Knowing which one

There is an old story that I like, but I can’t find it on the web. It goes something like this:

This was back in the days of large servers with big vacuum tubes. A major server stopped working, causing panic in a large corporation. All work ground to a halt. The engineers could not figure out why the machine had stopped working. They called in the best of the best, a consultant named Smith.

Smith looked at the server closely. He pulled a roll of duct tape out of his back pocket and tore off a piece. Smith reached in deep into the inside of the machine and placed the duct tape over a small valve. Immediately, the server whirred to life to the great relief of the executives.

The famed consultant, Smith, handed his invoice to the management for a million dollars. It read:

  1. Roll of Duct Tape: $1.99
  2. Knowing which valve to put it on. $999,998.01

I wish I could find the original way the joke was told. To me the lesson is two fold.

  1. Tools are nothing without an expert.
  2. An expert is nothing without his tools.

One Reply to “Knowing which one”

  1. I found this version of the story:

    There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company loyally for over 30 years, he happily retired. Several years later the company contacted him regarding a seemingly impossible problem they were having with one of their multi-million dollar machines.

    They had tried everything and everyone else to get the machine to work but to no avail. In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who has solved so many of their problems in the past.

    The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small “x” in chalk on a particular component of the machine and stated, “This is where your problem is”. The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again. The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for this service. They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges.

    The engineer responded briefly:

    One chalk mark $1
    Knowing where to put it $49,999
    It was paid in full and the engineer retired again in peace.

    The website http://www.grahamnasby.com/misc/engineering_jokes.shtml has some very funny stories

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