IT Legacy Systems Modernization and Reengineering.
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Friday, November 22, 2019

Data Screwup

DATO CENTRO - Seguros America - Data Screwup


A long, long time ago--in the Dominican Republic, when Key-to-Tape data capture was 'State-of-the-Art,' I was the IT Consultant for Seguros America, while working at Dato Centro, as a Developer or so (1975-76). Told you! A long time ago!!!

Seguros America was a major insurance company—do not know if it exists as such today. Back then, it was doing business in—likely, most insurance lines.

Dato Centro was a Burroughs Corp. subsidiary (if I remember correctly), and offered a famous line of 'Direct Registry Computers' as they were called them, also provided midsize Mainframes, and Data Center services.

These 'Direct Registry Computers'—also called Accounting Machines (L series), like the ones from competitor National Cash Register (NCR), where small stand-alone computers—had no screen, a large keyboard, a comprehensive printer, a tiny memory (some has a small disk), Magnetic Strip Ledgers, and a Paper Tape reader.

The Mainframes were medium size, like the B2500/3500 line (great machines!) and offered Data Canter services to which I was serving. I was almost entirely a Cobol shop.

The Data Center had a Burroughs B3500 mainframe. It had Magnetic Tapes (Reel-to-Reel), Paper Tape Reader and Puncher, and Head-Per-Track disk drives (do not remember the capacities), 80 Column Punch Card and a Typewriter type Console a fast Line Printer.

Seguros America was a Data Center customer, for which I helped develop some software applications. I worked supporting the Data Center as well as supporting the customers with the Direct Registry computers.  

If I remember correctly, one of my IT contacts there in Seguros America, and he was called Ruben Tavarez—we became good friends, and the Luis Vazquez - General Manager, —whom I fondly remember. May miss a person or two and may have the wrong name, but again, it has been a long time.

And yes, if you ask, it was common to hold the main IT job and do consulting at the same time. We call it 'iguala' or flat-rate monthly agreement. Still practiced today.

As mentioned, it was a long time ago so that I may miss some details--so please comment and contribute (constructively), and fill any blanks if you were there.

The crux of the matter is coming. I'm just enjoying the memories and hope you too!

Since Seguros America was using the Data Center services, Data had to be keyed into Tape (likely both in Seguros America and Dato Centro), and of course, it had to be processed—periodically, in our Data Center. We provided taped data back, as well as validations and other printouts.

On one of these occasions, when we were processing for Seguros America—under my supervision or control, we needed a new tape at the end of a process. For whatever reason, I used one of the original keyed-in data tapes to get data back. And what should not happen did happen! There was something wrong with the process, and--you guessed it, we needed the original data!  'Trágame Tierra' I said. Earth swallow me now!

I had to "Bite the bullet." I went to Seguros America and saw the Big Boss (Mr. Vazquez) and explain what happened and that it was entirely my fault! I expected to be fired on the spot!

To my surprise, he was calm and appreciated my honesty. Notwithstanding that they lost about two weeks of work!

The keypunchers got to it, and we were soon (in about three weeks) back in business.

Now there was a lesson here! Never discard original Data! Lesson Learned!

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