'Tis Only My Opinion!

January 1999 - Volume 19, Number 1

What's so Difficult about programming?

As many of our readers know, I started programming on the Univac 1, almost an eon ago it seems. We had 1.7k available to run our programs but we somehow made it work. Even the advanced IBM System 3 which we got in 1968 (13 years later) only had 8K when it came into our company. And even using those little punch cards, our MIS department was able to close the books including all the consolidations of the affiliated companies and wholly-owned subsidiaries by the end of the 3rd working day past the end of the month.

Ah, Progress!

Now, with all these networked computers, the internet, the intranets', routers, modems, etc., have we really made any progress in getting information where it is really needed and required. Sometimes, I have my doubts.

The President of one of my former companies was recently commenting to me that he is lucky to get his financials on his desk by the end of the 15th working day past the end of month. I jokingly suggested to him that he get some new motivated employees, perhaps, even new software, and hire us to revamp his company internal operating procedures. Downsizing had reduced his accounting and IT functions by 50% during the past 3 years and the parent company would not authorize him hiring personnel with more than 3 years experience. Too expensive to hire more experienced personnel. Really!

But the real problem there is that the accounting procedures are dictated by the European parent firm. Hence, we have refused to bid on his project.

C, C++, Windows 95, 98, NT 3.51, NT 4.0, CGI, PERL, etc.

As programming languages have developed and proliferated, simplicity has almost disappeared. In the old days, you could learn a language and become a competent programmer without having a Master's in Computer Science from an accredited university. But as programming languages have evolved and the hardware on which the programs run have become smaller and faster, it should not be a large surprise that programs have become more complex and difficult to understand than in 1955.

Or Memory is cheap and Hard Drive Space is even Cheaper!

As the price of memory has fallen to all-time lows as well are the cost per MEG of a hard-drive and the capacity of the hard-drive has increased, the necessity to consider the conciseness and simplicity of a program has gone by the boards.

The Need for KISS (Keep it simple, stupid) has been forgotten!

Today, our software programmers rarely consider the constraints imposed by the hardware or backward compatibility for machines which are not almost "state-of-the-art." As a result, we have young programmers, and new software companies who think that the more complicated and large they can make a program, the more impressed management and maybe even the customer will be with a program. And management probably feels that the larger the program appears even if it is all just graphics, pictures, and video clips, the more copies they can sell! Well, I am here to say, that is not necessarily so!

This OLD Customer was P***ed!

Yesterday, I was with one of our clients who is a CPA. She was OUTRAGED at the ineptness and lack of customer service which a computer software company and its customer support staff had in answering her complaints about the current version of an little old W-2/1099 printout program!.

It's only a W-2 print program.

The program could be written in BASIC and Dos with less than 50 lines of code and run in 8K of memory without a problem. And if some of us old programmers really tried, we could probably get it written in even less.

Her complaint!

She states her complaint very well in her fax to the President of the company (which shall be nameless, for obvious reasons). With her permission, I am reproducing it in its entirety! As she is computer-literate and has been using computers in her practice for at least 20 years and before that with the IRS, I don't believe that we can toss off her experience with the software as a "newbie" as was suggested by one of the software companies customer support minions!

THE Fax or the FACTS - -

To whom it may concern:

I have just spent TWO WHOLE days trying to load and get to run your program. I believe I have finally succeeded; however, I want you to know that this year's version is AN OUTRAGE!

For a little W-2/1099 program to swallow up to 10 MEG of (hard drive) space and take 8 MEG of RAM to run is absolutely insane. Do you think that I need or care about "pretty pictures," when it takes up that much space? All I want to do is print W-2's, not be entertained.

In the first place, I kept getting a "memory" error and the program would not interface with my Hewlett-Packard laser printer. After calls to the manufacturer of my hardware, I was assured that it was not my MEMORY. I then called the manufacturer of my printer and was assured that it was not a printer problem. It was definitely NOT a memory problem, but YOUR PROGRAMMER'S programmed the error code as a memory problem. (WHEN will programmers EVER learn to communicate?

How to irritate a long-time customer!

When I called your technical support, they simply said that they didn't have a clue, and that I needed to go and get my hardware upgraded. The flippancy and arrogance of the young generation of computer programmers is sickening (wanting to know if I was a "newbie.").

They live for the "latest technology," whether it works or not. I am supposed to go out and buy the latest computer with the most RAM and hard drive space, just to print out a few W-2's? That is down right WASTEFUL! It is an unnecessary waste of TIME, MONEY, AND RESOURCES.

Waste not, want not.

What has happened to the American values of "waste not, want not?" The new generation of programmers don't seem to have a clue. They think that water comes from a faucet, food comes off the shelves of a grocery store, and money comes from a plastic card. Beyond that, they don't have a clue.

Your first program that I purchased 8 years ago was written in DOS, and it was the best program you have written, because it was FUNCTIONAL. It worked fast and without waste. Then you dropped it and went to Windows only. The Windows program was slow, it was wasteful in time, but it was "the latest" in technology. Now, 8.0 comes out with all of the graphics and moving pictures and waste of time and space. And for what? Do you think that I need to be entertained to punch out a bunch of W-2's?

America - the land of fund and entertainment!

Has America become the land of entertainment? Is that what Life in America is about? I just cut my 27-year-old niece out of my will because she told me that life was about having fun!! Life is NOT about having fun. It is about responsibility, and apparently you have forgotten that, too. There is a price to the attitude that life is about having fun. You turn the responsibility of your life over to someone else, you lose sight of your goals, you trip through life unprepared for the unforeseen, or even for the inevitable. Just let the days roll on. (Laissez les bons temps rouller - - let the good times roll.)

What happens if the lights go out?

When Y2K hits and the lights and water go off, the young egg-heads won't have a clue. They'll sit around and whine and wait for someone to bring them a drink. They won't know how to dip water out of the river, because, after all, that method is not concurrent with the latest technology.

Your assumption about the purpose of this program is an outrage & way off-base!

For you to assume to take up 10 MB of hard drive space and 8 MB of ram for a W-2 programs, just so it can be "fun" is an outrage. And to be told that I need to go and spend more money for the latest technology to run a W-2 program is just not within the realm of reality.

YOU ARE OUT OF CONTROL, and I deeply resent it. I can assure you that I will find another program to print out the W-2's for next year, if there is a next year. I may be dipping water out of the lake to survive, and it won't be much FUN, but it will be REALITY, and it won't be WASTEFUL.

Send the game-writers back to the game department and put someone in charge who knows and understands capitalism and its number-crunching, time, money, and resource-conserving concepts.


A CPA and former IRS criminal examiner.

Who is minding the store?

Anybody with any real common sense and business experience? Perhaps, in this case, it is one of those MBA's who believes in synergism, networking, Amazon.com & Broadcast.com.

I have my doubts if it is really a new paradigm to print out those little old W-2's/1099 pieces of paper each year.

But then - - 'Tis Only My Opinion!

Fred Richards
January 1999

This issue of 'Tis Only My Opinion was copyrighted by Adrich Corporation in January 1999.

All rights reserved. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.

Tis Only My Opinion is intended to provoke thinking, then dialogue among our readers.



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