back to article IT workers: Speaking truth to douchebags since 1977

Welcome to The Register's weekly leap into the guilty, and not-so-guilty confessions of readers in our Who, Me? column. Today's tale takes us back more than 40 years, to 1977, a year that saw the death of Elvis Presley and the birth of the Atari 2600 Video Game Console, replete with delightful wood veneer. 1977 was also when …

  1. Mongrel

    When I was working a the second worst PC manufacturer; some tech with a grudge add some rather salty comments about the Director to the boot splash screen. It went unnoticed for ages because you could only see it if the brightness was cranked to the maximum.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Or just do like Chris Morris did and add a (NSFW) message to broadcast TV...

      Brasseye fans will know why I picked the icon -->

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Why are these called subliminal?

        They always seem to scream loudly at you.

      2. Roj Blake Silver badge

        Re: Brass Eye

        It's the crab DNA that does it.

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Alien

          Re: Brass Eye

          "Now that is scientific fact—there's no real evidence for it—but it is scientific fact"

    2. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

      the second worst PC manufacturer

      Gateway?

      1. Mongrel

        They'd have been a step up

        1. Korev Silver badge

          Packard Bell?

      2. Sloppy Crapmonster

        eMachines? Although they did start making decent computers in the early 'nuthins.

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        I don't think it's a fully-ordered set.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not really, but related

    Yesterday, I was ranting to a friend about a lecturer while in the elevator, when the doors opened, and who else was at the door.

    Talk about speaking about the devil.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Not really, but related

      Talk about speaking about the devil.

      If you talk about speaking about the devil, does speaking about the devil appear?

      Damn it, now I'm writing about talking about speaking about the devil. I'm terminating this before I run out of stack.

  3. Aqua Marina

    I was at college circa 1989 and we were using Turbo Pascal as our main tool for the college course. One of the things that bugged me, was the lack of plain english used when code refused to compile because of a syntax error. Over time I learned exactly what each error message actually meant, and wrote my own hex editor and set about editing files to change the error messages to something anyone could understand. For example "A syntax error occurred near line XYZ, invalid <something> and <some numerical code>" was changed to "Error above line XYZ, you forgot a semicolon you dozy prat!", and other similarly worded changes. Much merriment was had by all and coding actually improved thanks to my now actually helpful messages. A month later I was called into the lecturers office. They had over the end of term holidays been running commercial courses, and some senior staff from a nearby large firm were taking a Pascal refresher. My changes had been met with a few chortles, but overall it was considered very unprofessional. I received a dressing down, then was sent to help the college technician revert the changes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You shouldn't have reverted the changes though

      Since they evidently lack the sense of humor, you should've left the changes right where they belong.

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: You shouldn't have reverted the changes though

        Since they evidently lack the sense of humor, you should've left the changes right where they belong.

        Or change the wording a teensy-weensy bit...

      2. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Re: You shouldn't have reverted the changes though

        You could have changed them to be as useful as current windows errors messages by change all of them to say "something may have gone wrong".

        1. Suricou Raven Silver badge

          Re: You shouldn't have reverted the changes though

          Not all of them. One error message still needs to say "The operation completed successfully."

        2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

          Re: You shouldn't have reverted the changes though

          When I was creating a user interface for an image processing system, I did consider counting the number of errors in the user input, and slowly escalating an "irritability index" for the error message output, starting out with friendly and helpful messages, and ending with RTFM suggestions.

          These days, I might opt for error messages like

          +++ Out of cheese error +++

          +++ Reinstall universe +++

          +++ Redo from start +++

          Although I might also opt for the more cryptic

          +++ A suffusion of yellow +++

          Doffs hat (grey Tilley once more) to the late, great Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams

        3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: You shouldn't have reverted the changes though

          as useful as current windows errors messages by change all of them to say "something may have gone wrong"

          Windows Update is particularly infuriating this way. 99% of Windows Update failure message are "Installation failed with unrecognized error code 0xvalue", where value is a standard Windows error code that's been documented since the days of NT4 and is trivially formatted using FormatMessage. I don't know if the behavior of WU is the result of appalling laziness or outright evil, but someone deserves a severe beating for it.

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Today I tried to register a vote on an El Reg comment which failed - only to be met with a red box pop-up-and-fade saying that the coders needed to be referred to the Moderatrix!

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
        Gimp

        Ah, the Moderatrix

        I used to word my comments with an eye on getting her to jump in to the comments on a story.

        Fond memories.

    3. Luiz Abdala Bronze badge

      South Park censorship rule.

      You could have taken the path of South Park writers: every time they were asked to tone it down, they would redouble their efforts at making it more violent / cynical / explicit.

    4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Security?

      If a lowly student had sufficient access to the compiler to be able to hex-edit the binary, I suggest that the collage should have found a better way of installing the compiler!

      Or use an OS with better protection.

      When I worked as a support tech in a UK Polytechnic in the early '80s, on the systems without hard-disks, students could check out tracked numbered copies of the application disks (and were given a stern telling off/threat of being kicked off the course if these copies were not returned). If a copy was altered/damaged, it was simple enough to either re-image the disk, or destroy it and make a new copy.

      This approach was checked with copyright auditors, who accepted that as long as no more copies were in use as were purchased (and that this was sufficiently well tracked), they would not complain.

      1. Aqua Marina

        Re: Security?

        We simply had MS DOS on stand alone Amstrad 1640s IIRC and we accessed everything from the command prompt. In the Turbo Pascal we had, the compiler and editor were the same thing. We also had Cobol, Fortran, Wordstar, DBase 4 and some DTP package that was a horrible shade of pink running on GEM. We also studied a DOS module. In fact the end of year project was creating an ASCII GUI for DOS that could traverse the disk file structure, allow you to move, delete and rename files and start DOS commands (.COM files only). This used the Amstrad mouse (which emulated the arrow keys rather than normal mouse calls you have now). The Turbo Pascal we used had a curious bug, in that it could call .COM files, but only if the file being called was smaller than the compiled TP file. To get around this we had to simply append text as a comment at the bottom of the source file so that the compiled version took up the full 64K.

        Piracy wasn't really an issue because no-one had PCs. Me and a couple of others had Amiga 500s, on which we ran monochrome ASCII only PC emulators and yes, we poached a copy of what we wanted, but it ran so slow on the Amiga, it really wasn't worth it. To draw the first 80 x 25 screen of my DOS gui took about 10 minutes.

        In the last few weeks of college, they did install a program called Protec, which was an ASCII based security GUI menu that called up programs with a view to restricting what could be ran on the machine. Unfortunately because we had access to Turbo Pascal, we could look at the contents of RAM (all 640K of it) and very quickly found the admin password, which was obfuscated using a simple cypher, i.e. A = D B = E kind of thing. We got a "well-done" from the course leader when we pointed it out.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Turbo Pascal Shenanigans

      I once spent my lunch hour using TP to create a program that simply drew an exact copy of the TP IDE... rename the .exe files around, and watch as colleagues thought their pc had 'frozen', since none of the menus would work....

      Also, I remember using doskey to run arbritary programs created in TP, rather than some intended DOS command... It was a fun team to work in!

      Yes, I am really old and have a strange sense of humour!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About 15 years ago I was head of IT at a CRM company with a dozen employees. We had developed our own CRM / Accounts / Sales tool internally, and were now starting to sell it into the industry. We had one really obnoxious customer that everyone referred to as a twat. Someone had inserted the word "TWAT" into his customer record notes, and the word popped up every time you entered his record to make a sale.

    When we hit about 200 employees we started to cloudify our software, and offer it to our customers. They could log into their account, make changes, make orders themselves, check our stock levels and basically handle our back-office functions themselves to save us a job. Everything was fine until Mr Obnoxious logged into his account for the first time, and was greeted with the word "TWAT".

    He rang to complain straight to the Managing Director who went ballistic. She emailed all department heads angrilly, wanting to sack whoever made the change. She enlisted the help of the IT department (i.e. me) to go through the audit trail to find out who it was. She intended to make an example out of whoever it was.

    The news rippled throughout the organisation, everyone was talking about this wondering who made the addition, and waiting with baited breath for someone to be booted out the door.

    An hour or so later, having restored an old backup tape (this was pre GDPR and we could restore from any time in the companies history), I parsed the log and found the person responsible. I printed out the log entry, and took it to my boss, the Financial Director. He looked at it, smirked, picked up the phone and rang up the culprit. The MDs husband, the CEO!.

    Within 15 minutes anger had turned into laughter, as the board all agreed that the customer was indeed a twat, and the boss had made the note many years ago when he was practically a one man band working in an office above a takeaway, it had survived every revision of the software and he was now long since removed from the process that would have had him see the word pop up each time the account was brought up.

    The MD then sent a mild follow up to employees, asking them to check all account notes to make sure that no other legacy colourful descriptions of our customer base remained and asking that in future notes were to be used as factual records, rather than containing opinions.

    1. SonofRojBlake

      Not funny

      "She emailed all department heads angrilly, wanting to sack whoever made the change"

      ... but when she found out it wasn't one of the disposable minions, suddenly it wasn't a sacking offence any more, it was a bit of a larf. Cnut.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: Not funny

        Well she wasn't going to sack the CEO, now was she ? So what else is there to do than laugh about it ?

        Reality has a knack for changing people's stance on something.

        1. stiine Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Not funny

          You never know...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not funny

          we're working on impeaching the CEO here - who happens to be The Twat Hiself, so counts double, right?

    2. Neal L

      Me thinks that had the culprit not been the CEO the poor sod would have been fired.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Minions do get fired

      I was managing the implementation of a utility consumer billing system. it was a new business and staff were bought if off the street to work in the call centre. One bright pair (boyfriend and girlfriend) decided that it would be easier to temporarily change customer names to make them memorable. Unfortunately for them we have a trigger on the database to send out a welcome pack to the address if the name changed to start a customer retention process. Mrs big t*t* rang up very very angry to ask what the hell we were playing at. A chat with the sales director and a compensation payment managed to retain the customer for a year and hopefully limit the reputation damage. the erstwhile couple were dragged in to the Ops Managers office interrogated over what other names they had changed then summarily dismissed. I had to shut down the Marketing system for 24 hours while we ran soundex queries against names using various curses anatomical names etc. a very jovial task for my DBA. We did find another half dozen customers whose details has been changed by them some of whom must have received the mailings but thankfully either binned them or just found them hilarious. Oh and when asked why she chose such an offensive name the girl tearfully responded that 'she sounded like she had big t*t*". I initially had a little sympathy for the idiots but having to divert a developer to implement a filter on the marketing database feed, run the data cleansing operation on the CRM/Billing system and deal with the backlog of marketing mailings caused by shutting the system down for 24 hours I soon lost any concern over their future.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Minions do get fired

        Let's get this straight - if the customers' name was changed, your system interpreted that as meaning that this must be a new customer?

        Granted, it was a bloody stupid thing to do - but even so, that's also a bloody stupid way to configure a utility billing database. There's a reason for using a database, not a spreadsheet.

        1. dfsmith

          Re: Minions do get fired

          Seems sensible to me. If your contact changes from "Mr McHedgehog, ABC Widget Company" to "Ms Porcupinesson, ABC Widget Company" then the new charge will probably benefit from receiving a welcome pack, telling them of all the fantastic products and services that your company offers for very reasonable terms, and much better than that other company across town.

        2. NogginTheNog
          FAIL

          Re: Minions do get fired

          Let's get this straight - if the customers' name was changed, your system interpreted that as meaning that this must be a new customer?

          I'm presuming the account resides at the location, just the customer name and other details change?

          Does rather sound like a system prone to many potential pitfalls to me..?!

        3. Paul Shirley

          Re: Minions do get fired

          Swapping names on accounts (usually with your partner) is a known way to get 'new user' rates when utility providers won't negotiate an acceptable retention offer. Makes sense to detect the event, especially now things like changing phone or broadband provider is mostly automated.

          [Not so good when dealing with idiot companies like VirginMedia, who will happily kill your account if someone else registers at your address without checking. Regularly catches people selling their houses when the buyer registers early]

  5. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Devil

    Breaking News

    Brings back memories of working at the student newspaper back in my undergrad days.

    All was done on a couple of Mac's, which by default had the usual set-up of pings and ding's for their warning/error tones if you did something wrong. But one day me and the then editor of the rag (who in later days ended up in Parliament as a shadow junior minister until he saw sense and quit) found the screens to edit them, and that we could record our own.

    So the error ping tone got changed to "Don't do that...." done in a suitably wicked evil voice stylie (by aforementioned Ed and later MP) and apparently it caused a few startled jumps from the various feature editors and writers who triggered it when they were using the machines and did something wrong.

    Those were the days...

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: Breaking News

      Ah, the joys of ResEdit on Pre-OSX. Pretty much ALL the macs in the programming lab of the high school I attended had their 'pointing hand' mouse image changed to having it flip the bird. That is, when we could be arsed to actually do work as opposed to playing Net Trek on them, or DOOM on the PCs...

    2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Breaking News

      Couple of Mac's what?

  6. jake Silver badge

    About a billion years ago in Internet time ...

    ... call it roughly 1985, my Boss and I were in my office talking to the company owner on the speaker phone. The guy in charge of Advanced Manufacturing slammed into the office, making all kinds of demands, threatening us with firing and worse of we didn't drop everything to do his bidding. Until the owner's voice came out of the telephone, saying three magic words: "Dave, you're fired." ... My Boss was given the newly vacated AdvMan seat the following morning, and I took over his position. The owner cautioned both of us separately "Play fair with everybody, I don't like assholes". Needless to say we took him at his word.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: About a billion years ago in Internet time ...

      In the past if I've ever had to criticise someone from an ethnic minority I just tell them the truth - I'm not racist - I'm arsehole-ist.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: About a billion years ago in Internet time ...

        I solve the issue of being accused of hating certain groups by simply hating everyone equally

  7. Cobug

    " a leak proof douchebag"

    No one needs a douchebag at all.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Wikileakproofdouchebag

      1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
        Trollface

        Wikileakproofdouchebag?

        Is that Newspeak for "whistleblower"? :-D

    2. Psmo Bronze badge

      However, if you need a douchebag a leakproof one would be best...

  8. chivo243 Silver badge
    Trollface

    upside down and backwards

    Years ago, when blogging was a new and cool thing, one user(now departed due to this stunt) blogged about our department in the worst possible light, (throwing shade?) Some other users found this gem. It didn't take long for the link to make the rounds, including HR and a couple of D Levels. The rest is history...

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: upside down and backwards

      Many years ago I got an alert that someone had posted onto blogger.com, checked what they had posted and tagged the alert as 'Harmless NFA'. Unfortunately the culprit had not closed their browsing session and then updated that same blog post with what was OSA (official secrets act) classified information which then got picked up by the MSM.

      Not only did they get slung out of their job (charges were later dropped) but I was also informed that this was a permanent stain upon my work record despite protestations that I had no way (then) to measure/observe a user's session reliably to that degree. Suffice to say that I resigned shortly afterwards with 25 years service behind me.

  9. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Loading screen

    Along time ago we used to have a search on one of our websites, and it would take a long time to complete, so we'd push out a loading page saying "Please wait", so they wouldn't just F5 the page and make another new slow search. The page would output the first half of the page, and rely on incremental rendering to display this message, and then when the search was complete we'd write out the final parts of the page and then redirect to the results.

    When IE 5 came out (told you it was a long time ago), it wouldn't display the page, because IE 5 wouldn't display until a certain number of bytes had been received (I think 8kb..). So I did what any new developer would do... I put the script of the Monty Python "Spam" sketch inside an HTML comment, along with about another 4kb of the word SPAM repeated over and over again. Worked like a charm.

    5 years later, I'm working on a different project, and the team on the old project got a report that we'd been hacked, because a client had hit STOP at the right moment, and the HTML comment was somehow visible ... and then I got a bollocking for being "unprofessional".

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Loading screen

      Now you know the advantage of studying latin. If you would prefer something that the suits won't recognise you could always go with Trogdor þæm Bærnettamber.

  10. Sequin

    We wrote a system for a Police force (it was DOS based, and many years ago). My boss asked to contact at the force what the system should do if someone tried to access a function they were not authorised to use? "It should tell them to bugger off!" came the reply, so sure enough, if you tried something you didn't have rights to, the screen slowly dissolved, to the Mont Python theme, and a large "BUGGER OFF" message appeared.

    The bigwigs were not happy when the system was demonstrated to them.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
      Devil

      That is where literalism gets you

      1. dfsmith

        It's not as if there were a sort of Spanish Inquisition.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Well, no one would expect that.

    2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      "The bigwigs were not happy when the system was demonstrated to them."

      Why not? You followed the provided specification.

    3. Peter X

      My mum has an old Toshiba DVR - looks like this.

      When it powers on, the display says "P-ON" and when you switch it off, it says... (drum-roll)... "P-OFF". I still giggle at that!

  11. Jay 2

    Once upom a time we had the QA/dev boxes for a global project set up in the UK. To which someone named them kennedy and nixon (before we had a proper naming convention. At some point the latter was changed to clinton as appearently there was a chance of someone left-pondian being upset.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We used to have adobe acrobat PDF repository where we stored years worth of documents. The IT dept named it "Glitterbox". One day someone high up twigged the name, and all hell broke out.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Kind Of The Reverse!

        So we had a user here in Canadaland.....

        Ticket comes in & I am about to email a reply to him & do a double take on the guys profile picture & start laughing like a drain to the confusion of my colleagues until I explained that the guy had used publicity picture of Pat Sharp (Complete with 80's mullet) & provided evidence to validate it.

        1. J. Cook Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: Kind Of The Reverse!

          ... and crap like that is why I received a directive from high up last week at [RedactedCo] to use my God-like Admin Powers on our Exchange and Skype install to remove all the user-supplied pictures and block the ability to change them.

          We can never have anything nice...

  12. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    On the other hand...

    Not something I saw myself, but was told about by a colleague:

    A new idea (at the time) on a magazine binder was touch screen control, but they kept getting the screens smashed 'accidentally'. Well, the one thing you don't want in an environment full of moving paper is a static sensitive touch screen - especially not one that simply flashes up "Error" and slams on the brakes. Low paid operatives under a lot of pressure to deliver, tend to have short tempers.

  13. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Xmas humour failure

    I once worked at an ISP and was covering the leased line helpdesk the day before xmas.

    As a joke, I left a recorded message on the phone system asking why they were working so close to xmas and that they should probably be at home with their family. Alas, someone actually dialled in and got that message before getting through to us - they were not impressed.

    This was back in the day when such things resulted in a telling off by your manager who was clearly trying not to laugh. These days you'd probably never work again.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Xmas humour failure

      That's not toooo bad, provided the message isn't so long that it materially delays the caller getting through to a person. I can imagine getting wound up by it, but so long as I still got my support I could shrug it off.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Xmas humour failure

        Forgive me for saying so, but that makes you sound like the unlikeliest person to be working on xmas eve :)

  14. LewisRage

    Wrong Folder

    I was a senior man in charge of some stuff at an MSP a few years ago. The big client, the only national client that basically paid all the wages, got a new CTO and so I was handed the kid gloves to handle his on boarding. All typical stuff, he had arrived and had been working for a few days when I get a call that he had a problem and could I look at it.

    I got him on the phone and we had a chat whilst I dialled in and took control of his machine through remote assistance. The important point here is that he could still see what was happening on his screen.

    The issue was a minor thing, no worries I've got a powershell script that does just what we need. I map a drive back to my terminal and open up my powershell script repository. It was something I use regularly so it's built into a function, in the folder \Functions. I type FU to get to the relevant section of my script folder and it is only at this point I realise my mistake.

    The folder structure looks like this

    \FUCK FUCK

    \FUCKING FUCK FUCK

    \FUCK THIS BULLSHIT

    \FUCK MY LIFE, THIS PROJECT AND ALL WHO SAIL IN HER

    \FUUUUUUUUUUUU

    \Functions\

    The conversation certainly died down at this point, but it doesn't matter I'd already handed my notice in.

  15. Blofeld's Cat
    Unhappy

    Ah yes ...

    We prepared some pre-release hardware for the marketing people to take to a trade fair.

    We loaded special software so that the product could be demonstrated - provided a fixed sequence of features was followed. This was not considered a problem, as the sales-droids generally worked from a script anyway.

    Error messages were produced when the wrong button was pressed, and it was emphasised that these had no real meaning.

    This strategy worked well until the Marketing Manager, contrary to instructions, loaned the machine to our German distributor at the end of the show.

    We were getting several calls a day ... "Why is the display out of pixels?" ... "How do we top up the blinker fluid?" ...

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Ah yes ...

      On the first call the answer should have been:"

      Means it's broken, send it back to us.

      If you keep tripping over a rock, move the rock or move your route.

  16. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Chip shop scuttlebutt

    a year that saw the death of Elvis Presley

    ...allegedly.

    1. Forum McForumface

      Re: Chip shop scuttlebutt

      Upvoted for the title. I enjoyed that song.

      1. magickmark

        Re: Chip shop scuttlebutt

        Their's a guy work down the chip shop swears he's Elvish

        For Sir Pterry

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Chip shop scuttlebutt

          Or Sir Sean?

  17. Nick Kew
    Facepalm

    Out of cheese error

    34 comments so far, and no PTerry (or comparable) references?

    Everyone recalling stories that pre-date Hex? Or are we just a miserable bunch?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Coat

      Re: Out of cheese error

      My first computer was one of the old 2 megalith jobs. Whenever you tried to load a new program that hadn't been tried before you got the error message: Please sacrifice virgin before proceeding.

      Not only was this the pre-Windows era, we hadn't even got doors...

      1. Nick Kew

        Re: Out of cheese error

        Those bloomin' wizards! Can't (or won't) speak plainly.

        That was of course an exhortation to sacrifice your virginity. It knew its audience!

      2. Alister Silver badge

        Re: Out of cheese error

        My first computer was one of the old 2 megalith jobs.

        Ah yes, a miracle of silicon chunk technology...

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Out of cheese error

      "34 comments so far, and no PTerry (or comparable) references?"

      Look behind you.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Out of cheese error

      Back in around 82, I was doing a 6502 programming course, and my employers had loaned me a Lisa Development computer (NOT the Apple Lisa).

      I had it set up in my bedroom, with its output LEDS twinkling some output (something to do with mixing icecream if I recall correctly), and my hifi playing; when a friend of my brothers shows up.

      He listened to the hifi for a while, nods at the Lisa and says "Wow, that makes the music sound fantastic".

      I am willing to bet he went on to be an Apple owner, because obviously he was too thick for more than one mouse button.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Out of cheese error

        I had a similar experience in roughly 1976. The computer was an IMSAI 8080 that I was repairing for a friend, the tunage was Pink Floyd's Dark Side on half inch tape that I had "borrowed" from the radio station on a TEAC 2340(??), through MacIntosh amps into four Altec Lansing prototypes that had fallen into my lap ... The computer was burbling away to itself, happily computing something vital (It was a memory test program designed to make the LEDs blink at a rate slow enough for the human eye to register the blinking). Somehow he managed to connect the blinkin lites with the tunes.

        "Man!" he said, pointing at the 8080, "I have GOT to get me one of those! Best sound I've ever heard!"

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: pre-date Hex

      I worked with someone who had a favorite story about doing long hours of debugging their program from the octal dumps. (36 bit word Sperry Univac)

      Weeks later they found out that their checkbook didn't balance with the bank statement. Going back through the checkbook they found that they had started to do the additions and subtractions in octal.

  18. Dave314159ggggdffsdds

    Hold music

    Suicide is Painless. No one fired due to no proof who did it.

    1. 2Nick3

      Re: Hold music

      Or Jackson Browne's "The Next Voice You Hear Will Be Your Own", which I still encounter on occasion.

  19. Alister Silver badge

    Arthur C Clarke wrote a short story of a supercomputer which was built to run military battle simulations, but the General in charge of the project had pissed off the computer scientist who was programming the machine.

    So come the day of the big switch on, the computer would happily run through mathematical problems, but if it detected a military scenario, it would output a rude message about the general, instead of the expected answer.

    The Pacifist

    1. Terje

      To comply with the previous comment.

      I'm sure the supercomputer just need to run with FTB enabled!

      That should do for the obligatory PTerry reference

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      OK, but can it run Crysis?

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      if it detected a military scenario, it would output a rude message about the general

      The reverse of:

      $ make love

      Not war?

      $

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge
        Happy

        Make

        Too bad that Easter egg is long gone, even in GNU Make:

        $ make love

        make: *** No rule to make target 'love'. Stop.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Make

          Very long gone ... The oldest version of GNU make that I have easy access to at the moment came with the first release of Slackware back in July of '93. It is version 3.62, copyright 1988-1991.

          $ make love

          make: *** No way to make target `love'. Stop.

          $

  20. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    While at university (studying engineering), we kept a log book during our labs. One lecturer had told me that our lab books were for our use only, and to use them to ensure we remembered what we were working on.

    I then changed university, and carried on using my lab book in the same way. During one particularly frustrating lab in which I had made a fundamental mistake at the beginning and wasted 2 hours trying to figure out why nothing worked, I vented my spleen on my lab book. The comments I wrote were not particularly suitable for work, nor were they something I would want anyone else to read.

    Imagine my horror when the lecturer announced "Remember to hand in your lab books"!

    Too embarrassed to say anything, I sheepishly handed it in and left. The next week, I received it back with good comments all the way up to my... colourful language. It was then that the lecturer explained something that this university made clear from day one: that lab books weren't just for your own use, but could be used by an employer to help others continue your work if (for instance) you fell ill (or, in his words, got hit by a bus).

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Devil

      And from personal experience of inherited projects, such vents and "honest appraisals" are often the most useful and clear information on such projects...

      1. paulf Silver badge
        Mushroom

        They're also an incredibly useful way to debug things as honest appraisals like that provoke you to think it all through again. This often, at least for me, leads to an "Oh, Bugger!" moment and swift identification of the SNAFU.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "this university made clear from day one"

      But only on day one it would seem.

  21. ZenCoder
    Trollface

    My tale is too complicated for there to be a short version. So here is 5 minutes of your life back. Enjoy.

    1. A. Coatsworth
      Alert

      Why the hell are you handing my life *back*? Don't you see I read these comments to escape from it?

      1. quxinot Silver badge
        Pint

        For that you will need one of these --->

        Sadly, no one knows which one it is. So you will have to keep trying until you find it...

  22. TonyJ Silver badge

    Windows 95

    Anyone remember it's message of the day function? Might've been 98 to be fair.

    I changed themon my machine to be a bit more colourful.

    All well and good until I went on holiday.

    At least my manager had a sense of humour.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Windows 95

      Windows 95? Standard on Unix from at least V7.

      We got fed up of people not logging out properly. To encourage them we added a reminder to motd. To encourage them even more we added "This includes you, $NameOfMostRecentOffender". The message got through and eventualy the name went quite some time without having to be changed. In the end the Most Recent Offender's manager asked us to take it off.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Windows 95

        We usually used the motd as intended ... but most of the time we appended whatever fortune managed to dredge up. Note I said fortune and not fortune -o.

        Others will look to you for stability, so hide when you bite your nails.

    2. Trixr Bronze badge

      Re: Windows 95

      Someone changed the MOTD on the VMS mid-90s-ish to something "cheeky" re the CEO (not obscene, salacious or abusive, from what I understand) and it turned out that he did not have a sense of humour about it. The 4 staff members who could have done it were interviewed, at length, but they held ranks and no-one fessed up. So in the end, none were fired, and to this day, no-one official knows who it was.

      This was retold to me more than a decade later as a tale about the sadly-departed CEO - I can't recall the message as it seemed relatively innocuous to me. And it would not have been visible to members of the public. Honestly, anything beyond a bit of "career counselling" to the 20-something-year-old guys at the time and perhaps an email to all staff saying the thing wasn't appropriate and "steps have been taken" would have been more than enough. Most of the staff were engineering or technical and they would have gotten a good laugh out of it, I'm sure.

  23. Oengus Silver badge

    DOS days

    I remember editing the commands on DOS (when we still used floppies to boot from) so that no one else could use my PC. I can't remember the exact changes I made but some of them were more colourful language.

  24. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Back in the old days ...

    ... I had built and maintained a web-based content management system used for accessing engineering documents from our shop floor. As this whole 'Web' thing was new to the company, they were interested in finding out what sort of tools and processes some of the early adopters were using on their Intranet. So they requested that we provide some HTTP meta tags with information describing the tools used to build and run our web sites. One tag name was 'Generator', to describe which editor we used to build the page (static pages). My attribute content read 'vi (Frontpage is for wimps)'.

  25. Bruce Ordway

    Reminds me of the IHTFP story

    An engineer printed out IHTFP in bold letters on an 8-1/2 by 11 sheet and displayed it in his cubicle, visible for all.

    Word eventually got around to the dept head that the letters IHTFP stood for "I Hate This F**king Place".

    Like WTF, the letters IHTFP became a popular utterance after certain events at work.

    The boss eventually became aware of the source of this acronym and took extreme exception.

    When he finally decided to confront this engineer and ask for an explanation of IHTFP (and possibly dismiss him on the spot).

    The hero of our story explained with a straight face that IHTFP stood for "I Have Truly Found Peace".

    Today, "IHTFP" and "I Have Truly Found Peace" are in common usage at multiple companies in this area of the U.S..

    There is no way to prove this isn't just another urban legend.

    I heard the story in the early 90's from an engineer who swore he had worked at the company where IHTFP originated and had actually witnessed the interaction between the engineer and his boss.

    I don't have any reason to doubt his account, he did tell some pretty good stories over the years but as far as I know, they were all true.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Reminds me of the IHTFP story

      If it's funny and believable it might be true.

      If it's funny and unbelievable it almost certainly is true.

    2. jtaylor

      Re: Reminds me of the IHTFP story

      IHTFP was well known (and used) at MIT.

      I occasionally throw in a reference at work (with some plausible deniability like It's Half Tested For Production). Only one person showed a reaction, and he had a Brass Rat.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Reminds me of the IHTFP story

      Old engineers dont need to make up stories. Some are often come from breeding two stories and evolution is a wonderful thing. While working at one large place me and a man in an office 1/2 mile away launched two totally different but credible rumours at just after coffee one morning and by afternoon tea the whole place was buzzing with their bastard, and TBH fucking hilarious, offspring.

      This was at a time I call before work had to be miserable and I doubt even well placed rumours would get far before being killed by the lack of humanity in modern workplaces.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My love...

    When I was a wee teenager I finally got a girl to like me ( actually she asked me out! ), well I used to edit commercial games and apps messages declaring the my love for this wonderful woman, she loved playing them and seeing the messages. Well, I'd then uploaded said games/apps to various BBS boards. She's now my wife of over 30 years and a part of me still wonders if any of those edited games are still out there, stuffed into "warez" collections!

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: My love...

      Go look. Seriously. Nothing wrong with the occasional bout of ego-surfing. Especially if you & t'missis can share a chuckle over it.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: My love...

      I gave my love a bunch of flowers saying "Here's a bunch of plant reproductive organs I've killed for you and sorry they were grown using vital land that could have fed starving children". Not the most romantic thing but at least I've never had to buy her any more and the starving children are our own.

  27. MAH

    This is still my absolute favorite...the intern that released the names of the pilots. He/She probably got fired, but made themselves a legend in the process.

    https://nationalpost.com/news/sum-ting-wong-intern-blamed-for-leaking-fake-names-of-pilots-aboard-plane-that-crashed-in-san-Francisco

    1. jake Silver badge

      As a San Francisco Bay Area resident ...

      ... I am utterly appalled.

      Appalled at myself, that is, for laughing out loud when I watched that broadcast. Followed immediately by a quick, and truly contrite, mental apology to the deceased and the survivors and a telephone call to KTVU ...

  28. E 5

    When I was a youngling in the 80's, my mom worked at a small liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest. I'd gotten access to their VAX 11. Their computer lab was mostly VT100's (110's?) Then 220's. A few years later and after a coca cola advertising translation issue in China, they upgraded to DEC stations and I forget the prime heavy metal. After numerous issues, the wonks downstairs changed the login window to reflect "DEC bites the wax tadpole" the field rep would change it back, it'd get changed again shortly thereafter. I think the rep changed it some 5 times before giving up.

  29. Badbob

    Much hilarity would ensue during my higher education days when we would take much childish pleasure in altering the Windows startup and shutdown screens to some puerile nonsense created in Paint.

    All fun and games until somebody decides to invite the education department of the Scottish Government to tour the labs. Our labs. The ones with the magenta cock and ball drawing when you hit “shutdown”.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The UK VP of our company would travel to NY by Concorde every two weeks. He would attend a two hour meeting, in which he would explain to the bank that owned our company, why we were spending/losing $2 million of their money every month. He would then fly back to the UK, again by Concorde.

    I once suggested that he could instead use the expensive new video conference suite, that was largely unused. My suggestion was received with the sort of enthusiasm that one might expect if someone had pissed on his suit.

  31. Ozz
    Trollface

    POS systems

    We had a particularly flaky POS system at one time. Someone changed the desktop icon from "POS" to "Piece Of Shit". The vendor was none too pleased when their big dogs saw it during a tour.

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