How can engineers not understand source-code control?

Mark Carter mcturra2000 at
Tue Jan 4 05:34:36 EST 2005

 > Cameron Laird wrote:
 >> I've seen the infatuation for Excel (and so on) for years,

True story: when I began working for my current employer, there was a 
guy there doing some work with a spreadsheet. He was given two weeks to 
perform the task. It was a loss-leader to get some real work from the 

There already existed a spreadsheet, which did financial projections. It 
used VBA fairly extensively, and his task was to adapt it to remove the 
VBA code. This means converting things like functions into equivalent 
cell formulae. The rationale behind this is that VBA is too hard for 
most people to understand, whereas formulae are easier to understand. 
Conditionals look really confusing in formulae, and I don't know how he 
coped with loops. And then, of course, you have to replicate them to 
every cell that requires them. Can you imagine that? Is this very the 
definition of madness, or what?

The whole thing was a gigantic spreadsheet (I can't remember, it was 
either 9Mb or 90Mb in size), and kept crashing every few minutes. Utter 
utter insanity. Whenever he went back the client, she demanded 
improvements. We had effectively told her that she could have whatever 
whe wanted. And oh, it would only take 2 weeks. The managers never 
pulled the plug on the project.

Apparently, our guy sat in on a conversation that the client had with a 
potential contractor who would replace the spreadsheet. His first 
question was, surprise surprise, "why on earth did you try to do it that 

The thing is, our guy was scheduled to be booted out the door because he 
was in a business area that was being discontinued by us, so from my 
employer's point-of-view, I guess that all this lunacy actually made sense.

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