Bondsmanship

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This page is a digression from my review of the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this page are mine and do not necessarily accord with those of any of my employers, past or present.

The screenshot of the inside of one of the offices used by the bad guys shows a data input terminal made by Burroughs, a commercial computer company that was IBM’s main competitor at the time. When I studied computing more than ten years later (at the Polytechnic of Wales, as it was then) the first block-structured programming language I learned was Burroughs SDL (for Structured Development Language, presumably). I immediately recognised its superiority to Fortran and Cobol (and ‘assembler’ languages) with their GOTO logic. What I did not realize until many years later (and I doubt that anyone realised) is that it is only superior to those with a certain mental architecture. Many people, perhaps most people, are happier with the ‘spaghetti junction’ mode of navigating the world (or a computer program) as provided for by the GOTO. ‘Just remember everything,’ is their method. What’s the problem?

Latest development in data processing

Latest development in data processing

Modern Bond movies are ahead even of current technology. They feature devices and software yet to be released! Chief executives send their favoured junior managers (in British companies, normally a son-in-law or daughter-in-law) to the premier showing of the latest Bond film (expenses paid out of the R&D budget) so that they obtain a briefing on what is coming down the pike. They can then write a requirement specification for that technology and appear to be an ‘industry insider’. Of course, being unable to construct an intelligible sentence and having only the scantiest knowledge of computing, they give their ‘ideas’ to a low-paid technical author like me for a ‘final polish’ and said tech author has to rewrite the whole thing so it makes some kind of sense. I have occasionally been tempted to leave in some appalling misunderstanding; after all, my name won’t appear on the report. But no prizes for guessing who would get the blame when the sushi hits the fan. (Not the Russians!)


Rise early, work late, strike oil

I believe it was research in Japan in the 1960s or ’70s that proved that working ‘long hours’ (meaning too many hours — they still consist of 60 minutes) reduces productivity. Yet, recent research (late 1990s or early 2000s anyway) found that those who work unpaid overtime are least likely to be made redundant, regardless of the negative effect that such ‘presentism’ has on improving shareholder value.

Here is a tip from one of my paragliding friends who is always out on the hill and is never short of the latest equipment, which he hauls in the most expensive ‘RV’:

During the day, write any mails to managers and save them as drafts. When you get home in the evening, set up your work computer and turn it on. Just before you turn in for the night, send those mails. It then looks like you work really late.

(Of course that is feasible only if your employer issues you with a laptop work computer.)

Related

Saving Major Tom, my review of the 1967 film You Only Live Twice

Technical writing and programming

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