Back in the early, wild-west kind of days with tech startups, there was this little company that wrote programs that were what are now known as “killer apps.” It wasn’t too long before their competitors took notice, and, well, wanted to eliminate the competition. But, in the more civilized manner of the day, it was elimination by acquisition.
The company, around 30 people, entertained several lucrative offers. But none of them wanted to just cash out and go on their merry way. No, being the creative bunch they were, they wanted to continue working after selling the company to a competitor. Finally, the offer came that was too good to pass up, and the company was sold on a handshake and the promise to keep everyone on. Everyone was happy – they were rich beyond their dreams, and they could continue what they enjoyed doing – working on their programs.
Of course, it didn’t last long.
Soon after the transfer of power, people were slowly being forced out of the company. Oh, they continued to be employed alright. But what was happening is that the new management slowly was taking the responsibilities away from the various former owners of the company, and putting them into positions of, well, nothing. No programming, no responsibilities, nothing. Not even a spreadsheet to work on. Soon, bored out of their minds, one by one, they resigned and left the company.
Soon, only one person was left, the former president of the company. The new owners came to him, politely asking him to resign also as his division no longer had any programmers for him to manage, and more importantly, no projects to work on. Therefore, they reasoned, his services were no longer required. Realizing that he was going to be fired, he agreed to resign, logged out of his computer terminal, boxed up his office, and left.
The new owners were happy. The last of the “old guard” was gone, and they now had the programs and the company. After celebrating, the company settled down to business at hand, at least for the next two weeks. Then the computers connected to the company servers began making some, well, odd demands…
It started in accounting. A clerk put in a purchase order for materials, and instead of a confirmation message for the order, the computer came back with the statement, “I want a cookie.” Puzzled, the clerk just pressed the “Enter” key, the message went away, and the transaction completed.
Soon, all departments were affected. What started out as a 1 in every 1,000 entries rapidly became 1 in every 100, then 1 in every 50, to 1 in every 10, and finally, every time a entry needed to be confirmed, the message “I want a cookie” was displayed.
The company soon came to a standstill. No orders were processed, no programs could be written, spreadsheets and documents could not be saved without multiple demands of “I want a cookie.” Chaos reigned.
The owners were frantic. The computer whizzes in IT could not find the source of the demands, going through the operating systems on the mainframe servers and the individual computers. They found absolutely nothing.
In desperation, they called the the former company president. He came in to the company, went to his old office, put his feet up on his desk, and stated,
“Gentlemen, you violated the spirit of our agreement. You forced the former owners of this company out through underhanded means, and that has not gone unnoticed, nor should it go unpunished. Therefore, you will offer employment to all the people you have forced out at twice their original salaries, and whether or not they come back, you will provide compensation of that amount from the time they left the company to the present date. I’ve seen your financial projections and current revenue statements – you can afford it and then some. Furthermore, these people will be in a division headed by me, and will not be without work or projects for as long as this company is in business. Last, gentlemen, they will be the last ones out this door should this company experience downsizing, with you leaving long before them. This shall be in writing, signed by you, reviewed by my attorneys, and will not have any escape clauses, at least for you.”
The owners protested, stating that this was nothing short of blackmail. The former president shrugged, and began getting up from his chair, stating something to the effect of “you got what you bought” and “have a nice life” before saner (and cooler) heads prevailed. The agreement was drafted, reviewed, and signed within a matter of a couple of hours.
The reinstated president, with the agreement in hand, sat down at his desk and logged in. Of course, the computer stated, “I want a cookie” in response to his login. With a slight smile, he typed in the one word that ended the server’s infatuation with a dessert…