Practical Technology

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How dumb is the government when it comes to technology?

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Back when I was a younger man, I was a Beltway Bandit. What that means is that I worked as a technical contractor for the federal government. In my case, I worked for several years for NASA and NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command). Then, I worked with numerous bright developers, network engineers and system administrators. Unfortunately, we often worked with federal staffers who were often, ah, clueless. Since then, things have only gotten worse. Much worse.

Then, we usually only had to contend with managers who didn’t understand the technology, but were capable of giving us realistic goals. For example, one NASA executive knew that the agency wanted a way to keep track of the current status of all telecom and datacom links to the STS (Space Transportation System, or space shuttle to you), but he didn’t know how we would do it — a combination of C and Datatrieve running on VAX/VMS and AT&T Unix systems, as it turned out — and as long as we delivered the goods, he was happy.

That was when things worked well. Am I glad I’m out of the consultant/contractor game these days.

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