Ah, the memories! Here are some of the stories I've heard and or witnessed over the years.
- Buttons: Every couple years, IBM would hold an open house where anyone in the community
could come in and get a tour of the facility (Kingston, NY). This was back in 1984, IIRC. PCs were just starting to make an impact at this time... big iron was king. We're talking about a huge raised-floor area
with multiple mainframes, storage, tape drives... MANY millions of dollars per system. A few hundred users on a system was quite an accomplishment back then and these boxes could handle a thousand users. We were
also in the midst of a huge test effort of the next release of VM/SP. I had come in that Sunday afternoon to get several tests done (death marches are no fun). All of a sudden the mainframe I was on crashed. Hard. I'd grown accustomed to this as we were at a point where we were "eating our own dog food"; the production system was running the latest build of the OS. But, an hour later and it was STILL down. Apparently, a tour guide had led a group to one of the operator consoles and a child could not resist pressing buttons. Back in those days, booting a mainframe meant "re-IPL" Initial Program Load. Unless the computer was REALLY messed up and wouldn't boot. Only then would someone re-IML the system. Initial Microcode Load. Guess which button the kid pressed? It left the system in such a wonky state that it had to be reloaded from tape. All the
development work of that weekend was lost and had to be recreated and rebuilt. (It was a weekend and backups
were only done on weekday nights.) It took us a week to get things back to normal.
Hey, I have a similar story from when I was working at Dartmouth College in the mid-80's. I was on third shift with two other guys, one who knew what he was doing, and one who was, uh, not fully technology-enabled.
For some reason, one night the latter person thought it would be a good idea to clean out the cabinet of our Honeywell mainframe. With a broom. A long-handled push broom.
This was on a weekend, when we normally do a full backup (onto good old 9-track tapes), reboot the system into protected mode, verify the system integrity, and go into multi-user mode. Well, we finished the backups, and tried to reboot. Nothing was working, and the diagnostics were wonky and pretty uninformative, and we (the useful co-worker and I) spent an hour or so trying to debug what was going on. It wasn't until we asked the third guy about the machine that he mentioned his cleaning. The boot switches for the IPL were on the door, and when he was in there cleaning, the broom handle toggled several of them, leaving the machine in its unusual state.
Needless to say, we asked him to avoid cleaning mainframes with brooms in the future.