Automation Irritation

In the early 90s, I worked for a UNIX systems house. One of our clients had ordered seven identical IBM AIX systems with Word Perfect, around eight to ten terminals and a laser printer. These systems had to be set up to talk to one another using, the now antiquated, UUCP. Some directly, others via modem.

The technical director, the rather obese Mr. Leadbeater, was my immediate superior and he had spent about two, maybe three weeks, setting up the first of these systems. Then, without any information whatsoever, handed the job over to me to install the other six. No instructions to the question “What did you do?”, were forthcoming, I was simply told to set them up like the first one.

After partially installing and setting up the second one by constantly referring to the example system, I pondered the tediousness of the task. There were so many options. So many possibilities for a mistake. Besides, I had also found errors in the example system.

I made a suggestion to write a script to automate the installation and set up. This was met with the response: “We don’t have time to waste on that sort of nonsense.” I returned to the task of poking the keyboard and waiting for the next prompt. This was going to take forever. The machines had to be delivered at the end of the week, and guess who would get it in the neck if they weren’t finished?

Lunch time! Mr. Leadbeater, did like his lunches. A single man, on a director’s salary would ensure that he would be gone for a good hour, maybe two, at one of the local restaurants. For me, sandwich in hand, it meant the opportunity to set to the task of writing my script.

Returning from his hearty lunch (Italian, I think. He had tomato sauce splattered down his shirt.), Leadbeater waddled into the office to see the monitor flickering and flashing frantically, whilst I was already unpacking the third computer, ready for installation.

“What the hell is wrong with that?”, he exclaimed.
“Nothing. I wrote a script.”
His face immediately darkening to match the stains on his shirt, “I told you not to waste time!”, he bellowed.
“I did it during my lunch time.”, I coolly replied.
He opened his mouth, but with no ammunition, turned and stormed out.

By the end of the day, all seven machines had been set up and re-packed in their boxes ready for delivery. Leadbeater was still angry when I informed him of this and just glowered his response. I guess, his ego was more important than getting a job done on time.