Recently, we received an urgent email from Sweden: the SRAM battery in a combine harvester had died, rendering the machine useless just as the crop was ripe for harvest. To make matters worse, the combine’s manufacturer no longer serviced the 14-year-old machine. Desperate for a solution, the farmer’s neighbor (who knew a bit about computers) saw Datalight’s copyright notice on the stalled boot screen and Google’d us.
I’m not sure what impressed me more, the fact that Datalight support got right on the problem (a missing ROM-DOS file) or the fact that this kind neighbor worked into the wee hours to cobble together the pieces to re-load the PCMCIA card that contained the programs needed to reload the SRAM. For Datalight support, it really was just another day at the office – except for the fact that the software in question is some that was developed nearly two decades ago. For the farmer and his neighbor, it was anything but. Their perseverance and creativity in solving this problem went beyond what most of us would undertake but without it, the crops would have spoiled in the field. The consequence of failure was extremely high.
And yet, the only company in the supply chain for this combine that would take time to help was Datalight. The combine maker, the dealer who sold it, even the guy who designed the control box that failed, all washed their hands of responsibility for getting this beast moving again.
This simple email, the research and activity it engendered, and its “woo hoo!” outcome cemented for me the importance of recognizing that the products made by our customers will be in use by their customers far beyond the moment that OEMs pay us for the right to ship our software, often beyond even the time they are subscribed to our support and maintenance services. And even beyond the time that the manufacturer warranties the product. Yet helping to make sure these products continue to do the job they were designed for is part of the Datalight DNA and one of the reasons that embedded developers keep coming back, design after design. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
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