A Register reader turns the computer room into a socialist paradise

Who, me? Monday is here, and with that comes another story of student problems in the computer room, courtesy of our not-feeling-guilty Register readers in our weekly Who, Me?

Today's journey on the path of memory comes from a reader we will call "John", and is located in an educational establishment of the 1980s.

The computer equipment was not as ubiquitous as it is Now, and John observed "We had a mainframe terminal room and a PC room for the entire university."

The demand for the machines was quite high and the students had devised a novel way to keep their seat reserved while they moved away to do what the students did in the & # 39; 80s.

John explained: "The rule in both rooms was that if someone logged in and left his & # 39; towel in the chair & # 39 ;, then he could not log out. Logging into the PC meant running A program".

Unfortunately, unlike mainframe terminals, there was no waiting time on PCs. So the workstations would remain connected until the user disconnected them.

John explained "Therefore, our media colleagues and journalists will start Wordstar or PCwrite before and never disconnect from locked machines."

We can only imagine how late, programmers slept in such a way that media students could appear first. Journalists, of course, never arrive.

However, while a partner was playing with password traps to gain better access to the Vax and Unix terminals, John "decided to address the problem that programmers never had access to the PC."

John's solution it was "a small and elegant program Terminate and Stay Resident (TSR) in DOS".

With a seemingly blank file name, thanks to the use of the Alt 255 character, it was difficult to delete and was loaded as part of the file autoexec.bat during startup.

The infamous code was self-replicated and certainly caused more than a few howls of anguish, as John explained:

But hey, at least those PCs were disconnected and the "towels" were removed, right?

John updated the application and changed the name to a random number (1-8) of Alt 255 characters. He also verified autoexec.bat even if the file was on disk "since some cunning users saw it there and deleted it."

"The result," said John, was the students' dream. : "a socialist PC laboratory"

"The machines were no longer monopolized by writers. It had the Pavlovian side effect of training everyone to save their work more frequently. He remained indomitable in college for years and was never caught. . "

A cynical might suspect that Microsoft had implemented similar technology in its occasionally wobbly products to empower users to press the Save button more frequently.

As for what happened since then, John told us that "he left for a crypto start in California. By that time, the restart of the TSR had become a copy protection mechanism for floppy disks and moved to the boot sector, it helped me get the job. "

In the late 1980s "I became the home virus expert in a leading US PC software manufacturer: disassemble the initial viruses to understand what they did and write antidotes. Before that Norton and the others arrived. Little TSR was the beginning of a race! "

The writing of viruses, it seems, pays."

And as for John, a friend of John's Unix? He was "caught with a file full of passwords for 4th year and Unix sysadmin helper was created for his probation: what could go wrong! "

What is the same.

Have you ever tried to create your own socialist utopia with a few lines of code similar to a virus? Of course it is. Drop Who, Me? An email and tell us everything about him. ®

Balance consumerization and corporate control.

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