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The Peter Effect

· 3 min read
Alejandro Revilla

/by apr/ When I was a child I used to spend a lot of time with my grand parents.

A neighbor of them had a radio/tv repair shop, his name was Peter (obviously locally pronounced Peh-tehr), for me, he was a genius.

A family with probably twice the IQ of the rest of the neighborhood together (I remember Peter's father playing chess all the time, against himself using a large mirror), and Peter always repairing stuff, you entered the place and enjoyed that very special solder smell that I still like.

Peter was a man of very few words, he knew me since I was born, but he'd never talked to me like a child, he was very serious, yet had a sarcastic sense of humor, the kind of humor smart people have. Later, when I was probably 10 or 12, a couple very good friends and an awesome game introduced me to electronics.

After finishing several small projects on the wooden board, and burning several AF-116s and AC-126s transistors, I was ready for a larger project, a six-transistor AM radio receiver. I was very anxious, so I started soldering some components, but then I ran out of solder, probably over the weekend where I couldn't buy more. That wasn't going to stop me, so I continued mixing cables together without soldering, and using GLUE (yes, glue, I'm embarrased to say that, but I was a child, and an anxious one, I "needed" that radio receiver running!).

The moment came where I had to apply voltage and test, but of course, the thing wouldn't work. Several tests here and there, the whole thing was wrong, half baked, short circuits everywhere, transistors probably over-heated and melted by my inhability to properly use the soldering gun, everything was a mess. Then I had a brilliant idea: Peter! I waited until Monday, headed to my grand parent's and onto Peter's.

I handed him the project and said, very seriously: "Can you repair this? it suddenly stopped working". I still remember Peter's reaction, he laughed, yelled, laughed, then yelled again, THIS THING HAS NEVER WORKED!! (probably thinking what a little liar son of a b....!).

You may wonder why I'm telling you this story and here is the answer: In jPOS Consulting, we receive "for repair" things that never worked and customers claim they are broken.

We get blasted by walls of code that never ever worked, they are flawed by design, and customers ask us to fix them. It would be much much easier and cheaper to engage us earlier in the project definition and development than wasting their time creating code that's impossible to fix.

When we receive code like that, we call it The Peter Effect.

PS.- I wanted to write this post a long time ago, because this is a recurring problem we have here, and wanted to read it to my friend Peter. Unfortunately, I was busy to do it, and he recently passed away. I really miss him, we exchanged very few words because he didn't like to talk a lot, but I knew he appreciated my interest in electronics, and I've always respected him a lot. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I was a child, I didn't want to go to the moon or be a policeman or a fireman, I probably wanted to run a repair shop like Peter's.