And that, kids, is how you boot a system

Sometimes you just need to do a little percussive maintenance.

Back in pilot fish’s college days, everything on campus runs off a DECsystem10 core-memory mainframe, connected to clusters of dumb terminals by “cluster controller” PDP-10 minicomputers. Late one night, one of those cluster controllers goes on the fritz. None of the college employees or designated student experts can be found, time is a-wasting, and fish’s friend Fred has a programming assignment due the next morning. 

After watching the other students try everything they can think of, to no avail, Fred decides it’s time for drastic action. He powers the PDP-10 down and orders, “Stand back. I’m going to boot this thing!” 

“He doesn’t mean ‘reboot,’ either,” says fish. “He winds up and kicks it. Hard. All the bystanders gasp in horror. How much damage has he just done to their fragile, expensive hardware?” 

Then Fred hits the power switch, and the whole thing comes up and connects perfectly. Evidently, his percussive maintenance has reseated something loose, and all is well in the cluster. 

“To this day,” says fish, “I can’t hear someone talk about ‘booting a system’ without flashbacks to the day when it literally worked.” 

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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