North Pole Systems Team Heads South

The team of people contracted to provide automated systems at the North Pole has decided to give up, a spokesperson for Santa Claus announced today. A dazed team leader at the press conference merely mumbled "It can't be done... It can't be done...."

"Obviously, we're both disappointed and humbled," said the president and CEO of Little Nine Accounting. Little Nine won the contract almost a year ago, after a very competitive bid process that involved almost every name in the Information Systems industry. Because of this competition and the very high profile of the client, the North Pole Project (NPP) was viewed as the most prestigious systems project ever.

The NPP was to automate all aspects of the North Pole and Santa's annual Christmas journey, including the design, manufacture, and distribution of toys. The project's mission was "to provide integrated systems that maximize productivity and minimize all personal work time required, while ensuring the 100% reliability that Santa has stood for, year after year over the centuries."

"They didn't just bite off more than they could chew," noted an industry analyst at a competing firm. "They took on something that, in retrospect, all of us put together could not handle."

This view was echoed by Mrs. Claus. "I feel sorry for those nice young ladies and gentlemen. I know many children have dreams of working with Santa at the North Pole. How unfortunate that the work is much more difficult than they ever imagined. I also feel sorry for Santa -- he was hoping to take me on a second honeymoon in Tahiti next Christmas." Mr. Claus, due to the season, has been too busy to be informed of the NPP news, and was unavailable at press time. "I just don't have the heart to tell him his semi-retirement plans have to be put on hold," said a tearful Mrs. Claus.

The Acceptor from the User Team, I.M. Elf, understood the primary reason for the failure of the North Pole Project. "Basically, the core problem is the unbelievable information need. Just think: at any given moment, Santa needs to know whether you're sleeping or awake and naughty or nice, plus comments for extenuating circumstances. So, that's two bits plus comment bytes every second for every person. On Earth alone, that means over ten billion bits per second. Add to that the fault tolerance and multi-processing needed so Santa can check his list twice... well, it became obvious early on that no computer system, certainly none that could be taken along on the sleigh during the Christmas deliveries, could keep up with the old man's abilities.

"Portable power -- safe portable power -- was another difficulty. It would not do much for Santa's image if the sled were outfitted with a nuclear or gasoline powered generator; and, as many parents know, Santa does not like carrying batteries on the sleigh. We had looked at Rudolph's nose as a power source, but it just does not generate the horsepower -- I mean, reindeerpower -- necessary to fire up even the smallest portable."

Solving the communications requirements was virtually impossible. "What Santa needs makes the Space Shuttle Programme communications look like a piece of cake," commented a NASA consultant, subcontracted for the NPP. "He flies at altitudes too low, and through atmospheric and geographic conditions too violent, to allow the implementation of a data-quality communications link with his home base." Even the latest in communications gadgetry, the cellular phone, proved to be unworkable. "Ever try to use one of those things in a remote mountain range?!"

The spokesperson for Santa Claus said that no legal action would be pursued against Little Nine and its systems team. "Their punishment -- through disappointment on Christmas morning -- will be bad enough."

Vernon R.J. Schmid


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Copyright ©1989, 1996 Vernon R.J. Schmid. All rights reserved.
Last Updated: 2005-01-25.