back to article BOFH: Never mind that old brick, look at this ink-stained BEAUTY

*Crash!* "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, I appear to have accidentally nudged it off the table" I say, as tears well up in the owner's eyes. "I've had that since university!" he gasps. "I didn't think they made 150 DPI scanners in the neolithic era – or had scanners," I sniff. "It was perfect," he wails, dropping to his knees …

  1. Ralph B


    For younger readers, I think this and this are what we are reading about.

    For older readers, here's some more old stuff to get misty-eyed about.

    1. Locky Silver badge

      Re: LP05

      Our entire payments were run off one of these.

      The insides were laced with razor-sharp shards to teach the PFY's of the day to be careful where they put their hands....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: LP05

      Ooh yes, I remember those, the Dataproducts version at least. We had two; an upper-case-only one which did 600LPM and one which did both upper and lower case at 300LPM. The latter didn't have room on the drum for a space character, so I had to hack the VMS print symbiont to convert space into a non-printing ASCII code.

      Both made a distinctive sound when printing VMS banner pages, so the operator always know when one job had finished and the next started.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: LP05

        hack the VMS print symbiont

        Ah, happy memories. Getting it to handle all the wheels on a Qume daisywheel...

        Sadly, I too would have got excited about finding an LP05.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: LP05

      I remember seeing these in action printing phone bills - the fanform paper exiting at the top would reach about 18 inches feet above the printer before curving back down to the output tray.

    4. KA1AXY

      Re: LP05

      OEM'd by DEC from DataProducts, no?

      1. ukgnome Silver badge

        Re: LP05

        Reading this has made my muscle memory kick in, and I am now rubbing my fingers expecting to find a razor thin slice.

    5. FeRDNYC

      Re: LP05

      On that page you linked to, right below the LP05 there's a photo of the LP25 which, as Computerworld of March 31, 1980 notes, was "a 285 line/min band printer that features programmable read-only memory (Prom) band control and self-diagnostics. The LP25 is priced about 39% lower than its predecessor". But could it mutilate anyone, accidentally or even deliberately? I think not! Bah.

      In all seriousness, though, the real beauty on that page is a couple of spots above the LP05 — the HP 82143, a compact, tabletop thermal printer that interfaced to the HP-41 calculator. (Or "hand-held computer", as HP had already begun to pretentiously style them by 1981.) Yeah, you had to keep it supplied with cash register rolls, and the output had all of the typical thermal-printing drawbacks, but it was still a marvel for its time.

  2. AbelSoul

    Perfect way...

    ... to draw an otherwise stressful Friday to a close.

    I was smiling through most of that, cheers.

    Almost pub 'o' clock.

  3. lawndart


    Hang on - I'm still using a PS2 keyboard on my test rig.

    And the only reason it plugs into the PS2 socket on the mobo is because there is a 5 pin DIN/PS2 adaptor halfway down the cable.

    Hmm. Wonder if Simon is interested...

    1. GBE

      Re: says:

      > Hang on - I'm still using a PS2 keyboard on my test rig.

      I'm stull using an IMB-AT keyboard on my main desktop at home, and works like it did when it was new.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: says:

        I'm using an (old model) IBM model M keyboard at work which uses a DIN connection. You have to use one converter to change this to a PS/2 and then another to convert to USB to allow me to plug it into a modern computer.

        The keyboard is older than the newer entrants to the workplace, and it does more useful work.

        1. Bluto Nash

          Re: says:

          Second for the Model M. Got it after I finally managed to break/wear my Northgate Omnikey 102. Best damn keyboard you'll find, and certainly suitable for getting a PFYs attention when necessary. (THWACK!) "what?"

          1. perlcat

            Re: says:

            Using the Gateway 2000 AnyKey keyboard. A thing of programmable beauty, good for many fun pranks when I worked for the CowCompany.

          2. bpfh Bronze badge

            Re: says:

            Ah, the Model M. I may still have 4 or 5 hanging around at my parent's place sitting in the attic for the last 17 years. The clack-clack-clack waking up people when coding at 3 AM in the morning. Priceless :D

      2. Toltec

        Re: says:

        > I'm stull using an IMB-AT keyboard on my main desktop at home, and works like it did when it was new.

        I have an old Fujitsu one, built back in the days when it was vital that your keyboard would still work after using it to beat someone to death.

        1. Fatman Silver badge

          Re: when it was vital that your keyboard would still work

          I have an old Fujitsu one, built back in the days when it was vital that your keyboard would still work after using it to beat someone to death.

          A good sturdy keyboard is an effective tool at getting manglement's attention.

        2. Callam McMillan

          Re: says:

          I used to have an early 90's Dell keyboard of a similar type. Alas it stopped working a few years back. Recently though I bought a clicky mechanical keyboard that's made of metal. My wife's not keen on the sound of it, but I love it.

      3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        Re: says:

        I'm using one from a Tandon 286 on my home PC. I prefer the positive feel of the old keyboards, you really know when you've pressed a key, and the weight keeps them from sliding around the desk. The kids say it's too much exercise. It's really easy to avoid the PS2/DIN converter by wiring in an old mouse cable.

    2. Viper1j

      Re: says:

      Hey Simon. I have a fully working C= 64 AND C128 along with 2 1571 drives and a 1581 drive. The 128 has the Z80 microprocessor and boots CP/M if you're interested. Also have a 1641 REU to kick one of them up to 128 mb of RAM. ;D

  4. Dave 32

    LP05?!? Why not an IBM 1403N1?

    Why not an IBM 1403 model N1? One of those would run rings around a LP05.

    Plus, the N1 model had an auto-cover-raise feature, to let the operator know when it was out of paper. That did wonders for people who stacked printouts on top of it, along with the stray cup of coffee or soda. ;-)


    1. Andy Davies

      Re: LP05?!? Why not an IBM 1403N1?

      Somewhere in the Midlands, in what by now is probably a desirable live/work conversion, there is an old Victorian iron pillar with the upper-case alphabet plus numerals stamped in a spiral around it.

      One day an engineer, either hung over or on a promise, did a rush job of inserting a custom character in the print chain (not drum in this case). Now IBM issued special sets of graduated fractional-ounce torque spanners so this job could be done properly, but they weren't used. On test the chain snapped, came straight through the printer casing and wrapped round said pillar, with the results described. Fortunately the engineer was not in the way - the chain would not have slowed measurably if he had been.

      I'd forgotten about bursters - jeez - I used to take home the cylinders of carbon paper and saw them up to fuel our solid fuel boiler!

  5. Bassey


    The wife just stuck her head into the study wondering what in earth was making me laugh so loudly. Best ending in a long while!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Awesome

      Amateur, my girlfriend has learned to ignore me when I do that.

  6. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    What shores? Mine's a pint thanks.

    ...and is responsible for most of my age-related deafness

    And there was me thinking that was more usually due to it being his round at the bar...

    A lovely way to end the week, especially when beer o'clock is nigh and I'm on holiday next week.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    What LP05 VAX-11/780 interface (LP20) ?

    Humm ... I suspect that Simon is beginning to lose the plot.

    The interface for an 11/780 would have been a fairly standard Unibus one (almost certainly a variant of the LP20 controller family) and was widely used on PDP-11's before the advent of the VAX range, so it would hardly have been rare at any time so even now probably not a collector's piece.

    In any case, like virtually any external peripheral from that era, the LP05 wasn't built by DEC (modified certainly, but OEM'd in almost all cases) - the LP05 was a Data Products device with a new coat of paint.

    Yes, mine's the duffle-coat with the DECUS Large Computing Group SIG pin on the lapel ... Thanks

    1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

      Re: What LP05 VAX-11/780 interface (LP20) ?

      I saw that ending from a mile away, even if the boss didn't. Very nice! Still, it might have been even better if a burster had been involved. Rotating blades with a tractor feed and rollers to catch loose clothing and body parts...

      1. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: What LP05 VAX-11/780 interface (LP20) ?

        "even better if a burster had been involved"

        Or a multi carbon splitter - all those lovely 'sandpaper' covered rollers. Ah, many's the happy moments I spent, wondering where the skin had gone from my fingertips. And screaming, of course. The days when technology had teeth and claws.

        We even had a compo going to see who could crank it up so the central column og carbon paper hit the ceiling!

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge

    What does El Reg know that we don't....

    Thanks for giving this to us on Friday... but after the article earlier this week, I'm wondering if I shouldn't just go sit on the grass with a beer and wait...

  9. Notas Badoff

    Ink... ink... the smell of ink...

    I still hoard toothbrushes. After I'd used one to lovingly defuzz a drum you wouldn't want to use that toothbrush again. But the print would be so sharp afterwards! Strangely though, the same people who wanted me to clean the drum for the improved printing wouldn't want me to touch the paper after that - blue/black fingers - so shift end was quiet for me, just tickling the holes in the digits and caressing the drummmmm......

  10. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    I bought a mech keyboard BECAUSE it came with a PS2 (though it does also work off the USB as well if required) and with the proper old school clicky keys because thats how I roll.

    If Simon wants I'm sure the company I did work experience at years and years ago still has a telex machine kicking round (it was an engineering company so prone to throwing things out only when there's money in it).

    As for hording.. I admit I only stick to vintage amplifiers and the like.

    1. Mycho Silver badge

      I am typing this on a proper clicky keyboard that is probably older than I am. From the days before AT became standard and long before it was re-ditched for PS/2.

      I will change my personal keyboard when I get my modded keyboard finished. I am happy to report I seem to have finished all of the hacksawing. What I really need now is to get on and bag the arduino kit for the next stage...

  11. WolfFan Silver badge

    I still have one very like that one

    It's attached to a Prime. Both it and the Prime still work.

    My cell phone is more powerful than the Prime and can print to an Epson WF-3540 which gives better output, faster, and quieter and much better looking, than the drum printer.

    We still have to use the Prime for a 'legacy' application, written in FORTRAN and assembler a long time ago. One day someone will have to replace it, except that the guy who wrote it retired 15 years ago and no-one still at the company wants to touch the code.

    1. Alistair Silver badge

      Re: I still have one very like that one

      oh dear.

      I've seen setups like that. In fact, punted the app into a Virtual Machine. Oddly vax runs well in vm. No idea why. The only hard part was getting the storage connections working over the virtio paths. We didn't have to get it printing though.

    2. FeRDNYC

      Re: I still have one very like that one

      "We still have to use the Prime for a 'legacy' application, written in FORTRAN and assembler a long time ago. One day someone will have to replace it, except that the guy who wrote it retired 15 years ago and no-one still at the company wants to touch the code."

      How did Y2K not slay that beast!?! Was it actually coded to properly handle 21st-Century dates? If so, I'm suitably impressed, but you'll probably have to dump it by 2038 when the 32-bit UNIX epoch rolls over. There's no way that code is using a 64-bit time_t.

  12. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    From a fully paid-up member of the BOFH guild.

    A clients high speed line printer* had stopped working. Back at the office I discovered that someone had spilled coffee (or possibly Coke) into it and not told anyone. I took out the motherboard and rinsed it under the tap while getting the crap loose with a paintbrush. When it was dry I found that the sugar in the coffee had eaten through one leg of a little capacitor. One replacement £0.50 cap. later and it was working again. We told the client that it was knackered and would cost a fortune to fix. I did a deal with my boss, he got the high speed printer and I got a little Epson dot matrix that would actually fit in my house. Plus some cash of course!

    *It might have been an Oki

  13. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward

    Oh yeah, sweet memories

    "Now the second engineer only has to come out after another 4 hours, there's no death of engineer penalty clause, (but I'm thinking about asking for one) so I've got to fill in some time. This guy's going to be a technical engineer, the sort that comes in with a raggedy tie where he got it caught in the drum printer at 3000 rpm a couple of years ago, and he'll have the grazes on the face that indicate that he didn't get the gate open in time...

    I know those sorts..."

    More please.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh yeah, sweet memories

      "I hang up - he'll call back. Meantime I open up a copy of "VMS BASTARD OPERATORS MANUAL FROM HELL" I'm reading the article I sent in about getting rid of those trouble users...

      "... Modify the user's password minimum from 6 to 32 letters, give the password a 1 day lifetime, set it so that they HAVE to use the password generate utility when they change their password (so their password will always be something that looks like vaguely pronouncable line-noise), add a secondary password with the same as the above, then redefine their CLI tables so that the only command that works is DELETE, and all other commands point to it."

      Beautiful. Shit I'm good."

      Dems was de days,

      1. oldcoder

        Re: Oh yeah, sweet memories


        You didn't redefine the "copy" command to "delete"?

        1. Mike 16 Silver badge

          Re: Oh yeah, sweet memories

          We set one boss's login to start a homebrew 6502 emulator, with MSFT BASIC preloaded. Of course, quitting BASIC logged him off. Another boss's custom setup added an "Are you sure?" prompt to every command, but the humor was lost on him, even when it asked of he was sure about that DIR command.

      2. bpfh Bronze badge

        Re: Oh yeah, sweet memories

        BOFH Classic. :) I still have the actual printed books :D

        Still, today, not enought Bzzzzzert .... or clickety-clickety.... or rm -r

        "Spare the rod and spoil the rm -r, that's what I always say"

  14. David 124

    Oh what a blast

    What a lovely end to the week.


    Approx. 180db at over 3metres..!!

    The bosses toothbrush was always useful to clean the drum before the month end invoice run.. Having replaced it... one hung-over morning the boss didn't notice.. LMAO..!!

    Or better still the PFY used one of the directors clothes brush.. No you cannot get the ink out of a white Armani suit...

    And with 2 going the print room was so damned loud you could creep up on anyone!! Oh what fun.. Especially when its you 'favourite' bean counter waiting for his URGENT report..

    Anyone ever hit the BBS and print the ASCII naked woman... Early porn.. caught the boss at this for his buddies once.. what a laugh...

    Well done... what a classic.. !! almost as good as the cattle-prod episode.. My boss used to read CW.. specifically the BOFH to see what I'd been up to.. Coincidentally I'd just wired the helpdesk weirdo's desk with a Taser and remote triggered it after lunch.. Nearly got caught..


  15. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    and now the battery life is about 93 days.

    Splutter!. That's a brilliant idea for retro-fitting.

    Anyone know if it's been done for real?

    1. Old_Polish_Proverb

      Re: and now the battery life is about 93 days.

      Binatone makes a model they call "The Brick"

  16. Darryl

    "stuff you leave outside an Oxfam shop before running like hell"

    Sitting in a pizza shop and people are starting at me wondering if I'm insane because of the laughing.

  17. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Brilliant, nice end of the week story

  18. Herby Silver badge

    Real BOFH's use EBCDIC.

    None of this silly DEC stuff. Of course my work wasn't on IBM stuff either. The drum printer I used was a nice XDS 7440 beast (oem'd from NCR). You could hear that thing get loud when it printed a line of $'s at the end of the job.

    We replaced it (it was leased) with a slower chain printer that "kinda" worked. I programed it to pint the chain sequence and the hammer force opened up the printer gate, stopping the printer. I didn't do that too often. Now I have a Centronics B300 printer which works quite nicely.

    Of course there is the 1132 printer (also EBCDIC) that was slow as molasses and only a 48 character set. We printed out pictures from the TV camera. It was a long time ago.

  19. eJ2095

    Oh Crap

    I saw one of these when i was 15 at my local council when i was doing work experience...

    And the noise

    Oh Crap that means i was the PFY.....

    Seem to remember wondering why they had the johnny cast away screen saver installed....

    Did spend a good 2 weeks copying Amiga games though lol... (Onto ICL branded disks)

    1. Francis Vaughan

      Re: Oh Crap

      I own a drum, amongst all the other bits in my garage. That makes me the hoarder, or maybe Simon.

      1. Simon Travaglia

        Re: Oh Crap

        I would be a hoarder if I had a drum. I would mount it on a plaque to remind me of the hours I would have to spend cleaning one with a toothbrush and isopropyl. (I worked for a Uni and isopropyl was like water in the science dept).

        Stuck in a room with a Printronix P600, another DEC (possibly) band printer and no hearing protection at all. I knew I wasn't going deaf because I could still hear the seeks of the Twin 8 inch floppies the students used to backup their data.

        Good times.

        But I loved that drum.

  20. M Gale

    PS2-USB adapters.

    And 5-pin DIN-PS2 adapters.

    I have 'em all. They're rarer than gold dust, and about as valuable.

  21. bed

    try printing a line of underscores...

    Ah! brings back memories... You could alter the page length via some dip-switches and 11 2/3" paper was almost A4. If you printed a whole line of the same character, underscores at the top and bottom of a table perhaps, then the thing would make a hell of a noise and nearly leap of the floor. Star-trek and naked ladies were fun to do... found a whole heap of them once in RP06 disk archive of a retired software guy.

    1. Simon Travaglia

      Re: try printing a line of underscores...

      We got a bunch of DECUS tapes in one time, and one of them has Fortran Carriage Control pictures in it. One of the programmers showed me the basics of it and another one of them had recently bought a scanner that slipped over the carriage of an imagewriter (or whatever the cheap(?) Mac dot matrix printer was).

      I scanned several pictures (the only ones I really recall were ones from the Blues Brothers Souvineer Songbook), kermitted them to the VAX, and wrote a program to convert them to FCC.

      THEN someone suggested I read up on Fourier transformations.

      I have no idea of how many ribbons I went through, late at night when noone was looking, but they were nice dark pictures...

  22. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Spent several hours with my face in a calcomp pen plotter once

    when it ate my tie - had to wait until security came wandering around the building for the fourth time and looked in at the window! Fortunately the off button was just within reach or I would have had a tattoo of a microchip on what would have been left of me. Amazingly over-engineered bit of kit.

  23. earl grey Silver badge

    "hoarding is a disgusting affliction"

    Well, colour me disgusting then.

    I still have a scar on the back of one hand from a burster and my place of punishment still use those LA36 printers.

    Ah, the big ribbons.... we used to re-ink those at one place. That was always fun, but it saved a lot of money (not that we ever saw any of it).

    All in all... it's beer time even on the weekend.

  24. Schultz

    Good one...

    building up all the way to the punchline.

  25. Ron Christian


    oddly enough, my first full time admin job was on an 11/780 with a drum printer. The drum was wearing out and some characters wouldn't print quite right. My first upgrade ever as an admin was swapping that thing out for a high speed band printer. Wow, those were the days.

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