Why yes, yes I have...
And that's why I'm Not Allowed to come to work naked any longer.
Welcome to Who, Me?, The Register's weekly tale of reader misdeeds, accidental or otherwise. Today's story is set thirty years ago in a time of mainframes and limited computing resources. Reader "Ivor" was working for an up and coming US trucking company that was so up and coming that it had realised it needed 24-hour …
No idea about that, but IIRC a few years ago, there was a "documentary" about a company that did have a nude day as a "team building exercise" (TM)
Your comment has made me wonder - presumably companies that deal with nudist camps probably do have a no clothes policy.
One of the phrases that was included on the announcement of the party was "some form of lower body attire is required".
Reminds me of a track-day at a local racing track (IIRC it was Mansfield). It was made very clear that you would not be allowed on the track unless you had proper boots and a proper helmet..
And a certain old character (NOT me) went out with just that. And I mean just that..
Bloody memory.. Make mine a mindbleach!
[...] unless you had proper boots and a proper helmet.
A naturist group organised a visit to some tourist caves. The regulations required strong boots and a pit helmet. They had to watch out for sharp corners in some places. Yes - there are pictures to prove it.
I discovered something horrible once when doing frontline repair work.
1) Customers who have screen savers that show random photos should be educated on the problems with such things.
2) Naturists seem to be predominantly considerably over weight.
3) Naturists also seem to be predominantly over 50, many over 60 and way past "needs ironing".
4) No one in my area supplies mindbleach by the supertanker.
"Naturists seem to be predominantly considerably over weight."
Not in my experience. They are generally in better shape than many of the UK population these days. I do know a wide age range - so that may make it an unrepresentative sample compared to your customers.
And that's why I'm Not Allowed to come to work naked any longer.
No, actually it's all them pies and beers that make it so you're not allowed to come to work naked...
If you only looked like me, you could walk naked wherever you wanted, your ears filled with shrieks of joy from all who look on your body.
I mean 'shrieks of joy' in the full-on out-of-their-mind lunatic-asylum types, as sight of my nakedness ruins their mind forever more...
Probably should at least put a coat on....
An op at one place I worked wrote a game of Space Invaders in DCL on a VAX. Each sprite had its own process and automatically moved itself, when hit the process was killed.
Very cool, but took a lot of power at higher levels, when the sprites moved faster.
Maybe that is where BOFH got his idea for Unreal Tournament with enemies being users' PCs...
Then there was the game of Space Invaders which ran on a line printer. Print out the screen on fan-fold paper, wait for a user key, print out the amended screen.
This was at AWRE Aldermaston - there's a fictionalised account in Dave Langford's "The Leaky Establishment" but it did actually happen, as did most of the events in that book other than (hopefully) the main plot.
"Then there was the game of Space Invaders which ran on a line printer."
As school we used to have a daisy wheel printer which had a fast carriage-return to either the left or right end of the carriage. It was installed on a not altogether solid table. Sending the carriage backwards and forwards would make the printer table move sideways in the manner of a Space Invader.
" Sending the carriage backwards and forwards would make the printer table move sideways [...]"
The Friden Flexowriter was used as the console on 2nd generation mainframes like the KDF8 and KDF9.
IIRC someone made a paper tape that merely did black/red ink shifts - which raised and dropped a pointer shaped piece of metal lifting the ribbon. The trick was in the timing - which started slowly then gradually got faster. Think of the tempo of Ravel's Bolero.
I've told this one before.
Data General, in the 70s. I was on the team that developed the D200 terminal, built around a Motorola 6802 processor. Seeing as how it had a processor, and RAM, we built in a code download facility, and added a bit of extra RAM to our personal terminals.
They were now able to download and run, locally, anything we wanted. One of our group wrote a downloadable Space Invaders and another created a downloadable PacMan (remember, this was the 70s -- Tetris hadn't leaped the Iron Curtain yet).
Try as we might (and we did), we were unable to fit either of the games into the ROM code as an easter egg.
Those kept us amused until Ethernet made its appearance and we tested its limits with Xnetrek...
The Burroughs TD830 (certainly the "J" variant) was based on a 6800 and similarly allowed a binary to be loaded: somebody used the ISO2047 (?) character set- the one with lightning bolts etc.- for a game of Space Invaders.
Allowing that this was decades before code-signing, encryption on the leased line back to the mainframe and so on the security implications are horrendous.
I wrote a life program in Cobol one boring morning. I saved resources by mapping the screen to a torus-like figure (ie nothing clever involving polar coordinates). Gliders would exit to the right and re-enter to the left.
It made a good screen saver. Well, that was my excuse. I was going to do one in Sperry 1180 @ED command language, but some real work turned up.
Excessive use of the "phone" application on my uni's VAX cluster brought it down several times in the first week of term back in the late 80s, and resulted in widespread bans. It only took about 10 concurrent users in a session to do it, too. Then there was the character-based fractal generator written in DCL...
I loved Phone. It was one of the first things I experienced with computers, back in 1980. I found it fascinating, sitting in an oil exploration company's offices in a small town in the UK and chatting with the night ops in Houston TX.
At another company, I left my terminal unlocked when I went to the loo. When I came back, I had a post-it from the head of ops saying "write out 10,000 times, 'I must lock my terminal when I leave my desk'" A couple of lines of DCL dumped the text out 10,000 times to a file, I then called the op with Phone and piped the file into his Phone window. We were friends and he saw the funny side, eventually... 10,000 lines takes a while to display on a serial terminal! :-D
Ah yes the telling people off for leaving their machines unlocked.
I tended to find it was me who would get told off, so started getting more creative especially when using some spare boxes, a high viz vest to create an outside person and a word file stating I am stealing files.
Colleague also got told off for sending an I love you email to another colleague who was in on the joke.
Decwars would do that. 20 of us with iffy credentials and instructions on where to find it squirrelled away on the new DEC2020 at the Poly down the road.
Caused a thermal check which tripped the EPO. The sudden cessation of power whilst the arrangement was running at full chat was less than kind to the attached disk units which, back then, relied on the machine to tell 'em to park the actuators in order to spin down gracefully. Writing off 20 grand's worth of kit wouldn't be popular now. Back in the early eighties.....!
... get all their email onto the server.
And watch them wait forever for a mail preview to display because the entire enterprise is now flooding the network sized for the previous approach just trying to browse their inboxes, and end up sending a tech round to every desk turn on local caching - which stores the emails in an OST file on the workstation - so that people can just do their sodding work. Still, at least the PST files are a thing of the past.
Why yes, I have been there, done that and bought the T-shirt. Why do you ask?
Once you have exchange, PSTs should become a thing of the past - get all their email onto the server.
As long as you can control group policy and prevent, in many different ways, users from accepting or activating the awful "archive" function that used to be pushed at users by default. Hmmm... Would I like users to arbitrarily move their emails onto the C: drive of the local system and wonder why they can no longer find them on another system or where their entire history of emails has disappeared after a system replacement or crash? No. Just no.
Once you have exchange, PSTs should become a thing of the past - get all their email onto the server.
Yes, because servers never fail and are always reliably backed up, eh? And IT never impose a size limit on the mailbox. Horrible as PSTs are, I'm not giving mine (and the backups I make of them) up, thanks anyway. Though I admit I've considered writing something to export them to a less-idiotic format, such as mbox.1
At least Outlook (despite its myriad faults) lets you maintain an offline copy of what's on the server, for when you can't reach the server. Which, in my experience, is often.
1mbox is pretty dumb; it's a historical accident, created to avoid the overhead of storing individual small messages in separate files in the days before the Berkeley fragmenting filesystem was added to BSD. But plain text is a thousand times better than a fragile, uncooperative, black-box, half-assed database format which doesn't even perform well. (I can grep through a thousand messages in mbox format much faster than Outlook can search an equivalent number in a PST, and Outlook's search mechanism is very limited.)
Spend two days recovering director's PST file which had grown to 2Gbytes due to his habit of keeping attachments going through an entire email thread, and then not be allowed to upgrade the system because "the problem's fixed now."
Yes, you're down to 1.8Gbytes. It's fixed till the next time you decide to play giant spreadsheet ping-pong.
In the days when a laser printer sported a lot more memory than your PC, several smart Alecs decided to use the Turing completeness of postscript to compute a Mandelbrot fractal on the printer, at its full resolution (after all, it had the RAM and a pretty decent RISC processor). The upshot of this was that you sent an innocent-looking, tiny little postscript file to the printer, which was then tied up for over an hour to produce one page. Someone else wrote a ray tracer in postscript, with similar effects.
Many moons ago I wrote a Mandelbrot generator on the mainframe. To display the images on the remote serial terminal in an efficient way (i.e., binary raster rather than point graphics codes), I had it redefine the character set as groups of three overlaid 8x8 pixel maps. Everything worked great as long as you didn't interrupt the output: in which case you'd have to blindly type the escape sequence to reset the character map. It was the fastest-drawing Mandelbrot on the system though!
Time wasting on an earlier generation of printer...
A few decades ago I was an operator on Burroughs mainframes. On night shift when all the excitement of the nightly batch processing and print run was over it was occasionally possible to load up a tape with "men's magazine" pictures (if you're thinking cars, fishing, woodworking you'd be wrong).
These would print out an image on what I recall was a 1200 lines per minute drum-type line printer. Your reward was a picture assembled from 3 strips of music-score each about 8 pages long. Each character position would be overprinted with up to every one of the 7 bit ASCII character set to make up "pixels" of appropriate shades of black. The final image was approaching 400x600 "pixels".
The Burroughs on-site engineers weren't too happy as the print-hammer drivers were not really expected to work that hard, the 132-column wide printer ribbons took quite a hammering and the print drum might need a clean (alcohol and toothbrush).
Each printout took about 20 minutes of mainframe & printer time at what cost nobody dare contemplate and the activity was, to say the least, frowned upon by the shift managers - but they needed to take their meal-breaks...
I've still got two printouts maybe it's time to put them on eBay...
132 little electromagnet assemblies, each delivering enough impulse to a hammer to bang the paper and ribbon onto the right character of the rotating drum and then get out of the way /fast/. Printing long sequences of the same character in the same column was particularly cruel- particularly when you allow that Burroughs at that time wasn't exactly renowned for its R&D expenditure and the printer electronics was basically 1960s technology.
Even worse was the "comb" of magnets interleaved with the hammers. This was inherently fragile and was inclined towards "rapid unscheduled disassembly": I'm sure I've got a few bits in a gash box since in their day they were quite usefully strong.
Don't get me going on Burroughs's power supplies, which typically had lots of transistors in parallel which were inclined to "unzip" releasing things into the atmosphere that today would be considered Very Bad News Indeed.
"[...] which typically had lots of transistors in parallel which were inclined to "unzip" [...]"
Our line printers had a similar design whereby a lot of beefy transistors(2N3055?) were wired in an interdependent way. If one died then an overstress failure rippled through the rest of them. IIRC Beryllium Oxide was the toxic powder inside them.
Michael H.F. Wilkinson - "several smart Alecs decided to use the Turing completeness of postscript to compute a Mandelbrot fractal on the printer"
Hey! Were you spying on me?
In my defence, I never printed it when students were queuing to print their theses, and I later used the PS knowledge acquired to implement page accounting. The Boss was in favour of charging by file size, until I pointed out the effect of changing the parameter for showpage. The fly in the ointment was that the IBM printer only updated the page count at the end of a job, so you could avoid paying by switching the printer off during the last page. IIRC, the Apple printer did not have that flaw.
Delight the user: not much beyond sending a file to some user with accomanying words watch this! Which would result in an immediate shutdown. Those were the days before we even started to worry about Y2k.
Anyhow, regarding system usage, a colleague used to download a stack of data and processed them in MS Access on his local machine. Each single step would take at least one full day, the whole procedure well over a week. I, having to reproduce this calculations, abhoring said tool and showing a lack of patience, rewrote the queries and ran them directly on the production SQL servers. The whole shebang completed within a few minutes. That is, certainly less than an hour, or so. During which the system was not exactly responsive. Much to delight of the real users...
After some friendly nugding by the IT operations team I redesigned the queries again to run well under five minutes and ran them outside office hours.
That's giving me nightmares of working with the IT Boss from hell*. He developed an Access database for extracting the data from the production server, which then exported Excel spreadsheet reports for finance. The database took over 8 hours to complete, and eventually had to be split into several databases joined together as it hit the 2Gb file size limit. He was doing an ODBC into the server, and pulling EVERYTHING. Then selecting just the tables he needed into queries. Then selecting those queries and filtering.
I rewrote the whole thing dumping all the tables he didn't need and only bringing in the data that was required, so all the filtering was done on the initial ODBC connection. The result ran in just under an hour and took up a lot less space. Also meant if there were any issues with the overnight run it was possible to rerun in the morning, debug any issues, and still get the report out before lunch.
* Mentioned elsewhere, same guy who claimed to be so super intelligent he graduated with 6 degrees after doing them all at the same time over 18 months, was an Olympic archer, friends with Branson, professional level concert pianist, owned a Cray II computer, ran his own multi-million dollar business selling data to the oil industry on the side, and yet would not accept that VAT meant "added tax" (he was calculating VAT as 17.5% of the final sales price).
About four years ago I was called into a meeting with some IBM project team that my lot had paid to deal with mainframe congestion issues.
"As you are no doubt aware" they started "you are the single heaviest user of the company mainframe".
I was not, in fact, aware. Turned out that one of the black-box process I ran wasn't just slow (I knew it was slow, and fragile), it needed something like 16-CPU hours of time on a modern Z-series machine.
After a very short discussion I agreed to just never run it in the last week of the month because it could delay payroll, and if there's one thing I like about work, it's being paid on time...
I had written a test system that wound up becoming productized. I had put a small easter egg that ran an animated splash screen (on an ASCII terminal -- this WAS the 80s, after all...).
Management actually was amused at it when they found out, but I was told to take it out, just in case the customer accidentally ran across it...
Not me making the change - but unfortunately copping the phone calls as a result...
At a client site, all maintenance worked perfectly & server looked healthy, contrary to reports from the office manager about slow access. Less than 15 minutes after leaving & received a call that the issue was happening again.
Asked the office manager if anything had been changed on the server & told no. Headed back to the site & on arrival found the server had been set to use a 3D screen saver, because the server sat in a glass fronted rack in a corner of the office & someone thought that looked better. Of course, this was an NT4 server, with no dedicated graphics card... can anyone say “100% CPU utilisation”? Had to demonstrate to the manager in question that this was the issue though, because they wouldn’t accept simply being told by the person paid to support their IT systems.
I remember someone doing something a bit similar about ten years ago. Posted something on the company intranet site vaguely Christmas related and thought it would be cute to decorate the page with a constant stream of snowflakes.
Not sure exactly what they did but the more people who opened it the slower performance got until people trying to access documents they needed for work on the same server were being hit with endless delays.
I think Christmas was banned after that
Oh, you should have seen the demo code on the Cyber vector displays (not one, but TWO LARGE round CRTs). They were more than a foot in diameter and vector graphics. One showed processes executing and the other showed the job queue IIRC.
When maintenance time came around, they could show all kinds of interesting graphics, driven by the multiprocessor CYBER 74. A pair of eyes, lunar lander (of course) and a bunch of other stuff.
A boss of mine asked the client department's representative what the system should do if a user tried to do something that they were not authorised to do. "it should tell them to bugger off" came the reply.
A month or two later, while being the system was being demonstrated to the head of the department, somebody tried to carry out an unauthorised transaction. The screen (DOS based text screen) slowly filled to display "BUGGER OFF" in large block graphics on a coloured background, while playing Sousa's "Liberty Bell" (Monty Python theme) through the PC speaker using an assembler routine. For some reason this did not go down well!
*Takes aim at SALOME SMITH with CS18 overvolted with drone battery and fitted with (long discontinued) 36 round drum, depresses the acceleration trigger and, to the ear-splitting shriek of the massively overdriven pinch-roller motors fires six rounds of blue darts in just under a second*
As Eli Wallach should have said: "When you have to Nerf, Nerf. Don't talk".
An online TP system in the 1970s had two development teams. One day a bright youngster in the distant one got bored and decided to wind up the main centre. The main console suddenly printed "I am a ghost and I have changed your password". This was true and the systems team scrambled into debug mode to find the new master password (in the days before encryption was used).
Before they had succeeded - the message appeared again - and again - and again. Each time it changed to a new password. All was revealed when the guy rang through to see if they enjoyed his creative joke - and it then dawned on him that his code had a bug that made an unintended loop.
He was fired the next day.
When I worked in the Grace Bros of the tool manufacturing world, one weekday just before Xmas I wrote a greenscreen animation of a Christmas tree drawn ASCII emoji style with asterisks for the blinking lights. I wrote it in ICL/Dataskill's Applications Manager as a splash screen for the people signing on for the day. It would appear only at certain clock times so only a few people saw it.
At about 11am the DP manager hove into port alongside my (metal) desk (tinsmiths only for the relocation of) and demanded to know what I had done, because the really basic proto-network of polled lines was flooding with people signing on and off trying to get the splash screen to display. How could he have known it was me? It was and remains a mystery.
I 'fessed up and was told to make the Parameter Set name public so people could just run the tree animation and then get on with work. I was not reprimanded or made to go and talk with the pointy haired boss because it was Christmas and the DPM wanted to see the animation for himself.
He did, however, say that if the Parameter Set was still in the UT23 library tomorrow, there would be trouble.
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