As local area networks were being introduced to small businesses and personal computers had become commonplace, I was working as a hardware technician for a VAR that sold complete accounting systems.
Most of my time was spent replacing motherboards and disk drives, building custom PCs, and running errands. With my spare time I helped with accounting software updates by feeding stacks of diskettes into customers' machines.
I hated computers. I hated accounting even more. But this was a job and an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time to introduce local area networks to my community. I had worked with minicomputers in my youth. I was sure that Novell LANs linking PCs would replace DEC, Wang, IBM minicomputers, and eventually, maybe even mainframes.
One day my boss called me into his office and asked of me a strange favor: A client was losing data, and my boss had not been able to figure out why.
The client's accounting system worked by transferring data from one PC to another via floppy disk -- the first PC tracking the packing slips, and the second PC the sales data. The office manager and president had noticed that summary reports from the two machines did not match and there were items missing from the warehouse that were unaccounted for.
My boss couldn't find anything wrong with the accounting system: The PCs ran diagnostics flawlessly, and whenever he transferred the data, the reports matched up. Nevertheless, the client was blaming us and the equipment.
At the accounting office, I was told that only one clerk knew even a little about the system, so they'd assigned the data entry and transfer tasks to her. As she explained the process she took, I caught her in a small lie -- hardly noticeable, but to me it was evidence. She acted naïve about the technology, but I suspected she understood far more about the accounting system than she let on.