Coffee Share 190928

This is a Weekly Coffee Share Essay.
I’m part of a small group of bloggers who want to stay in touch, chat about blogging, writing, travel, photography, children, pets, work, life hacks or just about anything else that might be of interest.
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Link to my Story Blog. Come share a laugh with me.

Hello.  I’m glad you stopped by and am more than ready for a weekend.

I’m a mid level tech guy so I don’t really do karma, but if I did, I would have a great story of karma-tic revenge.

We all use computers these days, but my young friend, there was a day when few of us went off to work each day and had a monitor waiting for us – but I was one of them.  Because some of you will recognize it, I’ll tell you that I was learning UNIX in the mid 1980’s, back before it killed off several large, non-UNIX computer companies.

While working at several tech companies, my friends and I loved to prank computer newbies.

zilog z80For example, I’d only been married a few years when I was with Zilog back in their Silicon Valley hay-day of trying to take chip market share away from Intel.  There used to be a UNIX dictionary program that you could put in a login file and it would put up a random word and its definition on the screen like a word of the day app every time you logged in.

I was the administrator of this system and began a hobby of contaminating the dictionary with funny definitions for normal words, just to get a rise out of the team.  So every now and then users would get something really strange and would burst out laughing, so I counted it as a public service.

One day I had a fun idea of putting in line after line after line of periods and colons that, if you were sitting back watching them scroll up the screen, looked like a blazing fire with wiggly tops and everything.  I tried it on myself first and thought this would certainly surprise someone good – and of course – the most computer illiterate member of the team, my boss’s elderly lady admin got it about 2 weeks later, first thing in the morning causing her to scream in fear that she’d broken something and urging me to come quickly to stop whatever was happening.

By the time I got her to understand that it was just an image made of dots and colons, she was hyperventilating and embarrassed for having made such a scene.

sun logoAfter Zilog I moved to Sun Microsystems back during their Solaris hay-day and we were hiring lots of non-computer literate type, because as near as I could tell, they needed folks like this to keep us techies entertained.  Seriously – I think it was in my job description somewhere.

Someone, not me, coded up a sweet little program that copied whatever was on a screen, then adjusting random pixels according to a simple rule, if a selected pixel was set to a bright white, the program would built a new image in memory, copying that bright pixel one line below the original and do the same to nearby pixels so the screen display appeared to melt, and then flash the melted image back to the real screen.  Then it would do it again, and again, second by second, so the longer it was undisturbed, the more the real screen “melted”.

This was neat when it was new and see, there was this one guy who was a bad combination of arrogant, lazy, loud and – yes – computer illiterate.  When he was around, he went out of his way to make the rest of us nuts, so I acquired this cool little program and waited for him to run off to the bathroom.  Then I ran the program and aimed it at his screen.  Then I casually walked around inviting folks to pay attention to him when he came back.

melting screenWhen he did, I was watching from far enough away to not be the immediate suspect but could see him stop, stare at his screen for less than 3 seconds before bursting out in a loud string of curses as to how terrible computers were.  He moaned and swore and fought hard not to damage his expensive screen.  We all faked our surprise and laughed behind our cubical walls while someone walked into his cube to “help”.  He waited until this guy was looking away to hit any key, which reset the image back to the original.

“Ah – it’s fixed now.”  He proclaimed, which given how little time he was there, only frustrated our victim more.  That guy and those of us who knew the program settled to wait for round 2, which took close to 30 seconds to be noticeable, because the program was still running and now the poor guy was then trying to work while his screen kept slowly melting.  After trying to work for less than 5 minutes, he finally yelled out something I can’t write here and left the building.  This was great because we didn’t see him for the rest of the day and  I don’t recall that we had to listen to him much longer.

So, where am I going with this.  If I did “karma” I’d be angry because I was up early and working before 7am in a darkened room with my nice large screen monitor tracking down some information I needed for my customer when I notices a speck of dust right in the box I was trying to type in.  Without thinking, I tried to brush it away with the edge of my small finger, but the dust remained untouched.

“Weird.” I thought as I tried again, and again, until the darn thing moved, but in a small circle, obvious to my attempts to brush it away.  What is this thing.  I tried moving the underlying window in case it was just a corrupted image, but the moving dust particle stopped or started moving in complete disregard to both the window I working in and manual sweeps with my hand and then finger.

“What is going on here?” I wondered as I picked up my second pair of glasses so I could see this thing better and, yes, it was a very small bug on my screen.  But how could it not be pushed away by my finger?

I must have instinctively switched to debug mode because I recall the thought of “maybe there is a small area between the glass screen and translucent screens  and put my finger on the bug to test my theory. squashed bug

I had just applied enough pressure to test crush the critter when I realized that I did NOT want the step to work because then there would be a dead bug mashed on my screen between the layers where I could not clean the thing off – so yes, I mashed him and now have a permanent micro-bug artifact right in the center part of the screen that I use every day – multiple hours each day.

tiny bugIt still looks like a speck of dust, but now my anal, OC drive for a clean screen is preventing me from looking at my nice 24″ high resolution screen without seeing the blasted mashed bug and I catch myself reaching up to brush away what can’t be brushed away.  I also now spend more time that I should moving windows around so some unused dark area hides the dead bug.

This alone may drive me to an early retirement and this is why I don’t do karma.  I can’t go back and un-melt anyone’s screen.

I should have just let him be.  He might have found his own way out or at least crawled to a rarely used corner of the screen.

It may just be time for me to take some of what I’ve given out.


Blessings all and thanks for the visit.

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Gary photo n bio

11 thoughts on “Coffee Share 190928

  1. I’m glad I started out in programming (in 1968), not office work. Computer art was popular among the CP/M folks in my Osborne/KayPro users group. Marvelous, what one can do to freak people out. My husband was dual skilled, in that programming was his hobby, but he earned a living building and repairing them. Burroughs/Unisys for most of his techie career. Al liked to program panels of computer lights to look impressive, but actually just computer art with lights.

    It is unkind to freak people out, though, isn’t it? LOL

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow – Lizl. I’ve not heard of CP/M for a long time now. I just missed that wave as I was still building and support computers for a proprietary system company. In 68′ I was just starting high school and did not know how good I had life. Even knowing that – I would not go back, well except to avoid a few screw ups I now wish were fiction. . .

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re quite the prankster 😉 I bet that was fun. I remember the first computer we had in the beginning of the 90’s. My favorite thing to do was to play a math game called Cheops Pyramid. I used to beg my parents to do extra math! Thanks for the coffee!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I only did something like that once, based on Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – In the Windows 3.2 days, I put a large red button in the middle of the screen on a program I wrote that only four people used. If you clicked it, it would flash angrily and put up in bold print “Do not do that again!”. Then it would return to the program. After a couple of weeks of not hearing anything, I went in and casually asked if anybody had pressed the red button. Nope, they were afraid to click on anything that they didn’t know or understand. I showed them and they laughed and I think showed it to other people, but I was disappointed that none of them actually did it out of curiosity 😉 I hope I don’t get a (literally) buggy computer screen out of karma for my failed attempt at a joke….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Always a prankster. I have to admit I am far from the most techie person and sometimes I wish I had a bit more knowledge about it so I could debug some of my own computer problems.

    Thanks for the virtual cup of coffee. Hope you have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You geeks! How cruel you are… I say this with firm belief and steadfast first hand knowledge of your “pranks”. My hubby did something similar to my computer when I was back in college…finals week! UGH! He made it such that every hour on the hour, my screen would crack into a million pieces. It was his attempt to remind me to save what I was working on ( a bad habit I had of working hours without saving and then screaming when I lost it). Got him back though, with one of those halloween things where an evil clown jumps outa the screen. After that, we made rules. He no touch my computer without permission, I no deprogram his. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How awesome. And I thought my trick was cool, to unplug someone’s LAN connection, put a tiny piece of tape over the contacts and plug it back in. Then watch them spend an eternity trying to figure out why they have no network access. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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