The LAST Bastard Operator from Hell!

I get back from Britian and return to my old stomping grounds to take up a post as an Analyst/Programmer... As an A/P I'm expected to work weird hours so I start putting in some 9 to 5 shifts to see what it's like.

It's weird all right. I don't like it.

I go to the computer room to check out my machine, only I'm not the Operator any more, so I've got no access. I call the Operator. He answers.

Bad sign.

"Can I get access to the Computer Room?" I ask, respectfully

"Well..." he pauses ".. what do you want to do?"

Indecisive. It gets worse! He should've come straight out and said that the day a user gets access to HIS computer room is the day he'll be crated up and freighted to the big Computer Room in the sky to meet the Chief Operator!

"Just look at my machines" I say..

"Um, well, we're not supposed to let programmers in here unless it's an emergency" he blubs.

Dear oh dear. It's almost as if he's apologising! I can't take any more of it so I just wander off. He calls after me in apology and it turns my stomach. Watching something you've carefully built up with neglect and mindless acts of violence just crumble away in front of your eyes!

I can't let it end this way! There must be something I can do...

I go back to my room and open the sealed envelope that I was saving for my retirement nest-egg.

I shuffle through the signed bits of paper, photographs and dictaphone tapes till I find what I want. The photo's a bit faded and blurred, but the people in the picture can still be made out. I get on the phone.

"HELLO?". The Big Boss himself answers

"Hi there, Simon from the Computer Centre. I think I found something of yours"


"A photo. One in a series of 24"


"Well, it's a photo of you, a couple of female friends, and something that looks like it has some agricultural purpose"

"oh..." ... ___ ... "...yes, I was wondering where that got to. If you could just drop in in an envelope and send it to me personally..."

"*I* *think* *not*..."

"Well, it's obviously a fake. Where would you get such a thing?"

"Your office. You left the door open one night"

"That's ridiculous, my door's electronically locked every night"

"By computer?.."

"Oh! .... What do you want?"

"The New Operators"

"Ok, I'll have them fired.."

"NO! Then you'll get some more and they'll be just as bad!"

"Then what do you want?"


. . . . . . . .

. . . . .

. .

A couple of days later the training session begins. Unfortunately, I only get one operator to train as the other one resigned when he heard I wanted to talk to him. Still one's better than none.

We start from the very beginning..

"Ok, let's just go into this. How do you feel about users?"

"They're ok, I suppose" he answers


"Well, they can be a pain at times"

"at times?"

"Well, a lot of the time?"

"A lot?"


"Right. There. You see, you did know the answer after all. Second question, What do we do for users?"

"What they want?"


"What we think they want?"


"What WE want?"



"I see. Well, the answer is, we do nothing *FOR* users. We do things *TO* users. It's a fine distinction, but an important one all the same. Now, what do we do TO users?"

"What we want?"

"Exactly. And WHY do we do it?"

"Because they deserve it?"


"To convince users not to call?"

"No again. We do what we do because we ENJOY it. And because we can get away with it."

"Oh! I suppose you're right"

"I KNOW I'm right. And if I'm not, I'm STILL right, because I'm the *OPERATOR*. It's that simple! If you remember that phrase, there's nothing you can't do. Now the last question. What exactly do we do to users?"

"Delete their files, scrap their backups, invade their privacy..."

"No no Agent Starling. That is a mere bagatelle. That is simply the method. We want to know the result. What we do is BREAK them. What's the point of deleting their files if they never use them? What's the point in reading someone's private correspondence if you're not going to let the user know you did it, then tell their friends or parents? Why scrap someone's backups unless they need them? You have to break the user's will so that they realise that they're the simple-minded sheep we know they are!"

"I see"

"Of course. I'll be off now, don't ever let me catch me in the Computer Room again!"

"Thank you sir"


"Oh. Get out of my Computer Room!"

"That's more like it!"

The mantle is passed.

"Oh" my new operator calls as I leave, "I can't remember what your backup tape looked like. Is this it here on the Bulk Eraser?"



       *  *		It's:   	"SPLAT - MY CAT!"
   +>\        --__	Slower than a speeding DATSUN 180B.   Much slower.
   +>/       _------__  Mortally slower, one might say.    Rest in Peices.
     -\\-\\--  		Fax: 064 7 8384066
       *  *		University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton, NZ

It's a stinking hot day in my non-air conditioned office and I'm annoyed. The sort of annoyed that's described, mistakenly, as red hot. The correct colour choice, is, of course white.

I login to my account and there's three helpdesk mail requests, all ticking away to expiration, then escalation, then further escalation, then followup mail message, then even further escalation, then 2nd followup mail message and casual phone call, then still further escalation, then non-casual phone call, then threats, then, ultimately, and sadly, violence. But not so sadly that I won't resort to it. And they know I will too...

Because I used to be...

T H E B A S T A R D O P E R A T O R F R O M H E L L ! ! !

...and sometimes, late at night I get these twitches. Like dead people get. (Or, as I prefer to call them, perfect computer users)

In the mornings I get them too. Like when the phone rings. And when I get email. And when people talk to me. AND when people are hogging the expresso machine to make fluffy milk. But apart from that I'm cured. A new man.

I smile at the thought and look, in reminiscence, at some reminders of my past. A couple of backup 8mm tapes with cartoons on them. The thank-you cards for my attendance at 23 seperate funerals of computer center staff. The mains plug with the thinwire ethernet plug at the end. I didn't ever get round to trying that one either, so I don't even know what it would've done.

I'm bored.

That's it alright. I am *absolutely*, *stinking*, *UNCONTROLLABLY* bored. I get up and slip a fingerprint free magnet on top of the reed switch that the Boss had installed in my display cabinet while I was on holiday, then pry the glass door open with a screwdriver. As far as I can figure, the switch is supposed to ring an alarm if the door is opened.

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times - "Inexpensive means Inefficient".

I open the door to the clamour of... silence. Well, silence and John Lee Hooker's "Mr Lucky" from my CD. I grab my aforementioned etherkiller and wander down the hallway to the switchboard, applying another magnet and opening that to silence as well.

That's what's missing in society today - trust.

I pull the 15 amp breaker for the meeting room, then wander on round and plug the etherkiller into a cheap 24hour timer set to 5 minutes from now. On the way back to the the switchboard I hear the first few murmurs about excessive collisions. I plug in my unpatented nail "fuse" (estimated fault current 200-300 amps) with a set of heavily insulated pliers and wander off to the tea-room to start my expresso brew. Halfway through the make, the machine stops. Now *THAT'S* what I call a collision.

I look around in a bewildered manner as panic erupts on all sides, half-made expresso in my hand. I step out into the hallway and behold pandemonium. Two programmers are fighting over a CO2 fire extinguisher in an effort to put their terminals out. I wander down to my room just as my X terminal, the unreliable peice of excretia it is, flames it's last and lapses into a dull smoulder.

"My cabinet!" I cry in 'horror' and hear the extinguisher struggle end abruptly. In a flash the two programmers concerned are behind me staring into my room. Shortly thereafter the boss runs up as well.

"What's this magnet for?" I ask, picking it up and hearing a bell start chiming in the distance.

"You bastard!" one of the programmers utters

"I'm sorry?" I ask, turning.

"YOU did it didn't you?"

"What? Break into my own cabinet? But I've got a key.."

That's the terrible burden of proof really - in this day and age, you need some to make an accusation.

The late-breaking news comes in that one of the consultants had a set of head- phones plugged into a CDROM drive hanging off their networked PC. But not anymore. Now there's an unexpected vacany in the department. I blame the Ethernet Isolation specs. 3KV my backside!

Quicker than you can say "Help us with our enquiries" I'm "helping the police with their enquiries".

"What is this, can you tell me?" a burly officer asks, right up in my face. He holds up a magnet.

"It's a magnet. There was one on my cabinet!" I cry

"Yes. And where did you get them?" he asks, seizing control..

..and losing it. "On my cabinet! I just said!"

"No not this one. The others. Where did you get them?"

"Others? What others? You mean there were more on my cabinet! Why?!?" (I can play the "stupid game" forever, having had years of education at the hands of computer lusers.) He tries a different tack.

"What would you say this was off?" he asks

"My cabinet! It was on my cabinet, I told you! I pulled it off... and I think I heard a bell ringing"...

.... .. .

A couple of hours later I'm back at my desk with Mr Lucky, no charges pressed. I close my cabinet, satisfaction mine for the first time in a long while.

Then the phone rings...



Programming is dull at the moment since the only "bug" in my software is now repaired. (The swipe-card door-access machine had some logic "glitch" that unfortunately no-one knew about until a particularly annoying Sales Consultant got accidentally locked in the secure area over the holiday weekend. The poor guy was a drooling wreck when they found him - apparently the sirens and sprinklers were playing up in there too, every 10 minutes. It all goes to show that you can't be too careful when stealing an ex-operators car park.


I decide to kill some time by dropping into a Computer Trade show to "sense the new direction of the market and Investigate emerging trends", i.e. I'll spend a shitload of the company's cash on food and drink and give a couple of salespeople a hard time they won't forget.

Well, that's how the normal bastard would do it, but not me. I really get remembered. All I need now is an acronym.... Hmmm...

I get there and two stalls promptly close when they see me coming, (poor losers), but theres 4 or 5 newbies that look like easy meat. I centre on a vendor that's trying to push their unix compliance with every ISO standard except hygene and start talking 7-figure site upgrades. Ignoring his panting, I continue to talk, harping on about our requirement for complance with currently emerging standards till he takes the ball and runs with it.

"Ah well, you see, we're THE foremost company in compliant systems" (turd) "In fact, our projected market share is.... blah blah blah.."

I let him dig his hole nice and deep. He's sure that 2 years at University has prepared him for the hardball arena of BIG $ales.

"Yes" I cut in "But all this is irrelevant without a Dynamically Allocated Heap and some Transient Intuitive Hardware System. Are you D.A.E.H.T.I.H.S compliant?"


"Dynamic Allocation of Extra Heap and the Transient Intuitive Hardware Standard, D.A.E.H.T.I.H.S. It's THE most important thing to come out of ISO this DECADE! I guess you don't have an implementation path yet then?"

"Tell you what" he says, smelling a deal "The Regional Manager is on the Showroom floor somewhere. I'll track him down and get an answer for you?"

"Well, that would be great!" I say, trying to enthuse him and keep him from staring at the acronym for too long. "But I'm a bit pressed for time, I've got a flight in..."

He runs off. The Regional Manager is no dummy. They're trained to recognise "SHITHEAD" spelt backwards. And upside down. And reverse. And lipread.

One stall down, 4 to go. I troll up to the next..

"Hi there, what form of hardware solution are you looking for?" Mr Smiles says (In other words, how can I tuck you for an extra grand)

"Well I don't really know. I need a fast and expandable machine that's top of the line but also capable of talking to my old luggable laptop."

Mr Smiles likes the words "Fast", "Top of the Line" and "Expandable". He runs over to a machine surrounded in glitter and advertising and gestures at it. "This is probably what you want then. The latest thing. There's only two in the country and luckily we have one here today"

"Yes yes, but will it talk to my laptop?"

"THIS baby will talk to ANYTHING. What's the interface, ethernet?"

"No, a SCSI-1 Interface. My machine pretends to be a disk, ID 3. But lots of machines kill my machine's powersupply with inductive transience backflow due to a non-standard SCSI interface...


He practically BEGS me to try the new machine out. Which I've been waiting for. I drag out my luggable, which is, admittedly, a bit of a beast.

"Wow! That IS old!! And >ungh!<.. quite heavy too. I guess you're quite attached to it?"

I mumble about legacy data, only use it at home, sentimental value and irreplaceable software while he plugs it in and starts the host machine.

"Okay, let's see what we can see" he says, and presses the power-on switch on my "portable" The 31 hefty nicad batteries that make up almost the entire inside of my "laptop" pour grunt into a tripling inverter which in turn supplies RICH, CHUNKY VOLTS to alternate pins on the "SCSI" bus, whilst emitting a dull "uuurk" sound.

"My Laptop!" I cry, reaching for it, just as smoke starts pouring out the back of the display machine. Mr Smiles dives for the demo machine weeping, while I exit, in "anguish"....

...resetting the circuit breaker in my machine as I go... the next stall...

"Hi there, you look like someone who needs an upgrade!" the salesman chirps

"Well I don't really know. Is any of your stuff capable of talking to my luggable laptop?"


One born every minute.

This page is maintained by Duncan Sinclair, and was last modified: Tue, 3 Sep 1996 17:27:15 GMT.