Sunday, January 29, 2006

Jeff Matthews Is Not Making This Up

Except in those days we didn’t have Excel spreadsheets: we had a centralized computer center where strange FORTRAN-literate employees created earnings models on mainframe computers, using our hand-scratched numbers.

We'd get a ream of computer paper back from the FORTRAN guys, look at pages and pages of numbers, make adjustmentss and send it back. And repeat the process any number of times, until we had a nice-looking computer-generated forecast that was basically meaningless by the time it was done.

Eventually we acquired something totally new: personal computers, which came with a cool spreadsheet program called “Lotus 1-2-3.”

What this revolutionary, time-saving device did was allow me to spend all my waking hours experimenting with complex formulas, typing in numbers, hitting the "recalc" button and playing with secretary-style formatting techniques in order to create a computer-generated forecast that was, likewise, basically meaningless by the time it was done.

Garbage in, garbage out, as they say.

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