• Steve (unregistered) in reply to Dave G.
    Dave G.:
    What the hell do you talk about at parties? Do you share all the error codes you remember with the women there? Are they impressed?

    My condolences. You must have a dreadful sex life.

    Tell me about it, brother.

    Seriously, this reminds me of a story that I have to tell on myself.

    Some years ago a colleague of mine asked me to come along with him on what I guess for want of a better term you could call a double blind date (and, he confessed later on, so he'd have someone to talk to in case things went badly). Both of use were (and are) pretty serious nerds (I was a Cray geek and he was more of a hardcore VMS weenie).

    We were out at a nice restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean and chatting along with two nice women, sisters, in fact, one of whom had just recently graduated from Berkeley with a Bachelors in some field related to molecular biology and the other was a graphic artist.

    I recall that the thought crossed my mind "these women know nothing about computers, why are we out with them?".

    Fast forward to 20 years later. My friend is married to one of the women and the other is my Significant Other.

    They still don't know anything about computers. My friend's wife told me that she hadn't the slightest idea what my friend and I were talking about half the time -- it was all error codes and core dumps.

    And it doesn't really matter.

  • An Old Hacker (unregistered) in reply to Pope

    First, in the context of this story, I'm not "old" at all.

    But I DO know good procedure when I see it. There are only a few possibilities here:

    1. The kid had been told about the IPL command, but forgot it in the heat of the moment. (Probably not, given the narrative.)

    2. The kid had been told that such a command existed, but forgot how to find it. (same)

    3. The kid had not been told the command.

    If we assume 3, we again face a limited set of choices:

    1. The kid had not been told the command because he could not be trusted to not reboot the system inappropriately.

    2. Blind policy said not to tell him.

    3. Training failure.

    4. Politics.

    Everyone is assuming 3,4. I believe, given especially his failure to note commas and to follow other proper procedures, that 3,1 is far, far more likely. In all seriousness, would you trust this kid to bring down the whole system whenever he screwed something up?

  • (cs) in reply to EPE
    EPE:
    I am here, at the office, reading this story about ancient mainframes; and I read these comments, about how bad things were a far time ago...

    Then, I stand up, look around, and see one or two hundred of my coworkers (*), not-so-furiously banging their keyboards, in front of their screens full of green text over a black background; they talk about PL/I, JCL, IMS, ABENDs, ...

    (*) No kidding, there are about four hundred people in this single office, six hundred total in the building.

    You described my previous job. 10 of us were mainly on UNIX systems, the rest had IBM Communications open, so all you could see were loads of green, cyan, and red text as far as the eye can see.

    That made this article even more enjoyable when it originally came out, because I was actually working with an actual Mainframe.

    I also know the immediate aftermath of hearing the following words: "CICS crashed, Command Center is doing an IPL on all four mainframes!"

  • (cs) in reply to diaphanein
    diaphanein:
    I can't believe some of you claim to work in IT and don't know what an abend is. What is this world coming to? HTML experience does not a programmer make.

    Noooo, but I would imagine that C and C++ experience would "a programmer make", even C# and java would. Heck, many even consider VB to be so.

    None of these use "ABEND". I've only worked in C, C++, and C# enough to see an abnormal end to a program, and those are called "abnormal termination", not ABEND. See, today, we have more than 64 kilobytes of memory, so we can afford to have the computer spell out "abnormal termination". Do you still use 8.3 filenames, too?

    Since many of us who haven't been working for 25 years we don't know the terminology of that time. We use different terminology. Some of us haven't even been alive as long as you've been in the IT industry, that doesn't mean we can't work there. That's like saying kids don't listen to music because they don't know the meaning of "groovy". They don't listen to YOUR music, and we don't work in YOUR IT industry. Music, and the IT industry, has moved on.

  • IByte (unregistered) in reply to Gordon
    Gordon:
    Not really a WTF (more like an honest, easy-to-make mistake), but an excellent story. I can appreciate that sinking feeling you get when you realize things have just gone from bad to worse.
    Indeed, it's more of an OMG than a WTF. (And yes, I suppose we've all made mistakes we're not proud of.)
  • Jiff Woods (unregistered)
    Comment held for moderation.
  • Anonymous (unregistered) in reply to Erzengel
    Erzengel:
    Since many of us who haven't been working for 25 years we don't know the terminology of that time. We use different terminology. Some of us haven't even been alive as long as you've been in the IT industry, that doesn't mean we can't work there. That's like saying kids don't listen to music because they don't know the meaning of "groovy". They don't listen to YOUR music, and we don't work in YOUR IT industry. Music, and the IT industry, has moved on.

    Indeed. The IBM OS/360 went out of use a decade a half before I was born. Why on earth would that preclude a young professional such as myself from knowing sufficient skill to write and modify programs at a binary level? University leavers have lots of modern, relevant skills and have had alot of free time to excel to them. Experienced programmers don't have the free time to keep up with all the skillsets and the ones they do know have naturally been phased out. Most skill progression happens during teenage years when you have people teaching you and lots of free time, not when you're fourty and spending every day of every year maintaining a single bloated system.

  • Casey (unregistered)

    Heh, I'm 3rd shift z/OS operator. If that happened on my watch, you'd have a banned for life programmer from the computer room. Then I log onto the trusty OS/2 hardware management console, and after speaking with the sorcerer of course, enter the proper command there.

    Probably no need for an IPL if that didn't work, a quick bounce of CICS is probably all you need.

    He had to do it from a backroom terminal because he obviously can't be trusted with console access. Console access is restricted to operators and sorcerers.

  • SUBTRACT COBOL FROM LIST<READABLE_LANGUAGES>. (unregistered) in reply to Rand
    Rand:
    PSWQ:
    Off topic, I heard a neat description of C the other month: "C and its derivatives are the world's first write-only programming languages, because nobody can read them".
    The mainframe programmer strikes back? COBOL predates C, so C certainly can't be the "world's first." I've seen some COBOL, and though I'm not trained to read it, it's a mess. It takes much more code to accomplish the same tasks as it does in C, and severely handicaps the readability of the code.
    I've had some PHB explain to me that they were using COBOL because COBOL code is essentially self-documenting, and you can sit down with a customer and show him the source code and he will know what the software does. Apparently writing "ADD 42 TO X." or "SUBTRACT 42 FROM Y." is so much more readable than using arcane symbols such as + or -.

    This is especially funny in a country where the native language isn't English. Even developers might tell you, "Oh, so when you speak English, all those COBOL keywords such as ADD and SUBTRACT actually mean something to you!"

  • Bulb (unregistered)
    Then, I stand up, look around, and see one or two hundred of my coworkers (*), not-so-furiously banging their keyboards, in front of their screens full of green text over a black background; they talk about PL/I, JCL, IMS, ABENDs, ...

    Nice. I work at a small financial services shop and work daily with OS/JCL, PL/I, ISPF... The new part is that we use PCs running emulators to get to the mainframe. There's only 8 of us though, and the youngest is about forty.

  • Rod (unregistered)

    Ho Ho, I haven’t visited for a long while, so what a surprise to see my story again. So here’s my response to your various questions & comments.

    Nerd….guilty. I’m one of you. Did the Sourcerer correct me? You bet. Put the stupid comma in next time, stupid. Did the Operators fix the problem? Yep. I rang, and they said, “oh Rod, we thought you might call”. Reboot? Boy can I pick a bunch of Unix / PC jocks. If you unwell, take this reboot and see me tomorrow if you’re not feeling better. No reboot requred!

    Is this a genuine WTF? Well yes and no, but I promise you, those immortal words were in the air at the time!

    Did I really need a SLIP trap? Absolutely. I assure you I was a pretty dab hand at deep debugging, but this one occurred inside IBM code, and their engineers asked me to provide a full dump. I also had no way of re-creating the problem. It used to trigger for some bizzare reason of its own. I would not normally be fooling around with such powerful spells, but it was at the end of the day, and I didn’t know when my next chance would be.

    Command syntax – yes, the text is wrong. Look at the photo – this is from my personal book of spells with that entry made on the day in question. WITH annotations re commas!

    Re “can’t be trusted” – that’s fine, your opinion, based on minimal information. Now come on line and tell use you never eff’d up. No? well you obviously never achieved anything either. Still living in a cave methinks because fire is too risky for you.

    Postscript: I never did issue another SLIP command again. Never needed to. It’s now 15 years on, and I haven’t touched a mainframe in years. And I did, with a little help, later succeed (?!!) in deleting every logon from that mainframe. Maybe that’s a story for another WTF, but on that day it took us about an hour to restore the system.

    Embarassed? Not in the least!!! What a boring waste of space of a life for those who never failed!! Now if I were a serial offender that’d be different, but I’m proud of the things I achieved including the mistakes.

    • Rod, Nerd, would-be Sorcerer
  • Rod (unregistered)

    BTW, this story was edited from what I submitted. The mainframe actually didn't crash. It just went slow doing all that dumping.

Leave a comment on “Classic WTF: The Sorcerer's Apprentice”

Log In or post as a guest

Replying to comment #:

« Return to Article