||Some years ago, I was contacted by
a chap I knew. We'll call him 'Brian', largely because that was his name
and it makes things easier to remember. Brian and someone we'll call 'Ray'
for similar reasons, had come into one of those huge proscenium-arch dart-scoring
engines. I use the word 'engine' to conjure up visions of some steampunk
monstrosity that was all cogs and sharp bits that would take your fingers
off if you looked at it funny. This vision would be very close to the truth.
Anyway. This dart-scoring-engine was currently lodging in an unheated shed (it was, of course, winter) at the back of a dodgy industrial estate on the south side of Cheltenham. Unsurprisingly it was semi-broken and Brian & Ray wanted to know if I could fix it. If I could, there'd be a shiny new sixpence in it for me. Or at least a share of the 16k that Ray was going to sell it for next week.
I went to look at the thing. It was a mess of LEDs, drivers, badly-soldered ribbon cable and was entirely driven by 74xx logic. You indicated the score by plugging shorted-out 3.5mm jacks into a miniature dartboard located in a podium and then pressing the 'go' button.
Being stupid (and poor at the time. Must have been my year out of work to be a student), I said I'd have a crack at the job.
So, let's see: Ugly conditions (I took up smoking again just to keep warm), near-impossible job (no diagrams, two dozen PCBs nailed to the back of the woodwork and chained together with ribbon cable) and a bastard deadline (next week).
Of course I got the bugger working.
And that was the last I saw of Brian.
Two months later, I'm in some random pub and Ray walks in with a half-dozen big chaps in dark suits. He asks me if Brian ever 'saw me right'. I tell him not, so he heaves this huge roll of cash out of his pocket and peels twenty quid off it. And that was the last I saw of him.
This, then, is the story of my working life. Impossible jobs, bad conditions, mad deadlines... And a shiny new sixpence of my very own at the end of it...