January 9, 1996 in Nation/World

License Machine Bags Hunters Computer Company Takes Blame For Problems

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Rhode Island computer company took the blame Monday for problems with Idaho’s much-touted new system for issuing hunting and fishing licenses.

“I think we fell short on the opening gun,” said Tim Nyman, vice president of Gtech, which provided the POS’M system, short for “point-of-sale machine.”

“We’re stepping up to the plate and admitting there were some problems,” he said.

That wasn’t news to many of the 420 stores statewide where licenses are issued. The system started Dec. 18.

“It seems like the system is not big enough to handle what’s going into it,” said Pat Ryan, a clerk at Jack’s Hook Shop in Kellogg.

For example, he said, a worker will type in someone’s driver’s license number, but the computer would call up a different person’s data.

At Tri-State Outfitters in Coeur d’Alene, shift manager Chad Whaley said the machine suddenly would go off-line without warning.

“Sometimes you can sell licenses, sometimes you can’t - and there’s no notice when that’s going to happen,” he said. Also, he said, the computer would stop in mid-transaction, shut down and restart itself.

Nyman said he hoped the glitches would be fixed within two weeks. The problems, he said, are due largely to the sheer volume of data the system must handle.

“There is some logjamming,” he said. Also, Nyman said, the system is showing some “childhood diseases” typical of any new software.

“We know where the problems are and we’re working diligently to fix them,” said Steve Barton, Fish and Game administration director.

For now, Barton said, the department is handing out paper forms for 30-day “temporary backup licenses” to all license vendors this week. The vendors can use those forms if the system’s down, he said. Regular documents would be mailed to the hunter or angler once the form is processed, Barton said. There is no extra cost, he said.

Idaho is the first state to go to a completely computerized license-selling system. Oregon and Texas sell some licenses in computerized pilot programs.

The system, supposed to speed up transactions and save paperwork, is costing taxpayers $1.4 million. Gtech receives 65 cents per transaction.

Many license vendors are eager for the new machines. At the Rose Lake General Store, owner Joe Mullen installed a new electrical supply and cleared space for the computer among the jerky jars and tobacco.

His computer’s been delayed a month, while the phone company installs new equipment. It should be on line by Feb. 1, he’s told.

Mullen said the new machine will end the monthly paperwork and end the special trips to the bank.

“I think it would be great,” he said. “If it’s what they say it will be.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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