IT interpretation of a Thomasson

Akasegawa Genepei coined the phrase “Thomasson” to describe a device that no longer serves a purpose but is still maintained. The pop culture idiom is a reference to the American baseball player Gary Thomasson. After 10 years in the majors, tossed between Oakland, Yankees and Dodgers, Thomasson was eventually traded in 1980 to the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants for $1.2 million, the highest salary ever given to a player in the Nippon league (, 2015). Gary ended up a huge disappointment: setting the league’s strikeout record, benched most of two seasons before a knee injury ended his career.

Akesagawa saw metaphors of Thomasson’s maintained uselessness reflected in urban settings in Tokyo, such as old train crossing gate motors that have no arms, alongside new gates, and both are dutifully maintained; stairway railing without steps, or concrete steps carefully attended but going nowhere (Roman, 2014). Akesegowas’ 1985 book Hyperart: Thomasson generated significant social media actively, and the term Thomasson entered popular culture.

Picking  up where Akesegowa left off, consider Thomasson’s in Enterprise Infrastructure. I recently had an encounter with a DNS server that someone thought to be long abandoned in the corner of a network closet. It was about to be removed and the space renovated, but we discovered well over a thousand devices  still depended on it. Certainly other services are not so fortunate and more like Gary Thomasson: network switches in communication closets faithfully humming along with redundant power supplies but nothing patched in. NTP servers without anyone stopping buy asking for the time. Perhaps you are aware of databases and software applications long abandoned but their renewal licenses are kept up to date? We can extend to metaphor to IT procedures that no longer serve a useful purpose but dutifully ticked off during ready-for-business checks. Some enterprises have as many servers as employees, hiring even more people just to keep track and decommission servers before they too become Thomassons.

Akesegowa maintained a column with submissions and debates whether or not items properly qualified as a Thomasson:

1.  Is the object utterly useless?

2.  Is the object regularly maintained?

What's your Information Technology Thomasson?

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More about Genepi Akasegawa:

Reference (2015). Gary Thomasson. Retrieved from

Roman (2014). Episode 129: Thomassons. 99%Invisible. Retrieved from