Now THAT'S good programming
It's the 1950s, and an oil refinery wants a computer to help plan the best mix of products on a daily basis, reports a programmer pilot fish who was there.
But it's not as simple as just wanting it. For one thing, programmers are so rare that this vendor actually sends one along with each machine it ships. "At that time, there were probably fewer than 50 capable programmers for this model in the whole world," fish says.
And the vendor is so selective about who gets one of these incredibly big machines that there's actually a committee that decides whether a potential customer is worthy of a lease.
But the machine is installed at the refinery, and fish is installed with it. He writes the custom product-mix program. And it works -- the program takes about an hour to run and produces exactly the output needed.
That's when the vendor's approval committee steps in -- and nixes the lease because the machine will sit idle for 23 hours each day.
"But the only other machine in the company's line was orders of magnitude slower," grumbles fish. "It couldn't have done the daily job in less than two or three days, which would have made the results useless."
So fish ponders. Then he allows that there MAY be a bug in the program. He returns to the refinery and adds a delay to the code.
Now the program takes eight hours to run. The vendor's committee is satisfied that the machine won't be wasted. The multimillion-dollar lease is approved, and everybody is happy.
Time passes. Business managers at the refinery find more uses for the computer. Then still more uses. Each new program takes up a slice of the machine's idle time. And eventually, the total runtime required approaches 25 hours per day.
Fish ponders. Then he allows that, now that he has more programming experience, he MIGHT be able to make his original program run faster.
Now the program again runs in an hour. There's great rejoicing at this 8-to-1 speedup. Total daily runtime drops to well under a day.
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
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