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by Tom DeMarco

Adapted from The Deadline. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. See below for copyright notice.

During the 1930's, the University of Colorado physicist George Gamow began writing a series of short stories about a certain Mr. Tompkins, a middle-aged bank clerk. Mr. Tompkins, the stories related, was interested in modern science. He would trundle off to evening lectures put on by a local university physics professor, and inevitably fall asleep partway through. When he awoke, he would find himself in some alternate universe where one or another of the basic physical constants was strikingly changed.

In one of these stories, for example, Mr. T. awoke in a universe where the speed of light was only fifteen miles per hour. That meant he could observe relativistic effects on his bicycle: The city blocks became shorter in the direction of travel as he accelerated, and time on the post office clock slowed down. In another story, Mr. Tompkins visited a world where Planck's Constant was 1.0, and there he could see quantum mechanics in action on a billiard table: The billiard balls refused to move smoothly across the table, but took up quantum positions in probabilistic fashion.

When I first came across the Gamow stories, I was just a teenager. Like Mr. Tompkins, I too had an interest in modern science. I had already read numerous descriptions of relativity and quantum mechanics, but it was only when I read Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland that I began to develop a visceral sense of what these matters were all about.

I have always admired Gamow's ingenious pedagogical device. It occurred to me that a similar device might be used to demonstrate some of the principles of project management. All I'd have to do is portray a veteran project manager sent off to some Wonderland where various of the rules governing project work could be instructively altered. Thus was born, with apologies to George Gamow, the idea of The Deadline, the story of a manager named Tompkins and his remarkable experiences running software projects in the ex-Soviet Republic of Morovia.

Tom DeMarco
May 1997
Camden, Maine

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: This excerpt from The Deadline [[ISBN:0-932633-39-0] appears by permission of Dorset House Publishing. Copyright © 1997 by Tom DeMarco. All rights reserved. See http://www.dorsethouse.com/books/dl.html. The material contained in this file may be shared for noncommercial purposes only, nonexclusively, provided that this Copyright Notice always appears with it. This material may not be combined with advertisements, online or in print, without explicit permission from Dorset House Publishing. For copies of the printed book or for permissions, contact Dorset House Publishing, 1-800-342-6657, 212-620-4053, http://www.dorsethouse.com, info@dorsethouse.com, New: 3143 Broadway, Suite 2B, New York, NY 10027 USA. Additional rights limitations apply, as presented in the Legal Disclaimer posted at http://www.dorsethouse.com/legal.html.



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