escribed in the parable were four bucketing systems. The sophisticated reader will be able to locate them as intersection points in Figure 1.

Their respective bandwidths measured in buckets per minute:

 Executive and Artist Without Buffer A 2 Executive and Artist With Buffer B 3 Executive and Sycophant With Buffer C 6 Executive and Sycophant Without Buffered D 4

You may have noticed that if the Executive were to accept the Sycophant's advice and, say, double his own bucketing speed to 12 buckets per minute, the bucketing bandwidth of the system would improve -- but only up to 6 buckets per minute (at the unmarked intersection of the blue curve and the vertical blue line).

Of course, he could go out and buy those buffering buckets back. The system would then improve (up to the intersection of the "Buffered Line" with the vertical blue line). But that would be tantamount to the Executive reconsidering the advice of the Artist.

ucketing-like systems perform no faster than the slower participant. A buffer runs either full or empty -- unless the faster participant occasionally takes time out to do something besides bucketing.

For example, a fast computer bucketing bytes to a slow printer through a buffer will be paced by the printer. If the computer has no other tasks to perform, the buffer will simply fill up until the printing job is done.

Executives have trouble understanding this.

There are some mighty fast printers today, limited only by the size pulley you put on them. The computer -- busy scaling typographic fonts and processing graphic images -- has a hard time keeping up. The printer has a hard time stopping. When the buffer runs empty, the printer prints blank paper. {Sidebar}.

Executives wonder, Why even have the buffer?
Take another look at Figure 1. Unbuffered systems do perform slower. Bandwidth, however, is really an unhelpful concept. The sophisticated person puts time in the numerator (see Train Speed). Figure 2 does that. Expressing performance in seconds per bucket makes the analysis elementary.
Even for an Executive.

Printing Blank Paper

Extremely high speed printers must be equipped with an auxiliary output bin for blank paper. Operating at top speed (up to 600 pages per minute), the machine cannot stop between bufferloads. When it runs out of incoming information to print, the printer has not alternative but to print blank paper ("print blank paper" is something of an oxymoron, come to think of it).

The owner, seeing that bin filling up, must wonder why he or she paid all the extra money to own such a marvel of printing technology in the first place and be heard to exclaim, "Might as well be printing [what is commonly found in cesspools that need cleaning]!" {Return}