Greg's diary
May 1976
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From memory. I originally dated the first entry as 1 May 1976, but this seems highly unlikely, since 1 May was a public holiday. The date 17 May is correct: I have independent documentation of that.

Saturday, 8 May 1976 Schermbeck
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In 1976 I was working for a software company in Essen on a couple of unusual projects: an embedded application for cutting custom window frames, and an information system for Bischof und Klein in Lengerich. The latter system ran several different programs on a Dietz 621, a computer small even for its day: only 48 kB, and without any mass storage. All the data was kept in core. The project had been sold by the kind of salesperson that techies love, and I had had to jump through many hoops to get it running. It was ultimately successful, and I still consider the fact one of my all-time best achievements.

The salesperson, Ferry Lang, saw this differently. He had sold a 32 kB machine running multi-user BASIC, but I had insisted in writing it in assembler. Never mind that the BASIC interpreter took up 28 kB, crashed all the time, and lost all its data when it did. In the course of the 3 years where I followed the progress of the application, it never once lost data. When it was finally replaced by a real computer, the customer complained that the replacement was much slower.

On the previous day I had been to Lengerich and done some testing—I forget what: the application was long up and running. In the evening we had an overnight visit from Mechtild and Jochen Wegmann. Mechtild was an old girlfriend of mine, and we had been up late the previous night.

In the morning, we decided to have bacon and eggs for breakfast. While I was frying the eggs, Ferry called up. Not a good time, and I asked Doris, my wife, to tell him to call back later. She said “Sorry, he's on the toilet, can you call back later?”. That annoyed me, and I called out „Ich bin nicht auf dem Klo, ich koche meine Eier“. Not good German: it should have been „Ich bin nicht auf dem Klo, ich bin dabei, Spiegeleier zu braten“: “I'm not on the toilet, I'm frying eggs”. What I actually said could be translated as “I'm not on the toilet, I'm cooking my eggs”. But it could also be translated as “I'm not on the toilet, I'm boiling my balls”.

Ferry heard this, and didn't call back.

Monday, 10 May 1976 Schermbeck
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At work, I got called in to speak to Anselm Tristram, the proprietor of IBAT, the software company where I worked. Mr Jordans, a senior administrative person was there too, and maybe Ferry Lang was as well. I had performed my duties very badly, and had not followed instructions while designing either application. So they fired me. My protests that the way I did it was the only possibility, and that in particular the Bischof und Klein application worked well, didn't help.

On leaving the room, Mr Jordans took me aside and asked “What's this I heard about eggs?”.

In the course of the week we negotiated a deal: I would leave as soon as possible (normal periods of notice would be several months), and they would give me a pay raise. I then applied for a job with Karstadt, and arranged a correspondingly higher salary.

Monday, 17 May 1976 Schermbeck
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I started work with Karstadt as a system programmer for their two UNIVAC 494 machines.

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