Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reboot the pumps!

A bit over a week ago, I pulled into my local and favorite gas station for one of my rare visits; I do, after all, drive a Prius. Evening was creeping in, but light still illuminated the sky, the business was clearly open, and cars filled half a dozen other pump lanes. I got out, walked up to the pump...

...and all of the pumps crashed. Screens froze. Gas stopped coming out of nozzles several lanes away from me. All the computers in all the pumps went down at the same time.

What was happening was obvious if you work at all with technology, but apparently none of my fellow gas-purchasers did, because the ruckus that ensued was sufficiently loud and stupid that I had to retreat to my car lest someone overhear me laughing and decide to beat me to death with a now useless pump handle.

A young, small guy emerged from the gas station waving his hands and yelling, "Relax! I got this! I just have to flip the breaker, and then you have to wait!"

I bet the folks who wrote the gas-pump software (Gilbarco--I checked as my pump booted and noted the name and recalled that I had consulted for that company over two decades ago) had another procedure in mind. They had probably laid out key combinations and processes for rebooting in the event of a system crash, but, no, none of that was to happen here. Instead, the guy was essentially pulling the plug on all the pumps at once and then letting them bring themselves up from scratch.

The approach worked, though I learned that gas pumps--at least these pumps--do not boot quickly: the process consumed several minutes, involved three BIOSes, and displayed many different screens that offered the promise but never the reality of being ready for business.

Eventually, though, the pumps came back to life, I filled my tank and collected my receipt. As I pulled away, I heard screaming, saw the guy emerge from the store, and murmured an undirected thanks for being able to load up before the pumps crashed again.


Ticia said...

Wow. Computers ARE everywhere.

J. Griffin Barber said...

I would be happy if the damn card readers would work more often, and I haven't ever had to go through that nonsense.

And yes, boobies still good.


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