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Computerworld  |  Shark Tank
Computerworld / IDG

It’s the early ’80s and operations manager is tired of getting repeated calls to the basement computer room to repair buttons on the mainframe. The “ready” buttons on the IBM 3420 tape drives keep breaking, and he wishes he knew why.

These buttons, which are pushed after the tape reel is mounted, always seem to break during the night shift, so the operations manager decides to investigate. He sneaks into the computer room one night — and discovers that the buttons are the victims of job boredom. The young and rambunctious night operators mount a tape, and rather than use a finger to press the ready button, they jump up and grab one of the pipes overhead, then use their foot to kick the ready button. Naturally, the buttons break after just a few nights of that kind of abuse.

But what to do about it? Only age cures young and rambunctious, the building’s plumbing isn’t going to be relocated, and the mainframe can’t be moved either.

So the manager applies a generous layer of soap to the pipes the next day.

He never heard what happened the first time one of the night operators tried the usual ready-button maneuver.

Sharky is ready for your true tales of IT life. Send them to me at You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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