Feb 182015

My last post was a list of the unlikely events that nearly did happen in August 1914, and how a major European war was actually  one of the more unlikely possibilities.

Thinking about it afterwards, some of the projects I’ve been involved in have been pretty unlikely as well, although fortunately not quite so publically.

I’m thinking of the new account opening system for a major bank. Naive outsiders might think that would be just a matter of creating a few records in a database, but it wasn’t. Their last project had been an expensive mess, so they decided to get some experts in, with experience in a proper methodology. We spent six months drawing diagrams of information flows to produce a proposal several inches thick, which I had the job of taking round to various overstretched managers and asking them for a response by next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, one of the the same department managers got fed up waiting for the new super-system, so he dug out his home computer (this was before the days of PCs and Windows) and wrote his own account opening system one weekend.

I saw it. It was written in Basic. The code was in breach of all guidelines for good programming, but it did have two advantages over the official project. It worked, and it was available now.

Last I heard the Bank were using it as a temporary measure until the new system was completed, which was estimated to be at least another six months, and goodness knows how many man-years.  But I’d decided I’d had enough, and got out.


 Posted by at 11:26 pm
Feb 012015

I’ve just finished reading The Lost History of 1914 by Jack Beattie.

Utterly fascinating, and if someone put this in a work of fiction I say they were being ridiculous.

  • The Austrian government hated the dead ArchDuke Franz Ferdinand (whose assassination started the whole thing) so much that they celebrated at his death, then went ahead and declared war on Serbia to avenge it.
  • The German Army leaders knew perfectly well that the war would drag on for years. They lied to their own government to get the Kaiser to declare war.
  • In August 1914 the UK was poised for a civil war, with the Ulster Protestants about to break away to form a separate state, and the Catholic South joining with the British Government against Ulster to keep the UK together.
    The Ulstermen telegraphed their leader in London to say they were ready, but before he got round to replying the Great War broke out. It was that close!
  • There should have been a left-wing, pro-German government in France, but the obvious Prime Minister was involved in a murder case where his current wife had shot his previous wife. She got off on the excuse that she had aimed not at the other woman, but at the floor. Unfortunately the other woman fell down into her line of fire. And the jury believed her. (And incidently the seals on the box of randomly selected jurers had accidently been broken.)

And there’s much more.

Just proves how incompetant our leaders were.

How glad we must be that none of our present leaders of great nations would never do anything so stupid as to start a war based on sloppy thinking or even barefaced lies, or just to distract the people from the problems at home.

Still if I ever get round to writing more Alternative History stories, then I know where to come for ideas.  Or maybe not – maybe nobody would believe it.

 Posted by at 1:11 am