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Flash back to the 1990s, when this pilot fish is a computer operator in a university computer research center. "For security, we used electronic badges with a feature called 'anti-pass-back,'" fish says.

"Basically, that meant the computer system controlling the cards knew where you were, and if you tried to enter through a door that you hadn't 'properly' reached -- usually by piggybacking on another employee -- the system would deny you access because you hadn't followed the proper entry/exit procedure."

One Saturday, just after fish arrives at work, the data center loses power due to a blown transformer. Fish shuts down the big machines, then sits down to read a book in the fading emergency lighting.

Two hours later, power comes back on and fish begins his restart routine by manually powering up the air conditioning units. But it seems the replacement transformer is undersized, and it almost immediately expires. Fish shuts everything down again and goes back to reading.

Hours later, with the emergency lighting almost gone, fish decides to head for the break room, where an open window provides ventilation and light. "During this trip, I didn't swipe my security card, as the power to the card readers had faded as well," he says.

"Around 4:30 p.m., our plant department got the right size transformer installed and power restored. As the lights came on and the mainframes and supers started firing up, I heard a sound I really didn't want to hear: the sound of all of the door locks clicking into place."

Fish's last known position is in the computer operations area -- and he's denied entry.

He tries everything he can think of short of breaking glass, but nothing works. And time is an issue, since those big machines have no A/C and things will get very hot very fast.

Finally, fish grits his teeth and pulls the fire alarm. Yes, it's illegal -- but as expected, it opens all the doors.

"After powering up all the A/C units, I called 911, requested the station that was responsible for our university and told them to ignore the fire alarm, because it was a false alarm," says fish.

"Their response? 'What fire alarm?'

"I told my boss about this the following Monday, and the alarm company got a royal chewing out. I actually got congratulated for quick thinking and for finding a problem with our system.

"Really quick thinking on my part would have been to prop the @#$%! door open. Oh, well..."

Quick, think of Sharky. Now send me your true tale of IT life at I'll send you a stylish Shark shirt if I use it.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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