OK, that WOULD be a reason to call during vacation


Flashback to the mid-1990s, when modems are still in wide use for PCs and this pilot fish is a sysadmin at a local college.

"The college had a digital phone system that was not compatible with computer modems," says fish. "To be able to test computers at my work station, I had a separate direct phone line installed -- plain old telephone service."

That's perfect for fish's needs. It lets him plug an ordinary home-type phone line into a modem for testing, and that's the only thing he needs -- or uses -- it for.

Fast forward a year or so: It's vacation time for fish, who's getting out of town for a week. He can't think of any reason his time off should be disturbed -- but, knowing the realities of IT, he leaves a phone number where he can be reached while he's gone.

Four days into his vacation, fish gets a call from the building administrator. She tells him the county sheriff has arrived at the building where fish works -- and he's not happy. It seems a 9-1-1 call has been made, and was traced back to the phone line in fish's office.

Fish knows the phone line is still active, though he rarely uses it. And just as he tells the sheriff, when officers go into his office, they find the phone cord is draped over the work bench. It's not connected to a phone, a modem or anything else that could dial the emergency number.

"Further investigation determined the phone line to have excessive noise," fish says. "Apparently this noise just happened to have the right combination of tones or clicks, over a period of time, to be detected as 9-1-1.

"Fortunately for me, I'd been 300 miles away for four days, and nobody was home."

Tell it to the judge...er, Shark. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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