One day in June 1983 someone manually entered some incorrect data.  It was probably entered by a civil servant sitting in Washington, D.C.  The person was probably a clerk manually entering document after document into a mainframe, inadvertantly typing in wrong information.  The person has probably long since retired.  Perhaps they have passed on.  One thing is sure–the data would have had to have been entered in manually by someone reviewing a paper document.  The data remained buried, unused for 22 years.  The original document has long since been archived, decaying in some storage warehouse, and until today, the data entered sat archived in some mainframe’s memory, waiting to be accessed.  It might never have mattered.  Today, it mattered.  Today, when I pulled up the data that could have really helped someone, I found out that it was incorrect.  It was critical to this person’s case.  Instead, the data cast a big shadow of uncertainty on what should have been an easy answer.  Someone I tried to help today left without an answer, unsure of what will happen to them.  Perhaps the erroneous data won’t matter.  Perhaps it will.  There may be another way to answer that person’s question.  It amazes me that one small typo made in 1983 came back to haunt someone in the year 2005.  It definitely highlights the value of accurate data, no matter how boring data entry is.  It may be boring, but it is certainly not a mindless job.


Books by MG EdwardsMG Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures and children’s books. A former U.S. diplomat, he served in South Korea, Paraguay, and Zambia before leaving the Foreign Service to write full time.

Edwards is author of six books. His memoir, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, was finalist for the Book of the Year Award and the Global eBook Award. He has published four children’s picture books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series: Alexander the Salamander; Ellie the Elephant; Zoe the Zebra; and a collection featuring all three stories. His book Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories is an anthology of 15 short stories.

Edwards lives in Taipei, Taiwan with his family. He has also lived in Austria, Singapore and Thailand. For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at or contact him by e-mail at or on Twitter @m_g_edwards.

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1 Comment

  1. Unknown's Gravatar Unknown
    June 28, 2005    

    Things like that are so frustrating! You’re right about how important data entry can be, too.

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