Funny ha-ha

And yet some people see no value in practical jokes.

Flash back a few decades, when the IT group in this big corporation is in the process of replacing its aging Prime minicomputer with an IBM System/38. Pilot fish is the day-shift operator, and he and the night-shift operator have a friendly rivalry.

As a prank, fish uses the Prime scripting language to create a perfect copy of the IBM’s operator console screen. Then he makes it his counterpart’s default screen so he’ll think he has somehow signed onto the wrong computer. To preserve the fiction, fish adds some real functionality. If the night guy enters the print-status command, for example, it will show him all the printers on the Prime system, and if he selects one printer, it will list all the jobs in its queue.

Fish does the same for the other common operator commands and then arranges to be in his colleague’s cube when he logs on and sees fish’s handiwork. But the night-shift operator isn’t so easily fooled; he just laughs and asks how to get to his own screen.

However, the pair’s supervisor finds out about the prank, and sees a possibility.

“This is great!” she exclaims. “We can use this to train the Prime users so they’ll be used to the IBM interface when the new system goes live!”

Says fish, “Ours might be the only big corporation that trained its users with a failed practical joke.”

Sharky promises to laugh if you send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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