So we never found out.
The only thing we understood was the importance of those punch cards. They could either make the company prosper like hell or hack it to pieces without mercy. The more punch cards SAP had, the better for SAP.
Medieval narration has it going, that Hasso Plattner, one of the five founders of SAP, was the Carrier of the Punch Cards. A title that he was knighted to in the early 1970s, and which still seems to have some effect on him. In these times he developed a passion for jellybeans, the very same jellybeans that were used to shoot the holes in the punch cards. One rainy day in 1973, thousands of punch cards had to be carried from the SAP computers to a computer from customer ICI. That was the way of how computers talked to each other: humans passing paper-messages from one computer to the computer. Have you ever heard of such a weird way of communication?
Anyway, Hasso pursuing his duty carried the boxes full with punch cards through the rain from his car on the parking lot to the computers. Whatever the reason, be it a sudden weakness in the legs, a banana peel on the floor or a sudden distraction by a young and pretty female crossing the lot that let him overlook the spider web, Hasso stumbled and dropped one of the boxes. All of the 2,000 punch cards made their way out and lolled on the wet floor, sucking their pores full with best German rainwater. It cost Hasso two days and the customer quite some nerves to sort the punch cards in again.
This watery experience never went away with him and he turned to sailing. In addition, this incident resulted in the draft of a first rule: “Rain is to be abolished in Walldorf.” After consulting with the other founders, it was rephrased to “Never carry punch cards while it rains” and is now known as 1st Hasso’s law.
Encouraged by the resulting success (punch cards were replaced by disks and hard drives, so it never happened again), Hasso became creative. One of his standard questions for new software projects, which always caught his coworkers completely off-guard, was: “How much is it going to cost me?”
The answers to this standard question lead to the 2nd Hasso’s law which says: “If it’s not costly enough, it can’t be good.”
Over the years, several other laws where formulated, which I wont elaborate too much, except the following two.
23rd Hasso’s law: “If it’s not integrated with Excel, I dont like it”, which lead to the only known coffee-machine with Excel-integration, located in Hasso’s office.
37th Hasso’s law: “High priority OSS messages from customers always pop up in the very moment, you leave the office.” That’s why Hasso owns the only existing golf-club with direct OSS connection.
Modern times have it that younger board members follow in the same tradition. Shai’s 2nd law resulted out of one of his standard questions, when he was shown some new SAP software. He keeps asking his people: “Is it better than Oracle?”
“Better than who?”, they reply. And then they all enjoy another good chuckle.
Shai’s 2nd law: “Never loose your sleep over Oracle. It’s SAP that keeps me up all night, except when I am sleeping.”
More anecdotes can be found in the Humour@SAP weblog series.
Now some advertising for those jokesters within my readers: Darüber lacht Wien (about this laughs Vienna) is not only a fantastically hilarious book (at least that’s the result from a survey that was made with me), it is also written by me.