The Rat finds printing his torn and tattered returns a taxing matter
So the fact that the Rat himself has to file a tax return always strikes him as insult
added to injury. This year, however, the wired one fretted not. He had acquired terrific
new tax preparation software and new hardware. His electronic books for once were all
lined up in a row, ready to roll.
Until the evening of April 14, the relaxed Rat merely mused about ways he could convince
the Internal Revenue Service to accept his return by digitally signed e-mail.
Finally, he set to work as midnight approached, crunching numbers into a meticulously
itemized return. To his surprise, the crunch came not in adding up the numbers but in
turning them to hard copy.
When the Rat hit the Print button after completing his financial download, his trusty
laser printer spit out the forms, all right-only there weren't any letters on them.
He tried fooling the printer by adjusting its drivers to print all text as graphics. The
result: completely blank pages intermingled with pages of graphical gobbledygook.
The Rat didn't worry overmuch at first. The printer was, after all, installed on his
burrow's LAN, and maybe the software printer drivers needed adjusting. But when he ran a
battery of printer diagnostics, he discovered the printer no longer would print text of
any kind-just graphics.
The wired one resorted to a backup printer. But when the first page of the return jammed
in its innards, no amount of pulling, prodding or prying would convince it to cough up the
last shreds of paper, which convinced the printer it was still jamming.
The Rat opened yet another printer he had brought in for evaluation, only to find that its
toner cartridge had broken during shipment.
Once he finished vacuuming toner out of the shag carpet-and his ears-the cyberrodent
discovered it was almost 5 a.m.
He re-examined the situation.
He had been trying to print from a supposedly Microsoft Windows 95-compatible software
package running on Windows NT 4.0 Workstation-probably not a configuration on which the
folks at Block Financial had tested their Kiplinger TaxCut
The furry one, whose fur by now was standing up straight, pondered alternative output
methods. The only one that seemed feasible was to print the whole return in its ASCII form
to disk, then open the output file in Microsoft Word 97. Again, he set the printer to
print text as graphics and sent the data forth.
As the pages began to spit out, the whiskered one's cry of relief woke up the remaining
neighbors who hadn't already overheard his earlier curses and howls of despair.
There was only one problem.
The output looked as if the ratlings had been banging on the keyboard. The IRS Form
1040's columns had vanished, and its edges were decorated with miscellaneous gibberish.
So the Rat now humbly begs the fine folks at IRS to bear with his somewhat distorted
1996 Form 1040CCM (Computer Character Mode).
Its margins may be maladjusted, its pages may even run over to the next form, but it
surely went through hell just to make it there. n
The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets
in cyberspace. E-mail him at email@example.com.