Friday, January 08, 2010

Fun with the DOS prompt

Years ago, back in the 1990s, there was a man who was in charge of a computer network for a business. We worked mostly in DOS back then, and I changed his DOS prompt, which normally gave the drive and directory, to say "A file server could not be found", then a couple of blank lines, then the drive and directory, so it looked like the normal DOS prompt accompanied by an error message. The error message was the same as a real error message that sometimes appeared when there was a problem with a file server or the LAN (Local Area Network). He was there while I did it, so he knew about it, and endured it when it kept appearing on the screen.

Then he went into a program in which the DOS prompt did not appear. He was in there for a while, and when he exited it the fake error message appeared again. His eyes got big as he stared intently at it, then he calmed down and reached for the CTRL-ALT-DELETE keys to reset the computer.

I said, somewhat nervously, "You don't really have to do that."

He said, "Yeah, I know...," while doing it anyway.

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Blogger Argent said...

Oh, the fun we can have.... When I was a trainee programmer, I played a practical joke on my boss. Back then, we had an ICL system which used its own OS. One of the nifty programs that came bundled was a thing called keygen. This little app would generate keystrokes as if they came from the keyboard. It also had the ability to read the screen and react to what it found. I rigged it up so that, when the mainframe's login screen came up, keygen would check the displayed system time. If the number of seconds was odd, it would switch around some of the most frequently used keys and replace their usual output with a random letter or number. If the seconds were even, it did nothing. The twist, though, was that if you hit ESC whist it was in 'randomiser' mode, it would reset the keys to normal, if you hit ESC again then, it would re-randomise. What would happen is my boss would go to log in, find his keyboard had gone whacky and start hollering aobut it. I (or one of my in-the-know co-workers) would casually wander over, lean over and see what the problem was and casually thumb the ESC key. We'd demo the keyboard working fine then thumb ESC as we walked away. It ran for months and was the source of great hilarity. Even my boss saw the funny side when he finally found out. Happy days!

12:43 PM, January 12, 2010  

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