[emblem text] Stories From Our History

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Weldwood of Canada

They had a suite of old FORTRAN programs, originally card based (cards in, punched cards out) that were converted
to use tape. The programs took observations made in the field, and based upon the Specie and size, used a 'taper equation'
to calculate the volume of lumber in a given plot of land. Makes sense. The process is called 'Timber Crusing'.

One day I got a call from the computer room. The FORTRAN program (second in the sequence) had crashed. None of us
knew FORTRAN, so I asked them tto get me a core dump - a printout of memory at the point of the crash.
A dump of 256k of memory is manageable. These days, with 1.5Tb of ram possible, they are going to send it to you
on a hard drive.

Reading a core dump is like magic. You either 'get it' or not. Anyway, wandering through the listing, I kept seeing
a text string that was obviously data not code. It was in several locations. So, I called the fellow that runs the
'Timber Cruusing', and asked him if the string meant anything. He said it was a sample number. He had a huge binder
of sample printouts. Over the phone, you could hear him drop the big binder on his desk, flipped some pages,
and said, "I'll be down in a minute."

He was kind enough to bring the page where the resuts from the first FORTRAN program were printed. Seems that this sample
had been the first sample into the run, and someone had mis-keypunched the taper equasion to be used.
Since that taper equation did not exist, for the values needed from the Taper Equation, it used whatever
was in memory at the time the progrm was compiled.

As I recall, for an acre, there were 24 cedar trees, 16 inchhes in diameter, and 500 MILES long. We spent the rest of the day
thinking of inovative uses - catch satellites, hollow theem out for pipe lines, etc. Needless to say, it was the volume of
that took down the second FORTRAN program.

Gee, it is really nice when they take the time to look at the output we work hard to produce.

After the payroll system, I was not given any other major projects to work on. So, I designed a personnel/payroll database
system using the TOTAL database product that was in use elsewhere in the office. Then, my boss called me in, and told me to
stop work on that project. But I was not assigned to anything else.

Time to start looking for something else.

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