Because six times a day is really enough, right?

Flashback to the 1980s, when this state transportation department uses computer science students from a local university as programming interns, according to one intern pilot fish.

"The transportation department got cheap labor and the students got work experience," says fish. "We were using a text-based mainframe editor and writing statistical analysis procedures."

One day, while editing a program, fish uses keyboard commands to copy and paste several lines from one section of code to another. But just as he pastes them in, the mainframe goes down.

And this being the production mainframe, that means the entire building gets a coffee break.

A half-hour later, the mainframe is back up. Fish returns to his desk, logs on and tries to paste that code snippet again.

The mainframe goes down again. Another coffee break for everyone.

Thirty minutes later, as fish is logging on again, he says to the intern one chair over, "It's funny, I've done the same thing twice in a row and immediately afterwards the mainframe went down."

"You're crazy!" other intern says. "You can't do something in the editor to bring the mainframe down." Wanna bet $5? fish says. He tries again -- and fish is $5 richer.

This time he calls the computer room to explain that each time he pastes the snippet of code, the mainframe is going down. "Do you think it could be me?" he asks.

The mainframe operator snarls, "You can't do anything in the editor that would bring the mainframe down," and hangs up.

Fish log in again, tries once more -- and every monitor in the building goes blank again.

A few minutes later, fish's manager comes in, asking who called the operator earlier. He sends fish to the computer room, where fish explains that every time he does this particular copy-and-paste in the editor, the system goes down.

Rolling his eyes, the computer-room manager says, "Show me." Fish logs in and pastes the lines. The mainframe goes down. Manager glares at fish and says, "When we bring the system back up, don't do that any more!"

Fish gets back from lunch to find a message from an IBM consultant. He returns the call and again explains what he did. Forty-five minutes later, the IBM guy calls again, asking fish to repeat the procedure to confirm that the new patch has fixed the problem.

Fish pastes. The mainframe goes down. "@#$%!" the IBM consultant says.

Ninety minutes later, the mainframe is back up and fish needs to leave for a late-afternoon class. "I figured I had time to do one last change," he says.

"But this time, I manually deleted the four lines and retyped them in at the new location."

Do your part to keep Sharky up and running by sending me your true tale of IT life at You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

Get your daily dose of out-takes from the IT Theater of the Absurd delivered directly to your Inbox. Subscribe now to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon