Sunday, February 27, 2005


A Blast from the Past

I was contacted by someone I worked for in the 1980s and early 90s. Around 1993 I wrote some software for this person which was deployed in a manufacturing facility. It was updated by me over the next few years until I moved on. Various other people had responsibility for it after that.

It's a mixture of Visual Basic 3 (yes, 3.0) and Visual C++ 1.52. All 16 bit.

So anyway this guy contacted me as his customer recently reported a problem, and he doesn't employ anyone these days in a position to help. That's right - they are still using this specialized application, the oldest parts of which are 12 years old.

This got me thinking. Since that package was sold in '93 I've since worked in various consulting organizations, including Big 5. Forget projects like that one which sold for low five-figure sums. We had big project teams, we were part of million-dollar development efforts. Guys in white shirts with tiny glasses, meetings in glass rooms, guys with MBAs, conference calls, diagrams scrawled on whiteboards, estimates, project plans, strawmen, project sponsors, proofs of concept, project charters, user representatives, steering committees, technical architects, arguments about design patterns and EJB versus CORBA.

The difference? I can't think of one project I worked on in a consulting company which ever delivered anything anybody could use to write business. Not a single one. Projects were cancelled after overrunning; clients went out of business or merged with other companies; senior staff changed; client priorities shifted. Whatever the reason, the projects always seemed to get terminated without delivering anything.

And in the meantime, my original customer was still manufacturing parts, the lines churning day after day, millions of dollars worth of components produced and shipped to customers, the plant even moved country at one point and everything was brought up and continues to be used to this day. Databases getting updated; PLC's being read and written; data being downloaded; signals being sent.

I must confess to feeling a sense of pride.
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