The Manager's New Charts - Mark Clarkson

Once, not so very long ago at all, there existed a special, Magic Place. Far from the crushing throngs of urban blight, from the distractions of traffic jams, crime, surfing, art, and culture. Far from the towering mountains with their icy, snow-capped peaks. Far from the thundering oceans. Isolated by vast plains empty of all save smatterings of grain elevators along the interstate highways. Buffered by prodigious areas lacking open saloons.

So special was the place that few guessed of its existence at all. Those who had heard of it feared it to be a barbarian place, overrun by savages and herds of wandering buffalo and probably lacking cable television. Only those who lived there knew the true beauty of the Magic Place and they kept it their closely guarded secret lest they be inundated by swarms of conventioneers, tourists, dirty book salesmen, and other miscreants, and thus lose their cherished Way Of Life.

And, in the very center of the Magic Place was Factoryland.

Factoryland was a powerful group of small kingdoms and princedoms which beat like the very heart of the Magic Place. When Factoryland was well, everything was well. When Factoryland fell on hard times, money became scarce throughout and everyone was forced to charge their Christmas presents on Visa.

Thus did all of the craftsmen and artificers and wise scholars from the neighboring regions make it a practice to devote a good portion of their lives to the service of one or the other of the kings of Factoryland. Few among the old could truthfully say that they had never been there. Few among the young truthfully expected to forego their indenture there. Those who, for personal, philosophical, or artistic reasons, chose to withhold their services from the Kings of Factoryland were forced to leave the Magic Place altogether and to undertake the great trek East, South, or West -- nothing whatsoever, to the best of anyone's knowledge, lying to the North.

Virtually all of the commerce of the Magic Place ran through Factoryland. Every merchant in the Magic Place was involved, on some level, with the buying or selling of goods to or from Factoryland.

Great, indeed, were the throngs of workers who toiled away in Factoryland, producing and consuming with equal vigor.

Some, however, managed to exist within Factoryland on the sheer inertia of activity, consuming much but producing nothing. They managed to place themselves above the laborers and artificers and craftsmen and join the ranks of petty kings and barons who had similarly managed to live within Factoryland without actually working there. They managed to wheedle and jostle their ways out of the ordinary ranks and into position beneath the first rung of the ladder of Factoryland princedoms and kingdoms. They were called, of course, "managers."

As did the inter-course of the Magic Place revolve almost totally around Factoryland, so did the inter-course of Factoryland revolve almost totally around a whole series of Managers' Rites called "Inter-Management Procedures and Development Meetings" and "Upper-Level Presentations." And central to all of these were charts.

The charts were always on the minds of the kings, princes, minor empire builders, and other managers of Factoryland. "By your charts shall ye be known," theywould say to each other, smiling and nodding. And it was true. A manager's charts were second in importance only to his tie in how his peers and superiors judged him.

So important were the charts to the managers that most had special machines, costing thousands of dollars each and requiring special clerks to run them, just to draw charts, graph charts, and manipulate data to make more charts. Every two to three months these machines became obsolete and had to be replaced by new machines which could produce more charts faster than before.

In Factoryland, there was a very special manager who produced bigger and better charts than anyone else, before or since.

And thereby hangs our tale.

 

The Manager (of our story) was a third-level prince, meaning that he ruled over those who ruled over those who ruled over those who did the work. His private chambers were opulent indeed for Factoryland, possessing both bookshelves and a window. He employed a private staff of 10 machines and five clerks just to produce charts.

Day after day, his offices were filled with the pleasant hum of the machines and the steady "whish-whish" of pens moving against paper, drawing charts. The Manager would walk happily around his outer offices, hands folded behind his back, humming quietly as he watched the steady progress of the chart-drawing machines. And the very finest machines they were, always the newest and the best.

The Manager had been one of the first to have his own chart-drawing machine. It had been noisy and expensive and the charts it produced had been crude and in only one color. The charts it drew had taken almost twice as long as those done by hand, but the Manager had loved it nonetheless. "It is the way of the future," he had said. "Soon everyone will need one of these machines just to keep up." And he had, of course, been perfectly correct. Soon, new machines were available-faster, lovelier machines. Machines which could run all night producing charts with no one to oversee them. Soon, every aspect of the Manager's domain, and many of his neighbors aspects as well, was being Graphed and charted on a weekly basis.

The Manager had been quick to perceive an opportunity and grasp it firmly. He began bringing his charts to the Inter-Management Procedures and Development meetings where he would point at them and talk at great length. When someone tried to interrupt, the Manager would produce another chart something a little snazzier and with lots of colors-and point to various regions while expounding on their interrelations to each other and Factoryland in general.

He was a hit.

It soon became clear to the other Managers that if they wished to hang on to any floor time at all, they would have to bring their own charts, and lots of them. And that, of course, meant chart-drawing machines.

The Manager was ahead of them. When other managers began showing up with color graphs done on their machines, the Manager produced charts drawn on transparent foil, projected up onto a large screen for all to see. When the others did the same, the Manager had his machine hooked up to a big-screen TV where everyone could watch as the graphs and charts changed from second to second during the presentation.

No matter what the others did, the Manager always did it with a little more flash.

And then it was back to his office to refine his charts and plan for the next presentation.

The Manager always put on the best show and he always wore the right tie, and so it was inevitable that he would rise to power quickly. Soon he was the Manager in charge of Standards for Use and Appearance of Graphical and Semi-Graphical Media for Presentation and General Information Discourse. He was in charge of charts. Charts had to follow his specifications in order to be used in official Managers' Rites. Charts were the pulse of Factoryland and his finger was on them.

Life was good.

He would squint over charts in his office, his brow furrowed with concentration as he looked for ways to pack ever more information onto a given sheet of paper or transparent foil. Then, when inspiration finally hit him, he would stride into the outer room where the clerks toiled over the tireless chart-making machines.

"Why don't we lay the second graph over the first one here?" he might say, stooping over a clerk's shoulder. "Yes, but make the second one a worm chart superimposed over the first stacked column. And squeeze the whole thing down a little here," he would point, "and here. Then, down here, you could put a row of boxes with the varying P and Q values in them for more detail. And put the negative values in red and the positive ones in green. Yes, yes. That's good. That's very good indeed." And he would then run back to his desk and write up a memo mandating that this graph was the one to be used for presentations of that type to these clients during first and third quarter presentations. And it had to be red and green.

Everyone on related projects would rush to buy color chart-drawing machines.

As has been said, life was good.

 

One day there came into Factoryland a wandering Priest-Consultant - an odd little man with too much spring in his step. He made the managers nervous with his white smile and his energetic manner, but the grey of his suit soothed them and they soon tolerated his presence well enough.

Manager by manager, prince by prince, he made his way across Factoryland preaching the word of Presentation Graphics as a Management Tool. And everywhere he went, he heard talk of the Manager.

Slowly but inevitably, the Consultant's path wound its way through the hallways and parking complexes of Factoryland to the Manager's door, and in.

"Sir," the Consultant said primly, "I am Mr. Tag, Management Graphics Consultant. Is this one of yours?" and without further ado, he slid a four-color transparency across the Manager's desk.

"Yes."The Manager was hesitant.

"Fantastic!"the Consultant beamed. "May I keep it? I want to use it as an example in a seminar I do."

"Of course!" said the Manager, eyes brimming with feigned humility.

"I want to use it as an example of the best of the old,"the Consultant said, picking the chart back up and tucking it carefully into his briefcase.

"The old?"the Manager asked. His eyes popped. "The old?!"

The Manager half-rose from his chair. His eyes had narrowed to slits and the veins on his forehead stood out in much the same manner as when someone mentioned charging to Overhead.

The Consultant appeared not to notice. He smiled cheerfully as he began to pace back and forth in front of the Manager's desk. He spun and beamed enthusiasm across the desk at the Manager.

"The old," he repeated. "Good in its time but swept out on the rising tide of Office Automation." He leaned forward and added confidentially, "It's the way of the world, you know."

"Sir!" The Manager could bear this man's good cheer at his expense no longer. He completed his rise from the chair. "That chart represents the cutting edge - the cutting edge - of charts and graphs as presentation tools. Four different data views! Each displayed it its own form! Bar, line, pie, and histogram combined in," and he gathered his breath and continued in a rush, "combined-in-a-single-chart!" and sat back down, spent.

The Consultant leaned on the Manager's desk and beamed at him, unperturbed. "Oh, tut," he tutted. "That sort of thing was being done in our labs 18 months ago. Old hat! Office automation moves ever onward, ever faster, like a truck on a downhill slope with no brakes, crushing all who stand before it beneath its mighty steel-belted tires!

"It waits for no man," he winked.

The Manager gulped quietly for air.

The Consultant gestured at an overhead projector in the corner of the Manager's office. "May I use that for a moment?" he asked.

The Manager nodded, mouth still agape.

The Consultant wheeled the projector over to the side of the Manager's desk and flipped a switch on its side. The top of the projector lit up. A set of lenses suspended above the illuminated surface caught the light and projected it against a blank section of wall.

The Consultant reached into his briefcase and pulled out two objects about the size of large books. The first he lay on the Manager's desk; the second he placed atop the projector. The patch of light on the far wall dimmed slightly, but the object appeared to be mostly transparent. The Manager noted that a thick black cable connected the two things to each other.

The Consultant flipped the object on the desk open, revealing a small keyboard and screen and a few little green and red lights which glowed dimly.

The Manager gasped. He leaned toward the thing. "A chart-making machine," he exclaimed, "that fits in a briefcase!"

The Consultant continued to beam.

In the patch of light on the far wall, a lone question mark blinked.

The Consultant pecked away at the keyboard and the word "DEMO" appeared on the wall beneath the question mark. The Manager's eyes grew ever wider. A chart-making machine that hooked directly up to an overhead projector! Visions of the possibilities danced in the air before his eyes.

"Sir,"the Consultant proclaimed, "I give you The Future!" And he hit one final key.

And the patch of light cleared. "The beginning," said the Consultant.

On the wall, a crooked line snaked its way from left to right. Below it and to the left, coordinate numbers appeared.

"First came Form," said the Consultant, and on the wall the line was replaced by a circle, cut up like a pie. Each piece was filled in a distinctive pattern of black crosshatch.

"Color," said the Consultant. The hatch patterns in the pie chart were suddenly replaced by different colors. Green and blue and red and cyan and yellow.

"Next was Presentation." Suddenly the circle was gone and in its place appeared one of Factoryland's passenger blimps, sliced neatly into 14 unequal parts as if by some huge meat cleaver. Above it was a beautifully rendered dollar bill, also split into 14 parts, each part labeled and connected to the part of the blimp it represented by little people with pointing fingers. The little people were dressed in the customary garb of the people responsible for building some part of the blimp. Little tiny welders and lathe operators and Cushman scooter drivers. (Little managers were notably unrepresented.) They were all smiling.

The Manager smiled too. This, he thought, was more like it. This was a nice chart!

"Then, Animation,"the Consultant said.

The wall now showed a cartoon picture of a factory floor. Above it a banner announced: "Employee Turnover and Fluctuation for Fiscal 1985." Moving about on the factory floor were the happy little shop workers from the blimp chart and many more like them. Little factory machines moved up and down, in and out, and turned little blue squares into little red triangles. The triangles proceeded down a conveyer belt until they fell off the end into a wafting truck. On the side of the truck was a little window that showed the amount of money represented by the little red triangle products. It changed constantly and made little "ku-ching" noises every now and then.

In the foreground, little Cushman scooters drove from one side of the screen to the other, turned around, and went back.

To the left were little boxes marked Starting Level, New Hire, Resignation, Firing, Layoff, Death, and Industrial Accident. The Starting Level box said 24. The others read 0.

Two little welders and a little man with a rivet gun went up to the foreman, waved their hands, and walked out. The Resignation box tallied up 3. More little men appeared from off-screen and the New Hire box tallied 3.

The foreman went over to the little triangle-making machine operator and tapped him on the shoulder. The operator hung his head and shuffled out. Another little triangle-making machine operator stepped up to take his place.

1, said the Firing box. 4 said the New Hire box.

The truck at the end of the conveyer belt filled up and the machines stopped. The foreman tapped half of the shop workers on the shoulders and they shuttled out.

12, said the Layoff box.

A new truck pulled up and the machines started moving again. A bunch of new shop workers emerged from a little door marked "Employment."

14, said the New Hire box.

A grey-haired janitor grabbed his chest and flailed his arms for a moment before dropping to the ground. An animated stretcher crew carried him off-screen.

1, said the Death box.

A little Cushman scooter ran into one of the welders from the blimp chart, sending him sprawling into the triangle-making machine.

1, said the Industrial Accident box.

A little tune played and the words "Overall Labor Overhead Reduction of 4. Cost Savings: $328,500 (adjusted)" appeared.

The Manager was in shock! He wanted to jump up, to shout, to applaud. Tears streamed down his cheeks.

"And now," said the Consultant, oblivious, "the good stuff!"

On the wall, things were really beginning to happen.

First, the entire factory animation froze and faded slightly, taking on a bluish cast. Then, over the top of the factory appeared a snaking red line, climbing slowly from left to right. Another line, blue this time, appeared, following the first but tracing a slightly different path.

Suddenly the chart shrank down to a fourth of its original size and slid to the corner of the screen. Three times, duplicates seemed to slide out from under the original and move to their respective corners, filling the first screen again. Pie charts leapt into being on top of portions. The four charts changed colors, one by one, until they represented a spectrum.

Two of the pie charts fell over onto their sides and supplemental text appeared (in complementary colors) over them, explaining their orientation.

The Manager sat, not breathing, eyes riveted on the display across from him.

Atop the entire screen there appeared a thinly lined table of numbers. Across that wormed another line graph, then four more. Then a large pie chart sketched in light magenta over the entire picture.

The spaces between the lines seemed to be disappearing, the whole chart on the verge of vanishing into a hodgepodge. The Manager felt that he could still make out all of the component parts, but he dared not blink for fear of losing it all.

And still the chart continued to evolve.

Blue, translucent dirigibles stacked up in neat columns in front of the large pie chart. Little lines appeared to cut them up. More lines snaked across the chart, leaving little numbers in their wake.

And suddenly it all seemed to vanish into static. The Manager was staring at the wall with fierce intensity, eyes narrowed to slits, furrowed brow glistening with sweat. And then, poof! It was all so many colored smudges. He couldn't make out a thing.

"It gets a little subtle here in a minute," said the Consultant, "but I'm sure you can see where this is all heading."

The Manager nodded mutely.

The static on the wall seemed to swirl and dance for a moment, shifting colors, and then it froze. Nothing moved.

The Consultant flipped a switch and the projector died, the patch of light on the far wall fading away into darkness.

In the absence of the projector's fan, the Manager's breath rasped audibly.

The Consultant pressed a button on the little keyboard and, with a quiet screeching noise, a piece of paper emerged from the back.

The Consultant carefully folded up the little chartmaking machine and put it and its screen back into his briefcase.

He placed the piece of paper, a large grey rectangle covering most of the front of it, on the Manager's desk.

"Here is a printout of the chart you just saw," he said, smiling again. "I took the liberty of working it up last night. As you can see, it presents a fairly complete picture of Factoryland's fiscal operations for last year with your organization's numbers highlighted." He raised his eyebrows expectantly.

"Um," said the Manager, squinting at the gray rectangle. It was made up of a fine mesh of lines-all different colors and seemingly random in their placement. "Um," he said again.

"Now, some people," began the Consultant, "have difficulty with such charts, but I knew that you would possess the requisite skills and intellect to appreciate it.

"Um," said the Manager for the third time. "Of course. Yes ... yes, I see it all now. I must have had something in my eye." He squinted harder and jabbed an index finger randomly at the chart. "Yes, yes ... the factory output ... hmm ... gross production costs ... it's all here. Amazing!" He looked up guiltily at the Consultant to see if he had blundered but the Consultant simply continued to beam and nod.

"My card,"the Consultant said at last, producing a business card seemingly out of thin air. The Manager took it and studied it carefully.

The Consultant's name, Mr. Ralph K. Tag, appeared in the center in spidery red letters against a stylized map of the country. Beneath the map were a list of the cities wherein Mr. Tag's company had offices. The Manager saw that Mr. Tag's name was actually made up of a sort of connect-the-dots picture formed by joining little red dots that marked the cities which had offices. He also saw that Factoryland and, indeed, the entire Magic Place were noticeably lacking in any little red dots.

The phone number and mailing address of Mr. Tag's home office were printed in plain letters in the upper left-hand corner of the card. Try as he might, the Manager could extract no hidden information from the little letters and digits.

He looked up and started to frame a response, but the strange little man was gone, leaving only his business card and one piece of chart paper to distinguish his visit from some strange dream.

The Manager shook his head, as if to clear it of the sense of weirdness that had descended upon him. He felt as though his life had been changed in some extraordinary yet very real way. He was, of course, correct.

And so it came to pass that at the Managers' Fourth Quarterly Meeting on Productivity and Parking the Manager stood up and placed his newly acquired chart-making machine on the freshly oiled conference table, beckoned a secretary to bring him the overhead projector from the corner, and made his biggest hit yet.

The lights dimmed. A screen at one and of the huge room lit with a ghostly drawing of the Factoryland Management Complex as it might be seen from a low-flying passenger blimp. It had no substance but rather seemed to be sketched out with brightly colored wires drawn in three dimensions. After a heartbeat, the perspective plunged down-zooming toward the pavement beside the building. In the darkened conference room, grey wool suits rustled uncomfortably.

The plunge stopped suddenly. The parking lot filled the screen, a mesh of lines-yellow, red, blue, white, and orange marking off the strictly enforced parking territories.

"Parking," said the Manager. A blue graph snapped into being atop the parking lot. The line running across it dropped steadily from left to right.

"Productivity," said the Manager.

The perspective leaped upwards once more, bringing into view the Management Complex, the Employee Building, and the parking lot in between.

A clock appeared in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. The hands stood poised at seven forty-five. Little red cartoon cars appeared from off-screen and pulled into their parking places, each according to caste. (In the real parking complexes, each car wore a caste mark in the center of its windshield indicating by color its proper place.) Little men and women got out and filtered into, variously, the Management Complex and the Employee Building, two out of three entering the latter.

The clock ticked on toward eight o'clock and beyond. Cars continued to trickle in well after eight, although now only employees were arriving, the managers having all been at their desks by seven fifty-five. Statistics piled up across the screen in glowing green letters and numerals.

The clock snapped back to seven forty five and the parking lot emptied and began to slowly fill again. This time, however, the managers' orange parking spaces had been expanded to include half of the parking lot instead of the original third. All other colors had been diminished one sixth. By seven fifty-eight all the non-management spaces were full and the little cartoon employees had to park across the highway in the ball diamond and dash across simulated traffic.

Leather chairs creaked in the gloom as various managers leaned forward, intrigued.

The little productivity line wavered upward the slightest bit. More statistics crawled across the screen. The scene froze.

The clock reset; the parking lot emptied again. The managers' parking spaces had expanded two more rows. By seven fifty-five the employee lot was full. The last few managers arrived and picked from among the remaining 70 or so spaces"

The clock flew backward again. The little cartoon computer employees were catching on (16 tiny graphs appeared, showing correlations between learning curves and sex, education, shoe size, and other relevancies). The computer employees were starting to show up earlier to got a parking spot. Just a minute or two earlier (a chart showing how much work 57,000 employees do in an average two minutes superimposed itself over the scene) but it added up.

The productivity line swerved upwards. The scene froze again.

In the darkness, the applause started.

But from the back corner came a scoff . "Hmmphh!" The Manager recognized the snort of Mr. Hatchett. His spirit sank momentarily but he steadied himself and said quietly, "Yes?"

"This is all very fine and pretty, I'm sure," said Mr. Hatchett (he always began his very worst character assassinations with a compliment), "but how does it relate to The Big Picture?"

"The Big Picture?" inquired the Manager.

"Yes, The Big Picture. The Bottom Line. Military vs. Commercial. Bonuses. GNP. The Big Picture."And he hmmphed again for good measure.

"Well," said the Manager, "I think that might be beyond the scope of this meeting..."

"I thought so," Mr. Hatchett interrupted. "Those little toys of yours are okay for pretty little pictures and simple charts, but I look at The Big Picture. I have the interest of all Factoryland at heart. I cannot afford to be distracted by ... by glitter!"

"All right," said the Manager amiably. "But I'll warn you: The Big Picture is a complex concept-it requires complex representation.

Complex representation makes for complex interpretation. "There are certain essential skills required by such an endeavor. A thorough grounding in Information Theory and Advanced Chart-Reading Techniques, for a beginning. Not to mention an above-average intelligence."

"No problem" said Mr. Hatchett.

Nodding quietly, the Manager touched a button on his keyboard and the picture on the screen zoomed rapidly backward until all of Factoryland was visible, traced out meticulously in little colored lines.

The productivity line reappeared, followed by the projected productivity line displaying the gain realized from the redistribution of the parking lot. Large blue columns of numbers began to scroll upward in front of the picture.

An imposing black chart labeled "GNP"dropped down, lines running across it in all colors and directions.

Animated dirigibles flew back and forth across the

chart like crazed sky-writers, leaving yet more colored lines and figures behind them.

The picture shrank inward a bit and was suddenly surrounded by 43 tiny graphs reflecting Productivity, Costs, and Contributing Factors for all 43 of Factoryland's major kingdoms. Rows of numbers, green this time, flowed from left to right. Occasional negative numbers blinked alarmingly on and off in red.

The picture disappeared and was instantly replaced by four quarter-sized copies of itself , each in a different color. The lines and figures were compressed almost beyond the bounds of visibility.

"By quarters," said the Manager.

More and more lines and characters appeared on the screen like a swarm of insects. One by one, the managers in the conference room blinked and sank back as they totally lost track of what was going on. In the back corner, Mr. Hatchett still scowled intensely.

The chart-making machine on the table played a few bars of Mozart's Symphony #25 in a tinny little voice and "+2.9%" appeared in huge letters of changing hue above the entire chart.

The Manager gestured at a waiting secretary and the lights came up. Squinting eyes blinked back at him from the room.

"And that's how it all relates to The Big Picture," said the Manager.

He waited for responses. All eyes turned to Mr. Hatchett. Mr. Hatchett stared at the chart, then at the Manager, and then back at the chart again.

"Any questions?" the Manager prompted.

"Perfectly clear to me," said Mr. Hatchett.

The entire room nodded simultaneously.

The Manager smiled and, gathering up his equipment, sat down at the table. He beckoned to the secretary for coffee, which he sipped appreciatively.

When he closed his eyes, he saw his name on the mahogany door of an office in the Executive Tower. An office with carpet.

The Manager's "Big Picture" chart was featured on the cover of the next issue of 'Managers' Newsletter: The Newsletter for Managers' along with an article explaining what the chart was and saying that the Manager had been awarded 10,000 pieces of silver for making that method of charting mandatory for everyone in Factoryland and thus saving the company millions of dollars in possible confusion.

And so the new charts spread throughout Factoryland and new chart-making machines had to be purchased by every department and all of the clerks had to be retrained and much money was saved.

The new charts began to show up in the Management Rites where analysts and managers would project them onto screens and talk knowledgeably about each one for five seconds before proceeding to the next. This was much as it had been, in spite of the fact that no one understood much - if anything - of what was represented by the charts. They just nodded sagely and asked unrelated questions. In truth, this, too, was much as it had been.

But it happened that some workers in Factoryland were not at all happy about the charts. One particular Factoryland employee, an engineer, was quite upset indeed. She had puzzled over the charts for hours, regarding them from this angle and that, frowning. She didn't understand them at all.

She had taken them to her manager.

"These charts are unreadable," she said.

"They're perfectly clear to me," her manager said.

"I can't read them!" the Engineer cited.

"Why don't you get one of the other engineers to show you how they work?" her manager said, pushing her out the door. "Keep me informed," he called after her.

But although she asked each of her fellow engineers, and even though they all professed to understand the charts perfectly well, none of them ever had the time to explain them to her. And so she continued to puzzle over the charts that were becoming part of virtually all of Factoryland's Inter-Office Communications, not really understanding them at all.

One day, in her confusion, the Engineer made a serious mistake. She had been called upon to speak at the Bi-Weekly Off ice Automation Systems Managers' Review Meeting on the subject of Quality Control. She had with her a set of charts to be used to illustrate her speech. Charts drawn up at great expense on the newest chart-drawing machines. Charts showing the juxtaposition of Factoryland, Quality Control, and The Big Picture.

Exactly halfway through her talk, she noticed that the chart which she was projecting onto the wall was backward. And upside down. A chill of fear ran through her. Her eyes swept the conference room.

None of the managers seemed to be noticing.

She pushed the offending chart away with one hand and hastily slapped the next down in it place. It was wrong, too! She flipped through the remaining charts in horror. They were all wrong! She had started the pile upside down-she had been showing them backward as well.

The Engineer felt a faint coming on. She looked up from her charts at the managers again. Some of them seemed to be getting restless from the delay, but no one seemed to have noticed the error. Could it be that no one had?

Just to be certain, she went back through the charts she had already shown, in the proper order this time. Sure enough, no one noticed.

The Engineer smiled.

The next day, she re-programmed a chart-drawing machine to cover a piece of paper with a solid rectangle in the shortest time possible. No numbers. No tables. No icon-based animation. Just the rectangle. Then she substituted her rectangle for a real chart in a report which she was routing. Sure enough, no one noticed that, either. The Engineer smiled again.

A week later, she presented her manager with her Improved Chart-Drawing Program for Chart-Drawing Machines which produced charts in less than a tenth of the time that it took the current programs.

A month after that, she was awarded 10,000 pieces of silver for increasing Factoryland's overall productivity by 10 percent.

A year after that she was made an engineering manager. She had her own chart-drawing machines and her own clerks to run them. She had a real feel for charts and how to use them. No one could offer a more thorough analysis of a given chart. No one could find more subtle meaning in a grey rectangle.

No one.

Within another year, she was the manager in charge of Standards for Use and Appearance of Graphical and Semi-Graphical Media for Presentation and General Information Discourse.- -

Life was good.

I wonder, thought the Engineer, what it would be like to be King of Factoryland.

And she smiled again.

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