Long-Time Consultant Reflects on a Memorable Project
May 11, 2022
We asked long-time application development consultant, Michael Walsh to reflect on a significant memory from his 23+ years with SCS. “I remember in 1999, I was supporting an agricultural cooperative with 600+ stores across several states. There was a point of sales shut down in hundreds of stores simultaneously one morning.”
“I came in early one morning, and the call center was in crisis. Nobody’s software was working, in hundreds and hundreds of stores. The error message just said to call headquarters. So everyone did,” reflects Walsh.
Back then, our SCS client’s stores used a DOS-based application for everything they did: inventory, point of sales, invoicing, ordering, soil test results, you name it. Everything was communicated back and forth to headquarters every night.
Their application was written in extremely high-quality object-oriented code in Borland Pascal using a Btrieve database. The software had been written for PCs that were limited to 640 KB of memory. And even though the application was very compact and efficient, there was no way you could fit that much functionality into 640 KB. So there were about 15 different modules that did different things, with a menuing system to switch between the modules. According to Walsh, “it was quick and effective, and you could be back to sales in a few seconds.”
He continues, “A lightbulb went on. I had been poking around in the menuing code earlier, and I had noticed something about some ‘expiration’ logic. I remember thinking that was a bit odd. Why would you expire your program? It must have made sense to someone at some point. That logic could have been plugged in there and then forgotten about. The error message wasn’t helpful, and there were many megabytes of code, but I had an idea where to look.”
Walsh went in and looked at the menuing code, and sure enough, there was a built-in expiration date… of TODAY. He changed that particular line and compiled a working version. “We had a new version uploading to the stores within half an hour. Problem solved,” remarks Walsh.
Editor’s note: This is a reminder that our consultants are experts at what they do. Put us to work for you, and you’ll receive superior service.