[emblem text] Stories From Our History

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Metropolitan Life

When started at Met Life, they gave me a manual for their own programming language called "English".
So, being new, I actually read it. It had some pretty interesting commands.

You could define 'bit tables', work with them quite easily and add them to customer records as required. Since you were dealing with
3/4 inch magnetic tape for storage, EVERY character counted. They had a flag if the year of birth was in the 1800's. Then they could
store dates in a compact form. Often wondered what happened with Y2K changes.

You could write up a subprogram, a completely separate program, call it from the main program, and pass data back and forth.
Pretty revolutionary in 1970. I am probably the only one who used it, as I will describe below.

And one day, we discovered something that was NOT IN THE MANUAL: as we programmed, we used () to surround file and field
names. Except the person who keypunched my program desk used <> instead. And, I get this call from the computer room:

"McKeever, it is asking for a synonym tape. We don't have one and have never heard of one."
"I replied, just give it a tape, let it finish and give me a listing of the card deck."
Someone had built it in, but it was never used, and no one was ever told about it.

Almost as good as the day my program requested a card from the card reader. They caled me in a bit of a panic (no one can address
the card reader diretly) and asked what they should do. I said, "give it a card!" (I know, a novel suggestion).
My program read the card, and finished. Did not do what I was trying to do, but...

Somewhere along the way, in Graduate School, I ended up with a deck of computer cards that printed out a picture of 'Snoopy for President'.
So, I made a callable subprogram that I compiled using that deck of computer cards, and, it would print Snoopy when I asked it to.
The folks in the mail room, who distributed all the reports and such, loved it. They had some programs that ran only on Monday nights.
Every Monday night. And since election day in the US is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, I had it print Snoopy
for election day. Worked great. Then I moved back to Canada. Worked the following year. Then they moved the data center to Wichita, Kansas.
And they decided to go through the list of programs that should be transferred or not. Since no one recognised my little subprogram,
it was NOT moved. And that first Monday night before election day, the main program blew up. The operation guys 'patched around it'.
It took them a week to figure out what it was, and my old boss not pleased. BUT they did not fix the calling program,
and it blew up again the following year.

I stopped by while I was on vacation one year, and I noticed a new programmer looking at a small utility program that I had written, that
I thought they would use for a few months, and here it was a couple of years later and they were still running it. So, I asked him,

"You still running that thing?"
His reply has been with me all these years: "Yep, It works!"

A program that truely 'works' has an almost unlimited lifespan.

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