It's the 1980s, and a regional building-supplies retailer is a big customer for this vendor that sells turnkey business systems, reports a programmer pilot fish at the vendor.

"They owned 11 locations across Georgia, and they asked for a major enhancement to our system," fish says. "They wanted it to allow their satellite suppliers to transfer via 9600-bits-per-second modem all of their Accounts Receivables data collected daily to their central system, where it could be aggregated.

"Our standard system was standalone -- it didn't normally communicate with multiple instances of similar systems."

Fish is supposed to be working on the distributed A/R system. But for months his boss, the programming department VP, keeps dropping top-priority tasks on fish's desk, so there's not much progress.

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