Stopping Terrorists With WordStar
A glimpse into Indonesia’s high-tech war on terrorism, crime and corruption, revealed in today’s Media Indonesia Online’s story (in Bahasa Indonesia) of the president’s visit to the airport immigration office at Jakarta Airport, where embarrassed officials try to access their database of those 5,000–odd people banned from leaving or entering the country. The files are all in WordStar, a software word processing program that is at least 15 years old. (Thanks to Jerry Justianto for pointing out).
The piece describes how officials had to try opening some of the files several times, while others wouldn’t open at all. Immigration officials inspecting passports often can’t access the files, meaning, the paper says, “the officials on duty have difficulties confirming those people who pass the immigration desks are fugitives of the state or not. That’s because to open the files is awkward and there is no explanation of the distinguishing characteristics of fugitives.”
Needless to say, the president wasn’t impressed and ordered an immediate upgrade. Still I’m sure WordStar fans will be delighted to hear the software is still being used in such an important role, and the fugitives themselves will take comfort in the fact that immigration officials are unlikely to spot them as they wander through customs. One can almost imagine the scene:
Immigration officer: Passport please.
(Passenger, carrying rocket launcher and several large suitcases apparently stuffed with dollar bills, hands over passport. Immigration official starts tapping name into computer. Long pause. Passenger looks at watch. Really long pause. )
Passenger: Is this going to take long?
Officer: Yes. I’m checking whether you’re a fugitive from justice. We’re using WordStar. So please be patient.
Passenger: Oh, WordStar. OK. (Looks around. After brief pause, makes a run for it in a flurry of dollar bills and ammunition)
(Officer, still looking at screen waiting for file to load, doesn’t notice.)
(Next passenger approaches counter. )
Next passenger: I think he’ s gone.
(Officer looks up, around, mildly surprised.)
Officer: So he has. (Pause.) Passport, please.
(Next passenger hands over passport. Officer starts tapping name into computer. Next passenger unfolds portable chair, adds cushion, sits down, starts pouring coffee out of Thermos, gives one cup to Officer. Pulls out thick novel. Reads. Officer continues to stare at screen.)