P.I.G.S.

Before I continue with my DISMS tales, I need to flash back for a moment to my days in C&T.

I started in C&T as an item manager (or to give its full title, an Inventory Management Specialist) working in the Navy Section, which meant that I decided when it was time to buy various items of clothing that Naval personnel wore.

Ed Begley Jr. as Dr. Ehrlich on St. ElsewhereEd Begley Jr. as Dr. Ehrlich on St. Elsewhere

Joe Duca, along with Hampden Moon and Tony Nunno, was my main mentor, and he had me manually stratify the various items on the 1883 forms.

(We did have a mainframe computer system that was supposed to calculate this stuff for us, and within a year or so after I got there, it was replaced by SAMMS. Both of those systems worked but required a lot of finessing. All item managers dealt with it in their own way. Joe Duca’s way was to do everything manually. In a way I’m glad he did, because it gave me a thorough grounding in what was going on.)

In one regard it was fairly easy. You started with the stock on hand. Then you filled in for each month the projected demand. Finally you looked to see what was on contract to be delivered in the coming months and filled those figures in. So starting with the current month you took the stock on hand, subtracted the projected demand and added any projected due in. That figure became the starting figure for the next month.

Rinse and repeat.

We’d have to calculate this for the entire procurement cycle which would vary from item to item, typically somewhere around 12 months or so, if I recall.

Of course, we dealt with sized items. A typical Navy shirt might have dozens of sizes. So we’d have to do this projection for each and every size, and then we’d have to add all the figures up to get the total generic amounts. Doing this manually could take quite a while.

So when I discovered personal computers, I was eager to automate it as much as I could.

Spreadsheet software seemed an obvious choice, and it did help, but what was really needed was a three-dimensional spreadsheet in order to handle sized items, and not even Lotus 1-2-3 could handle that.

And so I developed P.I.G.S.

P.I.G.S., was my smart-aleck name for a program I wrote that could automate the the creation of 1883-like printouts. It stood for PGC Information Generating System (I think), where “PGC” was the code that was assigned to each generic item in our system (it stood for Procurement Grouping Code, and it was created specifically to group together sized items).

All an item manager had to do was enter the data, and P.I.G.S. would produce a lovely set of printouts of each individual size plus the generic total. And it was easy to update the data once entered.

Steve Brooks pronounced P.I.G.S. a very user friendly program.

There was only one problem. Well, two actually.

For one thing at this time, the mid-80s, C&T only had a couple PCs, one on each floor. But that would change quickly. The other problem was more serious.

All the data had to be entered manually. And there was no official recognition of the printouts that it produced. As a consequence, I think Steve Brooks was about the only person who ever used it.

For a program like that to be truly useful, there had to be some way to get data downloaded from the mainframe into the PC, and then after massaging that data, upload the result back up to the mainframe.

And I didn’t have any way to do that.

Yet.

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