What do you do when all your source walks out the door?

Where the phrase 'don't put all your eggs in one basket' originates


Who, Me? Who has got your back up? Forget comments in code, what do you do when all your source has been packed into the trunk of a family sedan? Welcome to Who, Me?

Today's story, from a reader Regomised as "Al", concerns his time at a company in the 1980s. The company was working on a project to replace thousands of ageing "dumb" terminals with PCs. "The Great PC Invasion and Distributed Computing Revolution were under way," Al observed.

"The company had hired a collection of experienced PC and minicomputer programmers who were led by a management team of Mainframe Gods (as they viewed themselves)."

We know just the type.

"As a bunch of hotshot PC and UN*X types," he went on, "we demanded a version control system and a tool for backing up the source tree. In their wisdom, the Mainframe Gods chose not to invest in spurious tech like backups and version control, therefore each programmer had a personal responsibility to back up their source code."

It went about as well as you might imagine. Some staff followed the process for a bit, but after a while nobody bothered. Nobody, that is, except for the person who did the builds. "Dave" (for that was not his name) had all the current production code on his PC. Everything. In one place.

It was fine at first. Dave worked hard and also wrote a lot of code. Al couldn't tell how good it was; the words "Code Review" were alien to the company. But the builds happened and the terminal emulation software was delivered. Everyone was happy. Even though Dave had the only copy of the "official" source code.

Al described Dave as "a big guy." He was softly spoken and tended to (mostly) keep his opinions to himself. "He had his eccentricities," remembered Al, "such as a fondness for rifles that he kept in the trunk of his car."

Of course, the inevitable happened. After what Al delicately described as a series of "issues," Dave quit or was asked to leave the company (both mysteriously happened at the same time).

However, rather than march Dave directly out of the building, the geniuses in management gave him the rest of the day to finish up his work.

"During the afternoon of that day, Dave's manager looked out the window to see Dave loading boxes and boxes of floppy disks into his car," said Al.

A curious thing to do on one's last day. Perhaps Dave was just doing a final clear-out of office stationery? Or perhaps...

The manager scurried over to Dave's PC and found it coming to the end of a FORMAT operation. The hard disk containing the only complete copy of the source had been wiped. The floppies Dave was loading up into his car, nestled among the rifles, were the only backups in existence.

"To his credit, Dave's manager talked him off the cliff and got the backups returned to the office," Al told us. Dave was then politely escorted to a coffee shop to complete his last day while a panicked staffer managed to restore the backups to the now blank PC and the project could continue.

"The project did eventually succeed, but we did have further harrowing moments with more conventional causes," said Al. "We did establish regular backups and duplication of key source code."

"The moral of the story: back up your data. Trust but verify."

We like to think Dave had no malicious intent and was simply tidying up after himself. Surely not a final act of vengeance? And considering what else was in the trunk, it could have gone very, very differently.

Ever been tempted to dash out a quick FORMAT C: or a sudo shred just for giggles? Confess all with an email to Who, Me? ®

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