Ever made a friend for life? No, I thought as much. It is not really what you expected when you took up a trade which ranks somewhere between estate agency and journalism in the affections of the hoi polloi.
But I can be your Cupid (if this seems too far fetched, try covering up my picture at the top of the page). And I can do it with that unlikeliest of arrows - the millennium bug. Most of your customers think you are going to fleece them over the next two years, selling them fixes and patches, upgrades and consultancy - and all to extricate them from a pit which you and the rest of the computer industry dug for them in the first place.
They've read in the newspapers that 80 per cent of new PCs are still not compliant, and the remainder think every year after 2000 is a leap year. They've heard on the telly that their new software will self destruct on New Millennium's Day because it's only conditionally compliant. So, imagine their surprise when your salesperson arrives with nothing more than a briefcase full of stationery and five minutes of free advice. Picture their faces when they are told that the cure to their millennium woes is contained in three pieces of paper.
Exhibit A is a piece of cardboard which, when folded in two, stands on a PC monitor and displays the inscription, please reset your PC's date to 4.1.2000 (this being the first working day of the next century). The tech support team can tour the building on New Year's Eve, putting these on all the PCs which will work perfectly in the 21st Century, but may not click over correctly on 31.12.99 - much cheaper than installing replacement bioses or fix software.
Exhibit B is a new house-style guide. Comfortingly entitled Don't Panic in tasteful vermilion, this suggests hi-tech strategies for overcoming the problem of conditionally compliant software such as entering dates in their full eight-figure format, and not minding if a report header looks a bit odd.
This too will be much cheaper than performing wholesale upgrades of software which is virtually independent of dates, such as wordprocessors and graphics packages.
And finally, exhibit C. The millennium-busting product, without which no reseller's inventory will be complete is a red sticky label, proclaiming, this PC is not fully millennium compliant, but it doesn't matter. This will act as a clear warning to the small number of accountants, stock controllers and others whose software may actually depend on 100 per cent date accuracy. But typists, designers, Net surfers and other users will know they are safe.
The most important function of these labels will be to remind everyone of that honest PC dealer who talked them out of paying a grand for new PCs and charged them a fiver for a box of labels instead. Who do you think they'll turn to when they get the urge to buy something expensive for their network? Exactly. Ever made a friend for life?
Paul Bray is a freelance IT journalist.
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