From Herb Caen's column ...
A single lane bridge in Marin County has a sign which reads:
Unsafe to cross bridge when water covers this sign.
This is the conversation that will take place many years from now when the crew of Starship Enterprise returns to earth and discovers your newly acquired ti computer.
"Can you operate it, Spock?"
"Well, Jim, this computer was designed and constructed 300 million years ago by a totally alien race of methane-breathing, squid like beings who built it using technologies unknown to us and used it for purposes we cannot conceive of and then mysteriously vanished leaving no shred of documentation as to its operation.
"It may take a few moments."
For the interested (and the record) these are mainly taken from THE LITTLE BROWN BOOK OF ANECDOTES, edited by Clifton Fadiman.
In his legal practice, Abraham Lincoln was never greedy for fees and discouraged unnecessary litigation. A man came to him in a passion, asking him to bring a suit for $2.50 against an impoverished debtor. Lincoln tried to dissuade him, but the man was determined upon revenge. When he say that the creditor was not to be put off, Lincoln asked for and got $10 as his legal fee. He gave half of this to the defendant, who thereupon willingly confessed to the debt and paid up the $2.50, thus settling the matter to the entire satisfaction of the irate plaintiff.
Shortly after John F. Kennedy blocked the hike in steel prices in 1961, he was visited by a businessman who expressed wariness about the national economy. "Things look great," said JFK. "Why, if I wasn't president, I'd be buying stocks myself."
"If you weren't president," said the businessman, "so would I."
Following the death of a United States Senator who was a close friend, Woodrow Wilson received a telephone call from an ambitious politician who said that he wanted to take the Senator's place. Wilson, shocked by the man's crassness, replied, "That's perfectly agreeable with me, but you'll have to speak with the undertaker about it."
A long time ago UNIVAC (now UNISYS) had a mainframe computer called an 1106. They used rotating drum memory. For those of you not familiar with drums, they are massive rotating cylinders. They also tend to possess a great deal of rotational inertia.
Anyway, a UNIVAC customer engineer told me that they tried to install these machines in naval vessels, rotating drum and all. The story goes that everything was fine until the ship executed a hard turn to port. The drum, resisting this course alteration, merrily broke loose from its mountings and crashed through the side of the ship. WHOA BOY!
Sorry to change the subject a little, but this priceless little anecdote occurred while I was working for a hardware store while in college.
I'm standing behind the counter, wearing my little scratchy polyester uniform shirt, and this big huge guy walks up to me carrying two rolls of shelf paper and says "Is this going to be enough to cover my shelves?"
I stare at him for a moment, and then say "Well, that depends how long your shelves are." Silence. "How long are your shelves?"
"Oh," he says, "Three feet each."
"Ok," I say, "How many shelves do you have?"
"Four per cabinet."
"All right, I'll bite," I say in raw disbelief, "How many cabinets, indeed, do you have?" (I fully expected to hear "Three per room.")
"Fine, so it sounds like you have two cabinets with four shelves each that are three feet long."
"So that sounds to me like 2 * 4 * 3."
"Those rolls are ten feet each."
This time, ¨I¨ went silent.
Then, with a look of pure enlightenment generally displayed only by Zen masters: "I think I better get another roll."
"There is a God." I thought.
One customer at a computer store (or perhaps a computer faire) asked a salesman a number of questions about a given model of computer. Does it do this? Yes, it does this. Can it do that? Yes, it can do that. Does it have these? Yes, it has these. Finally he began to become somewhat suspicious of the amazing capabilities of this machine, and asked in as serious a tone as he could muster:
Does it have flim-flam flip-flops?
Yes, yes, it has flim-flam flip-flops!
One day I happened to be in our local "mom and pop" computer store, scanning the new magazines, when a fellow came in to buy some floppies for his home computer. The proprietor happened to be behind the counter and asked the man which computer he had. He then took a box from the shelf behind him, and opened it. "How many disks do you need?" he asked.
"Oh, two I think" came the answer. The proprietor then rang up the sale, and gave the man his change. With that, the man said "Thanks very much", picked the disks up off the counter, carefully folded them into quarters, and stuffed them into his shirt pocket as he strolled out the door.
The experience left me speechless, but I noticed that the owner didn't even flinch. (No doubt because he knew the fellow would be back for some more disks!)