There's one born every minute

Copyright Dr Alan Solomon, 1986-1995

In the mad rush to computerize everything in sight, could there be any
application that will not be computerized? Probably not.

I was phoned out of the blue last night by a Mr Fofa (at least that's
what it sounded like). He'd read about me in one of the magazines, and
wanted my advice as to what computer to buy. Well, I often get asked
that one, and I had my answer all ready. "What do you want to do on
it?" I said. Mr Fofa explained that he ran a video library. There were
thousands of cassettes, and hundreds of members, and he needed to keep
track of who had what, and when it was due back. "What I need is a Data
Base Management System", he said, obviously proud of his command of the
jargon. No, I said, what you need is a six by four box of cards. "Who
makes that?", he said. Oh hell, I thought.

I explained to him how you buy a box of cards at Woolies, and how you
write the details of the cassettes one to a card. I explained how you
sort them into alphabetical order, so that you can find them easily. I
explained how you write the borrower's name on the card when he takes it
out, then put the card in a different box, and how you reverse that
process. "What about dBASE II", he said.

Patiently, I explained how foolproof and user-friendly a box of cards
was. "Will an IBM PC be adequate, or will I need a hard disk?", he
enquired. Desperately, I explained that he only needed to spend about
#10 on hardware, and nothing at all on software. "How much RAM will I
need?", he asked ? I explained that he'd probably need about 5000
cards, but he could always expand the system by buying more cards, and
if need be, another box. "What printer should I get?", he mused. "An
Black Biro is all you need", I said wildly, well aware by now that he
wasn't listening to a word I was saying. "Would you write the
customizing software for me?", he offered.

I paused. Mental visions of cheques with long rows of zeros passed
before my eyes. Sheep don't usually hand you the shears and ask to be
fleeced. There may be one born every minute, but by the time they get
to me, they've usually been mugged by several other consultants. I
realized that if I didn't take his money for this totally unnecessary
job, someone else would. I was tempted. I thought for a few minutes.
Then I said something very stupid.

"What you need is a box of six by four cards"