What is the most infeasible piece of software you've ever been asked to write?

When people hear you can write computer programs they sometimes (in the mistaken belief that computers can somehow defy the laws of time, space, mathematics or reason) ask you to write the strangest things. The most infeasible thing I have ever been asked to write was in a taxi ride home. The cab driver said he already had a computer program that could pick 6 out of the 7 lottery numbers in each week’s lottery, but that he needed a program that could pick all 7. Could I write something like this for him? Using my most soothing consulting voice I calmly told him that writing such a program would be “quite difficult” (in the same way that factoring prime numbers is quite difficult) and that he should instead repeatedly win the smaller prize pool with the 6 numbers his current program gave him. All the while I tried to retain a pleasant smile while my inner voice screamed out “you’ve being driven home by someone who is completely in-freaking-sane!!!!1! jump out of the car now!”.

Sadly this penchant for people to ask for infeasible programs is not limited to casual acquaintances and sometimes manifests itself in those who should know better, the so-called “business representatives” or “business analysts”. I heard about an incident where, during a meeting someone asked if the specialized CRM system could record a specific type of entry for pregnant women “even if the woman doesn’t know she is pregnant”. Should the entry be recorded at the moment of conception then, or when the act of procreation takes place? It would take a team of crack-smoking BAs WEEKS to figure out the “most correct” way for that to happen, but why mess around – why don’t we just pre-create all the entries for all the people (living now, or as-yet unborn) that will fall pregnant during the lifetime of the system. Computer programs can do some pretty amazing things - they can learn to play checkers, they can come up with antenna design that humans would be hard-pressed to, but there are limits.  What is the  most infeasible piece of software you’ve ever been asked to write?


I’ve definitely had a few cases of this kind of thing in the past, but the first one that comes to mind happened back in 1998, before I was even a professional!

I was working for an Internet cafe in Sydney (which shall remain nameless), and doing various bits of "web development" (quotes are there for obvious reasons). One of the cafe’s regular clients was setting up a website and decided that the Internet cafe was the best place to get the site built.

The guy had come up with an idea for a golf training aid. The aid was simple: stick velcro to a ball and to a club. When you whack the ball with the club, the ball sticks and you can see where you hit the ball with the club! Genius! (.. er.. I think).

So he came to us and said that he wanted to have a site. The first and most important requirement was that he wanted the splash page (ah, those were the days, I miss splash pages… actually, no I don’t) to have an animation on it.

The animation had to be high-resolution, movie quality imagery of someone using the aid. It had to be loaded in under 3 seconds and work on every browser.

So, the animation had to be 640x480, insane res, work cross browser and fire up in under 3 seconds – even for Joe Blow who is using a 32k dialup connection. I don’t know about you, but in those days I didn’t know anyone who had a faster internet connection than 56k dialup except for Universities and Companies (here in Aus at least).

Needless to say that he didn’t take it too well when I attempted to explain the technical limitations. He told me he’d go and find someone else who COULD do it.

I never saw the site appear on the domain that he’d bought. What a surprise!

Happy Chrissy JoCo
26/12/2008 1:38:00 AM
Nitin Reddy Katkam
Did you anyone ask you in the early days if you could download the Internet onto their floppy disks? The exact words were:
"Can you copy the Internet for me? I’ll give you as many floppy disks as it needs"
That was pretty much the most insane thing somebody asked me to do.

You could’ve told the guy, "Hey, I’ll come up with a website that lets people enter their postal addresses. You can then snail mail them a CD containing a 640x480 movie that loads up in under 3 seconds, irrespective of the speed of their Internet link" :-)

26/12/2008 4:30:00 AM

Yeah I did have all kinds of "creative" answers :) None of which my employer was happy with.

Ah… the huge manatee!
2/01/2009 12:57:00 AM
I understand that this is not section for this but ‘Contact’ page does not appear to work (there is something wrong with the mail server!).

I would like to contact you about remix!

Could you make your contact details available
or maybe fix your ‘Contact’ page :)

2/01/2009 11:05:00 PM
A secretary wanted me to write an ebay clone for her. In my spare time. For free. Please.

She explained very carefully though that if i did a very good job of it, then she might win an award.

W. t. f.?
3/01/2009 4:30:00 AM
Michael Kordahi
I love it when people (mostly my parents). Say things like …

"did you see that kid that started facebook? you know computers, why don’t you do the same and get rich?"


Me: Wouldn’t it be good if there was software that was in every car in the world and reported back to a huge database where all cars were controlled by one big central system?
My Dad: You’re in computers, why don’t you write it.
4/01/2009 2:50:00 PM
Joseph Cooney
Hi Simon - sorry my contact page is borked…this site runs on a very old version of dottext and I’ve been meaning to port it for ages. If you like you can drop me an email at joseph dot cooney at gee male dot com or joseph at learnwpf dot com.
5/01/2009 4:48:00 AM
Anonymous Coward
A customer who asked us to design a centralised system that wanted to be able to log into the server during a comms outage.
7/01/2009 3:45:00 PM
Max Pool
Feature 323: "Make search like Google"

Don’t get me started on that story…
24/01/2009 7:52:00 PM
Auto verkauft
I dont know, there a lot of :-(
6/05/2009 2:45:00 AM