Today, of course, we'd do this with a cloud outage

Flashback to the late 1960s, when this pilot fish has just gotten his second IT job -- as a junior assembly-language programmer in a bank's data processing department.

"My employer was a small savings bank in a major city," says fish. "The teller cage was a large oval on the main floor, enclosed by ornate metalwork. My office was on the second floor, which was reached by a flight of stairs on the north end of the building then across a balcony to my office on the south side."

One morning, as fish is crossing the balcony to get to his office, he notices a flurry of activity downstairs. People are rushing around, apparently placing small stacks of paper at each of the teller positions.

He reaches his office only to find his boss, the data processing manager, waiting for him. "Grab this disk pack and follow me!" he tells fish, and leads him back across the balcony, down the stairs, out the door and into a cab.

On the cab ride to the service bureau where it's possible to rent computer time, the boss tells fish what happened.

It seems that the night before, an annual three-step job was on the schedule. Fish's boss developed this process before he was promoted to DP manager and had always stayed late to run the job himself. This year was the first time someone else did the process.

"The operator ran the first step of the compile-and-go process, and the system froze and wouldn't boot," fish says. "He moved the pack from drive 0 to drive 1 and was again unsuccessful in getting the system up. He then grabbed the backup system disk pack, booted the system from the normal drive 0, and ran the second step of the job.

"He didn't know that the compiler used drive 0 as work space. The system was now dead and the reel of tape my boss was cradling contained the only other copy of the operating system -- and our last tape drive had been removed a few months before.

"Those stacks of paper? The tellers needed those forms for the limited types of transactions they could do without the computer system. And that day I learned that written procedures for operations might be a good idea."

Sharky's sitting at his steam-powered teletype waiting for your story. So send me your true tale of IT life -- whether it's from yesteryear or yesterday -- at You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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