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The VAXorcist
Christopher Russell Zum Seitenende gehen
The VAXorcist

Christopher Russell

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, revealing USER.)

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 behind him.)

(Cut to the Console Terminal. We read the following as it is printed on the console terminal:)










(Cut to view of the Tape in the Tape drive. The tape spins for a moment, and suddenly stops.)

(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 headset.)

TSR: Colorado Customer Support. What is your access number, please ?


TSR: And your name ?


(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 product ?

(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 Operating System.

(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 action.

(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 reads:

      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
he flips to the next card and taps the card with forefinger:

(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 some problems.

(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 badge.)

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 underneath)

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 behind him.)

VAXORCIST: Everything looks okay to me.

SYSMGR: Maybe it's hibernating.

VAXORCIST: Unlikely. It's probably trying to lure us into a false sense of security.

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 nuts !

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 EXORCISM")

(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 the VAX)

VAXORCIST: By the power of DEC, I command thee, Evil Spirit, to show thyself.

VAX: Bugger off.

VAXORCIST: (Shaken) What ?

VAX: I said Bugger off ! Now get out of here before I core-dump all over you !

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 creature's eyes)

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 one.

(VAXORCIST leaves.)

(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.

Christopher Russell
© 2024 by Bernd Onasch - Impressum Zum Seitenanfang gehen