Recently a friend of mine came up with
the following great story about ATM that I would like to share with all
Each day each branch of the post
office receives many thousand of letters and packages from its customers
going to other branches of the post office around the country. One day
an engineer working for the post office realized that it is not efficient
to pack the mail truck because of the different sizes and shapes of the
letters and packages. The engineer came up with a great solution (he thinks
so) and proposes it to the Postmaster. The conversation goes like this:
The Engineer: "I propose for
us to open all of the letters and packages and shred them so that they
all consist of smaller pieces of the same size. That way they can be packed
neatly and efficiently in each of the mail truck. Since more can be packed
in each truck, we will need less truck thus saving lots of money".
The Postmaster asks: "How are
we going to know how to put the shredded pieces together before delivering
the mails to the customers?"
The Engineer: "As we shred
the letters, we will attach a small note to each piece with an indexing
scheme to mark its destination, and its sequence so that we can put it
back together at the far end. This way we can even send each piece a different
route, they still can be found and delivered to the right destination".
The Postmaster: "What happens
if a few pieces of shreds got lost in transit?"
The Engineer: "For the letter
or package that we cannot put together in one piece, we just trash it,
the customer will send it again. After all we only promise to do best effort
The Postmaster: "What happens
if it is a piece of registered or certified mail?"
The Engineer: "For those, we
can mark them with a special blue pen, make a copy of it then deliver it
as usual. If we cannot put a blue letter together at the far end then we
will try to send the copy again. This way we can justify the new class
of service and can charge more for it"
The Postmaster: "What about
other kinds of specialty mails such as express mails, special delivery,
or second or third class mails, etc."
The Engineer: "This is the
beauty of my method, we can mark each type of mails with a different color
pen, and handle it differently. For example, with express mails, we mark
them in red before shredding them then put them on the trucks first. For
3rd class mails, we mark them in black, and only put them on the trucks
if we have room, etc."
The Postmaster: "Who is going
to be doing the shredding and glueing back the letters?"
The Engineer: "Since we save
so much money by improving the efficiency of the trucks, we can either
hire more people, outsourcing the jobs, or send out a Request For Proposal
(RFP) for someone to build us a machine to do that"
The Postmaster: "Do you know
of anybody who has done something like this before?"
The Engineer: "Yes, the telecommunications
industries and the computing industries has been trying to standardize
this methodology for several years, except that they call it "Asynchronous
Transfer Mode" or ATM.
Nguyen Tien Luc, Ph.D.
For discussion on this column, join email@example.com
Copyright © 1996 by VACETS and Nguyen T. Luc