Some people might think this story has to be taken from real life,
some fewer people might even think this story is connected with some here
unnamed real persons, perhaps they are not that wrong at all.
Remember how much fun you had upgrading your systems to VMS V5.0 ?
Well, you had it easy......
(SCENE: Inside of a VAX computer room. CREDITS ROLL as the SYSMGR is
sitting in front of the console terminal, typing. He pauses, picks up a small
magnetic tape, walks over to a tape drive, mounts it, and returns to the console
where he continues typing.)
(There is a knock at the door. SYSMGR walks to the door and opens it,
USER: Any idea when the system will be up ?
SYSMGR: Well, I just installed version 5.0 of VMS, so I'm going to run
some diagnostics on it overnight to make sure it works alright. Assuming
everything goes alright, the system should be up first thing tomorrow morning.
USER: Great. Thanks. (Exits)
(SYSMGR closes the door and returns to the console.)
ROD SERLING-LIKE VOICE: This is John Smith, University of Maryland System
Manager. In an effort to make his system the best it can be, he has just
installed VMS Version 5.0 onto his VAX. But little does he know that the
Version 5 documentation kit from Digital includes a one-way ticket to ...
the VMS TWILIGHT ZONE !
(ominous music - fade out)
(Fade in. The SYSMGR scans the console for a moment, then turns, picks up
his coat and walks to the door. He stops at the door for a moment, looking back
at the big machine. Finally, he turns out the light and exits, closing the door
(Cut to the Console Terminal. We read the following as it is printed on the
VMS V5.0 DIAGNOSTICS --
DIAGNOSTICS - PHASE 1 STARTING...
DIAGNOSTICS - PHASE 1 FINISHED SUCCESSFULLY.
DIAGNOSTICS - PHASE 2 STARTING...
TESTING MICROCODE ... SUCCESSFUL
TESTING DECNET ... SUCCESSFUL
TESTING LICENSE MANAGEMENT UTILITY ... SUCCESSFUL
TESTING SYSTEM SERVICES ... SUCCESSFUL
TESTING HIGHLY EXPERIMENTAL AND COMPLETELY UNDOCUMENTED AI ROUTINE ...
(Cut to view of the Tape in the Tape drive. The tape spins for a moment, and
(Cut to view of the Machine Room. A fog has begun drifting across the floor,
and the hardware is slowly being backlit by a pulsing red light. A peal of weird
laughter cuts through the silence. A variety of bizarre things occur: A VT100
monitor sitting on a table slowly rotates 360 degrees; the tape drive opens and
tape begins spewing out of it; slime begins pouring out of a disk drive; the
line printer begins form-feeding like mad. These continue for several minutes,
or for as long as we can keep them up. FADE OUT)
(SCENE: Hallway outside of the computer room. SYSMGR walks up to the door
and is met by USER.)
USER: System going to be up soon ?
SYSMGR: (as he speaks, he tries to open the Machine room door, but
the door is apparently stuck.) The diagnostics should be done by now, so we
should be up in about 15 minutes... (he succeeds in opening the door, but is
confronted by floor to ceiling magnetic tape. Tangled at about eye level is an
empty tape reel. SYSMGR takes the reel and looks at it. CLOSE UP of the reel so
we can read the label, which reads: VAX/VMS V5.0 DIAGNOSTIC KIT.)
SYSMGR: (to USER) ...give or take a few days....
(SCENE: View of TSR (Telephone Support Rep) from behind as
she is sitting in a cubicle, a terminal in front of her. Beside her on the wall
is a poster which reads "Digital Has It Now - But You Can't Have It". We can see
the terminal, but we should not be able to read what is on it. She is wearing a
TSR: Colorado Customer Support. What is your access number, please ?
SYSMGR VOICE: 31576
TSR: And your name ?
SYSMGR VOICE: John Smith.
(Cut to SYSMGR standing beside his console. He his holding a phone to his
head with his right hand, and holding a printout in his left which he is
perusing while he talks on the phone.)
TSR VOICE: And what operating system are you using ?
SYSMGR: VMS version 5.
TSR VOICE: And is this a problem with the operating system or a layered
(As the SYSMGR looks up from the printout, his eyes suddenly widen and he
drops the printout and ducks. At that second, a disk platter flies through the
air where his head just was. Slowly, SYSMGR stands up and looks to where the
disk went. PAN BACK to reveal a stack of boxes with a disk embedded in one of
them at neck height.)
SYSMGR: (into the phone) Operating System. Definitely the
(Cut back to TSR sitting at her desk.)
TSR: Can you describe the problem, please ?
(SYSMGR voice can now only be heard as mumbling)
TSR: Yes... Tape drive spewing tape into the air... yes... Line printers
printing backwards... yes... miscellaneous hardware flying through the air... uh
huh... disk drives melting... yeah... strange voices coming from the CPU
board... I see... yes. Is that all ? (pause as she finishes typing at the
terminal) Well, I'm afraid that that team is busy at the moment, can I have
them get back to you ?
(CUT TO SCENE: MANAGER sitting behind a large desk in a plush office.
DEVELOPER is pacing in front of him, hands behind his back.)
(SUBTITLE: Meanwhile at Maynard...)
MANAGER: So tell me ! What the hell happened ?!
DEVELOPER: (turning to face MANAGER) It's a glitch, a fluke. A
one in a billion chance. And it's not Development's fault. Not really.
MANAGER: Then who's fault is it ?
DEVELOPER: We traced it back to the Software Distribution Center. It
seems that there was a mixup and some of the code for the experimental AI
routine was copied onto the distribution from the wrong optical disk. (He
removes a CD from his jacket) This one, to be precise.
MANAGER: And what's that ?
DEVELOPER: (reading the label) "Ozzy Osbourne's Greatest Hits".
Normally, it wouldn't have made any difference, as the AI routine isn't used
yet. But when they began running diagnostics, it hit the routine and the
computer just sort of became a thing possessed.
MANAGER: Wonderful. Were any other distributions affected ?
DEVELOPER: No, just the University of Maryland's.
MANAGER: Well, that's a relief. We've got to get them taken care of
before anyone finds out. Can you imagine what Digital Review would do if they
heard about this ?
DEVELOPER: We could always blame it on the Chaos Computer Group.
MANAGER: No, we've already used that one. This calls for drastic
(MANAGER picks up the phone and begins flipping through the rolodex)
DEVELOPER: Who are you going to send ?
(CUT to the Rolodex so that we can read the cards. The first card
SYSTEM PROBLEMS - Ron Jankowski, x474
he flips to the next card:
BAD SYSTEM PROBLEMS - Bob Candless, x937
he flips to the next card:
REALLY BAD SYSTEM PROBLEMS - Michelle French, x365
he flips to the next card
OUTRAGEOUSLY BAD SYSTEM PROBLEMS - Mike West, x887
he flips to the next card and taps the card with forefinger:
SYSTEM FUCKED UP BEYOND ALL RECOGNITION - The VAXorcist, x666
(CUT to Machine Room. SYSMGR is standing by the console holding an
RA60 disk cover and using it as a shield to defend himself from various pieces
of hardware which are flying at him from off-camera. There is a knock at the
door. Slowly, SYSMGR makes his way to the door and opens it. Standing there,
backlit amidst outrageous amounts of fog is the VAXORCIST, wearing a trench coat
and fedora, and carrying a briefcase.)
VAXORCIST: (in a hushed voice) DEC sent me. I hear you're having
(CUT to SYSMGR OFFICE, a small but pleasant office with posters on
the walls and clutter on the desk. As the VAXORCIST enters, he removes his coat
and hat, revealing a very techie outfit beneath. He is wearing a DEC
SYSMGR: (Frantic) Problems ? Problems ?!? You could say I'm
having some problems. 4.6 was fine. 4.7 was fine. I install 5.0 and all Hell
breaks loose. The damn thing ate two of my operators this morning !
VAXORCIST: Calm down, everything will be alright. I've dealt with
situations like this before.
SYSMGR: You have ?
VAXORCIST: Four years ago at an installation in Oregon, a programmer
renamed his Star Trek program to VMB.EXE and copied it into the system
directory. When the system was rebooted the next day it phasored the entire
accounting department claiming that they were Klingon spies. There was a similar
problem in Texas three years ago, and then, of course, there was the IRS fiasco
that we're not allowed to talk about. But don't worry. These things can be
fixed. Before I can help you, though, I have to ask you a few questions.
(The VAXorcist opens his briefcase and removes a clipboard) Now,
according to the report, the strange occurences began after you installed VMS
Version 5, is that correct ?
SYSMGR: Yes, that's correct.
VAXORCIST: Now, did you carefully read the Installation Guide for VMS
Version 5 ?
SYSMGR: (confused) Installation Guide ?
VAXORCIST: Yes, it should have come with the Release Notes.
SYSMGR: (still confused) Release Notes ? (SYSMGR begins
rooting about on his disk, shifting papers around as if he might find them
VAXORCIST: (annoyed) Yes, Release Notes. They should have come
with your documentation upgrade.
SYSMGR: (completely confused - looks up from his rooting through the
papers on his desk) Documentation upgrade ?
VAXORCIST: (angry) YES ! The Documentation upgrade for your VMS
Documentation Set !
SYSMGR: Documentation S...? Oh, you mean the grey binders ? They're over
there. (he points to the wall behind the VAXORCIST. The VAXORCIST turns and
we see a closed glass-front bookcase packed with grey binders. A small red sign
on the front of the bookcase reads: "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS").
VAXORCIST: Right. This is going to be tougher than I thought. Let's go
take a look at your system and see just how bad everything is.
(CUT to the Machine Room. The room is neat and tidy and there is no
sign that anything is wrong. The VAXORCIST enters the room with the SYSMGR
VAXORCIST: Everything looks okay to me.
SYSMGR: Maybe it's hibernating.
VAXORCIST: Unlikely. It's probably trying to lure us into a false sense
SYSMGR: Sounds like VMS alright.
(VAXORCIST gives him a dirty look)
VAXORCIST: I'm going to have to test it's power. This could get ugly, you
may want to leave. (The SYSMGR shakes his head no. The VAXORCIST brings
hiself up to full height in front of the VAX and points a finger at it) By
the power of DEC, I expel thee from this system ! (Clap of thunder)
(CUT to door to the machine room. The SYSMGR is pulling a cart on
which sits the VAXORCIST wrapped from head to toe in magnetic tape)
SYSMGR: Any other bright ideas ?
VAXORCIST: Just shut up and get this damn stuff off of me.
(CUT to SYSMGRs office)
VAXORCIST: (Writing on the clipboard) Things look pretty bad. I
think we're going to need a full-scale VAXorcism here.
SYSMGR: Is there anything I can do to help ?
VAXORCIST: As a matter of fact, there is. We've got to incapacitate the
VAX to keep it from causing any more damage until I'm ready to deal with it.
Now, I've got some software here that will do that, but it's got to be
installed. (VAXORCIST hands SYSMGR a tape) With that running, the CPU
will be so bogged down, the VAX won't be able to harm anybody.
SYSMGR: (Examining the tape) What is it ? A program to calculate
pi to the last digit ?
VAXORCIST: Better than that. It starts up All-in-1 with a 10 user load.
(CUT to Hall outside of Computer Room. The VAXORCIST approaches the door. As
the SYSMGR approaches the door, the VAXORCIST holds him back.)
VAXORCIST: I appreciate your help, but it won't be safe for you in there.
SYSMGR: What ? You're going in there to face that thing alone ? You're
VAXORCIST: Hey, it's my job. (VAXORCIST turns to the door)
SYSMGR: Wait a minute. (VAXORCIST stops and turns around) You
better take this with you. (SYSMGR removes a very large and very nasty
looking gun from the inside of his jacket)
VAXORCIST: (Smiling) No, I won't need that. I've got something
more powerful. (VAXORCIST holds up a small guide-sized orange binder, opens it,
and shows it to SYSMGR.)
(CUT to closeup of the book which reads: "GUIDE TO VAX/VMS SYSTEM
(CUT to view of Machine room door as seen by the VAX. The VAXORCIST enters the
room and stands in front of the VAX.)
(CUT to view of the Machine Room showing the VAXORCIST confronting
VAXORCIST: By the power of DEC, I command thee, Evil Spirit, to show
VAX: Bugger off.
VAXORCIST: (Shaken) What ?
VAX: I said Bugger off ! Now get out of here before I core-dump all over
VAXORCIST: (Recovered) Threaten me not, oh Evil one ! For I
speak with the power of DEC, and I command thee to show thyself !
(A rumble is heard and again the VAX becomes backlit by red lights and a fog
begins to roll across the floor. The VAX cabinet doors slowly creak open to
reveal two small red lights in the dark cabinet which appear to be the
VAX: There. Happy ? Now get out of here before I drop a tape drive on
your private parts.
VAXORCIST: (Opening the orange binder, he begins intoning
SHUTDOWN.COM in gregorian chant. The VAX screams.)
VAX: Stop that ! Stop that ! You, you DOS LOVER ! Your mother manages RSX
systems in Hell !
(The VAXORCIST continues and the VAX screams again.)
VAX: Stop it ! (a large wad of computer tape is thrown at the
VAXORCIST, apparently from the VAX.) Eat oxide, bit-bucket breath !
(The VAXORCIST continues and the VAX screams once more.)
VAX: Mount me ! Mount me !
VAXORCIST: (finishing the intonation) And now, by the power of
DEC, I banish thee back to the null-space from which you came ! (The VAX
screams and the scream fades to silence.)
(CUT to the doorway of the Machine room, which now stands open. The
VAXORCIST is once again wearing his trench coat and fedora.)
SYSMGR: So it's over ?
VAXORCIST: (Putting his hat on) Yes, it's over.
SYSMGR: (Shaking the VAXORCISTs hand) Thank God. Listen, thanks
a lot. I don't know what we would have done without you.
VAXORCIST: Hey, it's the least we could do. The Software Distribution
Center should be sending you a patch tape in a week or two to patch out that AI
routine and prevent this from happening again. Sign here. (he hands SYSMGR
the clipboard, SYSMGR signs at the bottom and hands it back) Have a good
(SYSMGR enters the machine room. Camera follows him in.)
SYSMGR: (Calling to someone off-camera) Okay, you guys, let's get
rolling. Get those backup tapes out. We've got a clean system again ! (cheers
are heard from off-camera. The SYSMGR leaves the picture, leaving only the VAX
with it's cabinet doors still open in the picture. Slow zoom in to the LSI
unit. Slowly, the LSI unit begins to emit a pulsing red glow)
(Fade to black. CREDITS ROLL)
feel free to copy this and pass it around if it amuses you, as long as
this notice is left intact.
Any similarity between characters appearing in this script and any persons,
creatures, or entities living, dead, or otherwise is purely coincidental.
I am no longer an employee of the University of Maryland, so I'm not
particularly bothered if you think that they are responsible for any of
this. Unless it's funny, then it's mine.
Thanks to my friends and colleagues at the University of Maryland and
elsewhere for their help and encouragement in the developement of the
script and the video.