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	Excerpts (edited) from net.rumor, March, 1986, with later
	additions, including a huge number from a rec.humor posting.  I
	did some reformatting and a spelling check.  Have at...

	/ net.rumor / megaron!rogerh / Mar 7, 1986 /

	The Tektronix 4051 (one of the first desk-top computers) had a
	microprocessor (6800 I think) deep inside it.  Although the
	machine's native language was Basic, there were (undocumented)
	hooks to download and run machine code.  The machine also had a
	synthesized bell.  The result, of course, was that 4051 was one
	of the favorite musical instruments in some parts of Tek.

	Anybody remember how to walk an IBM 1130's disk drives?  I
	recall stories that the right program would start them marching
	across the room.

	/ hpfcla:net.rumor / mit-amt!gerber / Mar 9, 1986 /

	> Anybody remember how to walk an IBM 1130's disk drives?  I
	> recall stories that the right program would start them marching
	> across the room.

	A friend of mine once told me how he used to do just that at U
	of Delaware.  He used to do it from a terminal room where you
	couldn't see the machine itself, but you'd know when it happened
	-- the disk would pull either its power plug or its connection
	to the mainframe off, and the machine would crash.

	The TRS-80 Model 1 used to put out so much RF interference, that
	one way of adding sound to ANY program was to put a small AM
	radio right by the machine, and listening to the electronic
	"music".  Some programs even used this trait of the trash-80,
	instead of connecting up the external speaker.

	/ net.rumor / gilbbs!mc68020 / Mar 21, 1986 /

	In 1978, a company in my area which specialized in fruit orchard
	temperature alarm systems (it being necessary to awaken the
	farmers to start the smudge pots and ventilators (giant fans) in
	order to prevent damage to the fruit) decided they wanted to go
	into the TRS-80 I peripherals business.  They hired me as an
	engineering technician and programmer.

	There I was, working on programs to drive the peripherals, and
	having even the simplest programs crashing and going haywire for
	no apparent reason.  Being brought up to never assume it's the
	machine's fault, I spent several weeks trying to figure out what
	I was doing wrong.

	The one day my boss asked me to go to the company next door and
	assist them with a problem (they built hydraulic lift units,
	like the ones you see being used in construction...turned out we
	built the electronic control boxes for their lifts).  I walk
	into the shop, and am confronted by 12 extra heavy duty
	arcwelding machines (these guys were welding steel up to 2"
	thick!).  After solving their problem, I traced the power mains.
	Sure enough, we were drawing our AC feed from the same source
	they were, no transformers between us.

	A few hours, a couple of isolation transformers and caps later,
	and all of a sudden my code runs perfectly.

	The boss still didn't believe it, when I showed him the finally
	working code...  he had pretty much decided I was a flop as a
	programmer.  They decided two weeks later not to go into
	computers...  too volatile, they said.

	/ net.rumor / catnip!ben / Mar 6, 1986 /

	>> I was once told that the operating system for the Burroughs
	>> B1700, another computer well-supplied with lights, displayed a
	>> smile in its idle loop.

	> Some Honeywell computers make "bird calls" over a built-in
	> speaker when idle.  If the computer room sounds like a jungle,
	> then you're certain to get lots of CPU for your jobs.

	Back when I was an undergrad at Oberlin College, I had the
	pleasure of working as an operator on their Xerox Sigma 9.  The
	best part of the job was bringing down the machine.  The console
	displayed "Thhhhhhats all Folks!!!", while the processor treated
	you to a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner on the CPU alarm.

	/ net.rumor / bgsuvax!drich / Mar 5, 1986 /

	Speaking of doing things to power lines...I remember a story I
	heard from my circuits professor in Colorado.  It seems that
	they received a computer from the government (I can't remember
	the make, but it wasn't anything I had heard of before).  This
	computer was a bit of a beast.  It ran off of 3-phase power, and
	had a disk that was between 3 and 4 feet in diameter.  Well,
	several students were involved in setting up the disk drive one
	night, and when the professor left he told them that they could
	connect everything, but not to power it up until he checked it

	Well, you know students...they wired it up and turned it on.
	For those of you who are not to familiar with 3-phase power, if
	you reverse any 2 out of the 3 wires, the polarity changes.
	Well, they managed to reverse 2 of the wires, causing the disk
	to spin backwards.  Now, since the heads are designed to float
	on a cushion of air above the disk, they went down instead of
	up, and the disk ended up with a nice groove right down the
	middle.  Needless to say, the prof wasn't pleased when he came
	in the next morning and found his nice new disk turned into so
	many magnetic shavings....

	/ net.rumor / utzoo!henry / Mar 5, 1986 /

	And then there's the old trick of manipulating an IBM 029
	keypunch so that it punches cards which are all holes.  Great
	bookmarks; I still have a few.

	Ideally you want to have a roomful of keypunches on hand,
	because the mean time between jams when punching those things is
	only a few cards.  What would happen if one of them went into a
	high-speed card reader, I don't know.  The mind boggles.

	(For the benefit of the fuzzy-cheeked youngsters in the crowd,
	punchcards need a certain amount of mechanical strength to
	survive machine handling.  All-holes cards are weak and tear
	easily.  Normal punchcards are constrained to have [as I recall]
	at most one punch per column in rows 1-7, so that the central
	region of the card is mostly solid.)

	/ net.rumor / utrc-2at!davidh / Mar 5, 1986 /

	While working on a project at Litton Systems, I heard of this
	embarrassing moment.

	One project (for the military) required that the military
	supplied technicians be taught how to service the computers they
	had bought.  The lessons were proceeding well with the explicit
	instructions "Don't apply the power until we check it."
	Naturally, somebody jumped the gun.  Immediately, 120V AC was
	applied across the core memory (yes, core, not silicon).  The
	result?  A pile of slag and a whopping replacement bill.

	/ net.rumor / loral!jlh / Mar 5, 1986 /

	I remember 4 or 5 years back when we were running all our
	microcode and state machine development on a PDP 11 under RSX11.
	Seems time for the annual preventitive maintenance came around,
	and one of the tests is to ensure the drive can read and write
	correctly to each and every block of a disk.  The DEC field
	service tech looked at our rack of disks, saw one labeled 'Jay's
	scratch', and decided to use that for a disk.  Well, you know
	engineers.  A disk is a scratch disk until you put something you
	need on it, at which time it is the working disk.  You also know
	engineers never re-name a disk once it has a label on it.  Jay
	comes in the next day, mounts his disk, and reads out a bunch of
	E5's.  Seems he lost about 3 months of work, only some of which
	he had listings of.  I think the field service rep also caught
	hell for doing that to a customer's disk without asking anyone.

	/ net.rumor / ucla-cs!davis / Mar 6, 1986 /

	I was working in a somewhat large data center not to long ago.
	Seems the company thought they could save some money on
	maintenance costs by going self service.  Well it seems that a
	year or two later another great cost savings idea was to hire
	C.E.'s that had only 6 months training in the electronics
	field!!!  Well the time came to install a new super
	minicomputer, tape cabinet, and disk cabinet.  Well they put the
	new C.E.  in charge of the whole project.  He connected the
	cables from the disk cabinet to the CPU, then connected the
	cables from the tape drive to the CPU.  All set!

	He plugged in the tape drive and then the disk cabinet to A.C.
	When he went to plug in the CPU he noticed that the electrical
	outlet was a different kind than that of the computer.  But this
	C.E.  was smart.  He thought of a way that he could remove the
	plug and install a plug that would fit in the outlet.  (Then the
	company would not have to pay for an electrician).  Good Idea
	except that he switched the HOT and the GROUND wires when
	installing the new plug.  As we all know computers are well
	grounded.  Well the grounding also is good in cables that
	connect to peripherals as well as within the peripherals
	themselves.  Of course this bright C.E.  turned on the disk
	cabinet, tape cabinet, and CPU before plugging in the CPU plug.

	You should have seen the smoke and sparks when he plugged in the
	CPU.  The tape drive was shot, the disk cabinet was shot and the
	CPU was shot!!!!!  At least none of the terminals were connected
	at the time.  It took 4 C.E.s 1 week of constant work to repair
	the damage.  Ever see a memory board with the chips blown to

	/ net.rumor / terak!doug / Mar 5, 1986 /

	> ...the teflon insulation reacted with the hot (molten) metal to
	> form HF gas.  When the fire department turned on the sprinklers
	> in desperation: hydrofloric acid.

	In 1970 ('71?)  Fresno State's computer room was the target of a
	firebomb thrown by some protesting students.  The fire
	department arrived and hosed everything down.  The fire damage
	was negligible.  But then the FD decided that since it was
	electrical equipment, they should be using CO2 extinguishers

	Either water or CO2 would have been okay alone; but when the CO2
	was sprayed on top of the water, it formed carbolic acid [or is
	it carbonic, I don't remember].  Destroyed all of the equipment,
	the disks, and the tapes.  Took about a year and a half to
	recreate their records from hardcopy.


	At that time, our CDC CE told of a student demonstration in
	Canada where a university's CDC 3300 had been wrecked by
	demonstrators and sold as scrap.  A CE reportedly bought the
	machine after observing that almost all of the damage was bent
	sheet metal and unplugged connectors.  He supposedly set up a
	service bureau in his home.  I'm not sure I believe this story.

	/ net.rumor / bbncc5!jr / Mar 10, 1986 /

	> I also remember sending a print file that contained about 1000
	> logical end-of-records (and nothing else) to a remote line
	> printer.  It took about 5 minutes for it to transmit and print
	> nothing.

	When MCIMail first went on the air, they charged for hardcopy
	mail delivery by the character (actually, 5000-character unit).
	You could mail yourself or a friend a few reams of paper for $1
	by sending a file of formfeeds.  They fixed their charging when
	we pointed this out.

	Also, their password-generator occasionally spits out somewhat
	racy words (they have the form consonant-vowel-consonant-...
	-vowel, 8 characters in all).  The generator checks for most of
	the obvious bad ones, but it seems a few must slip by the
	censors.  We suggested that they ought to charge extra for the
	racy ones, on the grounds that they would be so much easier to
	remember.  This idea was rejected, though its originator got
	such a password for the thought.

	/ net.rumor / linus!sdo / Mar 11, 1986 /

	> Is it really true that someone working for a bank or a large
	> company diverted megabucks into his or her personal account by
	> adjusting a program that figured out people's paychecks or
	> interest payments so that it always rounded *down* to the
	> nearest penny, never up, and then deposited the extra parts of
	> pennies (mills) into his or her own account?  I heard this story
	> several years ago, but now I need to know if it's really true.
	> So if you know the name of the bank or the company and the
	> approximate year this person was caught,

	Not only is it true, it has also happened a lot more than just
	once.  In fact, this is one of the simplest computer scams
	going.  One of the cleverest ones I ever heard about involved
	someone working for a company (a fruit company, I believe) who
	had the computer change (just slightly) the recorded times (and
	prices) of the company's transactions on the commodities
	exchanges.  His profits came from the slight changes (say,1/16
	of a point) in the contract prices that occur all the time
	during a normal trading day.

	I have seen several books which talk about these and other
	schemes in detail.  Unfortunately, the names and dates are often
	not revealed as most companies are loath to have the general
	public find out the ease with which these types of crimes can be
	carried out, as well as the difficulty of discovering them once
	they have occurred.  One of the most revealing items is the fact
	that computer criminals are almost always caught only because
	discrepancies in their lifestyles are noted (e.g.  buying a
	40-foot yacht on a $20k salary).  In fact, the longest running
	crime I heard about, which involved a programmer (I believe) in
	a prominent New York bank, went on for close to 10 years.  The
	culprit escaped detection so long because he had a $30,000-a-
	month gambling habit and was losing his illegal income as fast
	as he got it.  He was finally caught when his bookie was
	arrested as part of a police 'sting' operation, and his name was
	found on the books as one of the largest customers.

	As for finding more out about such things, all the information I
	have came from browsing through the MIT engineering library for
	a few afternoons, so I imagine that any good college library
	should have at least some material on this.  Good luck in
	finding out some actual names and dates, however!

	/ net.rumor / utah-cs!peterson / Mar 13, 1986 /

	My mom (a CPA) was on an audit of a large S & L several years
	ago where they caught somebody doing this.  As I recall, the
	person was getting away with around $10-20K a year with the scam
	(not quite "megabucks", but still pretty healthy).

	The roundoff error was pretty much invisible to the auditors.
	The tricky part for the crook was actually writing the check (or
	funds transfer) so he could collect the money.  This was what
	showed up on the books someplace and resulted in him getting

	/ net.rumor / hpcvla!john / Mar 14, 1986 /

	> One of the most revealing items is the fact that computer
	> criminals are almost always caught only because discrepancies in
	> their lifestyles are noted (e.g.  buying a 40-foot yacht on a
	> $20k salary).

	There are exceptions.  During the fifties a military clerk
	working for the NSA had a wreck in his hydroplane.  Since he had
	access to a lot a top secret data they assigned an agent to
	watch over him while he was under anesthesia to ensure that he
	wouldn't babble anything.  It wasn't until later when he
	disappeared and moved to Moscow that anyone thought to ask how a
	low paid clerk could afford to buy a hydroplane.

	/ net.rumor / ucsfcca!dick / Mar 26, 1986 /

	I've resisted for many days, but I give up.  My friend Doug used
	to work in a bank, in the OLD days.  Their master file was on
	punched cards, with FOUR accounts per card.  After Doug had
	programmed the daily update and put it in production, the bank
	examiners came to him saying, "We have noticed a drop in
	revenues in the minimum-balance account."  Doug explained his
	program:  "...and when the average balance for the month is
	below the minimum, the surcharge is applied."  They said, "No,
	no!  When the current balance has EVER fallen below the minimum,
	the surcharge should be applied."  Doug said that didn't seem
	very fair, but they made the rules and he would fix the program.

	Months later, the examiners came round again, quite
	suspiciously.  They told him that they had noticed another drop
	in revenues in the minimum balance account.  Doug explained that
	he had fixed the program, but he would surely look into the
	matter right away.  After examining his program again, he went
	into the computer room to check the actual deck of cards that
	the operators used.  He soon discovered the problem.

	He had added four patch cards to the end of the deck, one for
	each account on a master file card.  Three of them were gone.
	It seems that as the deck was used day after day, the last card
	had gotten grubbier and grubbier.  Eventually, the card reader
	would not feed it.  But the program seemed to work fine anyway!
	Then the new last card died, etc.

	The bank examiners were satisfied.  Doug was relieved.  And now
	we all know that patching is not the right way to go.

	/ net.rumor / unisoft!tim / Mar 14, 1986 /

	A fellow I worked with once told me a horror story that happened
	when he was working as an operator at MIT.

	The system they were using had recently been converted to using
	a new type of coated fiberglass disk, to replace the old, heavy
	metal-platter kind.  No problem there.  Well, the system they
	had this "Emergency Stop" plug on it that you would pull when an
	emergency occurred (they assumed it was for, say, a flood in the
	machine room).  One late evening, a couple of the operators were
	sitting around being bored, and decided to see what would happen
	when they pulled "Emergency Stop".  Immediately after pulling
	it, they heard a strange sound in the disk cabinet.  Looking
	over, they saw an arm emerge from the side of the cabinet, on
	either side of a platter, and CLAMP down on the platter.
	Apparently, this wasn't made for use with fiberglass platters.

	They were picking splinters out of the walls for days.

	/ net.rumor / petsd!cjh / Mar 14, 1986 /

	This disk drive got troublesome hardware glitches, usually just
	after the end of the "normal" working day.  Which, for the
	programmers, was prime time, of course.

	The glitches happened just when a very good-looking woman on the
	cleaning crew walked past the drive.  She usually wore tight
	slacks, and a longish blouse...  there was friction between the
	layers of clothes as she walked, and the static charge
	occasionally jumped to the disk drive.

	/ net.rumor / atari!dyer / Mar 15, 1986 /

	NBS was running version 6 Unix on a PDP-11/45 with four RL02
	packs.  It took nearly half a day to backup the system.  Half a
	day to copy four 10 megabyte packs?

	The operators (who didn't know any better -- they'd been given a
	canned procedure) were typing in DD commands to copy from one
	pack to another.  They were using a buffer size of ten BYTES....

	/ net.rumor / bu-cs!bzs / Mar 14, 1986 /

	Ok, my two quickies...

	Several years ago I was working on a portable real-time system
	we had custom built (using an LSI-11/1, 4KB, home-brewed O/S.)
	There were two of them in the universe and were working hard on
	two separate research studies.  Filled my heart with glee when I
	went to lift mine and out of its guts poured several ounces of
	coffee...(not me, never found out who.)

	A couple of years ago I was drinking coffee in my favorite
	coffee shop (maybe I should just stay away from the coffee!)
	when their phone rang, they shouted from behind the counter that
	it was for me, there was an alarm going in one of the machine
	rooms and I should get right over there.

	Ran over to find an operator standing there with a finger on the
	Halon hold button, we had a two zone alarm going so it was about
	to dump the tanks (I remember the operator looking very pleased
	at their current career choice).  It didn't look like there was
	any fire, so I began running around pulling up floor tiles
	(after, of course, disabling the fire system) looking for the
	offending sensors, 90Db going off in my ears.  Suddenly I notice
	this bad stinging pain in my arm, great I'm thinking, the big
	one, just what I need to finish a perfect day.  Well, it wasn't
	that bad, fortunately someone else in the room noticed the bee
	on my shoulder...

	I could go on.

	/ net.rumor / proper!carl / Mar 16, 1986 /

	A bulletin board service in Oakland, CA, (Sunrise Omega-80) lost
	a drive when an ant walked across one of the disk drive heads as
	it was stepping..  Smeared the disk, the drive wasn't too good
	either, and the board was down for several weeks..

	/ net.rumor / tekchips!jackg / Mar 17, 1986 /

	Speaking of 7094s, I once worked at an installation that had two
	of these.  The "console printer" on these computers was a large
	machine that looked (and maybe was) a 407 accounting machine.
	The 7094 didn't have any kind of internal clock but the 407 did
	and its patch panel was wired up so every time a line was
	printed on it, the time was appended at the right margin.  Thus
	elapsed time of a job could be determined by looking at the time
	printed when the $JOB card was printed and when the EXIT message
	was printed.

	Someone found out, however, that the timer did not advance while
	printing was in progress, so the times were a little inaccurate.
	To get a free run on the computer, all you had to do was keep
	the 407 continually busy and the timer would never advance.  A
	program could issue a print to the printer every so often (not
	very often due to the slowness of the printer) and never be
	billed for a cent.  It did drive the operators crazy though
	because everytime a line was printed on the 407, they went over
	to look to see if it was telling them something significant to
	the running of the job.

	/ net.rumor / bbncc5!jr / Mar 19, 1986 /

	> The glitches happened just when a very good-looking woman on the
	> cleaning crew walked past the drive.

	Reminds me of the Arpanet site that used to crash frequently
	right around the end of the day.  Seems the cleaner plugged the
	floor buffer into a convenient 100AC outlet - the one inside the
	IMP cabinet.

	/ net.rumor / mmm!mrgofor / Mar 19, 1986 /

	A while back I was the tech support person for a minicomputer
	OEM.  Our customers were located all over the SF Bay area, we
	were located in Sunnyvale.  Since the customers were spread
	around, I usually tried to diagnose and fix problem over the

	One day a Berkeley customer called me to complain that there
	were sparks and bad smells coming from the computer.  I assured
	him that that was ridiculous - computers don't generate sparks.
	He said that it sure did - every time he tried to plug in his
	modem.  I told him to try it again while I was on the phone, so
	I could try to diagnose the problem.  He laid the phone's
	handset on the table rather than putting me on hold (it wouldn't
	reach over to the computer, but it was in the same room).
	Things were quiet for a few seconds, and then I could hear a
	loud yelp that made its way across the computer room and through
	the phone.  He came back on the line and said the computer had
	bit him.

	Clearly, this was an on-site job - not something I could
	diagnose from his description - so I drove up to Berkeley.  When
	I got there, I saw the flat ribbon cable that connected the
	modem to the terminal interface - the power wire was on the
	edge, and for the whole length of the cable the plastic
	insulation had melted off, leaving the bare wires.  Hmmm, I
	thinks to myself, what could cause such a thing?

	I whipped out my handy-dandy volt-o-meter and tested the outlets
	to which the various pieces of equipment had been connected.
	All were 110 volts -- looked good.  It finally occurred to me to
	check the polarity of the sockets -- and sure enough -- they
	were wired wrong.  It was a very old building, and whoever had
	done the latest wiring in the computer room was obviously no fan
	of consistency.  The modem and the computer tried to share a
	common ground, but in reality there was a whopping potential
	difference between them, and when they were hooked up, sure
	enough, the computer generated sparks and bad smells --
	something computers are not generally supposed to do.

	/ net.rumor / mmm!mrgofor / Mar 19, 1986 /

	Okay, one more computer "horror" story -- this one's kind of

	We were trying to sell a $60,000 system to a family-run company
	whose "computer expert" was in his 60's.  We had a program
	called "Biosum" that would calculate the biorhythms for two
	people and add the sine waves together and tell you how
	compatible the two people are.

	The day of the biggest demo, the customer brings in his mother
	(head of the clan) to see what the company is going to be
	shelling out their money for.  The customer wanted to show his
	mother something fun on the computer, so we fired up Biosum.
	Unfortunately, the mother had been born in the 1800's, and you
	know how sloppy BASIC programmers are when it comes to date
	conversions - especially 18 year-old programmers who think "20
	years ago" qualifies as ancient history.  When the program asked
	for her birthdate and she typed it in (she was just starting to
	get a thrill out of the machine), the program crashed very
	ungracefully.  Talk about embarrassing...

	They bought the system anyway, but I don't think the matriarch
	ever really liked it.

	/ net.rumor / mmm!mrgofor / Mar 19, 1986 /

	This story did not happen to me, and I disremember where I heard
	it, so it may not be true, but it's interesting nonetheless,

	There was a computer system that was experiencing intermittent
	power failures that were proving impossible to track down.
	Every means of recording device and electrical filter was used,
	but to no avail.  The power failures always seemed to happen
	soon after lunch time, but for no apparent reason.  After months
	of agonizing work, the technician finally figured it out:

	The room on the other side of the wall from the computer room
	was the men's bathroom.  The grounding for the computer room
	circuits went to the water pipes that serviced one of the
	toilets.  The building was rather old, and the toilets were in
	some need of repair.  It seems that when one sat on the toilet
	seat, the weight of the sittee would cause the whole
	construction to lean forward a bit - not much, but enough to
	cause the marginally attached grounding wires to separate from
	the water pipes as the pipes bent along with the toilet - voila
	- the computer re-boots.

	I bet that was a hard one to track down!

	/ net.rumor / mhuxt!evans / Mar 14, 1986 /

	I know of a case where a spider decided to set up shop a few mm
	in front of a CCD array.  The spider rapidly figured out that
	the inside of an imaging device wasn't a very good restaurant
	and left -- but only after depositing a few strands of spider
	silk.  One of these strands would periodically interrupt the
	optical path of the CCD causing interesting images.  Of course
	this was an intelligent machine, so no one ever looked at the
	raw images -- not for at least a week that is...

	/ net.rumor / ti-csl!tgralewi / Mar 14, 1986 /

	On the same lines as the "120 test", I once knew a repair tech
	that had a "perfect" system for finding the problem when a
	machine blew fuses.  He kept putting larger and larger fuses in
	until something else blew.

	/ net.rumor / utzoo!henry / Mar 19, 1986 /

	Pat Hume, one of the very senior profs in CS at U of T, once
	told the story of how he broke the FERUT.  FERUT was FERranti U
	of T, one of the first computers in Canada -- a great
	vacuum-tube monster.  It had something like a ten-step procedure
	for powerdown.  From time to time this machine got modified.
	One day Hume was the last user of the day, and the time came to
	shut it down.  Somebody had added an extra step to the shutdown
	procedure, presumably as the result of some modification, but
	either the writing was illegible or the instructions weren't
	clear.  He did the best he could, and smoke started coming out.
	He hastily finished the powerdown procedure, and called
	Ferranti.  They naturally said "your service contract is nine to
	five, we'll be there tomorrow morning".

	Next morning, the Ferranti technical crew showed up and spent
	all morning in the machine room.  From Hume's description, one
	got the impression of technicians half-inside the computer
	briskly hurling parts out.  Hume, a rather junior professor at
	the time, sat in his office all morning waiting for the word on
	the multi-million-dollar computer he'd broken.  People walking
	past in the hall would look in with pitying expressions.

	Towards noon, the Ferranti senior man walked into Hume's office
	with a double armload of parts, dumped them on his desk, and
	said "that's it".  Machine restored to operation, junior
	professor not having to contemplate spending the next fifty
	years paying back its price...  But the really cute part was
	that the machine's reliability was markedly better after this
	episode.  He'd managed to apply just enough stress to blow out
	all the marginal parts.

	/ net.rumor / decwrl!moroney / Mar 19, 1986 /

	Here's another example of what steel wool in the wrong places
	can do to a machine:

	And yet another flooring story...

	(Being a hardware engineer at heart, I still shiver when I think
	about this one.)

	Seams there was a cleaning lady that was assigned to the floor
	that had the computer on it (a Zerox SIGMA 5 if it really
	matters).  Well, one day she decided that the heal marks in the
	raised tile floor just had to be cleaned up.  After seeing that
	the soap and wax did not take all the marks out, she then tried
	steel wool!

	The customer had to replace the whole machine.

	Since the cooling fans draw from the bottom, all the evaporating
	wax was sucked up through the machine.  The soft coating on the
	PC cards and backplane made a good home for all the small pieces
	of steel wool that flew by later.

	/ net.rumor / decwrl!moroney / Mar 19, 1986 /

	Yet another old classic war story.

	It seems that there was a certain university that was doing
	experiments in behavior modification in response to brain
	stimulation in primates.  They had this monkey with a number of
	electrodes embedded in it's brain that were hooked up to a
	PDP-11.  They had several programs that would stimulate
	different parts of the monkey's brain, and they had spent over a
	year training the monkey to respond to certain stimuli.

	Well, eventually the PDP developed problems, and field service
	was called in.  Due to some miscommunication, the field service
	representative was not informed of the delicacy of this
	particular setup, and the people running the experiment were not
	informed that field service was coming to fix the machine.  The
	FS representative then booted up a diagnostic system I/O
	exerciser.  After several minutes of gyrations, the monkey
	expired, its brain fried.

	The moral, of course, is "Always mount a scratch monkey."

	/ net.rumor / sdcrdcf!dem / Mar 21, 1986 /

	This was told to me by a fellow co-worker who worked for another
	large main frame manufacture previously.

	It seems they delivered a new machine to an overseas site and
	during installation every time they applied power to one of the
	memory bays they blew every circuit breaker in the computer
	room.  After resetting the circuits they again applied power to
	the memory bay with the same results.  Since this was a new
	machine they crated it up and shipped it back and got a

	When they got the damaged memory bay back the started to tear it
	down to fine the cause of the short.  Well what they found was a
	small hole about 3/8 in.  in diameter going from top to bottom
	through some of the memory arrays, which cause a very effective
	short.  After a lot of research they found the cause.

	It seems that after the memory had passed test and evaluation
	and quality assurance the bay was crated and put in the
	warehouse to await delivery.  At some time during its storage an
	electrician was hired to do some work and since it was a secure
	building the security guard had do go with him.  The electrician
	at one point said that he had to go back down to his truck to
	get a drill and the guard asked why and the electrician said he
	needed to drill a hole right here (pointing to a spot on the
	floor).  The guard then responded by pulling out his sidearm and
	proceeded to blow a hole at the appropriate spot which happened
	to be right above where the memory bay was being stored.

	The last he knew the guard had been reprimanded and re-assigned
	to another of the security agency's customers.

	/ net.rumor / rebel!george / Mar 22, 1986 /

	> I once heard about a Xerox tech who opened up a malfunctioning
	> copier and found a dead mouse lying on its back, spread eagled,
	> right smack dab in the middle of it.

	Some time ago I worked for a large minicomputer vendor who also
	had a problem installation in a warehouse.  I vividly remember
	the frequent soft disk errors.  When the FE went to investigate
	the large 3330 type drive, it didn't take too long before he
	found the cause.  A field mouse had gotten into its large
	tread-mill style blower.  Thereafter we (unofficially, to be
	sure) referred to that drive model as the mouse-a-matic.

	/ net.rumor / uthub!koko / Mar 21, 1986 /

	> The modem and the computer tried to share a common ground, but
	> in reality there was a whopping potential difference between
	> them, and when they were hooked up, sure enough, the computer
	> generated sparks and bad smells - something computers are not
	> generally supposed to do.

	This reminds me of a nasty accident I had in the Power
	Electronics Laboratory.  I had a terminal connected to a
	6809-based microcomputer board.  The board was in turn connected
	through an interface, driver circuit and isolation transformer
	to an SCR power module.  The module was connected directly to
	the 117-volt line, which was protected by a 50-amp breaker.

	In the course of debugging the circuit, I had connected an
	oscilloscope -- isolated, of course -- to the circuit.  I
	connected one channel, with its ground wire, to some point in
	the power circuit.  I had other channels of the scope connected
	to the microcomputer interface.  I understood that the
	microcomputer ground now became hot, but this was okay since the
	microcomputer power supply and terminal were both isolated -- or
	so I thought.  Then I turned on the 50-amp breaker switch to
	energize the power circuit.  BANG!!!

	A large current, enough to pop the 15-amp breaker supplying the
	computer and terminal, went from the power circuit, through one
	set of scope leads, through the scope, through another set of
	scope leads, through the computer ground trace, through the
	ground wire in the RS-232 cable and into the terminal.  The
	goddamn terminal had its RS-232 signal ground strapped to the
	earth ground in the 117-volt line.  The current blew a trace on
	the computer board.  When it finished off that path, it
	proceeded to find the path of next lowest resistance -- the line
	driver and receiver chips in the computer board and the

	All four chips, plus some TTL chips in the terminal, were burned
	out.  But one of those chips had a hole blown right through it!
	I could see remains of the substrate through the hole.
	Fortunately, the 15-amp breaker tripped before anything else was
	damaged.  But the 15-amp breaker was slightly damaged -- it
	tends to stick a little upon turning on.  (I left my mark in the

	All of this goes to prove that that third wire in the line cord
	does not always promote safety.  In this case, it created a
	hazard.  From now on, I will always use a ground cheater for
	terminals when working in that lab.

	/ net.rumor / rlgvax!jsf / Mar 27, 1986 /

	I have two quick but nasty stories.  These are true so for
	everyone who has been defending horror stories in net.rumor by
	saying there all folk lore, sorry.

	Back in the summer of '84 I was setting up a PC lab at my
	school.  We were converting an old chem.  lab, and of course had
	to make some major modifications, including installing air
	conditioning to handle the heat.  After setting up about 50 Dec
	Pro 350s we had the normal break in trouble but soon everything
	settled down and ran fine until about mid October.

	I came in one Saturday morning to open the lab and found it a
	little warm, but didn't think anything about it.  After cramming
	close to 100 freshmen into the lab to work on their homework,
	the temperature reached close to 90 and 3/4s of the machines
	were down with random hardware errors.  Seems that building
	services had decided on Friday afternoon that it was time to
	turn off the air conditioner, and fire up the heat for the
	winter.  They had of course locked the door behind them, and we
	had riveted all the windows shut that summer to prevent theft.
	The whole lab was down until late Monday when we finally
	convinced building services that we would need our air
	conditioner all winter.

	The cause of the second one was a little more difficult to find.
	Recently one of our customers was having trouble with a group of
	terminals getting periodic line noise, sometimes to the point of
	locking up the comm processor.  After finding nothing wrong in
	the hard or software a team of crack support people went to
	site.  There they found a bunch of RS232 lines almost 600 ft.
	long that ran through an elevator shaft.  Every time the
	elevator came by with it's big electric motor on top the RS232
	line would pick up the RF noise like any good antenna and drive
	the comm board insane.

	/ net.rumor / burl!rcj / Mar 24, 1986 /

	> Is it really true that someone working for a bank or a large
	> company diverted megabucks into his or her personal account by
	> adjusting a program that figured out people's paychecks or
	> interest payments so that it always...

	The most amusing incident I've ever heard along these lines (I
	*think* I read it in the book _Computer_Crime_) involved a guy
	who modified a payroll program for his large company.  The
	program processed an alphabetically-sorted list of employees, so
	he would shave a few cents from each account as he processed,
	then make the results into a check for the last guy in the list
	-- which happened to be one he had set up with his mailing
	address on it.  The name was really flaky, started with "Zy" or
	something like that.  Anyway, his employer decided to do a
	morale-boost/public-relations move by awarding a trip or
	something neat like that to the first and last employee in the
	personnel/payroll database....It didn't take them long to link
	the non-existent employee at the end with the programmer in

	/ net.rumor / ajs / Mar 29, 1986 /

	This is the truth as I know it, but with enough mystery to
	constitute rumor.

	Back in college I knew a real whiz, the sort of guy who cut his
	computer classes because he was off consulting for Large Unnamed
	Companies, but passed them anyway.  Well, once he showed up with
	a substantial bandage on his elbow, covering stitches, after
	being gone a couple of days.  He wouldn't say much, only that
	he'd been standing too close to a disc drive when it exploded,
	and that his job was destructive testing.

	Later he told me a story of how he'd purposely blown a large
	system, which the experts at the company said couldn't be done,
	as part of this testing.  He said he downloaded some software to
	a system in a locked room thousands of miles way, and saw the
	results on closed circuit TV.

	The system had a CPU in the middle and a line of disc drives on
	each side.  He claims he caused the drives to blow up, starting
	at the outsides and working in, at just the right times to
	propagate a combined shock wave into the CPU.  If that wasn't
	enough, just as the shock wave arrived, he had the CPU power
	supply do something nasty which smoked the circuits.

	Apparently this was all production hardware, so naturally the
	company (supposedly one of the three-letter-acronym giants)
	didn't want word to get out.

	I think this guy was the same one who told me a gory story about
	a high-speed removable-cartridge disc drive with a cover
	interlock.  When the drive was spinning you couldn't open the
	cover.  The story is that the interlock was broken, but an
	operator didn't notice the disc was still spinning when he
	lowered a pack removal cover on it.  He was holding the cover by
	a center handle that immediately went to high RPMs, and you can
	imagine the rest.

	From: [email protected] (Scott McGregor)
	Date: 22 Sep 86
	Subject: hpf.jokes for Sep 86
	Newsgroups: hpf.general

	True story from my own past.

	I worked for a small business dp timesharing and software
	development firm in Stamford, Connecticut in 1976.  We were so
	successful in OEMing DEC PDP-11s with our business software that
	year that the owner decided to give himself a treat.  He moved
	out of his nondescript office suite and moved into a penthouse
	suite in a professional building.  In fact, he proudly
	announced, we'd be the highest point in Stamford and have a
	great view.

	Well, we moved in (quite a struggle since the elevator only went
	to the floor below) and started processing again, and within the
	weak started to notice a larger than usual number of soft
	crashes.  Then we had a hard disk crash.  Naturally we suspected
	that things had been jarred in the move or coming up the stairs.
	We had a FE come in and check it out and repair the disk.  The
	FE didn't find anything wrong.  The same thing happened the next
	week; we lost a hard disk and suffered numerous soft crashes
	which we tracked down to faulty disk reads.  FE came out, and
	looked for the problem and couldn't find it when all of a sudden
	he detects a surge on our power.  So, we are told we need a
	clean power line.

	Next week we have an electrician in and get a clean line pulled
	up 14 stories.  But still we have these hard and soft disk
	failures.  Frustrated, we have the FE call in a specialist.  The
	specialist comes in doesn't find anything right away, then
	suddenly "blip" detects a surge on our ground!?  So, they tell
	us we need a clean ground.  We get an electrician and tell him
	this, and he looks at us strange but puts in a new ground.  Next
	week same thing; lots of soft disk errors and this time we lose
	two platters on our 11/45 (recently arrived 11/03 with only
	floppy disks is cruising just fine though).

	We're really frustrated now, our MTBF (which we report to our
	customers in the monthly service level report) is in the toilet!
	The owner is hot about this.  DEC local FE and specialist can't
	figure it out.  Finally, they call in an engineer from Mass.  He
	strolls through our front door walks over to where the 11/45
	(including disks in same cabinet) is, right next to the window.
	He doesn't even look at the computer, just stares out the window
	for a few seconds.  Finally, he turns to us and says,
	"Interesting, by the way, can you tell me what those antennas
	are for?"  as he points out the window at the other side of the

	"I don't know, just TV antennas I guess" says my boss.  The
	engineer asks us to call maintenance just to check.  Meanwhile
	this engineer is showing the local FE and specialist how he can
	get blips on his scope from the venetian blinds, his tie clip
	and just about everything else.  Turns out the antennas were
	microwave and radio paging antennas.  This being the high point
	in Stamford made it an ideal site (in fact the antenna rented
	for 10X the price of the penthouse suite!).  Everytime some
	doctor was paged in Stamford, the antennas would send out a
	signal that induced a current in everything around.  Being only
	20 feet away everything in our office was hit especially in our
	hard disks which used a magnet and induction coil to position
	the heads over the proper track!  Some signals would cause the
	head to over or undershoot the specified track causing the soft
	crashes, while others cause the head to actually hit the
	platter.  The floppies on the 11/03 weren't affected because
	they didn't use induction coils.

	They had to move the office down to the first floor where it had
	a view of...  the parking lot!  (However, in fairness to the
	11/45 and its disks I must also say that it later did a long
	stint at one of our customer's sites, in a "Polyfill" factory.
	The fibers in the air were so thick that the filters on the air
	conditioner had to be cleaned daily or it would actually burn
	out--but the 11/45 and disks functioned smoothly (I, however got
	a raging sore throat and sometime will find I have some lung

	From: [email protected]
	Date: 24 Sep 86
	Subject: Re: hpf.jokes for Sep 86
	Newsgroups: hpf.general

	I once got to visit the data processing shop for Frito-Lay
	headquarters in Dallas, Texas (there's a Dallas in Oregon, too,
	you know).  They are a huge IBM shop...

	The favorite war story at Frito-Lay was about the arrival of a
	new 308x (not sure of exact model) mainframe.  It was one of the
	first that IBM shipped - possibly a beta-unit.  The guts of the
	machine are liquid-cooled - when you look inside the machine you
	see what look like liquid cooled heads from a modern motorcycle.
	In any case, the machine literally melted down one night.
	Turned out that the cleaning crew decided they needed some water
	for window washing...  The spigot for the coolant supply was
	mounted on the top of the cabinet and equipped with a standard
	looking water valve!

	From: [email protected]
	Date: 25 Sep 86
	Subject: hpf.jokes for Sep 86
	Newsgroups: hpf.general

	It seems a customer was having trouble with the floppy drive on
	his 9836 computer.  He would write his files to disk every night
	before he went home to find the next morning the disks were
	unreadable.  This went on for a few weeks so he decided to call
	HP.  After the usual telephone interrogation the CE decided he
	would have to go on-site.

	The CE tried to read the customer's floppy to no avail.
	Assuming a damaged disk, they tried a new one.  To test the
	drive the CE initialized a new floppy, installed it into the
	drive, wrote a file only to read it back perfectly.  Being a
	good CE he cleaned the heads on the disk drive, ran the
	diagnostics and sure enough, everything looked fine.  Since both
	he and the customer were satisfied no problem existed, they
	decided the disk PM was worth the trip.

	The next day the customer called the CE back because his disks
	were unreadable.  The CE went back to the customer site and
	again, the disks were unreadable.  He reviewed the command
	sequence used to create the files and all was correct.  They
	cleaned the heads again, ran the diagnostics only to discover no
	problems.  A new, initialized floppy worked fine.  Just in case
	the diagnostics had gone awry, the CE, over the next couple of
	weeks, began to replace parts of the two drives.  (Intermittent
	problems are always the most difficult to expose.)  Finally the
	customer had two brand new drives only to find he could not read
	his disks.

	The CE, becoming very frustrated, asked himself,"If I were a
	floppy disk why would I become unreadable?"  EUREKA!!

	It seems that every night, so that he would not forget to bring
	his files to work the next day, the customer would put them in a
	convenient place-right next to the door.  HE HAD THEM STUCK TO
	THE FRIDGE WITH A MAGNET!!  Of course the CE checked the
	immediate area of the computer for anything magnetic, but who
	would have thought...


	From:  [email protected] (Jack Hsu)
	Date:  25 Mar 89
	Subject:  Computer folklore summary	[revised]
	Newsgroups:  rec.humor

	To all those people who wanted the past computer folklore
	tidbits that were posted to the net months ago, here is a
	partial list of all the computer folklore that was posted.
	Because this file was so huge, I removed the signatures and most
	of the headers.  I did keep the userid of the people who
	submitted the article and the date of submission.  There is also
	a brief description of what is contained in each article (I
	admit that some of the descriptions are rather stupid, but what
	do you expect from a guy who was both doing this on his spare
	time and often editing things at 3:00 in the morning.)  I hope
	this will brighten everyone's day (as well as devour a large
	part of you disk.)

	From:  [email protected] (Paul Tomblin)
	Subject:  IBM 3270 myths
	Date:  28 Jan 89

	I started there:

	1) A computer kept crashing, and every time service was called,
	it worked fine.  It turned out that one of the users would come
	in, sit down at the console and put his papers and stuff on the
	top covering the cooling vents.  When it crashed, he'd pick up
	his stuff and leave, removing the evidence.  Service people
	didn't figure this one out until they decided to watch him work
	to see why it crashed.

	2) We had an IBM cluster controller controlling some 3270
	terminals.  We paid $5000 for an upgrade that would allow more
	users to be connected to the controller.  The IBM service rep
	came in and REMOVED a board, that was put there to deliberately
	slow things down.

	3) (This one happened to me) A Northern Telecom 3270 terminal
	caught fire, with flames coming out of the top.  I guess I was
	doing some hot stuff.  I was not putting stuff on top of the
	terminal cooling slots.

	4) Somebody working on an Airline Reservation System, trying to
	get maximum response out of the machine, was looking at a OS
	listing and found a delay loop that was executed by a timer
	interrupt every 100th of a second.  Removing it brought the
	performance up, but they had to replace one of the chips in the
	machine that wasn't fast enough.

	From:  [email protected] (Jack Gjovaag;6160;50-321;LP=A)
	Subject:  GE 415 and 425 stories
	Date:  31 Jan 89

	...the GE 415 and 425 CPUs were identical except that the 415
	had an extra wire that slowed the clock down a bit.  To upgrade
	to the 425, after paying your money, the wire was removed.  Some
	users knew about this and one of them made up a realistic
	looking letter supposedly from GE saying something to the
	effect:  "CAUTION.  Do not remove the wire from pin 4AB to 7FL
	in the CPU enclosure.  This wire is located approximately 7
	inches up from the bottom of the backplane in bay 2 and should
	not be removed by using a GE 112-3 wire unwrapping tool, first
	not removing the wrapping from 4AB, then pulling the wire from
	under the other wiring to its bound end at 7FL, followed by not
	unwrapping the bound end from 7FL.  Not removing this wire will
	result in the normal clockspeed which is 1.6 times slower than
	with the wire removed and will not cause corresponding increases
	in system throughput."  Naturally most of these wires got

	Another interesting but kludgy fix to a problem came from a user
	of an IBM 7044.  The 7044 had a HALT instruction that stopped
	the CPU clock.  The user was doing some realtime processing or
	something of the sort and didn't like the idea of the CPU ever
	being able to stop itself.  He asked IBM how much it would cost
	to disable the instruction and they gave him some large quote
	which contained the implicit message "We don't want to do it and
	this price is set high enough to make you change your mind about
	the request."  The user didn't want to pay the money so he fixed
	up a photodiode over the light on the console that was on when
	the CPU was running and hooked it up to a solenoid that would
	push the RUN button whenever the light went out.  The cost was a
	couple of dollars.

	From:  [email protected] (Larry Moss)
	Subject:  Apple II and magnets
	Date:  2 Feb 89

	I heard one story about a guy that was using an Apple IIe at
	work a few years ago.  He was ready to give up with computers
	because every disk he ever tried to use would lose all of the
	files on it.

	It turned out that he kept little reminder notes attached to the disk
	drive - with magnets.

	From:  [email protected] (a.e.mossberg)
	Subject:  TRS-80 story
	Date:  3 Feb 89

	Back when TRS-80s had just come out, my friend bought one.  One
	day we were in a Radio Shack, and one of the guys working there
	gave a diskette to my friend.  My friend folded it up and put it
	in his pocket....

	From:  [email protected] (Darren New)
	Subject:  Smoking Computers
	Date:  3 Feb 89

	Speaking of smoking computers, this is absolutely true...  I was
	there.  I was working at a high-school and the soon-to-be
	computer teacher had just taken one of the TRS-80 model I's
	home.  About half an hour later we get a call:

	  "Is the computer supposed to smoke when I turn it on?"
	  "NO! Of course not."
	  "Then should I turn it off?"

	He had plugged the power supply into the video connector and
	fried every chip in the machine.  Win some, lose some.

	From:  [email protected] (Tim Philip Cadell)
	Subject:  Another TRS-80 story
	Date:  4 Feb 89

	When I used to work at a Radio Shack store, we got a call one
	day from a man who was trying to load a program (Blackjack, I
	believe) off of tape into a TRS-80 Model I computer and run it.
	A friend of mine went to the phone and told him that after he
	loaded it, type "R U N" and press enter.  He got a syntax error
	and after reading it back, it turned out that he had typed "Are
	You In?"  and pressed enter.

	From:  [email protected] (Peggy Shambo)
	Subject:  Stick Mac keyboards
	Date:  4 Feb 89

	This is a true story (honest!):

	A friend was having a problem with a sticky keyboard for his
	Mac.  He was talking to another friend who off-handedly
	suggested putting into the dishwasher to clean it up.  So, my
	friend did just that!  Needless to say, the keyboard didn't
	function any too well after that.  :-)

	From:  [email protected] (Peggy Shambo)
	Subject:  Shattered disks
	Date:  4 Feb 89

	Yet another true story:

	I was at GE Consulting's Training and Education Center in
	Albany, NY taking a course on the PC.  Well, there were some
	inexperienced PC users there, so we had to go through the
	"basics" for them (ie, the do's and don't's of disk handling)

	Well, according to the instructor, there had been one student
	who had driven up from Bridgeport, CT (corporate offices are
	there).  He had stayed at a nearby motel overnight, leaving his
	briefcase in the trunk of the car.  (Oh, let me add that it was
	sub-zero weather at the time of this incident).  In the morning
	he arrived at T&E, opened up his briefcase, took out a floppy
	disk, inserted into a drive...  then *c-r-a-c-k*!!!  It
	shattered into little pieces.

	From:  [email protected] (Robert Garvey)
	Subject:  How not to label disks
	Date:  4 Feb 89

	Heard a story about a company whose PC software was being blamed
	for the consistent failure to read backup data off floppies.
	Unable to determine the cause, they finally sent someone to sit
	beside the system's user the entire work day.  Nothing unusual
	was seen until the very end of the business day when the user
	took the floppy out of the drive and started to label it.  A
	blank label was put on and the disk inserted into the carriage
	of an electric typewriter...

	From:  Michael Polymenakos <[email protected]>
	Subject:  The novice salesman
	Date:  5 Feb 1989

	How about the young computer salesman giving some client a
	demonstration of the new electronic word-processor?  He loads up
	a large document, and says:  "watch this!".  He hits a couple of
	keys, and converts every "i" in the document to an "a", making
	the text unreadable.

	"And it you can change it all back, just like this" he
	proclaims, subsequently converting all "a"s back to "i",
	including those that had been "a"s originally.

	Of course, it happened to a friend of a friend of mine.. :-)

	Another one my father told me:

	My dad was an electronics engineer in Greece, for a company that
	imported various high-tech lab equipment.  One of them (A HP
	spectrophotometer, I think) was controlled by a special built-in
	computer, running optional proprietary software.  Each optional
	package was copy protected.  To enforce that, installing the
	package could only be done by a tech-rep; after the
	installation, the disks were automatically erased, and the
	program was kept in battery-backed RAM.

	Anyway, at some point the computer lost all its programs.  A
	call had to be made to Germany, for new disks to be sent as a
	replacement.  My dad could not find the reason for this, and he
	was really surprised when the client called again, with the same
	problem next week.  Call Germany again, install the disks again,
	then next week guess what happened:  The lab calls again.  But
	there was a definite pattern:  The lab always found the system
	down on a Wednesday morning.  Obviously, whatever went wrong
	happened on Tuesday nights only....

	After more than a month of downtime, someone realized that the
	cleaning lady came to the room every Tuesday night.  Someone
	went to check her and found out that she carried a nine-year old
	kid with her.  The kid had discovered the machine's on-off
	switch, with a few buttons next to it.  When the machine was on,
	pressing those buttons made cute sounds (audible warnings!)
	which are supposed to alert you to the fact that holding the
	button down for a few seconds would completely reset the
	machine.  I guess the kid thought of it as an oversized musical
	instrument.  The mom turned the machine off before she left,
	erasing error codes etc.  No-one knows how much this story cost
	the lab in downtime.....

	From:  [email protected] (A.  Lester Buck)
	Subject:  Nuked punched cards
	Date:  5 Feb 89

	When I was a freshman in 1971, all mainframe jobs were submitted
	on cards.  And there was a snack room with microwave oven just
	down the hall.  Well, we were waiting for our jobs to run and
	were bored, so one of my friends had the idea - What does a
	microwave oven do to a card deck?  We got a deck of blank cards
	and cooked them for a while.  It is a simple physics problem to
	show that uniformly heating a sphere leads to MUCH higher
	temperatures at the center compared to the edge.  Of course, the
	card deck *looked* perfectly normal, but inside it was charred,
	black and brittle.

	No, we never submitted such a deck.  We took pity on the
	operators and the poor card reader...  (And with dozens of
	drawers of card decks to chose from, it would have been easy to
	cover our tracks.)

	And then there are all the stories of "rewind and break tape"
	macros, (almost) all discovered accidentally.  Or the FORTRAN
	print statement that did a line of underlines without advancing
	the paper, repeated that oh, 100 times, then did 100 form feeds.
	The operator was untangling that printer for some time...

	This school did have a very well-followed honor system, and it
	was considered extremely bad form to affect anyone else

	From:  [email protected] (32764 fpu account)
	Subject:  Spelling mistakes
	Date:  5 Feb 89

	When I was a junior, I worked as a summer student in the
	Amsterdam branch of a multi-national computer company.  The PR
	department there published a poster advertising the world wide
	quality of its products; the poster had the word "quality"
	written on it in 20 different languages.

	The Hebrew word for quality, which contains five letters,
	appeared in the poster with three spelling mistakes.

	From:  [email protected] (The Anarch)
	Subject:  The equipment next door
	Date:  6 Feb 89

	This tale is true, I was there.

	The DEC users group here occasionally has Q+A sessions with a
	representative of said company which sometimes become complaint
	and apology sessions.  I remember one particular complaint from
	a Physics professor who claimed that his microVax was having
	problems with its tk50 tape drive and he had lost a fair
	quantity of data when the drive allegedly mangled a tape
	(magnetically, not physically).  Some discussion ensued and the
	professor griped that he also didn't like the way that the
	screen display "flexed" every time they turned the equipment on
	next door.

	It turns out that the "equipment next door" is a largish Tokomak
	fusion reactor - the electromagnets in the thing have to be seen
	to be believed.  (And this man is a physics professor - phew!)

	From:  [email protected] (J. Loughry)
	Subject:  MBA formatting lesson
	Date:  6 Feb 89

	Once upon a time in the MBA factory...

	About fifty prospective MBAs were learning how to run an IBM PC.
	The computer lab had a bunch of nice hard-disk equipped
	machines, with 1-2-3 and dBase and Word, etc, all lined up in
	front of a video projector.

	"Today we're going to learn how to use DOS to format a disk.
	Everybody have their floppy disk ready?  Good.  Put it into the
	disk drive.  (No no, it goes in the *other* way...that's

	"Okay, now to format a disk, you use the command FORMAT C:"

	...and they all typed it in.

	From:  [email protected] (Dan Mercer)
	Subject:  Faulty satellite link
	Date:  6 Feb 89

	My favorite story is about a satellite link that went haywire
	every Friday at 3:00 PM.  The company that owned the link
	immediately blamed the software in their communications
	controllers.  Systems analysts were dispatched on site, and try
	as they did, they couldn't find a software bug that could be
	responsible.  Finally, by dumb luck they found it.  A bunch of
	factory workers let off at 3:00 started their weekend with a
	parking lot beer party and threw their empty cans in the
	satellite uplink.  A shift of security guards fixed that.

	From:  [email protected] ( Yossie Silverman )
	Subject:  Listening to memory
	Date:  6 Feb 89

	I have two stories to relate.  Both have to do with IBM machines
	(the large variety):

	1) Back when core memory was in use one could "listen" to the
	   memory with a transistor radio.  A game among system
	   programmers was to access memory in such a manner as to
	   produce recognizable tunes on the radio.

	2) Printers produce a buzzing with varying frequency depending
	   on the text being printed (this is because of the rate at
	   which the hammers strike the slugs in the print chain).  The
	   same system programmers would also compete to see who could
	   print a job that played specific (and known) tunes.

	One further story that comes to mind.  It is said that specific
	models of IBM mainframes had a bug whereby "branching backwards
	over a page boundary to a paged out page would leave the
	supervisor bit turned on in the PSW in the stored PSW".  I never
	was able to verify this but it makes some sort of sense when you
	look at the hardware that IBM uses.

	From:  [email protected] (Dion Hollenbeck)
	Subject:  Stars and Stripes
	Date:  6 Feb 89

	While a student at UCSD in the middle 60's I had the opportunity
	to work many late nights in the computer punch card room on my
	physical chemistry lab calculations.  One late night when the
	computer operator was obviously bored, he invited me into the
	sanctum sanctorum - the computer room.  The computer was a CDC
	3600 and had a curving console about 8 feet long with several
	hundred lights and switches (in those days, there was no such
	thing as terminal input).  On the far wall was a bank of a dozen
	1/2" tape drives with vacuum column tape tension control.

	He loaded up a deck into the card reader (the only command input
	device) and started it.  For the next 1/2 hour the computer
	PLAYED the Stars and Stripes Forever and assorted Sousa marches,
	using the tones on the console (every light had its own tone)
	for the high low notes and the tape drives for the low notes.
	At the same time, all the lights on the console were blinking on
	and off.  Since I am now a full-time programmer, I finally
	appreciate the work it must have taken a system level programmer
	to do that.  Talk about primitive audio devices!

	From:  [email protected] (Johnathan Vail)
	Subject:  Faulty IC's
	Date:  6 Feb 89

	A friend worked for a company that made IC's.  It seemed that
	every few months their yields would go down to about zero.
	Analysis of the failures showed all sorts of organic material
	was introduced into the process somewhere but they couldn't
	figure out where.  One evening someone was working late and came
	into the lab.  There he found the maintenance crew cooking
	pizza in the chip curing ovens!

	From:  [email protected] (Daniel Hinojosa)
	Subject:  Printer chain problems
	Date:  6 Feb 89

	A friend of mine told a story of one of these printers he and
	another friend destroyed in a most interesting manner.  These
	printers had, it would seem, a sort of chain that held all of
	the characters.  I guess they held about three complete sets of
	the alphabet plus special characters.

	These chaps read the chain and created a file in their system
	that had all of the characters of one pass in it.  They gave the
	command to print the file.  Upon doing so the printer starts to
	spin the chain, then SMACK!  Trying to print all of those
	characters at once while the chain was moving, didn't quite
	work.  The fellow said they found the print characters in
	various parts of their office for years thereafter.

	From:  [email protected] (Barbara Vaughan)
	Subject:  The MBA interface
	Date:  8 Feb 89

	In 1972, I was assigned the task of writing an interactive user
	interface for a statistical analysis program written in FORTRAN
	IV.  I was told that the users were "MBA types; not very
	quantitative and with little background in statistics."  ( I
	hope this is no longer true of MBA's.)

	Anyway, writing such an interface in FORTRAN IV was no picnic,
	but I tried to make it very friendly.  Plain English questions,
	examples of correct answers, range checks to determine validity
	of responses, helpful error messages.

	One of the first users to test the program said that it kept
	bombing out on question 3.  "Enter number of thingamabobs (Valid
	responses 1 to 5):".  I asked what her response had been and she
	said "Five".  Puzzled, I asked if I could watch her run the
	program.  This is what I saw:  ....(Valid responses 1 to 5):

	That's when I realized what nonquantitative really meant.  Even
	though FORTRAN IV had no character string handling capability
	(you had to declare your characters as INTEGER or REAL), I had
	to write a routine to read all keyboard input as characters,
	convert to numbers, and add a friendly message to explain what a
	number was.

	From:  [email protected] (Joe Simpson)
	Subject:  Fried circuit boards and other stories
	Date:  8 Feb 89

	A friend of mine used to work for Northern Telecom, and said
	this story circulated there:

	A team of installers was installing a DMS-10 digital telephone
	switch somewhere in Tennessee.  They had it set up and had been
	testing it all day; everything seemed to work okay, so they left
	early in the evening to go barhopping and rabble-rousing, as NT
	installers are said to be wont to do.

	Next morning they came in only to find that the switch had
	failed during the night, and a couple of circuit boards were
	fried to boot.  They replaced the boards, tested it all day, and
	left again that evening.  Next morning, same result.  This went
	on for a couple of days, and finally one of the installers
	bunked down next to the DMS-10.  Along about midnight, in came
	the cleaning lady with a feather duster, and proceeded to dust
	everything in the room, including the exposed circuit boards.


	When I was an undergrad at UNC, I spent a little time in the
	graduate department's graphics lab.  When one of the grads was
	showing us the hardware, he pointed out a large rubber mallet
	sitting beside one of the cabinets.  He said that the connection
	between the chips' prongs and their sockets sometimes became
	poor, and often when the system acted up the cure was to bang on
	the cabinet with the mallet to reseat the chips.  He also said
	anytime they had a photo of the lab taken, they made sure the
	mallet was visible in the picture, and sent a copy to DEC, who
	apparently knew exactly what the mallet was for.

	From:  [email protected] (John R. Levine)
	Subject:  Printing a line
	Date:  8 Feb 89

	...The letters on the print chain are all scrambled up.  Each
	time the chain moves, some fraction of the letters on the chain
	will be in front of the place where those particular letters are
	supposed to print, so the printer fires just those hammers.
	Then the chain moves, some more hammers fire, etc.

	The particular hack that Mr.  Hinojosa and I described
	reprogrammed the printer so it would think that every letter on
	the line was correctly placed and so fire all the hammers at
	once.  That makes quite a lot of noise (normally, only 10 or so
	of the 120 or 132 hammers go off at once) and moreover turned
	out to use more power than the printer was prepared to supply
	thus blowing the fuse and causing other problems.

	From:  [email protected] (Joe Simpson)
	Subject:  Where's the off switch?
	Date:  8 Feb 89

	I worked one summer in a COBOL shop (no, that's not supposed to
	be the funny part) that had a Sperry/Univac mainframe.  The
	operator's terminal was on a desk that was backed up against the
	CPU cabinet.  One day the system went down hard, and I walked
	down to the machine room to see what was up (or down).

	The operator (fortunately for his job security, the son of the
	company's vice-president), said he had no idea what had
	happened, that it seemed the power had gone off.  We checked all
	the circuit breakers to no avail.  Finally, he said the last
	thing he remembered before the power went was crossing his legs;
	I looked under his desk and saw, completely unprotected, set
	into the cabinet at just above ankle height, a power switch.  It
	was "OFF".  Some brilliant engineering, that.

	From:  [email protected] (Lee Carter)
	Subject:  Backup your disks
	Date:  8 Feb 89

	Various stories that customer engineers have told us:

	1.) An office secretary was presented with her first PC and
	    given large amounts of instruction on how to operate it.
	    Just before he left, the C.E.  asked the secretary, "What
	    must you do every Friday?"  to which the secretary replied
	    "Copy my data disks so I don't lose any information."
	    Satisfied, the C.E.  departed.  One week later there was a
	    phone call; "I can't read my disks!"  so the C.E.  went back
	    to the secretary.  Sure enough the data disks were corrupt
	    and unreadable.  "Have you got copies of these disks?" --
	    "Yes" -- "Can I see them please?"

	    The secretary opened her desk drawer and removed several
	    sheets of paper.  Curiously the C.E.  examined them to see
	    each was a perfect photocopy of the data disks....

	2.) A site had an HP3000 installation with a number of large
	    300Mb disk disk drives.  One week, two of the drives
	    crashed, so they called an engineer.  The engineer examined
	    the drives, and noticed a little pile of sawdust on the
	    floor by the side of them.  Needless to say, there is no
	    wood in the construction of these drives and the floor was

	    The engineer repairs the drives and leaves, sorely vexed.
	    The same thing happens a couple of days later - same two
	    drives crash, engineer calls, sawdust, etc.  This pattern
	    repeats until one day they notice a maintenance man, who has
	    a long plank of wood, walk into the computer room, wedge the
	    wood between the two drives (the gap between them was juuust
	    riiight!)  and then proceed to saw the plank in half with an
	    enormous rip-saw....

	From:  [email protected] (Prabhu Venkatesh)
	Subject:  Need a 10 ns delay
	Date:  8 Feb 89

	Real, real, true, swear-by-God story:

	A friend of mine was repairing a Russian EC-20 computer in
	Bangalore, India.  He found an insulated wire soldered to a pin
	of a chip.  Looking for the other end, he traced and he traced
	and he traced -- 10 feet of wire, and the other end was soldered
	to an adjacent chip!

	As it turned out, they needed a 10 ns delay between the two

	From:  [email protected] (the Mitchell)
	Subject:  What does a floppy disk look like?
	Date:  8 Feb 89

	I was in a PASCAL class a long time ago (please, no flames about
	PASCAL).  This was in the days of double density drives for the
	new kid on the block, the IBM PC.  Anyway, we were all supposed
	to have a work disk for saving our files.  When the prof asked
	everyone to get their disks out, someone stood up and said that
	their disk didn't look like what anyone else had.  This persons
	disk looked like a disk, and not a square.  Which is exactly
	what you get when you rip off the packaging off a diskette - you
	get the disk.....

	From:  [email protected] (Edward J Cetron)
	Subject:  Walking computers, another story
	Date:  8 Feb 89

	...Seems I was a young hotshot programmer-type and was working
	in the corporate research unit of a big company (lets see, it
	makes LOTS of bandaids).  Well, it was the first time I ever
	used a machine with a disk drive in a room that I could find
	(much less have permission to enter).  Never having had a
	computer with version numbers before (this was RSX-11M 3.0 --
	dating myself huh?)  I never purged my directory.  Also given
	that I was hacking an immense Data-entry and retrieval system in
	Fortran-IV (more dating (-:  ), TKB would do intense things to
	the drive, which was fragmented beyond belief.

	This tended to upset the system manager, one Mark Googleman, no
	end, since he'd have to move the beast back into position.
	Since two hackers on one machine naturally tend to competition
	(could you crack into the machine, get priv'ed, and log the
	other off BEFORE they noticed and logged you off?)  and I was
	embarrassed when confronted with the proof that this was my
	fault, I naturally bluffed my way out explaining that I was
	doing on purpose.

	Well, one thing led to another, and it became a ritual to leave
	taped papers to the floor with one's name on it in the computer
	room.  The object was to spend as much time from 9:00pm until
	7:00am WITHOUT ENTERING THE COMPUTER ROOM, running programs,
	doing TKB's etc, in order to move the RP's in a fixed manner.
	In the morning, the person with the disk drive closest to their
	name won the pool of money.

	I had slowly become the "hardware champion" until one day Mark
	managed to program the tape drive for Christmas carols...  sigh,
	I was so devastated that I didn't even take up his challenge to
	make the RP's perform accompaniment......

	From:  [email protected] (Dennis L. Mumaugh)
	Subject:  UNIX vs. IBM
	Date:  7 Feb 89

	The headline would be:  UNIX crashes IBM system.

	It seems that we had obtained an UNIX system and were using it
	for the first time.  In those days UNIX was brand new and the
	rest of the world had never heard of it.

	Any rate, we had attached our PDP-11/45 to an IBM 370-155 system
	running JESS-2.  This meant the PDP-11 pretended to be a RJE
	card-reader/printer/punch station.  Things were going quite well
	and the Bell Labs software worked great.

	Then one day we found that our RJE line was disconnected and the
	IBM people refused to allow us to talk with the IBM machines.
	The reason, they claimed, was that most of the time that UNIX
	submitted an RJE job the IBM would promptly crash with no error

	Finally it was determined that when the IBM people had sysgen'd
	the line they claimed it was a 2780 with a 80 character line and
	we were a 2770 with a 132 character line.  This didn't cause
	problems unless our line and the next adjacent line both
	submitted jobs at once.

	But I thought it amusing that DEC equipment could crash an IBM
	system at will.

	From:  [email protected] (Smadi Paradise)
	Subject:  How does a computer work?
	Date:  7 Feb 89

	I have not witnessed this one, but some of my friends did.

	Some computer-illiterate visitors were shown the CDC6400 at the
	Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  One of them asked, how does the
	machine do all these wonderful things?  Their guide joked that
	it has a small man inside.

	While he was speaking, a CDC technician (the late Rachmim Moreno, a
	small man indeed) had just finished some routine maintenance and
	stepped out of the machine.

	Another story, which took place on April 1st 1984:

	I was requested to present Unix software tools to the Software
	Workbench undergraduate course.  After talking about grep, SCCS,
	lex and what not, I described an experimental expert system that
	creates applications by combining UNIX tools.  Given an English
	description of an application, the system produces user manuals.
	Given an ``O.K.'', it would go on and produce the actual

	The system was a success:  it kept some of the students busy for
	a long time.  Here it is, reconstructed from memory:

	#!/bin/csh -f
	echo "What should your application do?"
	echo "Type a short description followed by a control-D"
	cat > /dev/null
	echo "Working... here is the user's manual:".
	/usr/games/festoon | some sed | nroff -man | more
	echo "Is that O.K? If not, please describe what's wrong."
	exec /usr/games/doctor

	From:  [email protected] (Michael Oppenheim)
	Subject:  Computer illiterates
	Date:  7 Feb 89

	I have an XT compatible with a hard drive but no printer, so
	people often use my machine, save their work on floppies, and go
	to the library or computer room to print.

	One fellow, a non-computer literate, wanted to do a paper on my
	computer.  I showed him how to use the word processor and how to
	save it on a floppy.  Later, I went with him to help him print
	it.  As we were leaving the dorm, I noticed he was empty-handed.

	"Where's the disk?" I asked.

	"Why? Do we need it?"

	From:  [email protected] (David Arnold)
	Subject:  Showering with a keyboard
	Date:  7 Feb 89

	...Sounds like an old hall-mate of mine from college, who would
	clean his keyboard by taking it into the shower with him.
	Either that, or just tear it down and clean it with Bacardi 80
	proof.  That poor computer managed to struggle on for several

	From:  [email protected] (Dave Platt)
	Subject:  Altering the memory test
	Date:  7 Feb 89

	There's another great story involving computers-that-have-
	lights.  This one involves Ivan Sutherland, co-founder of Evans
	& Sutherland (the pioneering computer-graphics firm), developer
	of Sketchpad (the very first computer-graphics tablet device, I
	believe), and winner of the "Father of Computer Graphics" aware
	some years ago.

	While in college, Sutherland worked with one of the very
	earliest Von Neumann architecture (stored-program) computers...
	I've heard this specific machine referred to as "THE Von Neumann
	machine".  This computer had a very limited amount of memory
	storage.  Rather than using ferrite cores, RAM memory, or such
	modern devices, it used "storage tubes"...  tiny little CRTs
	similar in operation to the tubes used in some "storage screen"
	graphics terminals (anybody used a Tektronix 4010 lately?).
	These little devices would store a rectangular array of bits in
	each tube.  It was actually possible to SEE the bits by looking
	at the phosphor-coated target area in each screen.

	One of the disadvantages of this storage technology (aside from
	low capacity) is that the tubes have a limited lifetime.
	"Burn-in" eventually occurs (as owners of Tektronix storage
	scopes can attest) as the phosphor structure ages and breaks
	down, and eventually the tubes must be replaced.

	The engineers who maintained this computer had some
	special-purpose diagnostic programs, which would run "ripple
	patterns" through memory and would look for bit-patterns that
	weren't stored properly (a similar test is done when diagnosing
	memory problems in most computers).  With the Von Neumann
	machine, though, it was often possible to identify tubes that
	were on the way downhill, simply by looking at the array of
	tubes in the cabinet and seeing which ones had a dim or uneven
	appearance during the ripple test.

	One day, Sutherland [and a cohort, I believe] substituted a
	program deck of their own devising for the memory-test deck that
	the engineers used.  This substitute deck did not run the usual
	memory test; instead, it loaded a certain specific bit-pattern
	into memory and then halted the machine.

	During the next routine-maintenance period, the engineer reset
	the machine, booted the deck, and the program immediately
	halted.  Puzzled, the engineer reset and rebooted again, and the
	same thing occurred.  Suspecting that some portion of memory had
	failed so completely that the program could not run, the
	engineer opened the panel to the storage-tube rack.

	There, shining out at him in carefully-lit bits, was a
	four-letter word.

	A sign soon appeared in the computer room...  "Programmers will
	NOT mess around with the hardware-diagnostic program decks!"

	[Disclaimers:  it has been 15 years since I heard this story, so
	I've probably forgotten some of the details and have gotten
	others wrong.]

	From:  [email protected] (Frank Korzeniewski)
	Subject:  Upper/Lower case mix up
	Date:  6 Feb 89

	Several years back I was working at a HMO and we had a lot of
	8080 micros using ADM3A dumb terminals.  These terminals were so
	dumb that all they had were upper case character sets.
	Eventually, upper managment was talked into upgrading them to
	the ROM's with upper and lower case characters.

	Well, one day we received this big three foot square box from
	the terminal manufacturer.  Everyone was puzzled as to what they
	could be sending us.  The person with the order said he had
	asked for 30 lower case options.  The ADM3A terminal has an
	upper and lower clamshell like case.  When the box was opened we
	found they had sent us 30 lower halfs to the terminal case.

	From:  [email protected] (Carl Wuebker)
	Subject:  Revenge of the Whiz Kid
	Date:  6 Feb 89

	One time, in a college library, I ran across a book of computer
	folklore.  It had a story about a young whiz kid hired as a
	computer programmer, who didn't like the way that computer
	operators were ordered to blindly follow directions.  So he took
	a scratch removable disk pack apart, replaced the platters with
	phonograph records, and put it back together.  Then, from his
	terminal, he called for it to be mounted.  The operator could
	tell that the disk pack was different (plastic is lighter than a
	disk platter) but mounted it anyway, destroying a disk drive.

	In the late '60s, Georgia Tech went to a computer registration
	system.  In Spring, 1969, George P.  Burdell (the mythical
	Georgia Tech student created during the war years) was
	registered for every class on campus.  I've heard that he aced
	them all, too.

	Finally, in the early '70s, Georgia Tech installed a Univac
	1108, so we heard all the Univac stories.  One of the stories
	revolved around an operator, sitting sleepily at his computer
	console about 2am, watching the backups.  The status messages
	disappear from his screen, a large (CBS-style) eye appears on
	the screen, it winks, and then the screen pops back to normal.
	Those were the days of fast memory and memory mapped screens, so
	its possible...

	Just one more.  On that same Univac, a friend discovered a
	security hole.  It seems you could checkpoint (stop and save) a
	job to tape to, say, shut the machine down for maintenance.  You
	could later restart the job from the tape at the exact point you
	stopped it.  My friend discovered that you could checkpoint the
	job, change the privileged mode bit (guard mode, supervisor mode
	etc.  -- the thing that prevented students from breaking into
	the machine) to 1, and restart it -- as a privileged job.  He
	was found out, though -- operators became suspicious when they
	went from 0 checkpoints per month to several check-point tapes
	per day.

	From:  [email protected] (Lehtim{ki Erkki)
	Subject:  Wrong instruction
	Date:  6 Feb 89

	Our company bought a text processing package and a salesman came
	to us to install it.  He had some difficulties in the first time
	to install it, so he decided to delete all his files and start
	over.  But alas, instead of typing "DELETE [...]*.*.*" (Yes,
	it's in VAX/VBMS), he typed

	DELETE/NOLOG [*...]*.*.*

	A few moments later I noticed that I had much more disk quota
	left than i should have and noticed that all my files with
	DELETE privilege for same user group had gone.  And for
	everybody else too.

	From:  [email protected] (John R. Levine)
	Subject:  Computer antics
	Date:  7 Feb 89

	...Aw shucks, we did this with a PDP-8.  The accumulator was
	displayed in fairly large incandescent bulbs on the front panel,
	which needed high powered drivers.  Turning the bits on and off
	made plenty of radio noise.  I've heard legends of PDP-9
	programmers who would routinely leave a radio on the console as
	a debugging aid.

	...There was a legendary card deck that, when run through an old
	electromechanical accounting machine, would print out an
	American flag while playing the Star Spangled Banner.

	Speaking of printers, here are two silly stories from about
	1969.  At that time they used 360/20s as RJE terminals to the
	360/91 mainframe.  The '91 crashed all the time, so while
	waiting for the '91 to come back up we would toggle in little
	programs from the console, or laboriously punch an up to 80 byte
	program on a card, then use the "load" button to read and start
	the program.  There was constant competition for the most
	interesting single-card program.  My best was an expensive mimeo
	machine that read in a deck of cards and listed it over and

	In one case, we experimented with the Universal Character Set
	buffer in the printer.  The 1403 printer had interchangeable
	print trains, but different trains would have different
	character layouts.  The UCS buffer told what character was at
	what position on the train.  When it printed a line, it would
	see what characters were at the right position, fire the
	appropriate hammers, move the train ahead one position, fire the
	appropriate hammers, and so on until the entire line was
	printed.  So as an experiment, we filled the entire UCS buffer
	with the same character, then printed lines of that character.
	It printed about a page and a half real fast, then the cover
	opened about half way (it automatically opened whenever the
	printer ran out of paper, to warn the operator and dump
	ever-present coffee cups on the floor) and then blew a fuse.  We
	cleared out.  It hadn't occurred to us we could blow fuses with

	In another case, we experimented with the carriage control tape.
	Things like "skip to new page" or "vertical tab" were
	implemented with a loop of paper tape that had 66 rows, one for
	each line on a page, and 12 columns.  You could do a skip to
	channel 1, and it would advance the paper and the tape until it
	found a hole in column 1.  By convention, column 1 was top of
	page, column 2 top and middle of page, but you could program it
	any way you want.  We tried various combinations and everything
	worked just fine until we tried a skip to channel 12.
	Unfortunately, there weren't any punches in column 12, so the
	paper just whizzed through the printer at full speed.  We pushed
	the printer stop button.  Nothing.  We pushed the CPU stop
	button.  Still nothing.  Finally the CPU System Reset button
	stopped the printer.  Being good ecologists, we fed the paper
	back into the feed box, then ran.

	From:  [email protected] (Randal L. Schwartz @ Stonehenge)
	Subject:  Party line problems
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	Back in the early days, I was using an ADM-3 from a friend's
	house (hi Greg Jorgenson!)  with an old acoustical-coupled
	modem.  The modem was attached used on the house phone...  a
	party line (!).  We were accustomed to getting bumped with funny
	little noise characters when the party-liners would try to
	pickup the phone for a call, but otherwise tied up the line for
	the usual hours-on-end we hackers are known for.

	One day, we picked up the phone to make a call, and found that
	the party-liners were on it (two female voices).  Since we had
	nothing better to do, we decided to listen in.  The conversation
	went something like:

	Voice 1:  Did you just hear that?
	Voice 2:  Yeah, it was a click.  Must be our party line.
	Voice 1:  A party line?  Does that mean they are listening to us?
	Voice 2:  I don't think they can.  All I can hear when they are
		  talking is some beeps.

	We scrambled to hang up the phone to cover our instant
	hysterical laughter.  Little did they know...  :-)

	From:  [email protected] (Mark Robert Smith)
	Subject:  How to fix an IBM
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	Yet another true IBM story:

	My girlfriend's father is a service tech for IBM.  He had one
	computer that would periodically lock up for no apparent reason.
	He tried replacing all sorts of boards, drives, and other
	hardware to no avail.  Finally, he called in the specialists.

	The specialists arrived with many special tools, and in one case
	a very special tool.  In an old style case, in a custom-molded
	velour covered interior, sat the Vibra-matic -- a rubber mallet.
	They had brought this as a joke, but....

	It turned out that the power supply wasn't completely welded to
	the ground, and the vibration of the machine caused intermittent
	power failures of extremely short duration.  This was fixed, and
	tested with the specialists banging on the chassis with the
	Vibra-matic while my girlfriend's father stuck his head inside
	to look for vibration.  Luckily the owners of the machine never
	saw them.

	From:  [email protected] (Vance Bass)
	Subject:  The customer is always right
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	Heard recently from an IBM field service manager:

	A huge travel agency in Florida (a major booker of Caribbean
	cruises for blue-haired retired ladies) recently bought an IBM
	3090 to handle the reservation database.  When the deal was
	consummated, the proud new owner asked IBM to install it in a
	big glass room right behind the receptionist's area so all the
	customers could see the flashing lights and spinning tape reels
	as they walked in -- a testimony to the modernity of the agency.

	Good idea, except there are no blinking lights on a 3090.  So
	the service manager offered to build some.  They hired a
	theatrical designer to come up with a suitably futuristic "set",
	got curved glass walls to minimize reflections, and installed
	the mainframe behind the "real-looking" facade.  The customer
	declared that it was exactly what he had in mind, regardless of
	what the actual computer looks like.

	Moral: the customer is always right.

	From:  [email protected] (J. Loughry)
	Subject:  Foiling benchmarks
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	(This is just a rumor, but it's a *neat* rumor....)

	It seems (allegedly) that certain Microsoft compilers are smart
	enough to figure out when they are being benchmarked.  Any time
	the parser sees the "standard" 10,000-prime-numbers algorithm,
	it dumps that section of code and substitutes a set of
	hand-tuned, gut-level machine code designed to do that one thing
	as fast as possible!  I don't think it actually just printed
	them out from a table, but you get the idea....

	Also:  (this is true)

	One has to be careful when trying to benchmark optimizing
	compilers.  These things *are* smart enough to notice that while
	you're doing all those expensive floating point calculations,
	you're never actually doing anything with the answer...  so the
	compiler just figures it all out once, and replaces all the
	calculations with a simple assignment.

	Prime Computer once had a compiler optimize their competitor's
	benchmark down to a single NOP -- and for several years they
	gleefully used this "performance" figure in their ads.

	From:  [email protected] (Curtis Charles)
	Subject:  Looking for passwords
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	Back in the good ol' days of card readers, a game we discussed
	was how to obtain passwords.  Jobs were submitted by setting
	your deck of cards on a counter.  An operator would grab all the
	jobs on the counter, run them through the reader, and return
	them with their output later.

	We're talking CDC hardware here, so various combinations of
	6-7-8-9 or 7-8-9 punches indicated End of Job, or End of Record.
	Well, there was a magic combination (6-8-9?)  that was
	interpreted as "read binary, and ignore other control punches
	except the magic combination."

	So, the devious programmer submits two jobs, the first has a
	program to read binary data, followed by a 6-8-9 and (for the
	operator's consumption only) a 6-7-8-9.  The second job just has
	a 6-8-9 to switch the system out of binary mode.  The two jobs
	are placed on the counter is such a way that the first job will
	be the first one through the card reader and the second job will
	be the last one through the card reader, with other students
	jobs in between.  Viola', you've got a whole list of accounts
	and passwords.

	Of course, the operator might become suspicious when 10 jobs go
	in and only one comes out.  Or, he might scramble the order of
	the jobs left on the counter defeating the plan.  I'm not sure
	anybody actually did this, but it strikes me as an easy way to
	breach security.

	From:  [email protected] (Dave Platt)
	Subject:  Operating system comments
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	Another subclass of computer folklore is the occasional barbed
	comment that one can find when reading through source code.
	Operating-system programmers seem particularly prone to witty,
	shamefaced, or other slightly-off-center comments in their code.

	Some examples come to mind (some of the details may be
	incorrect; it's been a long time since I read any of this code):

	1) DEC RSX-11M (???)  operating system.  System fault handler
	   module.  If a bus-check fault occurs (indicating possible
	   hardware problems with some device on the bus), the O/S traps
	   to a fault-handler routine that tries to identify the
	   offending hardware and reset it.  If, while attempting to
	   recover from a bus-check fault, a second such fault occurs,
	   the system traps again...  this time to a routine which
	   simply masks off all processor interrupts and hangs in a
	   tight loop.  It's necessary to manually reset the machine to
	   unhang it.

	   The comment on the loop reads, "The death of God left the
	   angels in a strange position."

	2) There are a couple of comments in the output-symbiont (print
	   spooler) code in the old Xerox CP-V operating system.  At the
	   top of a long block of convoluted and otherwise undocumented
	   code, there appears a taunting:

		"See if you can figure out what I'm doing here."

	   Somewhat further on, there's a really dubious code-construct
	   (I don't recall just what was being done), adorned with the

		"I'm ashamed of this"

	3) In the synchronous-terminal (BISYNC) module in the CP-6
	   operating system's communications software, there's a routine
	   that constructs synchronous data blocks (the ones that start
	   out with the characters "syn, syn, dle", and so forth).  The
	   code comment reads

		"With a SYNC SYNC here...
		 and a SYNC SYNC there..."

	   The module is labeled "EIE_IO".

	4) A related module, which was responsible for driving the Unit
	   Record Peripheral printer, was labeled "[email protected]".

	From:  [email protected] (Ric Werme)
	Subject:  Printer music
	Date:  8 Feb 89

	At Carnegie-Mellon, the standard carriage tape had an empty
	channel.  An easy way to get on the bad side of the operators
	was to use the right character as a FORTRAN print control
	character.  (The tape was designed so that the printer
	implemented nearly all of the FORTRAN carriage control
	features.)  It was never a problem until someone wrote a SNOBOL
	program and forgot to print a space at the beginning of each
	line.  The operator wasn't near the machine at the time and 1403
	fed the paper faster than it could stack!

	...I hereby claim the best sound of any printer music.  At
	Sanders Technology, a defunct company that pioneered the letter
	quality dot matrix printer, I decided to come up with some real

	After a disappointing start, I designed some fonts that were
	variable numbers of vertical bars in 1/2 inch wide characters.
	The printer's horizontal resolution was 0.001", better than
	laser printers, but not good enough for decent music.  I had to
	compute line spacings in 0.0001" units and round to the nearest
	0.001".  About an octave and a half would fit in a 2Kb PROM
	(this was before 16K ram chips made down-loaded fonts

	Next I arranged "A Bicycle Built for Two", since that was the
	first song a computer ever played (you've heard it in the movie
	2001).  It also was a hack on Daisywheel terminals, our main
	competition.  It was impressive.  And attracted a fair amount of
	attention at the trade shows.

	I later did three Christmas carols, and even a version of Le
	Marseilles (sp?)  for a potential French customer.

	Since the only real language we had was Fortran, I wrote TECO
	programs to generate the font from a source file of frequency
	and character bindings, and another TECO program that read a
	simple music language and generated the lines of text needed to
	play the song.  Not only could I set the meter, the program had
	to reverse the order of the characters for the right-left

	I still have two of those printers.  NH Mensa prints its
	newsletters on one.  Unfortunately, I'm running out of ribbons
	and the pins are beginning to crack.  Smart printer.  Does its
	own justification, handles proportional fonts, mixed fonts, all
	sorts of stuff.  Its control language is readable, inspired by
	runoff.  Between the printer, a CP/M system and a screen editor
	(written as a macro for a TECO variant), who needs an IBM PC?

	From:  [email protected]
	Subject:  Broken off switch
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	...It seems that, with an empty disk pack, a properly written
	program would cause the read/write head/arm to reach out of the
	machine into the open air.  One programmer decided to see if he
	could get the machine to turn itself off that way.  The next
	morning, maintenance was called to fix a broken on/off switch.

	From:  [email protected] (Brent Sterner)
	Subject:  8 in octal
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	Back in my undergrad years, a fellow student had access to the
	departmental PDP-8.  He also had access to the academic center's
	machine room, and somehow acquired the PDP-10 sign from that
	system.  The PDP-10 sign was hung proudly on the PDP-8,
	particularly when a tour was being given.  When asked about the
	sign, his reply was:  "Octal".

	From:  [email protected] (Andrew Arensburger)
	Subject:  Scheduling algorithms
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	Peterson and Silberschatz (_Operating_System_Concepts_, Addison-
	Wesley, 2nd edition, p.121) point out the importance of good
	scheduling algorithms when one is designing an operating system:

	"Rumor has it that when they closed down the 7094 at MIT in
	1973, they found a low-priority job that had been submitted in
	1967 and had not yet been run."

	From:  [email protected] (Jim Haynes)
	Subject:  Design check
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	One of the design engineers at G.E.  kept an electric vibrator
	in his desk.  I think it was originally an engraver, not a
	massager or sexual vibrator.  Anyway, when we seemed to have
	intermittent problems in a machine he would plug in the vibrator
	and touch it to each circuit board in the suspect area while
	running a diagnostic program.

	At that time G.E.  had a small enough number of machines in the
	field such that when a customer's machine was in bad trouble and
	the regular field engineers couldn't fix it, the company would
	pull together a small group of engineers and programmers who had
	participated in the design of the hardware and software and send
	them to camp out at the site until the problem was solved.  So
	that's where the vibrator probably found the most use.

	From:  [email protected] (Jim Haynes)
	Subject:  Accountant problems
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	...That reminded me of a story in Norbert Wiener's
	autobiography.  During World War II he was in charge of a group
	of people who ran desk calculators to solve ballistics problems.
	The people were called "computers".

	He always had trouble getting enough computers to handle the
	workload, what with the military manpower situation.  Once when
	the Army couldn't get scientific computers they sent him a bunch
	of accountants.  He said these would carry out every calculation
	to two decimal places and no more!  (They thought only in
	dollars and cents.)

	From:  [email protected] (Ronald J. Notarius)
	Subject:  Problems with security
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	I used to work in the Computer Lab at the Community College of
	Allegheny County, Allegheny Campus.  CCAC-A has a 3 file server
	Novell Network in place.  For most of the Fall, they were
	constantly losing the hard drives in the Network during holiday
	breaks -- you could be assured that one or more of the file
	servers went down during a 3-day weekend, for example.

	The first thought was that power to the lab was being turned off
	on the long weekends, so the power to the file servers was wired
	such that power stayed on and could not be turned off except at
	the circuit breaker.  Didn't help; turned out that the problem
	was a well-meaning security guard who thought that the servers
	were accidentally left on, so he turned them off.  Next
	solution?  Hot-wire the power supply switches...

	So now they discovered that the guard was pulling out the power

	He no longer works in that building...

	From:  [email protected] (Peggy Shambo)
	Subject:  Operator problems
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	'Way back when I used-to-wuz a computer operator, we had a BIG
	RED button on the operator's console for an emergency powerdown.
	Well, one night one of the operators accidentally dropped
	something onto it, and *vooom*...  no system.  The next day he
	was explaining how he did it...  and *vooom* hit the button...
	no system.  So they built a little arch-shaped Lucite cover over
	the button.  So what happens then?  The one and the same
	operator was showing how it could be hit anyway...  and
	*vooom*...  no system!!!!

	Last I knew, he still worked there...  but in customer support..
	no longer on the console...  I wonder why?  :-)

	From:  [email protected] (Doug Freyburger)
	Subject:  Computer dates and other stories
	Date:  8 Feb 89

	My office-mate years ago at JPL lived through this:

	When the Viking Mars probes where launched, no one thought
	they'd last very long in Mars oribt, so the programs saved a few
	bytes by ignoring leap years and hardwiring 366 in (1976 was
	leap).  The next year everyone was called in to rewrite their
	systems for downloading to Mars with a 365 day year.

	Better yet, both spacecraft were still going strong in 1980 and
	most of the crew were long gone to other projects.  Everyone had
	to be called back for another download to Mars.  It pays to
	include leap year in your code.

	From personal experience:

	I remember a Lunar-Lander game written in PDP-11 TECO that used
	VT100 cursor keys.  The entire program looked like your terminal
	was at the wrong baud rate (standard TECO programming form).  It
	ran without change on the old PDP-10 still surviving at college
	and later on the brand-new VAX, as well as 3 different O/S
	versions of PDP-11 without change.

	From rumors of ancient DEC history:

	The system programmer group writing TOPS-10 used to love fancy
	TECO programs and had a weekly contest for them.  One guru
	working on FORTRAN compilers would read them carefully but never
	enter one.  They thought he was just concentrating on compilers.
	Then one week he submitted a macro that did FORTRAN compilation,
	complete with optimization.  The TECO program took days to run,
	but it worked.  Apparently he had written a PDP-10 instruction
	set emulator in TECO and feed the compiler to it!

	From:  [email protected] (usenet news)
	Subject:  More code documentation
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	One day I was scanning through some code for MYS (the Michigan
	Terminal System) (don't remember what I was looking for), and I
	saw my all time favorite comment.

	There was a kludge to get around something or other which was
	used by IBM.  The two word comment next to it was:  DAMN IBM

	And I just saw it related to a change IBM made which it never
	notified anybody of.  ("Well, just because we told you the bit
	would always be zero doesn't mean it will be.")

	From:  [email protected] (Abhijit Chaudhari)
	Subject:  Why you should back up your disks
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	A friend of mine was very excited after finishing a really hard
	Pascal assignment.  To show off his joy, he started waving his
	5-1/4" floppy disk (we were using IBM PC's) for all the world to
	see.  Not being satisfied with showing us the floppy in the
	jacket, he removed the jacket and now had a floppy in one hand
	and the jacket in the other.  The next instant a pigeon flying
	overhead decided to relieve itself; and the excreta fell
	straight through the ovular slot (on the envelope) and landed
	onto the mylar.  Needless to say, that was the only copy of his

	From:  [email protected] (Jim Haynes)
	Subject:  Interesting OS commands
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	The Burroughs B5500 operating system had two-letter console
	commands for everything.  One of them was EI, documented in the
	operator's manual as:  EI

	The system replies with EIO and performs no other function.

	or words to that effect.  This was taken out late in the life of
	the system, and the EI command was eventually used for something
	useful.  Also, on a system crash the console TTY would type out


	(I've ported this feature to all our Unix systems, in loving
	memory of the B5500.)

	In the GE635 operating system, there was a section of code
	dealing with allocation of the multiple processors.  The
	comments read


	Which reminds me - once I tried commenting an assembly language
	program in the usual style, one comment per instruction, with
	the comments being in iambic pentameter.  I gave it up pretty
	quickly, as I'm not a poet.  Has anybody ever done something
	like this and done it well?

	From:  [email protected] (Miles O'Neal)
	Subject:  Random messages
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	I had gotten a program from a friend that delivered a random
	message from a file.  These messages tended to be ridiculous or
	to make fun of computers we were using.  The Gould S.E.L we had
	just gotten in had a (deservedly, IMO) reputation for being all
	screwed up.  So I put messages in the file such as:


	and set up the system-wide login procedure to execute the
	"fortunes" program when anyone logged in.  Unfortunately, I was
	late the next morning, and it seems a new guy (who had always
	been protected from "this JCL stuff" before) had logged in,
	gotten the above message, and spent 1/2 hour looking through the
	documentation for the hex code for the O.S.

	When I got in, each time I tried to login (on 4 separate
	systems), the following appeared on my terminal:

	Miles, you're FIRED!!!

	and I was then unceremoniously logged out.  (I wasn't fired...)

	From:  [email protected] (Nasser Al-Ismaily)
	Subject:  Interesting program documentation
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	Told to me by my girlfriend:

	On her second year in college a professor came to their class
	and was telling them about his new students (freshmen).  When he
	asked them to comment all their programs, this is what he got:

	- "This program is very nice"
	- "This program is very difficult"
	- "This program is very interesting"...

	From:  [email protected] (Ronald J. Notarius)
	Subject:  Blowing up a power supply
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	In the process of trying to hook up a hard drive a few weeks ago
	(minus documentation, of course), I was given some incorrect
	instructions over the telephone, resulting in a loud "crack!"
	from the IBM-PC's power supply.  My "assistant" panicked,
	"omigod we just blew up a power supply!"  I assured him not to
	worry, I had insurance.

	Two hours later, after finally managing to open up the power
	supply, I discovered (to my immense lack of astonishment) that
	the fuse had blown.

	Of course, IBM has soldered the fuse in place.  How often to you
	blow a fuse in a power supply?

	The insurance company is insisting on buying me a new PS.  I
	won't argue with them...

	From:  [email protected] (Darin Johnson)
	Subject:  Problematic printouts
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	Actually, the print chains are not in alphabetical order.  They
	are magically ordered by some arcane formula.  Some of the
	printers are designed so that the hammer will strike the
	character just as the correct character is at the correct place
	in the line (the chain rotates at very fast speeds).  Often,
	many characters will get printed at the same time, and no more
	than 2 rotations of the chain are ever needed to print a line
	(which is why they are fast).  Presumably, the right set of
	characters on a line will cause all the hammers (132) to strike
	at the same time (while the chain is rotating).

	I had related a story like this to a friend in college and
	(unknown to me) had decided to try it.  He spent a night
	carefully going over the chain and determining the proper
	sequence to send.  The next evening, he decided to print his
	file, and had me watch (only one line was printed).  The job
	printed and we ran downstairs.  The printer was still rocking
	slightly.  Opening up the cover, the chain was still intact, but
	had come completely off the drive that held it.  We tore out the
	offending sheet of paper with the incriminating line (smudged
	and garbled) and complained to the operator on duty that the
	printer was broken again.  I don't think my friend ever tried it

	From:  [email protected] (Bill Davidson)
	Subject:  Hidden program responses
	Date:  9 Feb 89

	...A few years ago I worked for a *VERY* small company called
	Metalsoft which made software for sheet-metal punch machines.
	Prior to my joining the company, the software department
	consisted of one person (my boss), Voldi Way, who was 15 years
	old.  The only product we had then was a NC program editor which
	Voldi wrote in BASIC to run on an IBM PC (it actually was pretty
	nice for the price in spite of all this).

	I was there to help design a full CAD/CAM system to
	automatically write NC programs, but I still had to help support
	the old program.  Voldi put a few "undocumented features" in
	this program which he never told anyone about, including the
	president of the company (well...  I knew, but *I* wasn't going
	to say anything).

	In any case, one morning someone at a sheet metal shop far away
	(I think Atlanta), called a file f*ckoff or some such thing and
	the editor responded with, "My, are we having a bad day?  You
	really should try to relax more," or something like that.  The
	NC-programmer then called the president of our company (Carl)
	and said he had cussed at the computer and it had *answered*
	him!  Carl said, "No it didn't," and claimed over and over again
	that it couldn't do that.

	After he got off the phone he came into our office and started
	asking questions at which time Voldi and I both began laughing
	hysterically.  It took dozens of users about 8 months to notice
	this "feature", which had around 100 words that it recognized,
	and a few dozen responses including some that made the computer
	unusable for 10 to 15 minutes (like telling the user that it was
	formatting the hard disk).  Needless to say, the feature
	disappeared in the next release.

	From:  [email protected] (Peggy Shambo)
	Subject:  The eccentric genius
	Date:  11 Feb 89

	I used to work at a Honeywell installation, where we had a
	super-genius of a systems engineer, affectionately known as
	"Gentle Ben".  This man could read system dump the way most
	people would read the funny papers (or the net?).  He was the
	core of systems intelligence.

	But as super-genius people are sometimes labeled "eccentric",
	Gentle Ben was not an exception:

	Smoking in the computer room was verboten, and he knew it.  But
	he would light up right at the operator's console, take a few
	drags, then suddenly remember something and dash off, stuffing
	his *lit* cigarette into his coat pocket...  then wonder where
	the burning smell was coming from.

	Drinking was also a no-no in the computer room, but Ben would
	stop by the coffee machine on his way into the computer room and
	walk in with his cup in one hand, his cigarette in the other.
	On several occasions he was observed to place his cigarette
	*into* the coffee cup (still with coffee in it) and a few
	minutes later, while engrossed in problem solving, take a sip of
	the coffee...  cigarette and all...  and not even notice!

	From:  [email protected] (Michael Hermann)
	Subject:  Programmming awards
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	At Calgary, the computer science department has an award called
	the Williams Cup (as in old stained coffee cup), which is given
	yearly to the student who hands in the most imaginative
	rendition of a regular programming assignment.  Anyway, as the
	story goes, the cup was awarded to a student who'd done a desk
	calculator assignment.  Seems that the prof hadn't specified
	that you had to do it in decimal, so his/her program did math
	with _roman_numerals_.

	The clincher for the award must have been his/her programming
	style, since of course, the documentation was in _latin_.

	From:  [email protected] (Larry Hedges)
	Subject:  Problems with PC's
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	A women (I heard it was a women) bought a PC from a computer
	store, and after a week or so the computer store received a
	call.  She complained that every time she tried to boot up the
	computer, the boot up procedure would fail with error messages.
	The computer salesman came over to her house to fix the
	computer.  He said, "OK, give me your system disc and we'll try
	to boot this turkey up.  She walk over to the refrigerator where
	the floppy disc was positioned with a magnet and handed the disc
	to the salesman.

	From:  [email protected] (The devil himself)
	Subject:  How many floppies can you put in a drive?
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	I once worked at a company that released a version of UNIX on a
	series of seven floppies for installation on micros.  These
	micros tended to be sold into doctor's and lawyer's offices
	where there were never any computer literate folk (and the
	vendors were always scarce when the end users needed them).
	Hence we had many amusing phone calls on our 800 line placed by
	secretaries trying to load UNIX.

	One afternoon the following awaited us on our return to lunch:

	"I'm following your instructions exactly, and I am still having
	a problem.  I have placed floppies 1 through 6 into the floppy
	drive, but I can't stuff floppy 7 in no matter how hard I try!"

	Our directions said "Insert next floppy".  We forgot to say
	"Remove floppy and insert the next".

	We spent the rest of the afternoon seeing how many floppies we
	could stuff into a floppy drive.

	From:  [email protected] (Thomas M VandeWater)
	Subject:  Resourceful secretaries
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	While I was a grad student at UC Berkeley, the following

	The airconditioner where a few of the mainframes were kept was
	being repaired, hence some of our UNIX systems were unavailable.
	A secretary asked a friend of mine the reason she could not
	print out her thesis.  "The airconditioner is broken," she

	Anyway, the next day while I was at the printer, a HUGE fan was
	blowing on the printer and a note said "KEEP THE FAN ON, THE

	Can't blame the secretary for her ingenuity!

	From:  [email protected] (Andrew P. Berman)
	Subject:  Rogue maniacs
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	This supposedly occurred at Princeton to a grad student who
	later became an assistant professor....

	Some grad students were annoyed with this particular grad.  He
	was known for being a rogue-maniac.  They were using a UNIX
	system.  The other guys used a security hole in Mail to obtain
	privileged status.  They altered rogue a bit to check if this
	person was playing the game, and to make the game much easier if
	it was him.  The next time the poor guy played it, he won.  But
	his name didn't appear on the high score list.

	I think they also screwed up vi to check if he was using it and
	to reverse all the commands if he was...

	From:  [email protected] (Nelson C. Bishop)
	Subject:  How not to edit programs
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	After the first the first relase of IFPS/Personal a call came in
	to our hotline.

	"IFPS suddenly stopped working!"
	"Well what was the sequence of events?"
	"I was trying to load a large model and ran out of space, so I
	edited ifps.exe (the executable) and cut out half of it so my
	model would fit."

	From:  [email protected] (Patrick J. Flynn)
	Subject:  Computers and the navy
	Date:  14 Feb 89

	...There is a related story about the first naval vessels to use
	computers.  The storage medium was drum memory, and some
	officers underestimated the gyroscopic properties of large,
	massive, rapidly rotating cylinders when they executed course

	Officer:  Hard to Port!
	Helmsman:  Aye aye, sir!
	Drum:  *SMASH!!!*

	From:  [email protected] (Michael Lloyd)
	Subject:  Slip ups at quality control
	Date:  13 Feb 89

	Anyone remember the Act Sirius 1 machine?  It was expensive,
	powerful, and pre-PC, and totally failed to take off (despite
	impressive graphics).

	Anyway, the story was reported that many users complained of
	inability to boot off the supplied system disks.  The response
	was always the same -- the user must have caused magnetic
	damage.  Apparently, they claimed that a common source of this
	was to leave the disks next to an old (mechanical bell)
	telephone for more than six rings!

	Eventually the truth came out - they were indeed shipping blank
	system disks!  Someone in Quality Control went quite red!

	From:  [email protected] (Donald Benson)
	Subject:  How to dry a floppy
	Date:  14 Feb 89

	Someone I know well got his floppies wet in a leaking car trunk.
	Since they were drying slowly, he tried spinning them up in the
	drive (the reasoning being that the shell would puff out
	slightly and let air circulate.)  The drive squeaked a while,
	then became silent.  But it still wouldn't read.  The tech said
	he had never seen the drive belt fall off before...

	8" floppies take a week to dry.

	From:  [email protected]
	Subject:  Fixing a tape drive

	This may not be overly funny but I get a major kick out of it.
	A long time ago, I was a computer maintenance tech in NORAD's
	Cheyenne Mountain Complex working on the long gone Philco 1000
	and 2000 systems.  For those who have never owned one of these
	cuties, they were designed in 1959 (I think) and were
	constructed of discrete transistors, as ICs hadn't been invented
	yet.  We're talking room size machines.

	The tape drives were a mix of transistors and vacuum tubes
	(6AU6's, 12AU7's on the picker cleat driver, 807's in the servo
	amps, I think).  Since the tubes needed a warm up period and the
	transistors didn't, the tape drive power supplies had a
	complicated startup sequence using some largish relays.

	One day, I got a call about a tape drive (transport in those
	days) that was acting very bizarre.  As soon as they hit the on
	switch, the tape reels would take off in opposite directions and
	stretch the 1" tape down to a little thread about 1/16" in
	diameter before it broke.  (The motors were slightly larger than
	a car's starter - no joke)

	As I entered the computer room, I was met with several high
	ranking types scratching heads.  I listened to the complaints,
	watched the transport go crazy for a bit, and went to work.
	Without saying a single word, I shut the machine off and hit the
	left side of the power control panel (directly over the power-on
	sequence relay) with my fist.  I re-loaded a tape, turned on the
	power and watched everything come up OK.  I turned and left,
	still without a word.

	I later heard the comments about what was said...  Still later,
	I got a letter of commendation for the whole performance,
	believe it or not.

	I think I am prouder of that one moment than anything else that
	comes to mind.

	From:  [email protected] (The Computer Solution Co.)
	Subject:  Offensive mailing labels
	Date:  10 Feb 89

	In 1968, while attending a large, midwestern University, I
	worked in the Department for Administrative Research.  While
	providing design and programming assistance to the Alumni
	Records department, we ran into an interesting problem.

	The Alumni Records office desired to embed all kinds of
	information into the key value used to identify each of the
	school's alumni.  This led to a very long, unwieldy key value.
	When mailing labels were printed, both the key value and a
	special code used by the mailing machines was required on the
	top line of the label.  We ran out of space on the label.

	Not to worry!  This fancy computer (a "brand new" IBM 360/50
	running OS/PCP) could transform a numeric key value into an
	alphanumeric value by converting the alumni-record key from the
	too long base-10 number to a shorter base-36 number.  Just use
	all of the letters and digits!

	Just as we sat back to congratulate ourselves on serving the
	user's needs with the clever application of technology, we got a
	call from the mailing house...

	"Our delivery man just returned from the Post Office.  They
	won't take your mailing.  It looks like somebody tampered with
	your list.  You better get down here right away!"

	There, on top of one of the trays of mail was a label with the
	converted alumni record identifier.  It read something like ...

	       | 123FUCK69A4       MM  43210** |
	       | MISS INGRID BEASLEY  EDU. 29  |
	       |   ...                         |

	The mailing was instructing Miss Beasley to mark all further
	correspondence to the office of Alumni Records with her "new
	computer identifier code" shown on the label.  Needless to say,
	the Office of Alumni Records failed to see the humor in it all.
	We thought that at her age, Miss Beasley (Edu.  29) might
	actually take the "computer's mistake" as a complement!

	Thereafter, we were instructed to add the "DIRTY-WORD-ROUTINE"
	which performed a table lookup of every word which a committee
	of about a dozen of the raunchiest people in the department
	could come up with.  But what about short phrases?  And how
	about maintenance of the table?  Whose budget does this come out

	A student programmer, invited to a meeting to "see design in the
	real world" made an unwanted suggestion.  Just convert to
	base-31 and don't use vowels.  It worked.  The next year, they
	changed the alumni records identifier again.  I graduated.

	From:  [email protected] (Rich Strebendt)
	Subject:  SDS 920 stories
	Date:  13 Feb 89

	...This posting brought back to mind my experiences with an SDS
	machine one summer at a NASA base I worked at.  I believe the
	machine was an SDS 930, but I may be mistaken.

	It did not like to have its main memory cabinet door closed
	(crashing after a few moments if anyone had the timerity to
	close it!), so it always sat there with one door partly open.

	It had a card reader that was interesting.  It read the cards
	length-wise (column 1->80) rather than width-wise (row 9->12).
	So, if the cards were a little out of spec (low bidder on a
	government contract), it would either read two cards at a time,
	or eat one card at a time.  When one was eaten you could recover
	it from inside the reader -- neatly folded into a many-creased
	accordian that was cute to look at but impossible to read.

	The previous poster also mentioned that their machine did not
	like to awaken in the morning.  Here at the Indian Hill location
	of Bell Labs we had one machine that did not mind awakening, as
	long as it was not Monday.  It hated Monday mornings.  It was
	one half of a duplex pair of IBM 360/67's.  Each Monday the
	machines would be IPLed and each Monday the Left Half would come
	up all ready to work, while the Right Half balked and struggled
	and refused to come up for at least another hour.  The Comp
	Center staff tried all kinds of things to try to cure or get
	around the problem (let it run all weekend, lie to it and tell
	it that Monday was Tuesday, etc.), but it had that habit as long
	as I can remember working on it.

	From:  [email protected] (Jim Haynes)
	Subject:  Mount St. Helens
	Date:  14 Feb 89

	...Randy Rorden told me about another happening of this kind at
	the same company, when Greg was not there.  They got a disk
	drive in for repair and the filter was clogged with fine gray
	abrasive dust.  He asked where it had been, and found it had
	come from an office in Yakima, Wash.  At the time of the Mt.
	St.  Helens eruption!

	From:  [email protected] (Bob Calbridge)
	Subject:  Reading Colecovision cartridges
	Date:  13 Feb 89

	On another level of computing, a couple of years ago I designed
	and built a board for my S-100 system that would treat
	Colecovision game cartridges as if they were mapped input
	devices.  This way I was able to read the object code onto disk
	and eventually into memory.  I would then dis-assemble the
	program to find out how they worked.  I don't recall which game
	it was, but near the end of the code was the text reading
	something to the effect of:

	"If someone at Atari is reading this, please say hello to Jim

	The name is made up, but you get the point.  Similarly, you
	could find some names scattered in the code that never showed up
	in the game itself, and I seem to recall (though I'd have to go
	back and check) someone actually including a love note in the
	code as a dedication.

	From:  [email protected] (W.PATTERSON)
	Subject:  School pranks
	Date:  13 Feb 89

	The following story is true.  The names have been changed to
	protect the innocent.

	A computer repairman was one day called to a grade school to
	repair their no longer working computer.  When he opened up the
	processor, he found a thick coating of white dust covering every
	component within, i.e.  backplane, mother board and all other PC
	boards, housing walls, etc.  He had never seen any coating like
	this in any other computer.  The repair of the processor
	involved simply blowing out the dust.

	A few days later he was on another service call within the
	school for another computer.  Walking by the room that contained
	the unit he had previously fixed, he decided to peek into the
	room to see how it was doing.  What he saw explained the white
	dust.  He saw several boys beating the chalk board erasers next
	to the fan in the unit, and watching the unit suck the dust

	From:  [email protected] (SYG)
	Subject:  PDP-10 mistakes
	Date:  13 Feb 89

	The science division in CCNY had a PDP-10 ("DEC System 10", that
	is) for general use.  One problem was that people were
	complaining that they were logging in and all their files were
	gone!  The problem was simple:  what happened when they logged
	out previously.

	To logout, the command is KILL or K and an option.  K/I would
	log you out after querying you about what to do with each of
	your files.  K/F would happily log you out fast and keep all
	your files.  K/D would happily log you out and delete all your
	files...  the D key is right next to the F key...

	From:  [email protected] (David Dyer-Bennet)
	Subject:  More PDP-10 stories
	Date:  13 Feb 89

	...Here's a folk tale.  The person who told me says he was
	there, and I believe him.

	Several/many years ago, when Tops-10 was the most exciting
	operating system at DEC (that is, before Tops-20), and when
	ANF-10 was considered networking (hmmm...  I guess it still
	would be), some interesting hacks were perpetrated.  My favorite
	two stories:

	The ANF-10 nodes were PDP-11's, some serving as terminal
	concentrators, some as front-ends to the 10's.  A person made
	some modifications to the code to run in the terminal
	concentrator version so that, if you asked to be connected to a
	node that wasn't currently available, it would respond "That
	node is not available.  Would you care to play Adventure while
	you wait?", and was in fact prepared to play adventure if

	The "reverse video" hack:  this was done "to" a particular
	person that people didn't much like.  The terminal concentrator
	code was changed to make his terminal work backwards.  "Home"
	was the bottom right corner.  Carriage return returned you to
	the rightmost column.  Line feed moved you up a line.  And so
	forth.  The terminal escape sequences were parsed, interpreted,
	and reissued suitably modified.

	I probably once knew who the perpetrators (and victims) were,
	but it's all lost in the mists of time for me now.  Sorry for
	not giving proper credit.

	From:  [email protected] (T. Tim Hsu)
	Subject:  Definition of double capacity
	Date:  12 Feb 89

	A friend of mine from Akron University once told me this

	While working as a lab consultant, he was approached by a woman
	(a business major) who was having problems with an IBM PC drive.
	So he goes over to the machine to examine it.  It seems that the
	drive performed correctly, but took ten times longer than usual
	to retrieve the proper information.  Upon examination of the
	drive itself, he noticed TWO diskettes had been shoved into the
	drive (which happens to be a difficult feat).  Her explanation?
	"I thought it would double the capacity."

	He also told me about the time someone put a 3.5" disk into a
	5.25" drive...  They had to take the machine apart to retrieve
	the broken pieces.

	From:  [email protected] (Michael Meissner)
	Subject:  Copying tapes
	Date:  11 Feb 89

	One day about 3 years back, a problem was reported with one of
	the AOS/VS system programs, which is fairly routine.  The person
	in development asked the customer support person (in a different
	city) for a copy of the tape that demonstrated the problem.
	Evidently, the customer support person was still learning the
	ropes, because he/she put the tape on an office copier, and sent
	up a photocopy of the tape (rather than a magnetic copy).

	We all got a laugh out of it.  To make things even better, the
	OS person was able to tell from the paper label on the tape that
	not enough information was supplied, and that we would have to
	ask the customer for the requisite info.

	From:  [email protected] (Larry Lippman)
	Subject:  Fun with paper tape
	Date:  12 Feb 89

	During the 1970's my organization used quite a bit of punched
	tape.  In fact, in a storeroom there are still about a dozen
	VERY expensive rolls of unused metallized mylar punched tape
	which we used for creation of, ahem, archive tape records.  The
	definition of "archive" media sure has changed, huh?

	We still have a thermal punched tape splicer, along with a rack
	that has a high-speed Remex tape reader and punch.  None of this
	stuff has seen use in at least five years, but I have not had
	the heart to order its disposal.

	I did, however, concede to changing times, and junked our
	Decision Data 8020 interpreting card reader/punch about 4 years
	ago when we axed an PDP-11/44.  I remember when that card
	reader-punch was ordered in 1974 at a cost of around $8K.  It
	was our only card device which was shared among development
	systems when necessary.  We even designed a custom interface
	using an 8080 with software driver so that it could run on
	either an 11/03 QBUS or on UNIBUS.  We wanted interpreting
	capability, in addition to having a standalone keypunch (which
	the 8020 would also do), so we never bought any native DEC card

	In one lab where we had two ASR-33's, which have now been gone
	for several years, a piece of oiled punched paper chad will
	STILL worm its way out of the baseboard moulding every once and
	a while.  Unfortunately, more than one chad box was accidentally
	dumped -- so the floor has been well "seeded" over the years.

	From:  [email protected] (Hans Aberg)
	Subject:  Troubles with computer music
	Date:  12 Feb 89

	A computer musician who lives up in Ithaca, NY, told the
	following story:

	He tried out his Macintosh MIDI equipment, and everything worked
	perfectly.  In those days, in the early mid-eighties, one had to
	rely on 512K, and an external disk drive (no hard drive).

	Then he went up to Chicago (?)  for a performance for an
	audience.  He picked up all the equipment on the stage -- it
	didn't work at all.

	So the next couple of hours he tried to figure out what is
	wrong, and the audience started to show up...

	But then, Aha!, somebody discovered that the external disk drive
	was placed on the left side of the Macintosh -- not on the right
	side, as it should according to the manual.  The Mac has its
	transformers on the left side, and their magnetic field
	interfered with the drive.

	So they moved the drive over to the right side, everything all
	of a sudden working perfectly, and the performance was carried
	in land.

	From:  [email protected] (Curtis Jackson)
	Subject:  Misc computer stories
	Date:  11 Feb 89

	...A disgruntled employee at NavOCEANO (Naval Ocean Office, I
	believe) across the street from me when I worked at NORDA (Naval
	Ocean R&D Activity) decided to get even with the locals.

	There was a large Univac installation there, and some
	ultra-high-speed card readers.  He hollowed out an entire box of
	punch cards (about 2.5 feet of cards, for all you youngsters)
	and filled them with old old old bananas.  He then submitted
	this deck as a job.  The operators were used to multi-box jobs,
	so they usually just picked up the entire box of cards and
	dumped them in the high-speed readers.  It took over 3 weeks of
	maintenance before the reader was working reliably again, and
	the control room reeked of banana for weeks afterwards...

	When crucial data on tape was lost at my university, the gurus
	in the computer room would retrieve as much data as possible,
	then fill in the gaps by soaking the tapes in a solution that
	made the individual bits show up as 1 or 0 (dark or light) under
	a magnifier.  They'd then hand-assemble the missing sections
	from the visual inspection.

	I once spent an entire night (over 12 hours) trying to get my
	compiler (working up to that point) to work again so I could
	work on it some more for my compilers course.  At the end, I had
	reduced the problem down to a program (C code) that basically
	declared an integer "i", said "i=5", then printed "i".  The
	program printed a floating-point number...  I was so angry I got
	the idiot who had been mucking around with the C compiler from
	Bell Labs in the lab at 7am on Sunday morning to fix the damned

	Our aged PDP-10 finally died one weekend when we had an
	unusually hot Sunday (there was no operator support on Sundays
	until 6pm) and it turned out the fall leaves had never been
	cleared from the AC vents by the university physical plant.  The
	temperature got over 100 degrees F in the computer room, and the
	old CPU on the 10 wouldn't even whimper afterwards.

	It's amazing how many of us remember the "Good Ole Days" --
	didn't you hate patching paper tape?  Yeecchhh.

	From:  [email protected] (Scott Fisher)
	Subject:  Various office stories
	Date:  11 Feb 89

	No joke.  I have seen at least one letter sent to the software
	support group of a DBMS company that said, "I have included a
	copy of my disk as per your request," only to find a photocopy
	attached to the letter.  They did copy both sides, at least.

	This is the same company (my wife worked there) where an irate
	customer couldn't save his records to disk.  The error message
	he reported would only have appeared on a full disk, but he
	claimed that he checked the space remaining and it was "okay".
	Turns out that the program he ran to check remaining space on a
	disk drive returned the amount of free space, expressed in
	Kbytes.  A full disk, therefore, returned the string 0k (where 0
	= zero).

	Then there was the customer who complained because the new
	software release wouldn't print.  This customer just *knew* he'd
	caught the software company in a bug and he was demanding his
	money back.  My wife stepped through the whole process, set up a
	duplicate system on her end of the phone, and spent a fair
	amount of time duplicating his situation.  At last she
	determined that the only possible failure was that his printer
	wasn't on line.

	"I've managed to duplicate your error message," she finally told
	him after about three days of this.

	"Aha!  It *is* a bug, and you'll finally admit it!  Are you
	going to refund my money?"

	"Well, we'll see," she said.  "First, look on your printer and
	see if the little green light marked 'on line' is lit."

	"No, it isn't.  What does it mean if it's not on line?"

	"Well, it's like the lights are on but nobody's home..."

	He never asked for his money back again.

	From:  [email protected] (Auntie Dion)
	Subject:  Alfred E. Newman
	Date:  11 Feb 89

	I was at UoM from 1967-1975...

	The operating system was derived from the University of Michigan
	and had the peculiarity that every job required output, both
	printer and punch.  This was even if the job bombed completely.
	An ABEND was okay as it gave a core dump, but a bad set of cards
	wouldn't result in anything, so...  The systems people arranged
	in this circumstance to insert a computer picture of Alfred E.
	Neumann, with the caption, "What me worry", into the output
	stream.  Also, each compilation that didn't succeed resulted in
	a card placed in the punch stream with "FAILED" in block

	The day came when the Board of Regents toured the computer
	center with its several million dollar computer.  As a Regent
	was looking at the printer it just so happened that a bunch of
	jobs in a row all failed, leaving the line printer printer about
	20 pictures of Alfred for the Regents to view.

	The FAILED cards we'd collect and paper our offices with.

	From:  [email protected] (Auntie Dion)
	Subject:  More code comments
	Date:  11 Feb 89

	The Version 6 UNIX kernel source had two very wonderful comments
	(realize UNIX has extremely few comments):

	In the first it is discussing the mechanics of what in
	retrospect is the point where, in C, the CPU switches kernel
	stacks and resumes executing a previous process.  The comment is
	about 8 lines long and ends, "you are not expected to understand

	Then there is the comment, "The return value of this function
	has special significance," and it returns either 0 or 1, not
	very special.

	From:  [email protected] (Auntie Dion)
	Subject:  Starting up computers
	Date:  11 Feb 89

	Long before there was DEC we had an SDS 920 computer.  These had
	printed circuit cards with gold plated contacts and gas tight
	connectors.  They were a bitch to reseat.  You had to pound them
	into the socket with a mallet.  One day, as were were reseating
	the card a senior executive wandered by and saw what was
	happening and said, "I've heard of kicking coke machines but
	this is ridiculous!"

	The same computer also must have been pregnant as it had
	"morning sickness".  In the morning when we turned it one, it
	wouldn't work until we let it warm up for a half an hour.

	Then there was the time it broke.  Most of it still worked but
	the shift instructions wouldn't work, we called it a shiftless

	Then there was the Army tech that was lazy and dropped a screw
	driver [so he says] from the Supply bus to the AC line and fried
	every transistor in the computer.  In shipping it back to the US
	of A for repair, it was accidentally pushed off of a loading
	dock.  We learned about how to do auto body work on a computer.

	Poor SDS 920, last I heard it was still serving our country in a
	nameless rural area and the technicians go out to Radio Shack to
	buy transistors to repair it.

	From:  [email protected] (Clayton Cramer)
	Subject:  Excessive Use Of Computers?
	Date:  22 Feb 89

	A recent sign of the extensive use of computers in areas
	heretofore not considered as needing a computer:

	    One of the EEs that works here asked me for some help
	    figuring out how to read a 3.5" floppy disk.  "I tried it in
	    a Mac, but it couldn't read it."  "What sort of computer did
	    it come out of?", I innocently asked.  "A Brother knitting

	Knit one, pearl two, write FAT to disk, service mouse
	interrupts, knit one, pearl two...

	From:  [email protected] (Carl Wuebker)
	Subject:  How to bug an operator
	Date:  19 Feb 89

	In the early 1970's at Georgia Tech there lived a Univac 1108
	running under the Exec 8 operating system.  The 1108 had
	commands that began with an @, and they would hang up the
	terminal until you were done.  So, for example, an:

		@MSG,W Operator, please mount tape 1234...

	would send a message to the operator, but wouldn't return
	control to your terminal until the operator replied.  Anyway,
	some fellow at Univac got the idea of double-@ commands, which
	would allow you to play through while the single @ commands were
	working -- kind of like the & feature of Unix.

		@@MSG,W Operator...

	would allow you to go on, but required the operator to answer a
	console question.  After our "new" OS was installed, the Rich
	Electronic Computer Center published a bulletin about how to use
	this new feature.  Soon afterwards, a student filled a file with
	4K of these operator reply statements and started it...

	Results -- the operator's console was flooded with messages, all
	of which required a reply.  He had to bring the machine down,
	dump the memory, and reboot.  The next morning, the system staff
	went through the dump and removed the student's login from the

	From:  [email protected] (Trent Wohlschlaeger)
	Subject:  Fixing a keyboard
	Date:  21 Feb 89

	True Story:

	I worked as a student "computer consultant" for Austin College
	(no, not UT) during my undergrad years.  One Saturday the entire
	Organic Chem class was in trying to do some simulated analysis
	of compounds.  A (minor) friend and (major) crush of mine walked
	in to find all the terminals in use, so I took her down to the
	machine room to allow her to use one of the terminals there.

	I think the terminal was an ADM-something with a detached
	keyboard.  At any rate, the keyboard started acting up, causing
	the program to simulate all sorts of tests she didn't want.
	After jiggling the cord several times, which fixed the problem
	for about 1.5 minutes each, I finally stated that it needed
	"manual adjustment", picked the keyboard up, lowered it a
	carefully eyed 2 inches, and dropped it to the desktop.

	It worked fine for the next 4 hours until I left.  She looked at
	me as if I was some sort of computer god.  Of course, she still
	wouldn't go out with me!

	From:  [email protected] (Larry Nathanson)
	Subject:  Excessive computerphobes
	Date:  21 Feb 89

	While a counselor at a computer/circus camp (I won't get into
	elaborating on it, or I'll forget the funny story - inquiries
	taken by mail) a few years ago, there were a few campers that
	would choose only one program.  One girl "Natasha" was extremely
	interested in the high wire, and deathly afraid of the computer
	rooms.  Room 1 was around 25 PC's, Room 2 was //e's, and Room 3
	was a bunch of Mac 128's...  (That was HIGH tech then....)

	Anyway, on the last day of the two week session, it's the
	nastiest thunderstorm Inland Conn had seen, which means the
	kiddies are all indoors for the day...  The highwire is swinging
	like the surface of the pool, and the trapeze is spewing debris
	all over the fields...  Most of the campers are rather content
	to be indoors, and after MUCH coaxing, we get Natasha to draw a
	picture on the "cute little harmless computer"...

	Wouldn't you know it -- Natasha has just finished her cute
	little doggie picture and she gets daring, and figures out that
	the "A" symbol means letters, and she's going to title her
	creation...  All of a sudden there is a HUGE CRASH -- lightening
	strikes the transformers outside...  As she touches it, the
	keyboard starts smoking, and the image of her picture melts down
	the screen, with black smoke pouring out of the vents on top.
	This poor girl was so traumatized that she'll NEVER touch a Mac
	so long as she lives!

	By the way, the lightbulbs overhead exploded, the //e
	motherboards were OK, but their power supplys were black inside,
	and smelled like a campfire...  they all had to be replaced.
	Half/2 the Macs were wrecked violently -- smoking keyboards,
	etc...  the other half just needed new fuses...  And the grand
	finale -- the IBM's were a total loss, and some of the IBM color
	monitors had flames coming out of the top...

	I was told Natasha ran so far it took a half hour to catch
	her...  As I remember it, I got a fire extinguisher, and was
	having a blast dousing the IBM's...  However, knowing
	"selective" memory being what it is, I was probably crouching
	under a bench somewhere...

	From:  [email protected] (Georges Lauri)
	Subject:  Abusive users
	Date:  20 Feb 89

	...I used to work in a company doing workstations for stock and
	commodity brokers.  These things are their bread and butter:  if
	they don't work, they can't do *a thing*.  They thus tend to get
	frustrated easily.

	One of them calls, and says, "No matter what I type, it doesn't
	work".  Get the machine exchanged, the keyboard is hopelessly
	damaged.  A couple of days later, the same thing happens.  We
	discovered that the guy used his *telephone handset* to bang on
	the keyboard to flip pages.

	The competition -- obviously from similar experiences -- had
	keyboards encased in sheetmetal, with very tough springs; these
	people only hit one key at a time anyway, and didn't touch type,
	so that was OK...

	In a similar vein, a frustrated customer had, on a bad trade,
	*ripped* his console from the data feed -- the back panel was
	still hanging to the wall outlet.  We got bit by this again when
	we introduced mice on our systems:  now *they* were getting
	banged up by people using them do dial the phone!!

	To solve all these problems, we had to install routines to
	detect keyboard banging (lots of keys pressed too quickly in
	succession) and mouse banging (that took some work) and beep
	*real loud* -- they'd get embarrassed and not do it anymore.
	Abuse management -- a whole new area in user interfaces!

	From:  [email protected] (Dave Lord)
	Subject:  Orientation dependent systems
	Date:  20 Feb 89

	One of the guys who used to work here had been a field engineer
	for many years.  (That means he used to repair computers.)  One
	of the machines he used to work on was one of those large
	beasties, about 5 feet high and six or seven feet long.  To get
	at the innards you opened up the hinged doors on the sides.  The
	"memory unit" was also hinged and to work on it you had to open
	it out so it was at a 90 degree angle to its normal position.

	Anyway, there was this particular machine that was getting
	_lots_ of memory errors.  But of course when they opened it up
	to test it, it worked fine.  They tried various things like
	cleaning the vents, cleaning the connectors and replacing
	various parts, but to no avail.  When the memory unit was folded
	out at a 90 degree angle it worked fine, when it was closed it
	got memory errors.  Finally, in desperation, they closed it up
	and turned the whole processor so that it was at a ninety degree
	angle to its original position.  Supposedly it never had a
	problem again.

	They explained to the customer that the machine had "East-West

	From:  [email protected] (Gabe M Wiener)
	Subject:  Novice engineering students
	Date:  20 Feb 89

	Several years ago I was working as an instructor at a computer
	camp.  I was assigned to teach the introductory class in TTL
	logic and peripheral design.  So there I was, explaining the TTL
	high and low states.  "Five volts represents the 'high' state or
	a binary 1, and zero volts represents the 'low' state, or a
	binary 0."  And I went on and on explaining the various TTL
	Gates (AND, NOR, NAND, etc).  Finally, I got to the Inverter (or
	NOT gate).  I explained that if you put 5 volts into it, you'll
	get 0 volts out, and if you put 0 volts into it you'll get 5
	volts out.  To this, one person replied:

	"Wouldn't that thing be awfully useful during a power failure?"

	From:  [email protected] (Dave Turner)
	Subject:  Operator mistakes
	Date:  18 Feb 89

	Whenever we used to make major changes to our operating system
	or transaction processing system we were required to repeat a
	prior day's business to prove the the system was ready for

	Until about 10 years ago, we would do this by copying all the
	databases and tapes for a day and run a series of tests on
	Saturdays.  All the production terminal operators would be at
	their terminals typing exactly the same things that they had
	typed on the day being repeated.

	All this was very expensive and error prone.  Usually the tests
	would cause a crash a few minutes after they started.

	On one memorable day in 1976 the test was running very smoothly.
	The computer room was filled with onlookers:  operations people,
	systems programmers, bigshots, vendor representatives, etc.

	The console operator was continuously displaying the status of
	the system.  One common command was to display all the jobs in
	the system:

		$dj 1-999

	Everyone was pleased that the test was going so well until
	around 4 PM when all the jobs suddenly stopped running.

	Concern turned to elation when the console operator confessed
	that he had mistakenly typed:

		$cj 1-999

	Which *cancelled* all the jobs in the system!

	From:  [email protected] (ferguson ct 71078)
	Subject:  Computer welding
	Date:  18 Feb 89

	...The 4th-hand version of this story I heard regarded the first
	mounting of a large capacity disk drive on a ship.  The teller
	(known to occasionally exaggerate) claimed that the disk was a
	particularly high volume model for its era and was about three
	feet in diameter (I have difficulty believing this).  He claimed
	that the gyroscopic forces for such a large rotating mass were
	sufficient to warp the ship's decks as the ship rocked and
	heaved while underway.

	A first-hand story:  this one actually happened to me.  When I
	was a student at the University of Texas, I was employed at a
	computer lab programming one of the early generation desktop
	computers.  The machine was an 8080 (later Z80) CP/M machine
	with an S-100 bus in an IMSIA (sp?)  cabinet.  The IMSIA cabinet
	was about the size of a modern IBM-PC but about twice as high.
	The chassis was aluminum with a steel cover.  The power cord for
	the system entered the cabinet through the rear and was
	connected directly to a terminal strip (two parallel rows of
	screws in a heavy piece of bakelite).  The terminal strip was
	mounted on the backplane of the cabinet which was a sheet of
	aluminum about 1/8" thick.

	Well one day I was merrily typing away on a terminal when an
	hair-raising event occurred.  A jet of fire and sparks spewed
	out of the rear of the computer cabinet accompanied by brilliant
	ultraviolet light.  It was as though someone had started up an
	arc welder inside the computer.  The lab filled with ozone and
	smoke.  The welding continued for about a two full seconds
	before it ceased of its own accord.  It took a couple of minutes
	to get my heart out of my throat and get up the nerve to unplug
	the machine.  When I examined the computer I found a 3/8" hole
	in the aluminum backplane of the computer which had obviously
	been torched out.  The desk was covered with molten globules of
	aluminum which hardened into little pills.

	The computer lab was in a building filled with engineering labs
	which contained all kinds of heavy equipment.  Apparently one or
	more large machines had been switched on or off and a hell of a
	big power spike had come down the line.  Evidently one of the
	screws in the computer's terminal strip was just a little bit
	too long and the tip of the screw was just a little bit too
	close to the aluminum backplane of the cabinet which was
	grounded of course.  This closeness allowed the power spike to
	arc between the tip of the screw and the backplane.  The arc
	continued until the hole it was melting in the backplane grew
	too large to sustain the arc.

	The amazing part of this story was that the computer was
	completely unharmed save some cosmetic damage.  Even the fuses
	were intact (they were "downstream" from the terminal strip).
	Furthermore, the building fuse hadn't blown.  Basically, after
	about ten minutes to get my nerve back, I plugged the computer
	back in, cleaned the aluminum pills off my desk, and went back
	to work like nothing had happened.  Try that with your Taiwan
	clone!  (Later on I trimmed down all the screws in the power

	From:  [email protected] (Yuval Kfir)
	Subject:  What is the definition of "crash"
	Date:  17 Feb 89

	I was told the following story by a friend, but the details are
	probably mixed up -- if someone remembers them correctly they
	are welcome to put me right.  It happened at an ILA conference
	(those are the Hebrew initials of called in English), two or
	three years ago:  Some time after the conference began, a man
	came up hysterically to the DEC representatives (where DEC's
	display was on), and told them that the computer had crashed.
	Without even thinking, they told him, "Just reboot it then,
	what's the problem?".

	"No, you don't get it -- I was just unloading it from the van
	here, and..."  (I think it was a VAXstation, God rest its soul).

	From:  [email protected] (John Lynch)
	Subject:  Getting free credit
	Date:  17 Feb 89

	I recall a story from the 1970's, told by a friend at the time,
	about a phone bill.

	The local phone company, NJ Bell, would include a keypunch card
	with your bill.  The card included the standard information
	about the customer and the bill amount.  This friend of mine
	took the phone bill card to keypunch and added an overpunch to
	the the bill amount making it a negative number.  He sent in a
	check for the regular amount with the altered card.  When he
	received his next month's bill there was a credit for his
	payment and a credit from his previous balance due.

	He never told me if the phone company ever caught on or not.

	From:  [email protected] (Tom Kimpton)
	Subject:  Why you don't say yes automatically
	Date:  17 Feb 89

	When we were first porting UN*X to our hardware we often had
	crashes that would leave the file system in a state of disarray.
	Going through the fsck routine of being asked if we wanted to
	clear the file, etc., got to be a hassle.  So one of the
	programmers added a "-y" option to fsck that would print out yes
	to the question (so you could see what was going on),
	automatically clear the file in question and continue.

	It was very handy.  It cut reboot times down dramatically.
	Until the first time "/" was corrupted:  Directory "/"
	corrupted, do you wish to remove?  YES Directory "/" removed.
	"-y" was removed forthwith.

	From:  [email protected] (Miles O'Neal)
	Subject:  A good way to waste a programmer's time
	Date:  17 Feb 89

	The *old* Compucolor (or whoever Intecolor used to be) computers
	were pretty nice for writing neat games in; their BASIC was very
	flexible and graphics-oriented.  A friend (hi, Nick) at Tech and
	I were playing around, getting the computer to do all kinds of
	neat (to us, then) stuff, and Nick found a very obscure feature:
	ANY character could be placed in a comment.  So we wrote a
	program that did all kinds of neat stuff on the screen, and then
	stopped for a moment (with keyboard locked) displaying, "Read
	the code and see if you can figure this one out!"

	The memory mapped display was fast.  The code was as compact
	(i.e., spaghetti code) as we could make it, crammed onto 1 LONG
	line, followed by a comment that had as its first characters the
	ones to return to beginning of line and clear to eol, and then
	the following:

	10 REM Read the code and see if you can figure this one out!

	When you tried to print the source to the screen, it happened so
	fast the eye registered nothing but the final comment.  A lot of
	grad students (not to mention undergrads) wasted a LOT of time
	trying to figure this one out!

	From:  [email protected]
	Subject:  How to damage a keyboard
	Date:  17 Feb 89

	There was a letter to the editor of BYTE in its early days that
	went something like this:

	"You said in your beginners column of <month/year forgotten>
	that nothing I could enter at the keyboard would harm my
	computer at all.

	"Well, I entered a Coke at the keyboard, and believe me it did
	some kind of damage."

	From:  [email protected] (Kevin Ferguson)
	Subject:  Why you don't put program developers in PR
	Date:  15 Feb 89

	DISCLAIMER:  So help me God, this is the absolute truth.  I
	should know, because I was there.

	Many moons ago (1982), I was on contract as a P/A to one of
	those credit card companies that shall remain nameless.  I was
	attached to the project that was completely rewriting the
	billing process.  The approved implementation included a massive
	number of database tables that the Credit Department would
	maintain to control their billing cycles, appearance of the
	statement for different types of customers, interest charge
	calculation, and so on, ad nauseum.

	Well, as the project trundled on toward completion, the end user
	became aware of the manpower effort that would be required to
	initialize all of these tables.  (In retrospect, their reaction
	was really quite excessive.)  Our illustrious Project Manager
	said at the time, "No problem.  We'll just promote the TestBed
	environment."  I'm sure that you can imagine our reaction, as
	the mischievous minds of programmers tend to generate humorous
	testing environments.

	Sure enough, despite all of the programmers's and testers's
	objections, the TestBed environment was promoted to Production
	"...with those changes that are deemed necessary by the Credit
	Department."  Apparently, they did not catch all of the
	"necessary changes" because in the first week, the Credit
	Department mailed 1,500 statements to delinquent customers with
	the Reminder Notice:  "Pay up, or we'll rape your wife."

	Judging by the memo that was distributed to the MIS Department
	following this debacle, the rest of the organization failed to
	see the humor in this.

	From:  [email protected] (Eric Moffatt)
	Subject:  Student pranks
	Date:  13 Feb 89

	This reminds me of a particularly nasty trick we (myself and a
	fellow named Mike something) played in High School (1972?).  In
	our FORTRAN course all of the students's card decks were packed
	in boxes and shipped out to run at some magic computer elsewhere
	in the city; turnaround was about 2 days.  Well, Mike was
	somewhat of a system hack and had "discovered" that there was a
	way to read all other JCL (yep, IBM) in a deck as data.  We just
	had to try it out.

	I wrote a super simple parser (scan a line for READ, WRITE,
	DO...)  and an output formatter which did a fair job of
	duplicating the real compiler's output.  We just slipped the
	"special" JCL in at the start of the deck and viola...  the
	students received realistic looking compiles but with fake error
	messages like, "READ statement in wrong place" or, "You cannot
	WRITE here".  Well, the instructor just didn't know what to make
	of this (he was new to this stuff too) and we finally had to
	'fess up.  As I remember it I got one of my very few detentions
	for costing the class a whole computer run but it was worth it
	to see the teacher's face.