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John Hill
5th Jun 2014, 05:49
I have been retired for about 3 years but today the office gave me a call to catch up on some ancient history.

Apparently airports, air traffic services and airlines around the world are still using software I wrote as long ago as 1994.

Such a pity I dont get royalties.

500N
5th Jun 2014, 06:02
John

You are not the only one. A mate of mine contracted once a month to go in and do software work
on a system that was in use by TAA or Ansett !!!

That was until only a few years ago.

mad_jock
5th Jun 2014, 06:20
They are all pooing themselves because everything is xp which is now unsupported.

John Hill
5th Jun 2014, 06:22
One of the biggest mistakes of my career is that my software does not require continued support from anyone except the users.

cavortingcheetah
5th Jun 2014, 06:35
May be you should? Isn't copyright inherent in the creation of an original work under the copyright laws of some countries? Perhaps there are some on these pages who could point you in an appropriate direction? My non existent knowledge of the subject indicates that it's extremely complex, murky and expensive.

500N
5th Jun 2014, 06:55
Cavorting

Depends on a couple of things.

Firstly, not sure on John's past set up.

If you work for another company when you write the software, then unless you have a specific contract with said company then they own it and they are billing the client - in this case the airlines.

Secondly, if you, yourself, your company write software for a company and bill / invoice that company for said work, you need to make sure you have a contract as to who owns it.

Thirdly, as John said, he made it so user supported he wrote himself out of a job !

John Hill
5th Jun 2014, 07:21
It is not hard at all, I wrote the software to work and the clients were happy enough to pay for it.

If I needed more money I could always write some more but that is unlikely to be necessary provided I dont live too long.

MagnusP
5th Jun 2014, 08:00
With you there, JH. 30,000 lines of occam that processed lots of astronomical data until the instruments were decommissioned. Royalties would've been nice! :ok:

Capetonian
5th Jun 2014, 08:39
I had similar. The company I worked for had an application used by a few clients. I was the only person who understood and knew how to maintain it. Before I left, on very bad terms with the poison dwarf who was nominally 'in charge' of that area, I emailed the bitch to tell her that I needed to cross-train someone but she said it wasn't necessary as she thought it was just me 'trying to make myself seem important' (her words.)

Six months down the road she sent an envoy with a grovelling missive asking for my help. I explained why she could go and frig herself and I contacted the clients direct to give them the support they needed.

RJM
5th Jun 2014, 08:45
If you're The Man, John, you could always adjust The Fee to compensate for the lack of royalties... :E

A A Gruntpuddock
5th Jun 2014, 09:02
Using in-house software has a lot of potential dangers, especially if the author leaves!

I once got involved in (i.e. programmed) an inter-departmental financial reporting system which my boss was supposed to create.

Used Excel macros to collate & print individual spreadsheets filled in by the design teams (one per project), all the teams had to do was fill in the monthly details as the 'save' button did everything else.

Once a month each team ran a separate macro which printed all the current sheets together with a summary page for all their current projects.

Annually I ran another macro which consolidated the last year into the 'previous' totals and cleared all the current years data, ready to start again.

Apart from the 'end of year' macro it was all run by the users.

Couple of years after I had taken early retirement I tried running the system at home because I couldn't remember how I had done one part and I just could not get it to work!

Then found out that the latest version of Excel had binned support for many of the critical macro commands, presumably to encourage the use of Visual Basic.

Knowing that the management always upgraded the Office software package that meant the entire system would have failed, and not one person in the office knew enough to even start looking for the fault (especially my boss who was responsible for it). :E

John Hill
5th Jun 2014, 09:14
Nah! There is not likely to be anything chargeable to come out of this. Besides, I am really too busy being retired.

Shaggy Sheep Driver
5th Jun 2014, 10:33
Early in my career I project-engineered a DEC PDP11-based process control system (with in-house built I/O) for a customer in the Nuclear Power industry. Decades later I was sitting in a train at Euston when my phone rang:

"Is that SSD of Acme Systems"?

"It's SSD, but Acme Systems is ancient history. There's been about 4 take-overs so I now work for Big US Computer Services Corporation".

"Ah, OK. It's Bill Smith of Small Computer Systems Ltd here. We've been commissioned to upgrade the DEC-based systems you put in back in the early '80s. Do you have any documentation we could look at?"

"I'm afraid not. But several full sets of hardware and software docs were delivered to site when we commissioned the systems and trained the staff. They were in ring binders on several shelves in the chief engineer's office".

"No one on site now has any docs at all. All the staff around at the time have retired".

"Sorry I can't help. Good luck!"

SawMan
5th Jun 2014, 11:37
My usual response to similar situations:

"With my skills and enough of your money, anything is possible."

Their usual response:

Several seconds of silence, then "How much?"

If I want to do it, I'm reasonable. If I don't, I set my price somewhere between Saturn and Jupiter :(

Ancient Observer
5th Jun 2014, 11:57
Centuries ago, in a mega-corp, and not really knowing what I was doing, I designed a set of payment "Rules" so that the software writers could automate what had been rather a lot of fag packet calcs.

I left mega-corp., which itself divided, did somersaults, re-launched bits of itself, which were taken over etc.

Some years later I was temping at one part of mega-corp, which was then called something else.

One of the senior engineers spotted something strange in the way his people were paid. " 'Ere, look at this" spoke he. Not wishing to get involved, I was dragged screaming in to an investigation.

Some gormless twit had re-done the payment rules, .....either out of stupidity, or out of a desire to complicate things, some time between me disappearing and this engineer being puzzled about payments. So they were over-paying folk by about half a million sterling per annum.

Given the benefits of e-mail (which mega corp had from 1975 originally off a couple of raised deck mainframes in the UK) I tracked down others who had memories. We agreed it was a cock-up.

The funniest thing was that the numbers were big enough to go to the Group Audit Cttee., who were a bunch of the great and good of European business.
Whilst half a million per year was sub-tactical for the Audit Cttee., the bosses around where I was temping were shit scared of writing the paper for the Audit Cttee as they just might, for once in their miserable lives, be held accountable for something.

So I wrote and signed the paper for the Audit Cttee. I was tempted to point out why I had done it, but the Temp salary was pretty generous.....

Oh, and the software written all those years ago was still fine, even tho' it was buried in some inter-galactic SAP implementation.

Gertrude the Wombat
5th Jun 2014, 12:57
If I don't, I set my price somewhere between Saturn and Jupiter :(
Risky, that - I once had someone reply "OK, fine, can you start Monday?"


I had to find another way to say "look mate, I'm just not going to do this job". I think I just said "look mate, I'm just not going to do this job".

Krystal n chips
5th Jun 2014, 16:29
" Before I left, on very bad terms with the poison dwarf who was nominally 'in charge' of that area, I emailed the bitch to tell her that I needed to cross-train someone but she said it wasn't necessary as she thought it was just me 'trying to make myself seem important' (her words.)

Some may surmise she was merely being, erm, an intuitive lady ?

John Hill
5th Jun 2014, 19:36
Sometimes the most hopeless jobs are the easy one..

We had our yacht on the slipway at a boatyard that employed about 20 people and we were all sharing a morning cuppa when the office lady announced that her computer had stopped working. One of my helpful friends spoke up "John knows about computers". :eek:

She had a basic desktop running MS Dos but starting her application just brought up a blank screen and a couple of burps from the HDD and back to the Dos prompt. I asked if she had backups, she assured me she had and pointed to rows of manilla folders in a filing cabinet.

Oh well, nothing to do but start looking deeper and the alternative was to join the others scrubbing off barnacles. The first thing I noticed was that she appeared to have no applications on the HDD, in fact it looked pretty much as it would have when the PC was new which would have been quite some time in the past. The only interesting looking file was a .BAT which I assumed had been corrupted as the size was shown as huge.

I opened the batch file rather hoping for a miracle and there it was on about the third line. Obviously someone had looked in there before me and just one extra character (a new line) was causing a jump to the end of the file. Two minute fix.

The entire boatyard operation, payroll, staff records, sales, invoicing, receipts, purchase orders, stores inventory, everything for a quite sizeable business was being done in one self-modifying batch file.

Another little batch file to save backups of the monster file and I called the job done.

My reward was an extra cuppa and a piece of home made fruit cake after a very nice kiss on the cheek.

DType
5th Jun 2014, 21:58
I am still running a batch file I wrote many years ago which catalogues/searches/appends/edits my list of colour slides AND digital photos (over 10,000 of them!).

500N
5th Jun 2014, 22:00
DType

You sound like my father, thousands of slides in boxes and trays.

ExSp33db1rd
5th Jun 2014, 22:07
I explained why she could go and frig herself and I contacted the clients direct to give them the support they needed

Well done, don't get mad, get even !

Besides, I am really too busy being retired.

Correct, I wish I had a job, at least I'd get one day off a week !

reynoldsno1
5th Jun 2014, 22:16
Sometimes the most hopeless jobs are the easy one..
I have a mate who used to be a printer tech/engineer - he reckoned about 45% of the callouts he had were due to the machine being switched off at the plug. He would spend an hour or so with the panels open, close 'em up and then flick the switch ... :oh:

aerobelly
5th Jun 2014, 22:47
- he reckoned about 45% of the callouts he had were due to the machine being switched off at the plug. He would spend an hour or so with the panels open, close 'em up and then flick the switch

As IT Manager at a software outfit (2D cartoon animation) I used to get regular calls from the M.D. that "my printer isn't working". I could walk into her office with eyes closed and press the button on her "private" printer that meant "OK to print this American Letter document on the A4 paper loaded".

Eventually she fired me 'cos I didn't think her preferred Windows NT had what it took to render the animation and wanted to move the company to Linux. What do the film animation companies all use now, 16 years later?


'b (whew nearly gave my real name there...)

onetrack
6th Jun 2014, 01:29
500N:You sound like my father, thousands of slides in boxes and trays.And he'll find, when he pulls them all out eventually, that many will be useless. The colour goes out of them after about 40 years, and he'll find many have odd shadings.
Most of my 35mm slides from the 1970's are well and truly shot. If they've been stored in a cool environment (basement, underground, low temperature area) they may have fared a little better.

Bushfiva
6th Jun 2014, 01:36
He should try Vuescan. Tell it the emulsion and the age, and it will do a reasonable job of restoring the color. Then you fine-tune the settings, and tell it to scan the rest of the box the same way. If the scanner has an IR channel, it will use that too.

500N
6th Jun 2014, 01:41
Onetrack

Yes, they are stored in a huge wooden cabinet - well, a lot are.
It also has an egg collection in it that they let into the country
when we came here.

A lot are from the 50's and 60's as well as the 70's !
He was a prolific photographer of birds and bird life.

If I recall, he used Kodak Ektachrome or Colourchrome film ???? from memory.

Anyone remember ?

onetrack
6th Jun 2014, 01:58
Bushfiva - Thanks for the Vuescan tip. I've been wondering what to do with slides that were in poor condition.

500N - Kodak Ektachrome was one of the most common brands. I found Fujifilm preserved better than Ektachrome.

Bushfiva
6th Jun 2014, 02:30
Kodachrome has a way longer storage life than Ektachrome and Fujichrome. It fades prodominantly (but slowly) in the yellow channel and is easy to restore. However, color stability in projection (life around 1 hour) is less than E-6 films (life around 3 hours). This is partly due to it being denser, so a brighter lamp is required.


E-6 film colors change differently between brands and between batches, so color correction is harder to do automatically. Again, Vuescan has built a large database of emulsion profiles over the years, so that takes some of the pain away.

ExSp33db1rd
6th Jun 2014, 10:21
........an hour or so with the panels open, close 'em up and then flick the switch ... and then charge an arm and a leg of course. (don't exactly blame him tho')

Had a mate who helped his local garage chum occasionally, and related the story of being called out to a stationary car one Sunday morning. Can't recall the problem, but the mechanic spotted something simple and obvious straight away, but the two of them messed about for about 10 minutes before setting it to rights, then charged a fiver ( it was a LONG time ago, when 10 Bob might have covered it ) Well, said my friend, it was a Toff with a Bentley all dressed up to go to Church, he could afford it.

ExSp33db1rd
6th Jun 2014, 10:32
They are all pooing themselves because everything is xp which is now unsupported. Mrs ExS was a programmer in the days when IBM computers occupied a whole room, and had a RAM of about 1 Kb. and she was programming in something called Cobol ? They saved memory by writing the short date, which caused so much angst during 1999 -remember the dreaded, anticipated,Y2K bug ? -and knew it would cause a problem on 31st December 1999, but thoroughly expected that "someone" would find a fix long before then, but of course didn't.

I desperately tried to persuade her to go back to the USA in 1999, as "people" were desperate for the old gangs of people that had written their programmes to help sort it out, I reckon we could have been millionaires by now, remembering the sort of "inducements" her friends received for "reluctantly" being persuaded to dust the cobwebs out of their brains and start again. Sadly she resisted the temptation - and now expects ME to show her how to use Windows H'eight !!

handsfree
6th Jun 2014, 11:51
Y2K bug

I've still got a yellow "RU Y2 OK" sticker on my greenhouse door in the hope that it reminds me not to try and walk through it when it's closed again.

I thought the Y2 bug was brilliant. I was paid a fortune for being on standby over the Millenium Eve. It saved me the hangover that everyone else seemed to have the next day as well.
We had done that much testing on our kit that we were all confident that nothing was going to go wrong anyway and it didn't.

MagnusP
6th Jun 2014, 11:59
ExS, the first computer I worked with was a Data General Nova 2 with 4k of core, a punch tape reader, and it had to be booted by a sequence of front panel toggle switch settings! When we upgraded to the Nova 4, we bought a mahooooosive winchester disk, about the size of a suitcase, which gave us an unheard-of 5MB of storage.

vulcanised
6th Jun 2014, 14:20
I thought the Y2 bug was brilliant


Daresay there's a fair few rubbing their hands over the 'XP bug'.

mad_jock
6th Jun 2014, 16:43
The money I earned on Hogmanay over Y2k paid for my CPL course.

Dushan
11th Jun 2014, 00:18
Mrs ExS was a programmer in the days when IBM computers occupied a whole room, and had a RAM of about 1 Kb. and she was programming in something called Cobol ? They saved memory by writing the short date, which caused so much angst during 1999 -remember the dreaded, anticipated,Y2K bug ? -and knew it would cause a problem on 31st December 1999, but thoroughly expected that "someone" would find a fix long before then, but of course didn't.

I desperately tried to persuade her to go back to the USA in 1999, as "people" were desperate for the old gangs of people that had written their programmes to help sort it out, I reckon we could have been millionaires by now, remembering the sort of "inducements" her friends received for "reluctantly" being persuaded to dust the cobwebs out of their brains and start again. Sadly she resisted the temptation - and now expects ME to show her how to use Windows H'eight !!

And the result of those fixes is going to hit us in 2039. Most programs were "fixed" by assuming if the year is greater than 39 then the century is 19 and and if less than 40 the century is 20.

BOING
11th Jun 2014, 04:19
Did some freelance programming in the early 80s.

Got called in to a company to quote on a job and had to spend about half an hour listening to the owner running down their last programmer who was an employee.

Finally got to examine the code that had been developed so far and had a really interesting time. The company owner did not realise that a programmer could leave "remarks" in the code. These "remarks" can be anything you want to write and only a programmer is likely to see them. There it was, the whole story about the boss and the software development so far.

I was offered twice as much per month as the company had been paying their employee programmer ( I certainly was not going to take the job on a fixed rate quote after what I had read in the "remarks") _ and I still turned them down on principle.

India Four Two
11th Jun 2014, 08:45
I desperately tried to persuade her to go back to the USA in 1999, as "people" were desperate for the old gangs of people that had written their programmes to help sort it out

I remember reading at the time, the suggestion that the "two-digit year" was a fiendish plot by far-sighted COBOL programmers, designed in the 50s and 60s, to enhance their future pensions.:E

martynj3
11th Jun 2014, 14:05
(@MagnusP) and an ASR33 Teletypewriter?
I think I know the salesrep who sold it to you!

MagnusP
11th Jun 2014, 14:25
martynj3, I want to know where he lives so I can take my revenge!

As best I can remember:

Nova 2, Nova 4, PDP-4, PDP-8, PDP-11, Vax 780, Vax 730, various MiniVAX models, VAXmate, SPARCstations (various), lots of Transputers, then pretty much PCs all the way.

Fortran4, basic, Fortran 77, MicroPower Pascal, occam, c, c++ and some java.

Maybe it wasn't the alcohol that fried my brain!

martynj3
11th Jun 2014, 14:34
Some solid machines in there - shame about the Digital Equipment bias, you missed out on the Nova evolution into the Eclipse family.
For my sins, I had to train up the Salesforce/System Engineers on the new family - great times, the CPU's still had meaningful front panel lights!

Shaggy Sheep Driver
11th Jun 2014, 18:57
Some solid machines in there - shame about the Digital Equipment bias, you missed out on the Nova evolution into the Eclipse family.
For my sins, I had to train up the Salesforce/System Engineers on the new family - great times, the CPU's still had meaningful front panel lights!

Sorry m3, Data General Eclipse was always an inferior follower to DEC's PDPs, never mind Vax VMS. There really was only one mini computer bombshell in the computer industry, and it sure wasn't DG.

DEC's market share was growing at a phenomenal rate as minis ousted ancient mainframes. IBM (no.1) was firmly in DEC's (no.2) sights when the PC came along and the world of IT changed totally.

By then I'd got out of working for a hardware manufacturer as the bread was clearly moving to software (REAL applications, not 'apps' as the yoof know today) and services.