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6

Divide and Conquer

“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

—SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE SIGN OF THE FOUR

War Story. Imagine a state-of-the-art reservation system at a ski resort, with Macintoshes at the front desk, wired to a LISP machine database server in the back room. (LISP machines—you know, artificial intelligence? A.I.? The wave of the future in 1985? Waved good-bye in 1989? At least the Macintosh caught on and took over the personal computing world. Ha! Ha! But I’m not bitter.)

The resort staff complained that the Macintosh terminals were becoming slower and slower when they tried to get records from the database machine. One terminal ...

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