836 Memory-Lane Monday: While we’re chatting, I should mention about the big red switch …

Memory-Lane Monday: While we’re chatting, I should mention about the big red switch …

Flashback to 1988, when this pilot fish’s IT experience is limited to work at computer stores on standalone PCs. But then he’s hired to work in a real data center — raised floor, glass walls and full of Wang minicomputers.

“I was given an introductory walkthrough by my boss, then shown to my cubicle just outside the glass wall and left there,” says fish. “I was awestruck. A real computer, on a network!”

Fish reads through his employee welcome packet, then logs into his terminal for the first time. Up pops a menu of choices. Gingerly, fish begins exploring. One menu option is WSNSTART. Fish selects that and presses Enter.

Several screens flash by in quick succession, and then the main menu reappears.

Not quite sure what has just happened, fish continues reading the menu choices. Another one is WSNSTOP. Hmm, he thinks, if I just started something with WSNSTART, I should probably stop it. He selects WSNSTOP and presses Enter.

Again, several screens flash by quickly. Then fish returns to looking at the other menu choices.

A minute later, he hears tapping on the glass behind him. It’s his new boss inside the computer room, beckoning fish with his finger.

Fish meets his boss inside at the main terminal. “Did you just run this?” boss asks, pointing at the WSNSTOP command.

Yes, fish replies, and explains why.

“Pointing to each letter in turn, he said, ‘WSNSTOP is Wang System Network STOP. You just brought down the network,’” fish reports.

“Luckily, WSNSTART brought it right back up. Even more luckily, I wasn’t fired that day.”

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