The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Tuesday, 26 September 2006]

All computers great and small

One of the greatest TV series ever is All Creatures Great & Small, the story of James Herriot’s veterinary adventures in the British countryside in the 1930s. It’s warm-hearted, funny, and touching, a reminder of a different age and lifestyle.

Even though All Creatures depicts the trials and tribulations of rural vets in the 1930s, something always seemed really familiar about the series. And then one day as James Herriot stood stripped to the waist in a freezing, drafty barn with his arm all the way up a pregnant cow’s insides to attempt to force the calf into birthing position†, it struck me: The veterinarians were the IT consultants of that era.

No, really. Bear with me. The similarities are striking.

  • The animals they cured (and sometimes weren’t able to cure) were the lifeblood of the farmers’ business—without their stock they lost their income.

  • The farmers tended to view their services as overpriced and would come up with all sorts of excuses to avoid paying.

  • The veterinarians were usually brought on the scene when the farmers had already exhausted all other possibilities, often involving voodoo-like home remedies.

  • There were always new viruses floating around.

Of course, rebuilding a server is much less emotionally draining than having to inform a struggling farmer that his stock has contracted foot-and-mouth disease and must be destroyed, throwing him and his family into bankruptcy… Plus, the working conditions tend to involve less cow dung.


†That actually seems to happen a lot in the series.

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