back to article Sysadmin sank IBM mainframe by going one VM too deep

Welcome to another glimpse inside the dark-curtained (in)box that is "Who, me?" – El Reg's confessional column in which readers seek penance for sins of the past. This week, meet "George", who many years ago was one of two sysadmins in the office products division of a three-letter computer company. And was bored. Bored, bored …

  1. Dwarf Silver badge

    But you could issue commands to the VM hypervisor by prefixing your input with a special character, the default being a hashtag #.

    Its not a hashtag, its a hash. A hash was around well before someone added bit to it for some social media platform.

    Incidentally, since we call it a hash in the UK, but the Americans call it a pound and the social media companies are US based, why don't they call it a poundtag ?

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      On my UK keyboard, I have a pound symbol (Shift+3=£) , a dollar symbol (Shift+4=$) and a hash key (#). What does a US keyboard have? What do US people call a real pound (currency) symbol?

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        My US keyboard "has" a pound sign, as Shift-3 is #, but Shift-4 is still $, and we don't have a "£" key, so I had to copy-paste it from your post.

        We do call £ "pound" and this weekend I had to tell someone about the pound/shilling/pence system, as he was wondering about the "weird 3 part prices" in his vintage catalog.

        Also, my uni statistics teacher insisted it was called "octothorpe" as it had eight pointy-bits, and he was extremely pedantic. He's the only one to ever use that term.

        1. Woza
          Headmaster

          I must admit to having used "octothorpe" in user manuals - he's got company!

        2. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

          "Also, my uni statistics teacher insisted it was called "octothorpe" as it had eight pointy-bits, and he was extremely pedantic. He's the only one to ever use that term."

          I've come across "octothorpe" in the world of fonts.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "He's the only one to ever use that term."

          Octothorpe was coined by AT&T who invented the symbol so I wouldn't be surprised if they use it sometimes. Why leftpondians call it a pound sign is just an indication of their strangeness.

          1. kain preacher Silver badge

            Octothorpe was coined by AT&T who invented the symbol so I wouldn't be surprised if they use it sometimes. Why leftpondians call it a pound sign is just an indication of their strangeness

            It is believed that the symbol traces its origins to the symbol ℔, an abbreviation of the Roman term libra pondo, which translates as "pound weight"

            Coined yes, invented um no # was around for some time

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

          3. vtcodger Silver badge

            "Why leftpondians call it a pound sign ..."

            Because # is sometimes used as an abbreviation for a unit of weight/mass = to 453 grams still in use in the US. ("lb" is a lot more common in practice).

            The US hasn't had a currency called the pound for about 240 years. Canadians switched from pounds to dollars well over a century ago.

            1. onefang Silver badge

              "The US hasn't had a currency called the pound for about 240 years."

              And USA has been officially metric since the 1860s, but no one told the people. Too hard to learn a new system or some such excuse.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                ... but no one told the people

                The French devalued the franc in 1960, one new franc replacing 100 old francs. (And in due course, the by then not-so-new franc was replaced by the Euro.) But some of the older generation still discuss house prices in old francs (leading to confusion and/or panic in youngsters).

            2. jake Silver badge

              FWIW

              My local feed store still uses # for weight. And M for thousands ... So #M2 HogFin is a ton of hog finishing chow.

          4. Wzrd1

            "Why leftpondians call it a pound sign is just an indication of their strangeness."

            Well, that bifurcation of language occurred because those on the right side of the pond entirely failed to properly document the shared language until the year after a tax protest spiraled out of control into treason, which out of desperate self-protection, turned into a revolution.

            As in 1777, the language was finally documented, but those on the left side of the pond were embargoed and blockaded.

            At least until a load of "wine" arrived from France - just in time, as the lefties were losing...

          5. Byron "Jito463"

            Strange, and proud of it! ;)

        4. Sam Liddicott

          At one point British Telecom called # "gate" much to the bafflement of every single one of their customers.

          1. nowster

            Except when they called it "square" in their System X voice prompts.

            1. IHateWearingATie
              Thumb Down

              And their old conference call system - confused me no end the first time I used it

              "Enter your conference code and press square". WTF?

              1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                square

                Actually, come to think of it, I think there's an ancient telephone in the attic which has "#" printed on the key in such a way that it does look like a square at first glance - it's not canted across, and the "sticky-out-bits" are very, very short.

                M.

          2. Nick Kew Silver badge

            @Sam Liddicott

            Would that be when # was the standard prefix to get an external line from an office network?

            1. DropBear Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: @Sam Liddicott

              Seeing as how "#" looks like "not equal" only twice as much, the party hereby decrees that it was always called "doubleplusunequal".

              1. keith_w

                Re: @Sam Liddicott

                in mathematics, it's the symbol for Equal but Parallel

            2. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: @Sam Liddicott

              # for an outside line? was this some keysystem abomination? 9 was standard here.... a LD (rotary) phone can't dial #

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: @Sam Liddicott

                "a LD (rotary) phone can't dial #"

                Mine can. A, B, C, D and *, too. Mind you, I had to add a little circuitry & a couple buttons to the ol' WD500 ... but that was hardly rocket surgery.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Also hekje

            In the Netherlands called a "hekje", a little gate.

            1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

              Re: Also hekje

              It was used in "The Hobbit" on the 48k Speccy as a window in the goblins/elves dungeon :)

              1. SonOfDilbert

                Re: Also hekje

                > It was used in "The Hobbit" on the 48k Speccy as a window in the goblins/elves dungeon :)

                Perhaps it should be renamed, 'Goblin Window'?

            2. Guy Geens

              Re: Also hekje

              Also, in Belgium: "spoorwegteken" - railway sign (try typing a row of them). Admitted, it's been a very long time since I heard that one.

            3. Olivier2553

              Re: Also aquare

              In Thailand, it is commonly called "square".

          4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "At one point British Telecom called # "gate" much to the bafflement of every single one of their customers."

            I once heard someone refer to an exclamation mark as pling, which confused me somewhat!

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Surprised no-one's mentioned "sharp" yet, as in the musical symbol which is almost - but not quite - the same shape.

              I, too, always assumed that #="pound" was just one of those things because US and UK keyboards differed, but if it might have been "gate" then maybe pound could be because it looks a bit like a fenced-off area :-)

              "Pling" was common in the 1980s ISTR. I think I first came across it when Acorn-types needed a quicker way to pronounce the indirection operator ("?" was used for bytes, "!" for 16 bits IIRC) and started using "query" for "question mark".

              Also, going back to the Bell thing, the 10+2 telephone keypad was actually a subset of the DTMF thing, I think. DTMF had (as the name implies) two tones. Each tone had four frequencies for a total number of combinations of 16. 12 (3x4) were used in the telephone keypad and the other four (ABCD?) did "other things" if you could generate them...

              Just vague memories, quite possible entirely wrong :-)

              M.

              1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

                Surprised no-one's mentioned "sharp" yet, as in the musical symbol which is almost - but not quite - the same shape.

                Indeed.

                I'm reminded of the TV advert from the 1970's for Harp lager "Harp stays sharp to the bottom of the glass" which wrote the name as #arp

                1. Jude Bradley

                  and you could clean toilets with it, hence the name "Harpic".

                2. GOM256

                  Surprised no-one's mentioned "sharp" yet ...

                  In France, the # symbol is always known as "dièse" - the musical term "sharp" - regardless of context. By the way, before Napoleon thought counting in tens would be easier, the French currency was Lsd, just like in Britain: Livre, sol or sou, et denier, with the same 12d to the s and 20s to the L. "Sou" persists to this day: je n'ai pas un sou - I have no money. And silk stockings are still measured in denier, though I leave it to someone else to explain the link.

                  Now, who still calls a slash a solidus?

                3. NogginTheNog

                  #arp

                  Except I always read that as “sharp-arp”. Similarly the boyband 5ive will always be “Five-ive” to me.

              2. David Jackson 1

                <quote> Pling was common in the 1980s ISTR. I think I first came across it when Acorn-types needed a quicker way to pronounce the indirection operator ("?" was used for bytes, "!" for 16 bits IIRC) and started using "query" for "question mark"." </quote>

                Pling was 32bits on the BBC Micro and later on Risc OS. Since integers were 32 bits you could do things like

                DIM fred 16

                !fred = 100

                fred!4 = 200

                fred!8 = !fred + fred!4

                B% = fred!8

                PRINT B%

                etc as I recall.

              3. bobajob12

                Your memory matches mine. The DTMF ABCD tones were used as a way of doing extra control on the call, eg in the US military's old system (autovon) they could indicate the priority of a call.

              4. onefang Silver badge

                "DTMF had (as the name implies) two tones. Each tone had four frequencies for a total number of combinations of 16. 12 (3x4) were used in the telephone keypad and the other four (ABCD?) did "other things" if you could generate them..."

                ABCD is correct, you can buy keypads at electronics shops that have all twelve keys. There's likely apps for that.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  "There's likely apps for that."

                  Buttsets come to mind. I recommend Fluke.

              5. jcitron

                You beat me to it.

                "Surprised no-one's mentioned "sharp" yet, as in the musical symbol which is almost - but not quite - the same shape."

                When I was five years old, I started piano lessons and noticed the similarity in shape.

              6. aqk
                Paris Hilton

                C-sharp?

                Never heard of "C-sharp"?

                Oops... it's a Microsoft language! No decent Reg user would ever program in this!

            2. DrAJS

              I guy I used to work with referred to the "_" symbol as an underbar.

              1. Chris Parsons

                Me too... Common in the Stratus world.

            3. Daniel 18

              "I once heard someone refer to an exclamation mark as pling, which confused me somewhat!"

              That's a new one.

              I've mostly heard it referred to as 'bang' or 'shriek', depending on context / language.

              1. David Woodhead

                Shriek!

                In ICL-world in George 3 it was known as a shriek, and denoted a temporary file.

                CE !

                AS *LP0,!

                LO :LIB.PROGRAM FRED

                RM

                ER !

                Create a temporary file; assign it to printer 0; load FRED; run it; delete the temporary file.

                Blimey, that dates me.

            4. simonnj

              'I once heard someone refer to an exclamation mark as pling'

              One of my lecturers must have done the same as when using vi I often think to myself 'colon w q pling' as I type :wq!

              It's the only time I use the term.

              1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

                One of my lecturers must have done the same as when using vi I often think to myself 'colon w q pling' as I type :wq!

                I thought in that usage "!" was pronounced "bang".

                1. jake Silver badge

                  :wq! is indeed pronounced colon doubleyou queue bang. Just trips off the keybr0ad when typed out, doesn't it?

                  Kind of a dangerous thing to train your fingers to be used to, though. I prefer ZZ ... :w to write, :w! to force a write, :q to quit (with prompt to save changes), :q! to force quit with no save, :wq or ZZ to write and quit, :wq! to force a write and quit. Note that ZZ doesn't need the :, nor does it have an option to force a write if you're editing a so-called "read only" file, making it somewhat safer than :wq! in day-to-day life.

            5. bobajob12

              Back in the 1980s I seem to recall BBC Basic instructions referring to ? as "pling" and ! as "bang". Made for some weird looks when I started shell scripting on UNIX.

            6. Mine's a Large One
              Thumb Up

              Ha!! I knew I wasn't making it up!!

              Back in 6th form Computer Science, my teacher used to refer to the exclamation mark (!) on the BBC Micro as "pling", and it stuck with me. If I need to say it - say spelling out a command or something - I still say pling today (it's quicker than saying "exclamation mark"). People just look at me blankly...

            7. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              I once heard someone refer to an exclamation mark as pling

              Also known as a 'shriek' or 'bang' symbol.

            8. Nigel Campbell

              That was standard operating procedure in BBC Micro land. The boot script on a floppy was called !BOOT (pling-boot). I heard it called Pling long before I ever heard of a Bang-Path.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Wasn't pling-boot from Acorn RISC OS land? Probably late 1980s.

          5. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Every single one except me. I still sometimes call it a 'gate' symbol because that's what it looks like

        5. John70

          what-tag?

          Octothorpetag doesnt quite roll off the tongue as easily as hashtag does.

        6. PeterCapek

          Actually, not true. At least for a short while, in the earliest days of Touch-Tone phones, octothorpe was the official name for that symbol. An octothorpe is a particular kind of thatched hut which, from the top, looks like a hash. i think the word is defined in the OED, but mine isn't handy.

          1. jake Silver badge

            "An octothorpe is a particular kind of thatched hut which, from the top, looks like a hash."

            New one on me ... anybody have any idea where/when this version first appeared? (It's not in my OED).

            Another not true story of the octothorp origin is the "thorp" is from the old English place-name suffix. The symbol supposedly resembled a small village (or thorp) surrounded by 8 fields. Bringing it back somewhat on-topic, did anybody reading this live in Scunthorp and have an AOL account back when AOL was attempting to invent naughty-word filtering?

        7. JimboSmith Silver badge

          We do call £ "pound" and this weekend I had to tell someone about the pound/shilling/pence system, as he was wondering about the "weird 3 part prices" in his vintage catalog.

          There was a clothing shop in a Devon town that had a load of old stock in it. It was one of those shops that was filled with walls of glass fronted drawers from years ago. I had a retiring colleague tell me during the handover week about it and that he knew the owner of it. He said I should visit whilst I was on holiday in the South West. Apparently if you could find any stock in pounds, schillings and pence you could buy it at that price.

        8. Robert Brockway

          Octothorpe

          We can distinguish between the name of a symbol (arguably octothorpe) and its pronounciation as 'hash' , 'pound' or 'number sign'. This is analagous to the '&' character which is known as an ambersand but pronounced as 'and'.

          Fun fact: ambersand used to be counted as the 27th letter of the English language. We've lost other letters over the centuries too but anyone interested should use their favourite search engine to read the fascinating story of the English Alphabet.

          1. onefang Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Octothorpe

            "This is analagous to the '&' character which is known as an ambersand but pronounced as 'and'."

            I thought that was ampersand? My spell checker agrees with me.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Octothorpe

            "Ampersand", not "ambersand" (which is what you might find on the beaches in the Seychelles). The word derives from "and, per se, and".

        9. Wzrd1

          "My US keyboard "has" a pound sign, as Shift-3 is #, but Shift-4 is still $, and we don't have a "£" key, so I had to copy-paste it from your post."

          There's a unicode for it, which I'm entirely too lazy to look up and alas, I failed to import the lookup script from my other computer as of yet. As it's nearly midnight, that's a tomorrow afternoon job.

          "We do call £ "pound" and this weekend I had to tell someone about the pound/shilling/pence system, as he was wondering about the "weird 3 part prices" in his vintage catalog."

          Then, the question arises, "What is a quid" and assorted other slang terms, which turns into an hour long question and answer session. Leaving production at Fanny Adams.

          Yeah, never thought you'd hear that old expression from across the pond!

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Keyboards with #. £ and $ started appearing in the UK at about the same time as 8-bit characters were becoming popular on mini-computers and PCs (the very early '80s). See my earlier post about keyboards and 7-bit ASCII to understand what happened before that time.

            Once 8-bit code-pages became popular, the lower 128 (well, 95 really because of the 33 non-printing characters) code points of almost all internationalized code-pages were the same as US ASCII (X3.4-1986), and any character not in US ASCII was pushed into the top 128 (well, 127 really, because position 255 was normally delete or something).

            This meant that there were many, many code pages to cope with different characters for different languages, not just the UK, and a corresponding set of keyboards. Here is an interesting page from IBM, who IMHO were the first company to really start standardizing keyboard layouts for different countries (the 'enhanced' keyboard many of us will be typing on is basically an IBM layout from the PC-AT era, although DEC's international LK-201 keyboards were of a similar time-frame).

            Note the references to the 101, 102 and 106 keyboards pre-date the addition of the 'windows' keys.

        10. david 12 Bronze badge

          The decision to make $ and £ different ASCII and ISO characters, and hence different keys, was deliberate, so that telegraphic messages didn't automagically read $100 on one side of the atlantic, and £100 on the other. Any currency messages comming accross with £ show up as #, not $.

          Also deliberate was the recognition that people could use different characters to represent the $ and £ placeholder, if they weren't using $ or £. So the Americans simply replace the unused pound (LSD) symbol with the local pound (Hash) symbol.

          Which is why my TV subtitles routinely indicate singing by bracketing it with £ symbols ...

          1. onefang Silver badge

            "Which is why my TV subtitles routinely indicate singing by bracketing it with £ symbols ..."

            Do the make you pay per verse?

        11. aqk
          Headmaster

          No... I also use the term "octothorpe".

          And pedantically, I also pronounce Kilometer the proper (and Canadian) way: KILO METRE.

          Not the silly American Kill ommiter....

      2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        pound

        "What do US people call a real pound (currency) symbol?"

        I assume when they see it, a pound. Or a funny L :)

        Generally it only exists on UK keyboards.

        1. jcitron

          Re: pound

          Yeah us Yanks have to fiddle with the Character Map thing in Windows (if one uses Windows) to get the real pound symbol.

          ALT-key plus 0163 = £

          I got used to doing this when I worked in desktop publishing. My old Varityper was easier to use because had special escape sequences to create ligature characters such as ü ö, etc., as needed. The £ symbol was {command-key} and L at the same time. There was no need to do the cumbersome ALT+code.

          Back when I was a tech working on video terminals, there were some that had a compose key which made special characters even easier.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        'What do US people call a real pound (currency) symbol?'

        they call it a squiglyfibbles.

        </blackadder-prince-george-quote>

      4. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        FAIL

        Its also known as the pound or sometimes the number key on phone systems in Canada.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        On my UK keyboard, I have a pound symbol (Shift+3=£) , a dollar symbol (Shift+4=$) and a hash key (#)

        --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

        'hash'? I've never heard it called that.

        'pound', occasionally

        'number sign' or 'number', most often and as long as I can remember

        'octothorpe', courtesy of the phone company when pushbutton phones came in

        ... I'm sure there was another I remembered, but not at the moment... AHA - 'sharp' as in C#, the computer language.

        Poking around finds a reminder that it is a number sign in #6, and a pound sign in 23#.

        And, of course:

        # = root prompt

        1. onefang Silver badge

          "'sharp' as in C#, the computer language."

          That was borrowed from the musical symbol # for a sharp, so C# could refer to a particular musical note.

      6. onefang Silver badge
        Coat

        "On my UK keyboard, I have a pound symbol (Shift+3=£) , a dollar symbol (Shift+4=$) and a hash key (#). What does a US keyboard have? What do US people call a real pound (currency) symbol?"

        When they have to produce one, they just pound the keyboard until it produces one, or make a complete hash of it, which then costs them dollars to replace.

        I'll get my coat, it's the one with a pound of hash in the pocket that I bought for a dollar.

      7. Wzrd1

        "What do US people call a real pound (currency) symbol?"

        Most US citizens are astonishingly ignorant and call it a "funny L symbol". I call it a Pound (currency) symbol and get asked what nation uses that currency.

        Seriously!

        I think that the ancient Athenians had the right of it, denying the idios the vote.

        1. jake Silver badge

          "Most US citizens are astonishingly ignorant and call it a "funny L symbol". I call it a Pound (currency) symbol and get asked what nation uses that currency."

          Odd. Here in California, I have never had anybody ask me what £ means.

      8. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        What do US people call a real pound (currency) symbol?

        This thing, £? One of my munchkins said it looked like a deformed E. Another one said something about a "fancy Olde English L with a penis". It was all I could do to be thankful I didn't spill my beverage laughing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      because hashland would sound silly.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Coat

        "...hashland would sound silly."

        And hashworld would go bust...

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

          And as a counterpoint to the Octothorpe which survived because it was on typewriters, here's the history of a punctiob mark that whilst recognised by Webster's hasn't been widely adopted. The interrobang, a cross between a question mark and an exclamation mark. Curiously, it was offered by Corona typewriters as an optional upgrade.

          https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/interrobang/

          1. Deimos

            Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

            Interrobang would be used at the end of the sentence

            “You shut down the what “.

            1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: "⸘You shut down the what‽"

              FTFY

          2. tim 13

            Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

            My sister keeps using interrobangs on Facebook

          3. Wzrd1

            Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

            "The interrobang, a cross between a question mark and an exclamation mark."

            I remember that in the later 1970's there was an attempt to resurrect the thing. It flew like the proverbial lead balloon.

          4. Intractable Potsherd

            Re: "...hashland would sound silly." @Dave 126

            Another great source of information on punctuation and symbols is "Shady Characters" -

            https://shadycharacters.co.uk. Have a look if you are at all interested in this sort of stuff!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

          > And hashworld would go bust...

          Not in Oregon it wouldn't.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

            Beg to differ, but there is a huge oversupply of the green green grass of toke on Oregon, and a lot of stores and growers are going to be bogarted over the next 24 months or so. Unless you know your weed, and have reasonable economies of scale or are an integrated operation, and a good business acumen, you are going to flame out.

        3. DJ Smiley

          Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

          I'm just trying to figure out what poundbrowns would taste like....

        4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

          And hashworld would go bust...

          I really, really wouldn't want to eat a corned beef meal meade there. Or eat the browns.

        5. Ken 16 Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

          you mean "get busted"

      2. VinceH Silver badge

        "because hashland would sound silly."

        Not really - it sounds like an ideal name for the go to shop for a certain recreational substance.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          they need to open a branch here all we can get now is weed.

      3. John G Imrie Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: hashland

        Nothing wrong with hashland, it's where I get some of my best ... er ideas from

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        hashland?

        Hashland, thats the Nederlands is it not :)

    3. jake Silver badge

      Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

      ... 1975's arrival of ken at Berkeley brought with it the rather wide-spread use of the word "octothorpe" for the # symbol. This spread pretty much everywhere Berkeley un*x did over the next couple decades.

      Note that the British term "hash" is also a product of the 1970s, while the Yank term "pound" goes back into the mid-1800s ... and is probably derived from the Roman symbol for libra pondo, ℔.

      "hashtag" is a johnney-come-lately, invented by kids who weren't interested in history ... or seemingly that the thing they thought they were inventing had already existed for a couple decades.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

        I've just been listening to a podcast about the # octothorpe / pound sign / hash / chess checkmate symbol / Swedish cartography symbol for a lumber yard:

        https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/octothorpe/

        And yeah, it has the same Latin root as Pound before its meaning bifurcated. We Brits call it hash, US the pound sign. It survived into the computer age because it was found on typewriters.

        When touch tone phones were developed by Bell Labs, they realised that a couple of symbols in addition to 0 - 9 would be useful, and their management wanted new, abstract symbols. However the case was made that touch tone phones might interact with computerised menu systems, so symbols already found on keyboards would be better. It is from then that the term Octothorpe was coined by engineers because that's how their sense of humour works.

        1. /dev/null

          Octothorpe / pound sign / hash / chess checkmate symbol etc etc...

          Not to mention "medical shorthand symbol for a fracture".

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

        That's interesting. I never thought about the roots of the words (although there is something similar about pound weight and lb as a symbol).

        I always assumed it was because in the early days of terminal, the US 7-bit ASCII table only had space for 96 characters, and were filled with characters suitable for US data processing. This did not include currency symbols for other geographies.

        For many terminals and printers intended for use in the UK, there was a toggle or DIP switch, or sometimes a menu setting that normally replaced the # symbol with a £ symbol (although some replaced $ with £). Same numeric code, different presentation. This is what I thought was the basis for hash/pound.

        I remember writing shell scripts with comments that appeared with the £ symbol at the front. In hindsight, it must have looked very strange, but at the time, it was just normal.

        When 8-bit ascii with extended character sets started being used, life was a nightmare, because the number of different code-pages (CP437 and ISO8859-1 and -15 anybody) proliferated, with different code pages on different devices, making inter-operabillity extremely difficult.

        I don't know how other OS's dealt with this, but IBM came up with quite complicated input and output methods on AIX for most devices that allowed you to specify a translation table that could be used to make it all work, but setting these up was quite complicated, and not many customers actually used them correctly (or in some cases, at all!)

        It was only the adoption of various Unicode UTF character encoding schemes that things started working a little easier.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

          Your first paragraph nudged my curiosity about lb and it's origins:

          http://mentalfloss.com/article/52058/why-are-%E2%80%9Cpound%E2%80%9D-and-%E2%80%9Counce%E2%80%9D-abbreviated-%E2%80%9Clb%E2%80%9D-and-%E2%80%9Coz%E2%80%9D

        2. Martin-73 Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ... (@peter Gathercole)

          ECHO OFF

          MODE CON: COLS=80

          CHCP 437

          PATH C:\DOS

          thought i'd recycled those neurons years ago

      3. LenG

        Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

        The £ is actually a fancied up L, from the Latin. Pre-decimal pennies were denoted by "d" (for denarii). The middle item, shillings, was postfixed s (solidi) and the currency was frequently referred to as Lsd.

        We should have stuck with it. It was really fun to watch foreigners struggle. Maybe we can switch back after brexit.

        <computer angle> - early computers had such a hard time handling 3-element mixed base currency (12 pence to the shilling, 20 shillings to the pound) that they often had hard-wired pound-shilling-pence conversion units. I believe those could also handle halfpennies and fathings (quarter=pennies).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

          "and the currency was frequently referred to as Lsd."

          <JOKE>

          So you Brits were running your economy off of LSD for years? That explains a bit...

          </JOKE>

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: So you Brits were running your economy off of LSD for years (4 AC)

            Yeeeeeees, that's the cleverness of the double entendre.

            But thanks for hanging a lantern on it for the slower comment-wrights here.

          2. Nick Kew Silver badge

            Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

            So you Brits were running your economy off of LSD for years? That explains a bit...

            That goes back to the Romans. And we're not the only country to do it in modern times, though some (like Italy and Turkey) saw their £ fall so far as to eliminate any purpose for the S or D subdivisions.

          3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

            So you Brits were running your economy off of LSD for years?

            [Swivel-eyed gammon mode]

            AND THE EMPIRE! So don't you forget it boy that we owned ONE THIRD of the world!

            [/SEGM]

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

              "we owned ONE THIRD of the world!"

              As anybody can see from all the stuff they looted, proudly(??) displayed in the British Museum.

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: the currency was frequently referred to as Lsd. (4 LenG)

          Indeed it was, possibly most famously by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in their seminal "Ali Baba's Camel".

        3. Loud Speaker

          Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

          Maybe we can switch back after Brexit.

          Yes, lets. Its no more stupid than anything else to do with Brexit.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

            Yes, lets. Its no more stupid than anything else to do with Brexit.

            And think of all the money that can be made by moving to another currency! All the stuff that costs 10p can mysteriously now cost 1s instead! But it would please all the really old codgers who were used to Lsd as kids.

            Mind you, actually making the coins would probably get outsourced to the French and Dutch 'for financial reasons'..

        4. onefang Silver badge

          Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

          So what you are saying is that the UK should all take LSD after Brexit? I suspect some Remainers think that's how Brexit got voted for in the first place.

        5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

          Pre-decimal pennies were denoted by "d" (for denarii). The middle item, shillings, was postfixed s (solidi)

          Shillings came via Germanic (skilling) which may didn't come from solidus. The shorthand Lsd, confusingly, does contain the 's' that comes from solidus but I suspect that's retro-engineered as part of the British attempt to be seen as the 'Nova Roma' from 1700 onwards.

          More info: https://www.etymonline.com/word/shilling

      4. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

        @jake

        I was told nearly 60 years ago at school, that the confusion with the pound weight (lb) and the pound currency (£) may be because they go back to a similar ancient derivations. The old Roman pound ("libra" roughly about 11-12 ounces) and the Saxon coinage of the old penny, a silver coin - 240 of which were made from a pound weight of silver. The shilling (derived from the Roman solidus gold coin weighing 1/72 of a pound) was equivalent to 12 silver pennies. There were 20 shillings in the £ so 12x20=240 is easily divided by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 16, 20, 24, 30, 40, 48, 60, etc. The penny was divided into smaller coins: 2 ha’pennies (half pennys) and 4 farthings (“fourth things”) so there were 960 of the smallest coins to the £ allowing a wide range of quantities to be costed.

        Incidentally that is why small/inexpensive things were sold by the dozen (12) because 12 items at, say, 3 pennies each would cost 3 shillings, and as 12 is also easily divisible by 2, 3, 4 and 6. The seller and the buyer would know that 12 inexpensive items at a farthing each would be 3 pennies etc...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

          > Incidentally that is why small/inexpensive things were sold by the dozen

          And thus the reason why in the UK eggs are sold in multiples of 6 all the way up to the 12x12 wholesale trays.

          Although I think I heard somewhere that the Brussels overlords wanted to start forcing UK farmers to print the weight on each box, as the concept of selling things by unit quantity was beyond the comprehension of the bureaucrats.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

            And thus the reason why in the UK eggs are sold in multiples of 6

            Haven't chickens been decimilised by now?

          2. Joe Werner

            Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

            The dozen-count actually comes from counting the segments (offsets? ;p ) of the digits with your thumb. Many societies had that. Look at minutes (time and angles) or degrees of a circle.

        2. TDog

          Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

          You are a rich bugger - all we ever got was half, third and quarter farthings. All the rest were fantasy money...

          http://www.royalmintmuseum.org.uk/coins/british-coinage/old-denominations/fractional-farthings/index.html

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

            I've sometimes heard the hash referred to as a waffle.

            And in Univac-speak, the ! is sometimes referred to as a bang (as in: "We ended up having to dollar-bang the 1100-80) and sometimes as a shriek (as in: "To list all lines using the pine editor type pee-shriek").

            Though I have heard someone (from TSB) speak of "Pee Bang*", I've never heard anyone say "Dollar-Shriek".

            * - A term with resonance in these days of accusations of collusion and secret KGB videos.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

              "!" has been pronounced "bang" for centuries, it's a printer's term.

              For the computer world, look up "bang path". I was stanford!sail!jake in the late '70s and early '80s. (The bang path is mostly correct, but I've changed the name to protect the guilty as I should be archived at DejaGoo, if the gootards ever fix it :-)

              Then there is the "#!" interpreter directive ... Naming it back in the day was a trifle problematic ... "hashbang" was a no-go during the 70s; sounded too much like hashbong & the various neckbearded hippies[1] who were busy (re)inventing UNIX/BSD were paranoid ... octothorpe-bang is clumsy, and pound-bang is just plain weird ... So almost by default, it became "sharp-bang" which was modified to sh-bang (from /bin/sh), and pronounced & later written shebang.

              [1]They say that if you remember the SF Bay Area during the 60s & 70s, you didn't live there, but I'm here to tell you that some of us were smart enough to not get into pot ;-)

              1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

                Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ... @jake

                The ! path separator was adopted by UUCP mail in the UNIX world, and remnants of it still persist in the canned sendmail configurations shipped with real UNIX systems.

                I used to be att!ihnp4!hvmpa!gatherp within the AT&T name space (I've googled this, so I don't think it's leaking any info).

                ihnp4 used to be a very good machine to use to base mail path addresses, because it seemed to be connected to everything, and I was surprised to find a reference to an ihnp4 based ! mailpath in a document about 10 years ago. I think the name has finally gone now, but the name persisted with new systems adopting the name as hardware was retired.

                "ih" stood for Indian Hill, an AT&T development lab in Chicago where AT&Ts switching systems (telephone exchanges) were developed, amongst other things. "np" stood for network processor, and 4 was the number of the system.

                It was quite interesting, as because of the way that the ! separator specified a mail path, you could explicitly route mails through various systems to check connectivity. I frequently used to generate a mail loop back to myself, bouncing a mail of a distant server to check that a particular route worked.

                It's not that long ago (well, actually ~20 years - but that does not seem that long to me) that you were able to use ! mail routing with sendmail (with a normal rule-set) on TCP/IP networks, but as sendmail get replaced and explicit mail routing fell out of favor, it stopped working.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ... @jake

                  I still use UUCP to route stuff internally, including in my (smallish) news farm. Makes a lot of sense, for a lot of reasons.

                  My eldest Niece reports that comp-sci students at her Uni implemented a "students only" UUCP network over the existing school network a couple years ago. It's mostly used for email, small file transfer, and a private Usenet hierarchy. Seems the thirty-somethings who are supposedly the administrators never learned UUCP and have no idea that what they are doing even exists. No, I'm not naming the Uni ... but apparently they are connected to other schools, world-wide, and the PTB are none the wiser. To get around draconian filters, they even have a couple links that are dial-up, over POTS, if you can believe it. Good for them! :-)

                  ihnp4 was very good. Stanford was, too, as was ucb, for obvious reasons ... but I'd be rather leery of posting a real address here, even a very old one, which is why I munge mine. The gookids in charge of the DejaNews archive might eventually figure out how to properly put it back online. Unless they have completely fucked it up, which wouldn't surprise me. Seems that the concept of text-only is beyond their marketing addled brains.

            2. BostonEddie

              Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

              From the mathom cabinet of my memory I recall that one of my coworkers in The Old Three Letter Computer Company referred to herself as D!---"D-Bang."

        3. DougS Silver badge
          Pint

          @Tim99

          Have yourself a beer for one of the most informative posts I've read on the Reg in a while. I never knew why the English had such a goofy system with pennies, shillings and farthings of seemingly arbitrary numbers, nor why buying stuff by the dozen had ever become a thing.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: @Tim99

            "nor why buying stuff by the dozen had ever become a thing."

            That bit is obvious. Everyone knows thing are cheaper by the dozen.

            As for the coinage, the US, when it was the colonies and not the US, also used £SD currency. The $ had to be invented. Canada was still using a £SD system until 1858.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: @Tim99

              The $ had to be invented.

              Interestingly, some northern dialects have used 'dollar' for 'pound' for a long, long time - almost certainly preceding the use in the new US..

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: @Tim99

                "some northern dialects have used 'dollar' for 'pound' for a long, long time"

                When I were a lad in t' Dales, we called a crown (5/-) a dollar. Or, more usual, a half-crown (2/6) was half a dollar (and the cost of a Pint when I first got to Yorkshire). Later, I remember Reg Smythe's Andy Capp calling 50p a dollar. Now it's a pound. Must be inflation.

        4. dfsmith

          Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

          Don't forget the guinea; which was (at least in my head) a pound that included the tip. (Mostly valued at 21 shillings, but somewhat dependent the value of gold.)

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Value of a guinea

            Was one pound and one shilling. The value of golden coins of face value one guinea is a different matter.

            When I were a lad all fancy-shmancy services like private doctors and dentists, and furniture bought on hire purchase were all priced in guineas. Working class stuffwas priced in BSQ*.

            * - Bog Standard Quids.

        5. Glenturret Single Malt

          Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

          As all primary school children learned, three (old) pennies weigh an ounce. A pound's worth of old pennies (240) therefore weighs 80 ounces or 5 pounds (lbs). Which explains why in my first week of Christmas post work in 1963, two of us were sent to collect a basket containing £10 in old pennies.

        6. SonOfDilbert
          Pint

          Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

          I feel ashamed that I never knew the root of pounds, shillings and pence until now.

    4. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
      Devil

      "the default being a hashtag #."

      I didn't know Amber Rudd wrote for El Reg?

      1. Roger Kynaston

        Re: "the default being a hashtag #."

        >I didn't know Amber Rudd wrote for El Reg?

        But she would understand it all even less than she does if that is possible. "Someone needs to get control of the octothorpes!"

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: "the default being a hashtag #."

          "Someone needs to get control of the octothorpes!"

          So that would be Ian Thorpe the well known Aussie swimmer, Billy Thorpe the well known Aussie rock star, and six other people called Thorpe? I suppose that technically our head of state is the Queen of England, so the UK already has control of us Aussies?

    5. anothercynic Silver badge

      About hashes, pounds and hashtags...

      I agree with Dwarf here... it's not a hashtag. A hashtag by definition is a word *prefaced* by the hash/pound sign, #. Don't be mixin' your terminology here, you hear?

      Easiest way to distinguish between the English pound (£) and the American pound (#) is to call the one the Sterling sign (which the £ is after all... the Pound Sterling, thank you very much!)

      Much easier than 'octothorpe' ;-)

      1. Butler1233

        Re: About hashes, pounds and hashtags...

        You oculd call it the sterling sign, but you will upset users of the following currencies:

        Guernsey pound

        Saint Helena pound

        Egyptian pound

        Falkland Islands pound

        Gibraltar pound

        Manx pound

        South Sudanese pound

        Syrian pound (uses £S, but close enough)

    6. Amos1

      "Incidentally, since we call it a hash in the UK, but the Americans call it a pound and the social media companies are US based, why don't they call it a poundtag ?"

      I was wondering why it's not called a dollartag in the U.K.

      Similar to how we drive on the parkway and park on the driveway.

    7. SgtFalstaff

      #2 Pencil?

      Am I the only one who remembers it being the 'number' sign?

      It was only after we get a push button phone did I hear the term 'pound' sign.

      1. onefang Silver badge

        Re: #2 Pencil?

        "Am I the only one who remembers it being the 'number' sign?"

        Not the only one. Perhaps we could just start calling it "The symbol previously known as (insert what you usually call it here)", though then Triple J DJs will start calling it Dave.

    8. This post has been deleted by its author

    9. DougMac

      "Incidentally, since we call it a hash in the UK, but the Americans call it a pound.."

      That usage in the US has gone away decades ago. It was current when typewriters were a thing and was used then, but since computers came around, nobody abbreviates pound as #.

      1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
        Devil

        "nobody abbreviates pound as #"

        Rarely. But I still read it that way. Which makes the recent social movement, #MeToo sound a bit strange.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That usage in the US has gone away decades ago. It was current when typewriters were a thing and was used then, but since computers came around, nobody abbreviates pound as #.

        ================================================================

        On the contrary, it's used all the time, both as an abbreviation for pound, and even more so, as an abbreviation for number, as in #6 shot... which gets swapped for #4 shot if you move to steel.

      3. Mark Dempster

        >That usage in the US has gone away decades ago. It was current when typewriters were a thing and was used then, but since computers came around, nobody abbreviates pound as #.<

        The term still seems to be used by most telephone conferencing systems, automated licencing validations, etc

      4. Commentator

        The # is the common American symbol for pound weight, and is used where we would use lb - grocery, butchers etc on labels and in adverts.

      5. Martin-73 Silver badge

        @DougMac... explaining the downvotes

        Having lived in the US for a few years (in various places) but being a brit ... so i noticed these things... The 'nobody calls it a pound sign' is VERY strongly regional and/or local.

        Some places assume if you say pound sign you mean Lb, and call # 'a number sign', others almost exclusively use it as a weight identifier " #potatoes 39c " isn't a weird hashtag, it's telling you the tubers are cheap

    10. Wzrd1

      "Incidentally, since we call it a hash in the UK, but the Americans call it a pound and the social media companies are US based, why don't they call it a poundtag ?"

      Because, far too many of us in the US call social media a "pound sand tag" and treat it accordingly.

    11. Byron "Jito463"

      I still call it the 'pound' sign. Then again, I don't do "social media".

    12. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      I just call it a "number sign". "Hash" is what we make with leftover corned-beef, or what the drug dealers sell in downtown Poughkeepsie. "Pound" is what we *do* to those drug dealers in downtown Pok.

    13. aqk
      Headmaster

      Hash? Corned Beef?

      Actually the proper name (and it has been around for decades) is an OCTOTHORPE.

  2. Velv Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    And the moral of the story is...

    There's no such thing as a development machine, they're all "production" to somebody. The impact of breaking them may be less, but you've always got to consider who's going to be pissed if you break something.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Boffin

      Yep. I once did a test upgrade onto a VM of some software and told some of our scientists to give it a quick test to make sure the upgrade didn't break anything before I upgraded the productive server. As it was only a test I'd created an iSCSI LUN for the user files (obviously I didn't setup backups as it was a test). Once we'd shown that the new version didn't break anything, I upgraded the system and then blew away the VM and associated LUN. I then got an email from a scientist who'd ignored the fact that it was only a test system for an upgrade and had done real work on it and now didn't have any of the data. I did try to get it back, but even the storage vendor couldn't help.

      Scientists, not as good at following instructions as you think -->

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Scientists, not as good at following instructions as you think -->

        Based on 2 years of sysadminning in Uni and R&D facility in my youth - you are being overly polite. In fact, I would prefer to describe "Scientist following instructions" as the ultimate oxymoron.

        1. ridley

          But, where would we be IF scientists always followed instructions?

          I would rather have scientist that played around and occasionally went "mm that's odd'.

        2. John 110
          Boffin

          As A scientist...

          As a scientist I resent that... wait no, as you were. I'll start again.

          As a scientist I resemble that remark!

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: As A scientist...

            A scientist eh? I have a question for you: WHERE'S MY FLYING CAR YOU USELESS LUMP?

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: As A scientist...

              Expecting a scientist to deliver your flying car? Well, there's your problem. The professional you are actually looking for is called an Engineer.

      2. AndyMulhearn

        Scientists...

        Scientists, not as good at following instructions as you think

        Your mistake was not prefixing the instructions with an Abstract, adding a few references to random publications and putting in on arxiv.org for peer review. It may not have made any difference in the long run but they may have actually read it...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Scientists, not as good at following instructions as you think"

        Oh indeed ! I could name you dozens of examples where I've been on the other end of the phone to Senior Professors who couldn't find their way out of a paper bag when it comes to subjects outside their area of expertise (such as making the great scientific discovery that YES, the map and address of the event has already been published on the website on the event page ...... no, instead they ring me or my colleagues instead quite literally asking "Where is the event taking place?" ).

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Oh indeed ! I could name you dozens of examples where I've been on the other end of the phone to Senior Professors

          You obviously failed to read the orientation leaflet.

          PhD student: Knows Everything

          Associated Professor: Knows Everything in one narrow well defined area

          Senior Professor: Knows where the Associated Professor(s) and PhD Student(s) are at any given time.

          I have heard it from my dad (Senior Professor, Differential equations and Optimal Control).

    2. onefang Silver badge

      "There's no such thing as a development machine, they're all "production" to somebody."

      Not true at all, the little test PC on my desk has always been a development / test box from the day I bought it, and likely always will be.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Denarius Silver badge

    BTW, welcome

    Rebecca

  5. jake Silver badge

    If you're in the bizz long enough, you'll crash a production machine.

    It goes along with the job description.

    However, I once found the bug that was being exploited by a group of developers to crash the system so they'd get home in time for Monday Night Football. I patched it Sunday night ... and was extremely unpopular at that shop for a couple months ... not that I cared, I was the consultant, we're not supposed to be popular :-)

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: If you're in the bizz long enough, you'll crash a production machine.

      Back in the 1980s I was working in a company that was using Unisys kit (actually rebadged Convergent Technology systems) running CTOS. These could be "clustered" together into small networks. Downstairs, the boss and admin staff used a system that consisted of a network consisting of a master computer, with the hard disks attached, and two or three networked slave machines. Upstairs, each developer had a single computer but one developer (let's call him Derek, mainly because that was his name) had quite a powerful system.

      When the downstairs master computer had a problem the boss decided that Derek's computer would have to act as the master computer for a while. Derek did warn them that, in the process of developing software, it was possible that we would often crash the computers, but the boss wasn't deterred. Derek had also discovered (via the CTOS API manuals) that there was a system call the forced a deliberate crash. He wrote a small program to call that API and every so often, when he was bored or whatever, would whisper to the rest of the developers (who were safely isolated on their own systems) something like, "Listen for the shouts downstairs." Then he'd run the program to crash the network resulting in cries of anguish below. He's then shout out something like, "Sorry, but I did warn you that we often cause crashes."

      It didn't take too long before a new spare computer was made available and Derek's system became disconnected from downstairs again.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If you're in the bizz long enough, you'll crash a production machine.

      I once took out a Beowulf cluster by changing my windows password. I mean, it was a /terrible/ setup, 80-odd PCs running windows XP, with regular user accounts - in this case muggins, hence the whole thing going south when my password changed - but it worked well enough most of the time.

      And I'm not even a sysadmin! It's inevitable that if you have the power and the admin rights to break almost anything, you'll break *something* eventually.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: If you're in the bizz long enough, you'll crash a production machine.

      "I patched it Sunday night"

      You could have kept quiet and watched the fireworks when they realised they couldn't buzz off early.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: If you're in the bizz long enough, you'll crash a production machine.

        Alan, I did just that. Complete with a message on the perp's screen to the effect of "Forget about it. Get back to work!". He hated me. He'd have hated me more if I hadn't talked his boss out of firing him for the stupid stunt.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If you're in the bizz long enough, you'll crash a production machine.

      I once brought a production MVS machine to a standstill by the simple expedient of using the paging storage for a large sort.

  6. HPCJohn

    VM/CMS

    Wow. That brings back memories.

    As a graduate student in high energy physics, I got my very own 3270 terminal, connected to the mainframe downstairs by twinax cables.

    Best keyboard I have ever had.

    Many joyful days running virtual machines under CMS. I remember the REIPL CMS command to reboot (Initial Program Load). It probably would all come back if I got a 3270 in front of me!

    In later days I got a FALCO terminal at CERN. VT220 emulation, plus a hotkey to Tektronix graphics emulation. I used a 3270 emulator on DEC VMS to access the mainframes there.

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: VM/CMS

      Get yourself an IBM Model M keyboard. And feel the "best keyboard" again!

      1. HPCJohn

        Re: VM/CMS

        Those keyboard did make a racket though when you were typing.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: VM/CMS

          "Those keyboard did make a racket though when you were typing."

          You can still get Model M keyboards. Or Cherry G80s with old school clicky switches. I'm typing on one now.

        2. Zarno

          Re: Those keyboard did make a racket...

          Can confirm.

          I have a Unicomp EnduraPro (USB cabled reproduction IBM M13 (the one with the tracpoint) in black with grey caps) for my work keyboard.

          It sounds like an ammo depot cooking off when I start typing in earnest.

          So far, the office mates haven't had any real issue with it. :)

          The original model M is someplace in the black hole of storage at the house...

      2. Amos1

        Re: VM/CMS

        Northgate Computer systems had the best keyboard I ever used. It was my first PC, a 386 with 1 MB of RAM and two, count them, TWO 65 MB RLL hard drives. It only cost me $3,495. I later upgraded it to 4 MB of RAM by replacing around thirty-two discrete integrated circuits so I could run DesqVIEW. I used that keyboard for years.

        1. 2Nick3 Bronze badge
          Coat

          Re: VM/CMS

          "I later upgraded it to 4 MB of RAM by replacing around thirty-two discrete integrated circuits so I could run DesqVIEW."

          You can be honest here - it was to run Wing Commander and we all know it.

          (Mine's the one with the printout of the config.sys and autoexec.bat to get 632KB free base memory, with mouse support, in the pocket)

      3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: VM/CMS

        Get yourself an IBM Model M keyboard. And feel the "best keyboard" again!

        I've not had first hand experience of one of these, but the same design, now with a USB interface

        https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/UB40PGA

        the above was from a reference by a commentard a few months ago.

        1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: VM/CMS

          Cherry keyboards are also pretty much up to scratch as a Model M.

          I picked up a half bust one as part of a gayboy* full of ditched IT kit that I ethically recycled**, via eBay and assorted scrappies. About 60% of the keys worked.

          Sent them an email, they felt it was still covered by warranty and as long as I sent the bust one back for QC review I got a free replacement. With brown keys, since I'm never sure if I want it hard or soft ;)

          *a small skip :)

          ** the PMs plan was flytipping.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: VM/CMS

        I was once working as a summer intern at IBM - editing a document in "PROFS" - did some formatting change and was waiting, waiting, waiting for the screen to update. Then the phone rings - it was an operator from the Warwick data center - asking me what I was doing, as it was taking up something like 95% cpu on the mainframe. Needless to say there was nothing much I could add - the process was terminated by the operator and I decided better to re-structure the document differently than attempt the same thing and trigger whatever the bug in the application again.

        1. VTAMguy

          Re: VM/CMS

          PROFS was XEDIT fancied up with a database to hold documents "centrally", but it was a known resource hog. It was initially seen (by IBM) as suitable for use by clerical level staff. Then it morphed into a do-all monster and imploded in on itself. Not a shining example of software technology from that era.

          1. yoganmahew

            Re: VM/CMS

            @VTAM (I'm sure I've just blocked a virtual route doing that)

            "Not a shining example of software technology from that era."

            You say that, but it would work on the end of a dodgy copper wire that SITA would string on trees in the arse end of nowhere. At least until the wire got nicked for the copper.

          2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: VM/CMS

            PROFS...

            Then it morphed into a do-all monster and imploded in on itself

            ...PROFS was replaced by NOSS?

            and finally, the move to Notes

            Then it morphed into a do-all monster and imploded in on itself

      5. fruitoftheloon

        @missing semicolon: Re: VM/CMS

        ms,

        I use Apple adjustable ergonomic keyboards with an ADB to USB adapter.

        They are the canines gonads..!

        Cheers,

        Jay.

      6. rnturn

        Re: VM/CMS

        One of my Model Ms--plus a gaggle of adapters--is the only way I can type accurately on a Mac nowadays.

      7. hmv

        Re: VM/CMS

        Not quite.

        Older IBM mainframe terminals used a beamspring keyswitch. The IBM model F keyboard was a reduced cost version of that (the original IBM PC keyboard and a number of others) and the IBM model M keyboard was a reduced cost version of the model F.

        Not that it's a bad keyboard - it's probably the best you can buy new today. Old beamsprings are rather rare, hideously expensive, and require "interesting" methods to adapt to modern computers (replace the controller with an Xwhatsit controller).

    2. VTAMguy

      Re: VM/CMS

      Agreed on the quality of IBM keyboards. Minor correction: 3270 technology used coax cables. And the CP command is "IPL" (Re-IPL is used as a verb).

      And yup, it wouldn't take long to get back into the swing of old friends like EDGAR again (Edit Data Graphically And Recursively!). One little-remembered VM CP command was DIAL which was used in place of LOGON to put the terminal under control of a guest OS (eg ACP, Airline Control Program).

      -Grayhaired VM/370 systems programmer

      (Systems programmers write code, in BAL, that runs in privileged mode. I'm not a friggin 'admin' and I don't have to login as root. Don't call me admin or I'll delete your A-disk.)

    3. Greybeard3

      Re: VM/CMS

      3270 used coax. 5250 (for AS/400) used twinax. I do not believe any 3270 used twinax. Just sayin'.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: VM/CMS

        Concur on the Model M. If you don't have one, get one. Especially if you're an old-school touch typist. Typing on one now, and for the last 30ish years. These things aren't toys, they are built to last. They double as an offensive weapon, and so are probably illegal in Blighty.

    4. dakra

      Re: VM/CMS

      3270 terminals for mainframes attached via 75 Ohm RG59 or 93 Ohm RG62 coax with BNC connectors.

      5250 terminals for system 3x and AS/400 attached via twinax

  7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    del *.*

    del *.* in the root directory in the days of MS-DOS is the worst I ever did. On a colleagues PC at that! Easily fixed though, after a few moments of heart stopping panic. His autoexec.bat and config.sys were pretty much factory default and del *.* only deleted the files in root, not directories and as per normal practices, there was barely anything in root in terms of files.

    1. naylorjs

      Re: del *.*

      A colleague did an rm -rf / on a production system, he hit ctrl-C pretty quickly afterwards. The phone calls started a few seconds later. It was fun to watch from the outside!

    2. Stuart Castle

      Re: del *.*

      Friend of mine did something similar, except he was on his bosses Windows 3.1 machine, and did del *.* in the root. Normally, this wouldn't be an issue, except his boss had managed to installed pretty much everything to the root of drive C.

    3. Binraider666

      Re: del *.*

      Deltree *.* could be even more devastating. Regardless of what subdirectory you are currently in, in DOS6.22 Deltree assumed you were pointing at the root.

      I recall an old DOS for Dummies book that recommended you remove the deltree command!

    4. Roger Kynaston

      Re: del *.*

      In my final year at uni I had an Atari ST on which I wrote my dissertation. I then lent it to a friend to write hers. She had trouble saving it to the floppy disk so I went over to help. It said the disk was full so I grabbed another disk at random and saved dissert.doc on there. Just as the floppy kicked into gear I realised that it had my dissertation on it and it was called dissert.doc. Cue lots of panic and visions of having to rewrite the whole thing in three days. Then I realised that Atari created a copy called file.bak and was able to recover mine from there. It was a short but sharp brown underpants stuff and I don't think that my friend really twigged how serious it was.

      1. onefang Silver badge

        Re: del *.*

        "It was a short but sharp brown underpants stuff and I don't think that my friend really twigged how serious it was."

        She didn't notice the bad smell coming from your suddenly colour changed undies?

    5. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

      Re: del *.*

      Back in '95 I was working at a help desk where a number of colleagues from the Windows support team were upgrading their WfW 3.11 machines to Win95 (1,2), and a number of them were having issues copying the '95 install files to their machines over the network (3). The drive wasn't full, but the copy job was failing for everyone at just about the same spot in the file list.

      I looked at the screen, and noted two things: They were at C:\> and the end of the dir/w showed 512 files and directories (max for the root of a FAT12 volume). On pointing this out the user of that machine typed in "del *.*" and was about to hit Enter when I yelled "Stop!" This got a bunch of angry glares (4), to which I said "Think about what that will do."

      At which point I was (rather impolitely) told to go back over to my side of the call center.

      1. Not me - I was happily running OS/2. Warp 3.0 on one machine (probably beta at that time), 2.11 on a PS/2 Mod70

      2. No idea why they weren't doing a fresh install instead of an upgrade/migration

      3. CDROM drives were scarce, so one person copied the CD to their system and everyone else was copying that directory to their local hard drive

      4. There was a lot of animosity between the Windows and OS/2 support teams, and the fact I had identified the problem was already a poke in the eye.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yep been there done that

    At least the deflect blame bit, and got away with it.

    I was working at a small company in mainland Europe and needed to plug in a new monitor or something. I took the power plug to my extension block and pushed it in, it wouldn't go, so I pushed harder. The plastic flexed and within the extension two wires touched. It was a modern building and so the trips for the floor went, no bangs or pops. The lights went out, the computers went off, and shortly after some angry people came walking down the corridor. They were four hours into a hardware debugging session apparently, not to mention other peoples work (maybe 20 or so) who were similarly inconvenienced.

    I (for a few minutes at least) genuinely believed that I had a dodgy extension block and informed everybody that it was me, but that it wasn't my fault. A short while later the penny dropped, but I kept my mouth closed. I then proudly helped my boss put said extension block into the bin, and normality was restored. Or at least normal for that company, whatever that was...

    I still cringe when I think of it, and I'm sure that said hardware developer would still find and kill me if he could trace me, so anonymous.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yep been there done that

      Yay for shutting down an entire cluster of VM's in one go.

      Have one (laxative-free lager) on us BOFH's :)

      *snerk*

    2. Killfalcon Bronze badge

      Re: Yep been there done that

      What actually happened there, AC? Were you using the wrong sort of plug?

    3. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Yep been there done that

      If uninsulated wires or bare terminals were close enough to each other that forceful handling* was able to cause a direct short, you DID have a dodgy extension block.

      *If it involved liberating chunks of plaster and wall anchors, I might come back to that statement...

      1. Richard Pennington 1

        Re: Yep been there done that

        That one reminds me of a story dating back to 1971. When the UK introduced decimal currency, it didn't take long for a small child to discover that a 1p piece fits neatly into a UK 3-pin electrical mains plug, touching all three conductors.

        1. Killfalcon Bronze badge

          Re: Yep been there done that

          Is that (and similar hazards) why three-pin plugs have insulation at the base of the two powered pins?

          1. DropBear Silver badge

            Re: Yep been there done that

            To the best of my understanding the insulated base is there to prevent touching energized pins while the plug is neither "in" nor "out" - ie. by the time the pins connect to the socket only the insulated part is supposed to be exposed.

  9. MatsSvensson

    OMG WE GOT HACKED!!!

    *head in hands*

    *peeks through fingers*

  10. Terje

    Being Swedish people call # a whole lot of things, though the only one that I can think of that any swede would universally understand is "brädgård" that is the Swedish word for "lumber yard". As Dave126 pointed out above as being the Swedish cartographic symbol for a lumberyard which I had no idea of, now I do feel bad about learning things during my vacation so I better stop reading comments!!!

  11. Nick Kew Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Rebecca - a flying start

    This has to be one of the best Monday mea culpas to date: a protagonist who is absolutely to blame and in circumstances I (and I expect many of us) can identify with. Did Simon leave you this story lined up, or are you just better at it?

    I'm sure the only reason I've never done similar is that I've never been in charge of a mainframe. Though it brings to mind a few 1980s-vintage pranks, from when Unix machines trusted each other and would happily share screens (xhost + was a default setting). Or the one on VMS that had the company go into panic mode for a major security breach 'cos I altered my logout to display a logout screen for "SYSTEM".

    Here's a thought. These days when bored like that, one can turn to the 'net and browse something - like the day's crop of Reg stories. I wonder if that's substantially reduced the rate of "bored" pranks, and accidents like this?

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Rebecca - a flying start

      He he he he

      At one time I had the BSOD screensaver from Sysinternals running on my servers (and BOFH workstation).

      People would comment to me that my machine crashed :)

      1. Guy Geens
        Devil

        Re: Rebecca - a flying start

        A former coworker installed the BSOD screensaver on a production machine, right before going on holiday.

        By the time he came back, the operators who had to look after that machine were ready for the loony bin.

      2. Criggie

        Re: Rebecca - a flying start

        Downside of this is those really helpful people who continue ",,,so I rebooted it for you"

        Sometimes its better to avoid problems and have your toasters or pipes or just a power save mode.

  12. Paul Mitchell 1

    Infinite booting

    Back in the early 80s I was sys admin on a Honeywell DPS-6 used by about thirty developers.

    I needed to reboot it one evening but I couldn't hang around to perform the boot myself. I had a tiny assembler program that would perform a "level-2 interrupt" . This would skip any shutdown malarkey and perform an immediate reboot.

    I placed this command into the batch queue scheduled for 6pm. The other developers assured me they'd be gone by then. So I expected to arrive the following morning to find a freshly rebooted minicomputer.

    Unfortunately, since the level-2 interrupt rebooted with so little bureaucracy, there was no chance for the batch processor to remove the job from the queue. The result being that as soon as the machine started up and looked in the queue it found the reboot command there ready to execute again.

    This led to an infinitely looping reboot and a bunch of angry early-bird developers when I arrived the next day.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Infinite booting

      Just curious - how did you manage to resolve this infinite reboot scenario?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Infinite booting

        And why was it always 6PM after the reboot?

  13. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Happy

    Dear Rebecca

    Thank you for a good start to an otherwise dreary and dull week :)

    Regards

    ASAC

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Absolve yourself by writing to the priest of Who, me?

      Assuming Rebecca did a stint of Oracularities with the Usenet Oracle.

      Zadoc sends his greetings, and a cape made of w**dch**k skins

  14. SteveK

    Monkeys and snails

    Going off on a tangent to the tangent (what people call the '#' symbol), the '@' symbol goes by rather a lot of names in different countries. Wikipedia has a list. Quite a few countries refer to it as either a monkey or a snail.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Monkeys and snails

      I simply refer to it as 'commercial-at' as it makes me remember that in morse code it's CA (with no break) -.-..-

    2. Mandoscottie

      Re: Monkeys and snails

      you learn something new every day :D

      I dont see the monkey though...thats q0-0p IMO

      I should know i co own www.q0-0p.co.uk :P

  15. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Deja vu!

    I jokingly asked in a previous topic about recursive VM's. Now they post a story about recursive VM's. It's like recursion only better! =-D

  16. Michael Strorm

    "killing off all 72 developers at once"

    You inadvertently killed 72 techies by improperly shutting down their VMs?! That's one badly-designed system...

    Did the consoles explode in a shower of electrical sparks a la Star Trek?

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: "killing off all 72 developers at once"

      Quite amusing to watch - when the Kobayashi Maru scenario was played out in "Search for Spock" consoles explode and people would be hurled away from said consoles...

      1. rnturn

        Re: "killing off all 72 developers at once"

        The computer shutdown scene in `Scanners' is always a hoot.

  17. Christopher Rowarth

    Welcome to Rebecca

    Great start - Fridays and Mondays thereg is my go to website for On-Call and Who, Me?. seems you've hit the ground running. Looking forward to more of the above!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of many years ago when a young engineer I worked with realised he could fiddle around with the file system on VAX/VMS and created a recursive definition which he thoughtfully called "pandora/box", under which was a folder "pandora", which pointed to - you guessed it, the parent folder. He gleefully demonstrated the recursion and showed pandora/box/pandora/box/pandora/box/pandora/box... etc. However, he was red-faced the next morning when the backup had failed as it had gone into a black hole down the recursion. Not only red-faced but severely reprimanded. However, he ended up with a job in the IT department, probably so they could keep him on a short leash!

  19. ColinPa

    Powerful vm commands you never ever issue

    Going back 40 years ago, one of my jobs was "build" on CMS on VM/370 where I had to print off the assembly listings and put them in alphabetical order in the racks. I got to know the ops very well, and they were a great help to me.

    One of them, showing off, said this was one command you never, ever, use ... and typed "#cp purge prt * all". The phone rang, and when he finished the call he pressed the enter key. Whoops! This purged all of the spool files for every one!

    As the command was audited it was clear who had typed the command. He owned up, and management treated this like a disaster recovery test.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Powerful vm commands you never ever issue

      disaster recovery test.

      I think I just found my new el`reg name

  20. Dave 32
    Pint

    Whoopsie!

    What sysadmin, when presented with a VM system, hasn't tried to boot up a second level system (and then a third level system, and a fourth level system, etc.). And, what sysadmin hasn't gotten confused at which VM level they're on and issue the CP SHUTDOWN command? I know I certainly have. Luckily, it was a "Personal" mainframe I was on, so I only shot myself in the foot. Does anyone remember those IBM P/370 machines? (Ok, so it's been a couple of decades ago. Still, they were pretty darned neat.). I lusted after one of the P/390s, but never could acquire one.

    Dave

  21. rnturn

    That's been done before...

    Back in the '80s (when I was working at a University as a research engineer) I came in one Saturday to get some work done and couldn't get the big IBM 43xx box to respond. Figuring I'd missed an annoucement about some scheduled system patching I went home. I later found out that what had happened was that some kid had figured out he could launch another VM inside his VM. And then proceeded to run a third VM inside /that/ VM. Apparently, while creating these nested VMs, he consumed all of the available temporary disk space (what I noticed during my aborted attempt to get some work done: no temp space available). It was the third VM that did him in. The system operators--likely after /they'd/ gotten notified about the temp space being unavailable--finally figured out was was going on and kicked him off the system. His stunt got him kicked out of the honors program he had been in. No word on whether IBM offered him a job or not.

    1. QuiteEvilGraham
      Mushroom

      Re: That's been done before...

      Setting up a second level VM system (in its entirety) is a non-trivial task.

      However, it used to be the case that you could create "cloned" VMs by the simple expedient of diving into the VMBLOK/whatever replaced them and changing the name then logging back in to the original again.

      Could be handy if you didn't have access to MAINT/DIRMAINT and wanted to muck around. And great fun if you wanted to give auditing a body swerve.

      Although if they gave "kids" class A VMs, they deserved all they got.

  22. VTAMguy
    Boffin

    CP == Hypervisor

    In IBM's VM/370, CP is the Control Program, which we now call the Hypervisor. It was responsible for creating and running the various guest operating systems. Since every guest operating system up to that point was definitively not personal in any way (think monster OS/VS1 and bigger monster MVS), the nice folks in IBM Cambridge also developed CMS, the Conversational Monitor System. (It was first called the Cambridge Monitor System but IBM marketing said no sorry). This was an IPL-able (aka bootable) OS that provided a facsimile of a "personal mainframe", which you could use to create and edit files, run some utilities, and interact in a limited way with other CMS users. CMS would not run on a bare metal machine - it required a VM/370 CP environment.

    The # character (that would be an EBCDIC # thank you) was the default escape character used to signal that the command should be intercepted by the CP rather than the guest OS. when that became necessary, eg to re-IPL. Another way to escape was to hit the 3270 "PA1" key, which would then normally display a status of "CP READ" allowing direct input of CP commands. Just to muddy things a little more, the CP could receive commands directly from CMS as a courtesy default, meaning the #CP prefix wasn't necessarily always strictly required under CMS.

    It was common as dirt to run VM/370 as a guest OS under VM/370. There are likely few VM system programmers from that era who haven't done it just for fun but it also served a real purpose: testing new versions of VM/370, testing new important guest operating systems under new versions of VM/370 and testing local modifications to VM/370 were all useful tools. When running VM under VM (under VM etc), the escape character would be different (it was settable as well). When juggling CPs, one was well advised to keep track of one's place on the perilously teetering stack of operating systems and issue commands to the proper CP using the proper escape character (EBCDIC please). Someone not used to this juggling might reflexively type, eg #CP IPL because that's what motor memory has instilled, but such haste can easily cause the teetering stack to vanish in the click of an ENTER key. Oopsie. Don't do that.

    The NYC/northern NJ computing landscape of the late 1970's and early 1980's was littered with IBM mainframe shops running VM/370, MVS, VS1 and DOS/VS. There was more mainframe iron there than anyplace else on the planet, it seemed, and everyone who was anyone in the VM world met up at the MVMUA conferences, usually held at MetLife in Manhattan.

    -Grayhaired VM/370 systems programmer

    1. QuiteEvilGraham
      Pint

      Re: CP == Hypervisor

      It's been many years, but IIRC, the only *safe* way to shut down a second or third level, etc. VM system was to log in as OPERATOR and type SHUTDOWN there.

      And you're right, anything not recognised by CMS got passed to CP by default. Once upon a time, I worked for a well-known software company where it seemed to be a point of honour for any software we wrote could detect that it was running in a VM and issue commands to the base operating system via DIAG X'08'. This was a bit of a faff, 'cause you had to grab a chunk of page-aligned storage, get the real address (via LRA) then stick the command in there and fire it off.

      Having had a few incidents where the dreaded "Warm Checkpoint area saved" message appeared, we made a point of

      a) Never using SHUTDOWN as a command to stop a product running.

      b) Intercepted SHUTDOWN as a precaution.

      These days you can customise the command classes quite well so it's hard to get killed inadvertently, but having class ABCDEFG in yer VM directory entry is usually a warning that there is a gun pointed at your foot.

      That said, once managed to knock over a VM system at IBM Portsmouth three times in one afternoon from a class G machine writing an APPC thing, and some years earlier, at a major chemist's wholesaler twatting about with DIAG X'7C' (apparently they were a bit behind with applying service).

      Haven't worked with it for over 20 years, but VM remains my first love as an operating system.

    2. John R. Macdonald

      Re: CP == Hypervisor

      The service bureau I worked for was a MVS and VM shop. All new releases of both VM and MVS were tested under VM.

      My VM sysprog friends joked that running MVS under VM was the only proper way to run MVS. Which is now how I run MVS (rel 3.8J), as a guest system on VM/370R6 , using the Hercules emulator on my PCs.

      (for those so inclined, there is even APL on MVT available for the Hercules emulator).

      Throw in THE (The Hessling Editor) and/or SPFLite and you're back in the heydays of IBM mainframe computing.

      1. dakra

        Re: CP == Hypervisor

        re: My VM sysprog friends joked that running MVS under VM was the only proper way to run MVS.

        What do you mean that your friends joked? Nowadays it is the only way.

        Bare metal z mainframes don't run operating systems anymore.

        For many years now, the only way on a z mainframe to run an operating system, such as z/OS, (a successor to MVS,) is to run it in a "logical partition" under the PR/SM hypervisor, which is a successor to a stripped down version of VM.

        1. John R. Macdonald

          Re: CP == Hypervisor

          @dakra

          You're talking about nowadays. I was talking about yonder years, in the previous century, when MVS was called MVS. A time when z/OS and z/VM didn't exist.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: CP == Hypervisor

      Thanks! I was going to post some of this stuff (I did a stint at IBM in Cambridge and knew some of the CMS folks), but you did a much better job.

      (I was also going to complain about the comma in "IBM's mainframe OS, CMS" in the article. Even if CMS were an OS in its own right, which it isn't, it's far from IBM's only mainframe OS. So "IBM's mainframe OS" should be an adjectival noun phrase, indicating that CMS is simply an IBM mainframe OS; but the comma makes it an appositive, implying CMS is the IBM mainframe OS. And that is obviously wrong. But it would be pedantic of me to mention that, so I won't. Anyway, most writers seem to have trouble with the distinction between adjectival and appositional noun phrases. Apparently they're hard.)

      1. aqk
        Big Brother

        Re: CP == Hypervisor

        ....a stint at IBM in Cambridge and knew some of the CMS folks...

        Huh! So you're one of those guys that originated all those SVC 202 calls that kept me busy!

        202 = X"ca"

  23. Greybeard3

    Back to the VM part of the story

    Jeez. This happened in like 1975. And is the result of someone being an idiot – you don’t do testing in a VM with privileges, for reasons exactly like this.

    Plus modern z/VM systems let you (optionally but trivially) specify in the configuration that you have to tell it “shutdown systemname” for exactly this reason. The only reason you would NOT have that option set is if (a) you’re an idiot or (b) because you have some automation that doesn’t specify the system name and you’re too lazy to fix it (which is sort of (a) redux).

    Typical Reg article: a germ of truth, wildly distorted. I am disappoint. But not surprised.

  24. earl grey Silver badge
    Alert

    I, for one

    Welcome our new #Mistress.

  25. dakra

    Sysadmin sank IBM Mainframe by not going one VM deep enough

    The article's headline got it wrong.

    Don't say the "Sysadmin sank IBM mainframe by going one VM too deep"

    The problem isn't that he went one VM too deep. It's that he went one VM too shallow. He killed the first, top level VM.

    If he killed the second level VM, it would have taken its children along with it, but left the top level alone.

    The headline could read, "Sysadmin sank IBM Mainframe by not going one VM deep enough."

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, duh.

    This isn't exceptional for this environment; it's a obvious consequence of running with too many privileges. Normal users should never have more than class G, which does not include the ability to halt the real machine. Running something like this in a privileged machine is proof of nothing more than you are an idiot.

    Wrt to VM-inside-VM virtualization, it is possible with VM to run arbitrary numbers of layers. I personally have exeeded 45 layers deep. After the 3rd layer you lose most of the hardware assists, so it gets dog slow, but if you have enough RAM and disk, you can go as far as you can stand.

    Not bad for something released in 1964.

  27. mshults99

    Really?! 204 comments about the etymology of the 'hash'-whatever?!

    Nerds.

    Back to the topic at hand. I confess that in the early 80's I was known to make use of the debugging tool within CICS (name and author escapes me at the moment) to write over the shared control blocks with garbage, bringing down the entire control region.

    This was necessary because I was ready to test my program, and I didn't want to wait until the Sysadmins cycled CICS overnight, which at the time was the only way to refresh the binaries in the load libraries.

    I was never caught (by the sysadmins - my fellow developers were in cahoots with me since they needed their stuff reloaded too).

  28. ps2os2

    This has been around since VM has been in existence

    I believe I heard the story here in the US in the 1980's. I don't follow VM so it might have been earlier. If memory serves me the limiting factor is real storage (I could be wrong). I also heard that someone at IBM got several hundred, again I don't follow VM.

    1. aqk
      Thumb Up

      Re: This has been around since VM 1970s...

      Back in the '70s, as a VM system programmer, I once had three levels of VM/HPO set up just for fun, and occasionally installed or upgraded a new VM system under the old production VM. i.e. two levels.

      And I did know someone that apparently had tested at least seven levels of VM, but he worked for IBM, and lots of toys to play with.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE the # symbol - who's name I shall not utter for fear of setting off you lot

    Whenever an American goes on about which key is which and decides to tell me about it and also what they thought about the keyboard layout (cough ¬) I bitch about them being PHYSICALLY SHORT A KEY!

    A friend of mine who was going back left me this really heavy Alienware laptop - it had a spastic keyboard.

    I replaced it as I love candlewax but on a related note, latex, and the \ being on the wrong side is why I use the term "spastic" - this is okay as to them it's a Transformer. Don't worry.

    I did remap it and I was tracing through the permuted keys when I noticed one is actually *absent*

    Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go and preach to someone that white is right regarding bread - I'm needed elsewhere.

    PS: same for bathrooms. Anyone wanna picket a B&Q to make them get rid of their non-white stuff? Who buys the green bathroom sets anyway? Where are these people?

  30. steeleweed

    IBMers not immune

    The IBM SE on our account once intended to shut down a VM printer so he could attach it to a virtual OS.

    Instead "# 00E shutdown", he typed "#shutdown 00E". Oops!

    When he came in the next day, he found he was a Class C user from then on.

  31. CaptainScarlet

    I worked on the same system (VM/CMS) in the 90s. We were doing the same thing, running a "guest" VM system for diagnostic use. This time it wasn't developers, but the whole Military engineering company we were working at that got shut down. My colleague "Fred" typed #CP Shutdown. All over a huge, open plan office, heads popped up, a murmur of concern rippled around and we suddenly realized what had happened. We had shut down the mainframe system upon which the whole company worked.

    Solution? Just in case this (excellent) 90s system makes a comeback, ensure that the top level host login does not have "MAINT" privileges. Typing #CP Shutdown then has no effect, other than an error message. You're welcome.

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