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[[Category: Tech]]
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Revision as of 18:26, 25 July 2009

From: obrien@aero.UUCP
Newsgroups: rec.humor.funny
Subject: VAXen, my children, just don't belong some places
Message-ID: <2844@looking.UUCP>
Date: 1 Mar 89 11:30:05 GMT
Lines: 277

( I've never heard of the "WAR_STORIES" notefile; if you want to get back to the original author you'll have to go through "". I'm enclosing everything just as it reached me.)

Mike O'Brien The Aerospace Corporation


Subj: Just extracted this from the WAR_STORIES notefile. Long but amusing.

          VAXen, my children, just don't belong some places. In
          my business, I am frequently called by small sites
          and startups having VAX problems. So when a friend of
          mine in an Extremely Large Financial Institution
          (ELFI) called me one day to ask for help, I was
          intrigued because this outfit is a really major VAX
          user - they have several large herds of VAXen - and
          plenty of sharp VAXherds to take care of them.
          So I went to see what sort of an ELFI mess they had
          gotten into.  It seems they had shoved a small 750
          with two RA60's running a single application, PC
          style, into a data center with two IBM 3090's and
          just about all the rest of the disk drives in the
          world. The computer room was so big it had three
          street addresses. The operators had only IBM
          experience and, to quote my friend,  they were having
          "a little trouble adjusting to the VAX", were a bit
          hostile towards it and probably needed some help with
          system management. Hmmm, Hostility... Sigh.
          Well, I thought it was pretty ridiculous for an
          outfit with all that VAX muscle elsewhere to isolate
          a dinky old 750 in their Big Blue Country, and said
          so bluntly. But my friend patiently explained that
          although small, it was an "extremely sensitive and
          confidential application."  It seems that the 750 had
          originally been properly clustered with the rest of a
          herd and in the care of one of their best VAXherds.
          But the trouble started when the Chief User went to
          visit his computer and its VAXherd.
          He came away visibly disturbed and immediately
          complained to the ELFI's Director of Data Processing
          that, "There are some very strange people in there
          with the computers." Now since this user person was
          the Comptroller of this Extremely Large Financial
          Institution, the 750 had been promptly hustled over
          to the IBM data center which the Comptroller said,
          "was a more suitable place."  The people there wore
          shirts and ties and didn't wear head bands or cowboy
          So my friend introduced me to the Comptroller, who
          turned out to be five feet tall, 85 and a former
          gnome of Zurich.  He had a young apprentice gnome who
          was about 65. The two gnomes interviewed me in
          whispers for about an hour before they decided my
          modes of dress and speech were suitable for managing
          their system and I got the assignment.
          There was some confusion, understandably, when I
          explained that I would immediately establish a
          procedure for nightly backups. The senior gnome
          seemed to think I was going to put the computer in
          reverse, but the apprentice's son had an IBM PC and
          he quickly whispered that "backup" meant making a
          copy of a program borrowed from a friend and why was
          I doing that? Sigh.
          I was shortly introduced to the manager of the IBM
          data center, who greeted me with joy and anything but
          hostility. And the operators really weren't hostile -
          it just seemed that way.  It's like the driver of a
          Mack 18 wheeler, with a condo behind the cab, who was
          doing 75 when he ran over a moped doing it's best to
          get away at 45.  He explained sadly, "I really warn't
          mad at mopeds but to keep from runnin' over that'n,
          I'da had to slow down or change lanes!"
          Now the only operation they had figured out how to do
          on the 750 was reboot it.  This was their universal
          cure for any and all problems.  After all it works on
          a PC, why not a VAX?  Was there a difference?  Sigh.
          But I smiled and said, "No sweat, I'll train you.
          The first command you learn is HELP" and proceeded to
          type it in on the console terminal.  So the data
          center manager, the shift supervisor and the eight
          day operators watched the LA100 buzz out the usual
          introductory text.  When it finished they turned to
          me with expectant faces and I said in an avuncular
          manner, "This is your most important command!"
          The shift supervisor stepped forward and studied the
          text for about a minute. He then turned with a very
          puzzled expression on his face and asked, "What do
          you use it for?" Sigh.
          Well, I tried everything.  I trained and I put the
          doc set on shelves by the 750 and I wrote a special
          40 page doc set and then a four page doc set. I
          designed all kinds of command files to make complex
          operations into simple foreign commands and I taped a
          list of these simplified commands to the top of the
          VAX. The most successful move was adding my home
          phone number.
          The cheat sheets taped on the top of the CPU cabinet
          needed continual maintenance, however. It seems the
          VAX was in the quietest part of the data center, over
          behind the scratch tape racks. The operators ate
          lunch on the CPU cabinet and the sheets quickly
          became coated with pizza drippings, etc.
          But still the most used solution to hangups was a
          reboot and I gradually got things organized so that
          during the day when the gnomes were using the system,
          the operators didn't have to touch it. This smoothed
          things out a lot.
          Meanwhile, the data center was getting new TV
          security cameras, a halon gas fire extinguisher
          system and an immortal power source. The data center
          manager apologized because the VAX had not been
          foreseen in the plan and so could not be connected to
          immortal power.  The VAX and I felt a little rejected
          but I made sure that booting on power recovery was
          working right.  At least it would get going again
          quickly when power came back.
          Anyway, as a consolation prize, the data center
          manager said he would have one of the security
          cameras adjusted to cover the VAX.  I thought to
          myself, "Great, now we can have 24 hour video tapes
          of the operators eating Chinese takeout on the CPU."
          I resolved to get a piece of plastic to cover the
          cheat sheets.
          One day, the apprentice gnome called to whisper that
          the senior was going to give an extremely important
          demonstration. Now I must explain that what the 750
          was really doing was holding our National Debt.  The
          Reagan administration had decided to privatize it and
          had quietly put it out for bid. My Extreme Large
          Financial Institution had won the bid for it and was,
          as ELFI's are wont to do, making an absolute bundle
          on the float.
          On Monday the Comptroller was going to demonstrate to
          the board of directors how he could move a trillion
          dollars from Switzerland to the Bahamas.  The
          apprentice whispered, "Would you please look in on
          our computer? I'm sure everything will be fine, sir,
          but we will feel better if you are present.  I'm sure
          you understand?"  I did.
          Monday morning, I got there about five hours before
          the scheduled demo to check things over. Everything
          was cool. I was chatting with the shift supervisor
          and about to go upstairs to the Comptroller's office.
          Suddenly there was a power failure.
          The emergency lighting came on and the immortal power
          system took over the load of the IBM 3090's.  They
          continued smoothly, but of course the VAX, still on
          city power, died. Everyone smiled and the dead 750
          was no big deal because it was 7 AM and gnomes don't
          work before 10 AM. I began worrying about whether I
          could beg some immortal power from the data center
          manager in case this was a long outage.
          Immortal power in this system comes from storage
          batteries for the first five minutes of an outage.
          Promptly at one minute into the outage we hear the
          gas turbine powered generator in the sub-basement
          under us automatically start up getting ready to take
          the load on the fifth minute.  We all beam at each
          At two minutes into the outage we hear the whine of
          the backup gas turbine generator starting. The 3090's
          and all those disk drives are doing just fine.
          Business as usual. The VAX is dead as a door nail but
          what the hell.
          At precisely five minutes into the outage, just as
          the gas turbine is taking the load, city power comes
          back on and the immortal power source commits
          suicide.  Actually it was a double murder and suicide
          because it took both 3090's with it.
          So now the whole data center was dead, sort of.  The
          fire alarm system had it's own battery backup and was
          still alive. The lead acid storage batteries of the
          immortal power system had been discharging at a
          furious rate keeping all those big blue boxes running
          and there was a significant amount of sulfuric acid
          vapor. Nothing actually caught fire but the smoke
          detectors were convinced it had.
          The fire alarm klaxon went off and the siren warning
          of imminent halon gas release was screaming.  We
          started to panic but the data center manager shouted
          over the din, "Don't worry, the halon system failed
          its acceptance test last week. It's disabled and
          nothing will happen."
          He was half right, the primary halon system indeed
          failed to discharge. But the secondary halon system
          observed that the primary had conked and instantly
          did its duty, which was to deal with Dire Disasters.
          It had twice the capacity and six times the discharge
          Now the ear splitting gas discharge under the raised
          floor was so massive and fast, it blew about half of
          the floor tiles up out of their framework. It came up
          through the floor into a communications rack and blew
          the cover panels off, decking an operator. Looking
          out across that vast computer room, we could see the
          air shimmering as the halon mixed with it.
          We stampeded for exits to the dying whine of 175 IBM
          disks.  As I was escaping I glanced back at the VAX,
          on city power, and noticed the usual flickering of
          the unit select light on its system disk indicating
          it was happily rebooting.
          Twelve firemen with air tanks and axes invaded. There
          were frantic phone calls to the local IBM Field
          Service office because both the live and backup
          3090's were down. About twenty minutes later,
          seventeen IBM CEs arrived with dozens of boxes and,
          so help me, a barrel. It seems they knew what to
          expect when an immortal power source commits murder.
          In the midst of absolute pandemonium, I crept off to
          the gnome office and logged on. After extensive
          checking it was clear that everything was just fine
          with the VAX and I began to calm down. I called the
          data center manager's office to tell him the good
          news. His secretary answered with, "He isn't expected
          to be available for some time.  May I take a
          message?"  I left a slightly smug note to the effect
          that, unlike some other computers, the VAX was intact
          and functioning normally.
          Several hours later, the gnome was whispering his way
          into a demonstration of how to flick a trillion
          dollars from country 2 to country 5.  He was just
          coming to the tricky part, where the money had been
          withdrawn from Switzerland but not yet deposited in
          the Bahamas.  He was proceeding very slowly and the
          directors were spellbound. I decided I had better
          check up on the data center.
          Most of the floor tiles were back in place. IBM had
          resurrected one of the 3090's and was running tests.
          What looked like a bucket brigade was working on the
          other one. The communication rack was still naked and
          a fireman was standing guard over the immortal power
          corpse. Life was returning to normal, but the Big
          Blue Country crew was still pretty shaky.
          Smiling proudly, I headed back toward the triumphant
          VAX behind the tape racks where one of the operators
          was eating a plump jelly bun on the 750 CPU. He saw
          me coming, turned pale and screamed to the shift
          supervisor, "Oh my God, we forgot about the VAX!"
          Then, before I could open my mouth, he rebooted it.
          It was Monday, 19-Oct-1987.  VAXen, my children, just
          don't belong some places.

-- Edited by Brad Templeton. MAIL, yes MAIL your jokes to funny@looking.UUCP Attribute the joke's source if at all possible. I will reply, mailers willing. I reply to all submissions, but about 30% of the replies bounce.]