The Anonymous Widower

Is This The Most Important Door In My Life?

In some ways this is the most important door in my life.

It used to lead through into the superb banking hall of Lloyds Bank.

In the early 1970s, I was doing some programming for the bank as a consultant to a company called Time Sharing Ltd.

The purpose of the software was to take the banks costs and expenses and calculate how much each of the various actions cost the Bank, by branch,area and region.

I was working for one of the Managers; Mike Spicer, who worked under the Chief Management Accountant; C. R. C. Wesson, who I later knew as Bob.

I’d never met Bob and as Mike was away, Bob phoned me up one morning and asked me to run the software, as they’d just uploaded a new batch of data.

I duly did this from home, and checked that it had run successfully after cycling to Time Sharing at Great Portland Street. They then asked, if I could take the results to the Bank on my way home to the Barbican.

I was worried that I was not dressed for visiting the Head Office of one of the UK’s big banks. I was painting our flat and wearing a pair of ice blue jeans and a short-sleeved shirt. . Luckily, I had a carrier on my bike, for the couple of inches of fan-folded green-striped print-out.

I had been told to ring the bell by the side of the door in the photograph and despite the banking hall being closed, I would be let in.

I arrived safely about six and rang the bell.

Perhaps a minute or two later, the ornate and extremely heavy door slid aside  and a footman appeared, immaculately dressed in the Lloyds uniform of green tail-coat and top hat. He said. “You must be Mr. Miller!”

When I affirmed, he ushered me through and I offered him the printout. He then said, that Mr. Wesson would like to see me. I protested about my clothes, but he firmly showed me to the lift and pressed the appropriate floor. He added that Mr. Wesson would meet me at the lift.

It was the start of a very firm friendship.

Together we developed the software and produced loads of copious tables and graphs.

I learned a tremendous amount from dealing with the only innovative accountant I have ever met.

A lot of his philosophy found its way into Artemis.

One thing he told is that bankers when given a table of figures, always add them up to make sure there are no mistakes.

So I developed a technique in the Lloyds Bank software, where if money was allocated between various rows in a table, the total was always correct. If you round each row, this isn’t always the case.

I used this technique in the aggregation of resources and costs in Artemis.

Sadly, Bob died of I think cancer, a few years later!

I owe him a great debt!

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Computing, World | , , , | Leave a comment

Pick Your Own Hours With (Really) Flexible Working

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in today’s copy of The Times.

This is the first two paragraphs

More than 2,000 staff at PWC offices in Britain will be allowed to choose their own working hours under a scheme introduced by the accounting network.

PWC’s “flexible talent” initiative will allow people to apply for jobs, stating their skills and availability. It will then match the recruits to relevant projects on which they can work shorter weeks or work for only a few months a year

I think it’s a brilliant idea.

Although, in some ways, it’s a pity, that I’ve retired from programming.

Programming a computer system that could handle this problem, would have been right up my street.

Will PWC make me an offer I can’t refuse?

I doubt it, as they probably believe there are no capable programmers over thirty. And certainly not over seventy.

But then I’ve written four programs to allocate resources.

  • A Space Allocation Program for ICI in the early 1970s
  • PERT7 for Time Sharing Ltd.
  • The original Artemis.
  • Artemis for the PC.

All share the same basic algorithm that I first used for the Space Allocation Program.

But I’m certain, that everybody, who has programmed a resource allocation program, uses their own version.


August 31, 2018 Posted by | Computing | , | Comments Off on Pick Your Own Hours With (Really) Flexible Working

Starting To Program Again!

I have had, this idea for a mobile phone app and as before my stroke, I was a more than capable hack programmer, I think I might program it myself.

I notice there are systems that allow the creation of apps, that work on all platforms, so feel that this would be the way to go, as if it’s one thing I hate it’s having anything to do with Apples and their alien money-grabbing ideas.

I don’t even like the fruit!

Any help would be appreciated!

April 11, 2016 Posted by | Computing | , , | 4 Comments

Now That’s What I Call A Robbery!

I was once called one of the Top Ten programmers in the world and as that was before I wrote Artemis, it is a compliment to the guy who said it, that he spotted my talent early.

I’ve never attempted to steal any money using a computer, but I have certainly had a few ideas, that I’ve kept to myself, or used in the odd unpublished short story.  But this report on the BBC about how a series of cash machines were emptied, is completely unbelievable. Here’s the opening paragraphs.

Researchers have revealed how cyber-thieves sliced into cash machines in order to infect them with malware earlier this year.

The criminals cut the holes in order to plug in USB drives that installed their code onto the ATMs.

Interestingly, the crooks emptied the machines of the higher value notes first, so they could be away quickly.

This illustrates one of the big faults of the euro., compared to the pound.  There are so many large notes in circulation, that the currency is a criminal’s and a money launderer’s dream.  I don’t like large notes anyway!

I suspect it was an inside job, in that someone who worked for either the bank or the cash machine company was the guy behind it all.

But of course, these days, where software is produced under contract by those in far off countries, is it any wonder you get crimes like this?

I wound never put anything more than working petty cash into a bank or building society, as they’re all vulnerable to be taken out by a gang of clever hackers.

And they are a lot less vulnerable if all those in charge of the computer system and those who program it, are actually employed by the company.

Sadly, this is no longer always the case, as various calamities in the banking industry in the last few years has shown.

December 30, 2013 Posted by | Computing, Finance, News | , , | Leave a comment

Abbey National Lives

On Wednesday, I  got some money out of a cash point machine in Bethnal Green.  It was a branch of Santander and it was close to a bus stop, so was convenient, as I was waiting for the bus.

This morning, four days later it appeared on my on-line bank statement fully annotated.

Cash machine wdl Abbey

According to Wikipedia, Abbey was rebranded as Santander in 2010. But obviously, they haven’t updated the computer systems.

It seems to me, that millions of crap programmers are alive and well and working for banks.

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Computing, Finance, World | , | Leave a comment

The Same Name Problem

The two names I habitually use aren’t the most uncommon and I’ve met more than a few individuals, who use the same pair of names. I also own the .com domain for the names, which must give me a certain precedence.

But at registration for my P&O cruise, I found that I was not alone and because of this my account was changed to the first name that only my mother, my passport, HMRC and the DWP use. It worked after a fashion, although some staff seemed confused that I was travelling under a different name. But checking my statement after the cruise, there doesn’t seem to be any charges that I hadn’t made.

It did give me a bit of a problem with the wi-fi, as my Samsung tablet computer has my used name in its memory and always used that, which meant, there was a lot of typing at each login.

I have a feeling, that their system hasn’t had the requisite amount of testing.

You can always rely that when you program a computer, there will always be a set of obscure circumstances, that you feel will never happen.

But of course they will!

In this case of course they did, but no financial harm was done to any party involved. I just suffered the login inconvenience.

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Computing, Transport | , , | 2 Comments

The Man Who Outsourced Himself

This curious tale shows the power of the Internet. an obviously intelligent employee in the US, got a consulting firm in China to do his job, using the Internet.

I bet he’s not the only one who’s doing this!

January 16, 2013 Posted by | Computing, News | , , | Leave a comment

Now Lloyds And The Co-op Drop Us In It

Captain Mainwaring would not have been amused, as yesterday Lloyds and the Co-op seem to have had system errors, or as I prefer to call them programming bugs, in their computers. It’s here on the BBC.

It may have been unrelated but one of my credit cards wouldn’t work on-line yesterday and they asked me to phone them.  They said they were just rebooting the computers, and it should be OK in a couple of hours. Do we reboot computers, as we generally give them a good kicking first?

October 6, 2012 Posted by | Computing, Finance, News | , | Leave a comment

Bank Transfer Traceability

One thing that annoys me about on-line banking, is that when you pay a bill like a credit card, you often can’t trace it at both ends, as often the reference doesn’t appear for some days.  So now, I usually pay them making sure the last two digits are the day of the month. That way it becomes obvious, if the transfer has been made and what it was.

It really all comes down to the fact that banks do not provide full information on their statements. And when they’ve not got it, they don’t even give you a clue!

I would be ashamed if I’d designed such a poor system.

September 19, 2012 Posted by | Computing, Finance | , | 3 Comments

Now Nationwide Drops A Clanger

According to this report on the BBC and a message on their site, Nationwide have processed debit card transactions twice. It didn’t affect me, as I only use a debit card to get money from a cash machine.

This should never happen.

I have said that processing and senior management should be co-located and preferably at the same place where the programmers work.

As in this Nationwide clanger over 700,000 accounts were affected, it is quite likely that several senior managers or their friends would have been effected by the error. If those managers were worth employing, they should  have been straight on to those responsible to find out what had happened.  Co-location puts the fear of God into operators and programmers.  Try doing that if they’re halfway around the world.

But at least in this clanger, Nationwide found out what had happened quickly and rectified it within 48 hours. But how much did the whole incident cost Nationwide and its customers? And as Nationwide is a mutual, how much did it indirectly cost its members?

I always remember Bob, the guy who taught me cost accounting, said that banks had a totally different approach to the way things added up.  Perhaps things haven’t changed all that much!

July 26, 2012 Posted by | Computing, Finance, News | , , | Leave a comment