Elementary

Logic only takes you so far, my dear Watson.

Computerworld  |  Shark Tank
Computerworld / IDG

It’s 1984, and the small law firm where this basically non-techie pilot fish works has finally agreed to his suggestion to get computers and inkjet printers for all the secretaries.

Fish’s stock rises when productivity soars, so he doesn’t mind that he’ll be in charge of fixing any of the machines that start to act up.

And the computers do have their moments and require constant hardware and software tinkering. Fortunately, the printers never fail. In fact, things are going pretty well, until one computer starts rebooting itself, for no apparent reason, several times a day, costing the secretary who uses it to lose all her work in progress.

Fish, with zero training in computers, is logical and a good troubleshooter. He starts with the hypothesis that it’s probably an electrical problem, and he begins replacing things, one at a time, that might have to do with grounding or static: power cable, anti-static mat, electrical outlet, working up to new wiring from the electrical service panel to the outlet. No luck. The spontaneous reboots continue unabated.

The secretary is not causing the problem. The computer reboots even when she is in another room. Fish is rapidly losing his status as hero and turning into goat, but he vows not to be defeated.

Logic and troubleshooting fly out the window. Like a bad mechanic, he starts throwing parts at the problem, one at a time, cheapest first. Replace a part; problem returns. Replace another part; problem persists. Wash, rinse, repeat. Floppy disks, serial cable, parallel cable, mouse, keyboard, floppy drives, OS update. Swap work location with another secretary (some weird static problem caused by her new steel and Formica desk?), power supply, the monitor, then even the computer case. Yet the problem remains, defying every attempt at logical solution.

Fish is stumped, since it's not even the same computer anymore. Everything has been changed. He curses the day he had convinced his bosses to buy computers. Why were they so unreliable? Why weren’t they like those trouble-free, rock-solid inkjet printers that always worked perfectly?

That’s when fish remembers a line from Sherlock Holmes: “Once you eliminate the possible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” He removes the secretary’s always-perfect, never-a-problem inkjet printer. That computer never fails again.

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