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Honesty In Action

A young systems administrator at IBM in Cambridge, Massachusetts took a taxi cab ride home to his apartment on a recent Friday night. Seconds after getting out of the cab, he realized that he had forgotten his backpack. He turned to see the cab disappear into the night. The backpack contained an IBM ThinkPad storing billions of bytes of pictures, music, email, financial data, and important business information. In addition were his digital camera, stereo headset, and various other computer and electronic devices. Calls to both the taxi company and the police department yielded recorded messages that were less than helpful. Ten days later came a telephone call from Issam. 

Issam is a young man, probably in his thirties, with a family. Knowing that taxi cab drivers do not make large wages, it would not have been surprising if the driver would have been tempted to sell the backpack and its contents. The proceeds from a sale could have been hundreds of dollars or perhaps more than a thousand dollars. Instead, Issam diligently pursued getting in touch with the IBMer. The backpack contained an IBM identification badge and a phone number at corporate headquarters. He convinced IBM to give him a phone number and he then called. The sys admin did not have voicemail on his phone extension and often was not near the phone. Issam could have easily justified to himself that keeping the backpack and its contents was ok — after all, he had made several attempts to reach the owner. No one knew Issam’s identify. It would have been an easy “take”. But Issam persisted and after more than a week he reached the rightful owner. This is a heartening story and shows the honesty that most people in the world inherit from their families and hopefully will be passed on to generations forever.

Epilogue

The ThinkPad had a power-on password in addition to the Windows password. Even if someone had stolen the ThinkPad they would not have been able to access any information. A Windows password is not enough — someone could replace the hard drive or reformat it. They would not end up with the data but they would end up with a nice ThinkPad. In either case, the owner would have been without the data — perhaps years of important information — unless they had a fresh backup. Most people don’t. The story is not only about honesty, but also about security and data backup.

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