cause of the bug.

After some brief pleasantries, Steve asked Mary if she would mind showing him the bug. Mary went over to her computer, opened a spreadsheet and selected a lot of rows. Sure enough, the screen went curvy. Then Steve noticed that the margins on her screen, normally black in color, were grey. And the scan lines on the CRT were visible.

Steve just stood there for a moment, letting a tsunami of emotions wash over him. Then he reached out to the monitor and turned the contrast knob down to a normal level. Sure enough, the screen miraculously fixed itself. The margins were black again. The scan lines were gone. And the screen was no longer curvy, even with all of the rows selected.

Without a word, Steve went back to his office and changed the status of the bug to 'PBKAC'.

Mary was let go the next day. It turns out that this was one of only three bugs she had filed during her time on the project. But apparently that was not Mary's last stint in QA. Legend has it that she was in charge of the team responsible for the quality on Kerberos, Intel Pentium chips and the Mars Orbiter. 'Nuff said.

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