BOFH: Groundbreaking discovery or patently obvious trolling?

Get off my intellectual property

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 22 "What do you think?" the PFY asks, as the Boss slips into the office.

"I think it'd work. It's a game-changer!"

"What's a game-changer?" the Boss asks.

"Oh, uh, nothing," the PFY says.

"Come on, something must be a game-changer."

"Uh … we were talking about the … new Monopoly rules which allow a player to get out of jail free if they have lots of money and they're playing the top hat piece. You know, like in real life."

"And the changes to the Chance card, where you win $200 for being a vegan CrossFit instructor with an electric car."

"No come on, you were talking about something technical."

"Really, nothing," the PFY says.

"I'm not leaving here until you tell me what you were talking about," the Boss sulks.

"Okay then," the PFY sighs. "We think we've discovered the trinary computer."

"You mean the binary computer."

"No, the TRInary computer. A logic with three states: True, False and Mehbe."


"No Meh-be. Mehbe. Neither true nor false."

"I … see …" the Boss drawls, not seeing at all.

"LOOK," the PFY fixes him with a look. "This thing is a ground-breaker. Straight away, computers would be 50 percent faster than binary."


"YES!" I chip in. "You've got binary, with two states, on or off, but you have trinary with three states: on, off or mehbe."

"Wouldn't someone just invent … Quadary?" the Boss asks.

"No, because four states is just two states times two. Useless. Three is a prime – indivisible."

"What about five … ary?" the Boss asks.

"No chance. The chance for misinterpreting signal states escalates as the states increase. Did you read Stephen Hawking's book on the bit state of the Cosmos and the anterior projection of digitized sine waves?"

"Uh, no," the Boss admits. 

For the Boss to have read any such book it would have to be printed on gloss paper and have lots of pictures in it.

"Hawkings wrote that the complementary bit-state between binary and some other order of signal level needs a minimum bit-state coherence of 30 percent."

I can sense a stirring in the Force as a gentle waft of mild confusion emanates from the Boss.

"It's basically the saturation point of signal discretion over the event horizon," the PFY continues.


"It's why the coplanar chip-density level has reached its signalling limits."


"And we think we've cracked it by modifying the codificaton of signal with a gamma array feedback loop."


"Uh huh," the Boss nods numbly.

It's a bit like witnessing a drowning. There's a bit of a struggle, a more frantic struggle, then finally, relaxation. 

The Boss is in a better place.

"And what does it mean?"

"It means we're on the cusp of a new generation of computing."

"It does?"

"Sure. You know Gates, Jobs, Wozniak?"

"Uh yes."

"Hacks. Banging around with binary systems that'd become obsolete the moment the trinary system was born."

"And you're saying you discovered it?"




"In an IT office with no labs, no electron microscope or any of that other stuff needed for proper research?"

"The composting toilet was invented in someone's backyard," the PFY interjects helpfully.

"And those computing hacks often worked out of their sheds and front rooms," I add.

"And you expect me to believe you?"

"It's all right there," the PFY says, gesturing at a small circuit board on his desk.

"Is that it?"

"Of course not!" the PFY scoffs. "That's the main bus routing module. There's no way we'd keep the pieces all in one place if we weren't actively testing it. It hasn't been patented yet."

"Surely … the company … would be patenting it?" the Boss asks.

"Why?" I shoot back.

"Because you developed it here. At the company. In company time."

"It wasn't all company time," the PFY counters. "I did quite a lot of the initial work at home. I mean you could maybe try to patent the board, but all the intellectual property was developed at home – or on the way to work."

"Still, the company should be receiving their share of any patentable product."

"The company's done nothing, just provided an office for me to do my other work in, and a table to rest my bus routing module on."

"I'm not sure the legal team would see it that way," the Boss replies, with a little hint of a threat.

"The moment you get the legal team in, we're done for!" I blurt. "They're leakier than a toddler's nappy during trampoline hour. The moment they get the detail, it'll get patented somewhere else and we'll lose everything!"

"So why haven't you patented it yourself?"

"Just waiting till payday," I reply. "The PFY and I are both a bit light this month due to crippling tax bills. But come pay day …"

"So if the company were to pay the patent office directly … it would leave a chain of ownership?" the Boss suggests.


At "The Patent Office" – a "Traditional Old English Pub" that Mr Jolly would be proud of …

"Soooooo …" the PFY says "Where are we?"

"Bad news," I reply. "We've only got 100 pints left on the tab …"

"Oh," the PFY sighs. "So, one more quick one, then back to the office to fix the electronic starter for my gas barbecue."


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