It's just a few decades back, and this small consulting firm has won a government contract to create an invoice interrogation and payment system for a military supply center, says a pilot fish on the scene.

"We developed our system on our DECSystem-20 in house. We ran all kinds of tests and believed we had completed code," fish says.

"Then we had to migrate it to their system -- a plug-compatible clone of an IBM mainframe running Cobol, JCL and OS/MFT."

But that's not as simple as it sounds. The actual code editing doesn't happen on the mainframe -- it's done on a separate midrange machine. Then the code is converted to electronic images, so the overloaded mainframe thinks it's reading in a deck of punched cards through a card reader.

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