A legendary German mathematician was recently billed, at his home address in Berlin, by GEZ, the German state agency that collects television license fees.

That would not be noteworthy in any way, except for the fact that Adam Ries bought the house in 1525 and died in 1559, centuries before television was even invented.

It seems that a club in Ries’ honour was recently set up in the mathematician’s former home and, somehow, the billing agency’s computer system got the idea that Ries, himself, was once again in residence.

So, in due course, the club secretary, Annegret Muench, received a letter from the GEZ, addressed personally to Ries, demanding that he declare all radios and television sets in his home and pay the corresponding fees.

Muench politely informed the GEZ that it was about 450 years to late to collect from Ries. Nevertheless, in what might be seen as a tribute to German determination and efficiency, she received a reminder notice a few weeks later.

In fact, the whole affair stands out as a stiring tribute to technology gone wrong.

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