The Expert

A while ago, I read an article, about a company (Storage Technology), that in the 80′s had a very expensive problem that resulted in one of their systems continually crashing. The solution of course was simple and probably not that expensive.

Somethings don’t change: The Expert in any given profession doesn’t need to run around, check every line of code, every wire, every component. He already knows what should be and what shouldn’t be. What should be working and how it should be working. He knows that if it was the simple stuff, someone else would have figured it out. If something doesn’t work properly, it will likely have it’s own signature symptoms. Figuring out problems in complex systems is not about working really hard. It’s about being smart and patient – if need be.

Here’s an excerpt:

So the technicians phoned up headquarters and called in The Expert.

The Expert got a chair and a cup of coffee and sat in the computer room – these were the days when they had rooms specifically dedicated to computers, after all – and watched it as the attendants queued up a large print job. He waited until it crashed – which it did. Everybody looked to The Expert – and he didn’t have a clue what was causing it. So he ordered that the job be queued up again, and all the attendants and technicians went back to work.

The Expert sat down in his chair again, waiting for it to crash. It took something like six hours of waiting, but it crashed again. He still had no idea what was causing it, other than the fact that it happened when the room was crowded. He ordered that the job be restarted, and he sat down again and waited.

The Best Debugging Story I’ve Ever Heard

It’s a worthwhile read for anyone who ever finds themselves in similar situations or perhaps would like to appreciate what it is to be called The Expert.

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