Back in 1995, I was a software engineer for Ingres, working on the OS/2 port. A merchant bank had a serious, intermittent, non-reproducible problem and Computer Associates kindly bought me a ticket to New York to go and help them.

The ticket was an open return. I thought ‘That’s nice. That’s so I can extend my stay for a lovely weekend city break with my wife’. The truth was that it was an open return as I was staying onsite until the problem was resolved [ PH was right. I am naive ]

I duly took a black briefcase with a magnetic tape with the complete source code, an umbrella and a bowler hat. The tape was slightly too big for the briefcase and it was a struggle to shut it. Halfway through the flight, I decided to read some of the background to the long standing issue. The briefcase wouldn’t open. It was jammed. I was petrified that US Customs were going to ask me to open it. Thankfully, they didn’t.

When I arrived at the plush offices of the prestigious merchant bank, I was greeted like royalty. The client was very impressed that an ’engineer all the way from London’ had come to visit them. They offered me tea, coffee or water and looked perplexed when I said ‘Err - have you got a Swiss Army Knife ?’. A suitable tool was produced and they looked on in amazement as I butchered the lock and held the mag tape aloft. Come to think of it, I didn’t have a laptop so I must have compiled the Ingres product on their server.

My other memories of this trip are going to a cinema in Times Square to watch ‘Pulp Fiction’ in an effort to stay awake and beat jet lag. Somehow, this seemed to enhance the cinematic experience further.

Then I called home, trying to find out the United score against Crystal Palace. People kept telling me ‘Oh you haven’t heard about Cantona. God it was absolutely unbelievable. He was sent off, leapt into the crowd and attacked a Palace fan with a Kung Fu kick’. I didn’t believe a word of it and never got to find out the actual score (1-1) until I returned home.

And the actual bug - it was a one liner. A race condition introduced by a misplaced #ifdef.