Male and Female

This happened at one of my very first clients. They needed a large number of computers attached to their minicomputer to be used as terminals. It involved a fair amount of work and re-wiring at their office.

Virtually all types of data and electrical connectors have two different ends -- we call them "Male" and "Female" for reasons that are fairly obvious. (Hint: The power jack on your wall is "female", the plug on your lamp is "male". Get it? Good.)

So, after wiring this office up and soldering on a large number of serial cable ends, I documented it all so it could be maintained by someone other than me. When I showed the rough draft of the document to my primary contact, she looked at it, and stopped at my first reference to "male" or "female" connectors and asked for an explanation. I explained, and afterwards, she indicated her displeasure with the terms. Now, I really don't know if she was joking with me or not, but I played along, and said "those are the standard terms, but what would you prefer I call them?"

Well, I had a vision of being harassed by the belly-button police, but hey, it sounded entertaining to I did, I rewrote the otherwise completely serious document, replacing "male" with "outie" and "female" with "innie", and submitted it to her, and she approved of it.

She left the company a few months after this.

Her replacement called me up after she took over, and asked,

That was my first realization that for some of my clients, even being an outsider, I am a more persistent presence in their company than many of their "full time" employees. That was my third "primary contact" at that client in just a couple years.

Copyright 2002, Nick Holland
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