back to article Why Borland trashed its spreadsheet

Always remember, the compiler is your friend. Programming is stressful but no matter how many f**ks and b***ocks you might occasionally feel the need to insert into the comments, the compiler will always strip them out. It's great. Of course, it doesn't actually go looking for rude words. So it would be a mistake to use them …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Mo

    Whatever happened to PC User?

    I have fond memories of the caption competition.

    Mine's a Babycham!

  2. Andy Taylor

    Reminds me of a similar story

    I used to work for a company that distributed bibliographic databases on CD-ROM. The company that produced the databases used to release a CD catalogue every six months or so which was sent to all customers.

    One of these CDs was made to auto-run the user's web browser with a link to a registration page on the company website. Unfortunately, the person who tested the CD didn't try it on a different machine. He had set the link incorrectly so the browser tried to access the registration page on his local machine, which was called a girls name. The URL was:http://<girlsname>/registration/index.html or something.

    In Internet Explorer, this simply returned an error message, but Netscape (yes, this was some time ago) would try and help out the user by putting www. and .com either side of the hostname. The URL was rewritten to: http://www.<girlsname>.com/registration/index.html

    This particular girls name was a porn site.

  3. regadpellagru
    Gates Horns

    it *does* happen

    "Instead of the expected SECOND appearing, the characters "FUCKME" appeared. I was shocked. No, that doesn't really cover it: I was traumatised."

    Poor thing .... Was it the shock of your life ? ;-)

    I'd be shocked if only that caused the product to be ditched ...

    Mind you, I used to embed sarcastic comments or parabols in my sources years ago, about some colleagues or other event. Not rude words of course, but kind of private jokes, in the hope it would one day make someone have a good laugh. Sort of legacy from me.

    12 years after, some ex-colleagues told me they re-read the sources to update/adapt them, and got a very good moment remembering the joke.

    It *does* happen even in big companies, even if the SECOND.BAR thing seems to me bad taste and 14-years oldish.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Not just in the comments

    We once developed a product around some 3rd-party code. When the first drop arrived one developer noticed that after attemtping to allocate memory, and failing, the code would exit with the error message "Fuck me, no memory left".

    He sent a message to the team mail alias suggesting that perhaps we needed to change this, prompting an immediate reply from our (as we thought, somewhat straitlaced) manager: "Yes, of course. It isn't internationalized"... :)

  5. Anonymous Coward


    I had something similar to this

    Back in the early 90's i was working as helpdesk support for a very large database provider. We had just shipped our latest version to our customers and were getting the normal increased support calls etc from customers who were upgrading.

    A dba for one of our customers came on the line and said one of his users had got an odd error message pop-up on his screen. I asked him to read the message exactly as was written down.

    He read out, "If this happens we're fucked"

  6. pete


    A colleague attempting to track down a particularly horrible bug sprinkled our VB6 application with logging statements. When a sysadmin at the datacentre asked why there were over 12000 and rising "FUCK ME - HOW DID WE GET HERE?" messages in the system event log I had to pass him over to my surprised friend...

    Classic e-mail from our project manager followed -

    Subject: To those considering profanity in log messages

    Don't even f---ing think about it.

  7. Sarah Skelding

    While we're sharing ...

    10 years after leaving mainframes behind, I received through the internal mail a note asking, "Remember this?" and a piano-ruled printout out with an elegantly arranged boxed-out error message that read, "If anyone is reading this, the database is truly fucked in a manner that defies explanation". True, but unhelpful.

  8. Tim Brown
    Thumb Down


    So you are messing around in DOS 'typing' binary files which really you have no need to do, get offended by a Friday afternoon comment left by some bored programmer and go squealing to the company? 10/10 for sense of humour failure.

    My own particular favourite was a question I saw on a pub quiz machine a few years ago (slightly sensored to avoid libel!)

    Q: What did U** G****r become famous for?

    and one of the possible answers was:

    For being a twat.

  9. Chris Long
    Paris Hilton

    Cover CDs

    Reminds me of the cover CDs you used to get on magazines, back in the day when you still had to explain what "the internet" was to most people. A lot of those CDs included Netscape, because there was no browser built-in to any OS back then.

    On one of them I looked at, the version of Netscape was just an image of the Netscape folders from someone's machine, including all their state files, showing their browsing history... they had been to some very naughty places.

    I might even still have that disk somewhere....

  10. Chris

    Dodgy source code comments

    When Sun released the source code to Solaris, one of their head honchos admitted that a significant amount of time had been spent removing profanity from the code comments. Even so, on the day of release posts appeared on forums such as Slashdot pointing out more unusual vulgar usage of the English language that Sun had missed.

    Even projects that have always been open source are not immune - there's the odd f*ck in the Linux code for instance. Meanwhile, a quick grep of the source tree for the NetBSD operating system finds 55 files with the occurrence of f*ck in them, mostly in the GNU bits though.

  11. Alan Potter

    Where are they now?

    Okay - this isn't about fucking profanities, all right?

    But along with the disappearence of PC User, I just wondered whether "Byte", "Creative Computing" and "Dr Dobbs Journal of Computer Calisthenics and Orthodontia" were still going?

    I did once get picked up by a tester for putting "Oh balls, we buggered up" in some beta code. I don't think he understood the concept of beta...

  12. David Herbert
    Gates Horns

    Browser Histories

    I used to work at an Internet Set-Top Box manufacturer.

    Occassionally we had boxes returned from customers, for us to identify faults with.

    A quick sweep of the Flash filing system and we had a full set of naughty web-sites and passwords!

    We used to give them to our youngest team member (just out of University) to access in order to test our prototype porn filter.

  13. James
    Black Helicopters

    But then there is Foobar ...

    which appears in almost every programming book on the market.

    I'm led to believe that it's from the acronym FUBAR or Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.

    Just wait till Windows Foobar is released - I believe it's the version after Vista.

    I've never used profanities in user visible log files or error messages (though variable names have occasionally succumbed!).

  14. Bill Trent

    Re. Seriously?

    Errrr. I think you may have misread irony for reality here.

    "So you are messing around in DOS 'typing' binary files which really you have no need to do, get offended by a Friday afternoon comment left by some bored programmer and go squealing to the company? 10/10 for sense of humour failure."

    I'm sure Mark will correct me if I am wrong here but I believe his point is that he WAS highly amused. The clues are in the words “I was shocked. No, that doesn't really cover it: I was traumatised.”. Surely this is an example of hyperbole intended to imply the opposite. (I’m sure there is a name for this figure of speech and equally sure that some other commenter will tell us what it is called.)

    I also cannot believe that anyone who writes “Always remember, the compiler is your friend. Programming is stressful but no matter how many f**ks and b***ocks you might occasionally feel the need to insert into the comments, the compiler will always strip them out. It's great.” is really offended by the string “Fuckme”.

    But, who knows, maybe I’m mistaking reality for irony. Indeed, is anything really real; apart of course, from aManFromMars? BTW, is it true he eats cars? Or was that TheManFromMars?

  15. Bill Trent

    PC User

    Ah, now that was a great publication and it was, at one stage, edited by Chris Long. If that is the same Chris Long who posted the "Cover CD" comment we have a really good example of errrr….. I’m not sure. Irony? Litotes? Someone help me out here.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Another example

    I once bought a civilization type game which was touted as being highly-customizable by its publishers.

    A quick look through the plain text configuration files led me to believe the product hadn't been designed too well and had been given to a third party to get it working properly. The files were full of comments such as "Another botch to get this crappy stuff working" or "Not sure why this works but it seems to make this fucking thing work".

  17. Mark Whitehorn

    Seriously now....

    I wish to formally align myself with the views expressed by Bill Trent in his first posting.

    In answer to his request for information, I think that the word “irony” is fine to cover “hyperbole intended to imply the opposite.” The Cambridge dictionary defines irony as:-

    a means of expression which suggests a different, usually humorous or angry, meaning for the words used: Her voice heavy with irony, Simone said, "We're so pleased you were able to stay so long." (= Her voice made it obvious they were not pleased).

    Finally, I wish to formally apologise for not making it clear in my article that I was using irony. Sorry. I will try to be clearer about this in future.

    (In keeping with my new policy about being clearer, I must state that the previous paragraph contains an ironical statement.)

  18. Philip the Duck

    Fuck Shit Piss!

    A long time ago, I worked for a company that developed the hotel reservation software for the THF hotel chain, and I remember there was a furore one day when the customer called in and said all 8 consoles were flashing the message "Fuck Shit Piss!" on the screen...

    Turns out a programmer put the message in the "default:" block of a "switch" statement, which should never have been reached (it was switching on the record type field in the database, or something). For completeness, he put in this message so he'd be sure to know what it was if it came up during testing.

    Sure enough, a year or so down the line, there was a disk crash which corrupted the database (after a lightning strike disrupted power, IIRC), and some record type fields happened to be affected, resulting in the above message appearing on all 8 consoles!!

    (This was back in the early 80s, and it was a microcomputer system, pre-IBM PC compatible, running on an 8088 processor with 8 display consoles - so cool! Anyone remember its name?)

  19. Chris Long

    @ Bill Trent

    No, that was a different Chris Long... there are a lot of us about. Check out for a particularly bad one.

    I used to get email intended for the computer-journo Chris Long when we were both signed up to CIX - anyone remember that?

  20. Alan Potter

    Never, ever type "Fuck off!"

    I used to work at a major trading bank in London who I shall not name to protect the... well, whatever. Anyway, one of my team members used net msg (or whatever it's called) to send "Fuck off" to one of the other team members. For some reason, it took some time so he sent it again. It still didn't arrive so he sent it once more.

    The reason it took some time was because he had actually broadcast it to everybody on the network, including about 200 traders. And, of course, every time the message popped up, saying "Fuck off" from xxx (or words to that effect) the recipient had to click on OK to close it. Three times...

    There was an utter furore as some traders claimed that they may have lost deals because of this. I had to discipline the guy while trying to keep a straight face...

  21. A J Stiles

    Wouldn't have happened nowadays

    It wouldn't be such a big f**king deal nowadays in Chav Britain. Every c**t swears their t*ts off, all the bl**dy time.

    The most interesting thing I've learned from this story: `type` is the DOS equivalent of `cat`.

  22. Curtis W. Rendon

    Dr. Dobb's

    Is still around in an online version.

    I admit to having left a few "If you got here we're fucked!" error messages in code paths that shouldn't have been reachable...

  23. John Tserkezis

    When trying to load windows EXEs under dos...

    Back in the early days of windows, the company I worked for wrote some windows software as an alternative to the DOS option.

    As we know, if you try to run a windows exe under dos, it replies with 'this program must be run under windows' or words to that effect.

    Except ours said 'you can't run this under dos you fucking moron' or words to that effect.

    I told my supervisor, who I imagine told the right people, who would have suggested to the programmers to 'adjust the message'.

    Or words to that effect.

  24. Steve Welsh
    Thumb Up

    Happy Days

    AFAIK I still have some (comparatively very mild) live stuff out there that had a supposedly unreachable piece of code that just said "Something very bad happened"

    They have never got back to me, so I am guessing that they either found it in my code, or it was truely unreachable

  25. Herby

    Yes, there are "famous comments"

    In Unix: "You are not expected to understand this" is one. The Lyons book goes to great length to do so.

    As for bad error messages, a machine I have had its ROM monitor error message that was returned for unintelligible input as "WTF?". The most humorous thing was that the documentation (a quite large book btw) included it in its messages. Silly as it sounds, they said it was "With Trace Flag". I'll leave it to others to deduce the "actual" meaning.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    @Philip the Duck

    Was it a MIRAGE system - made by a company in Bristol, I think. i thought that was a 68000 system.

    Also, I am informed by an ex-Volkswriter user that if you selected delete of a word throughout a document (or replace with blank) and it took a long while...and you kept pressing the key combination to repeat the delete because you thought nothing was got the message

    "word 'xxx' deleted (lots of times)"

    at the end.

    Well, it made I larf.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    This should never happen..

    My fave error message to date: This should never happen..

    Also, I designed a web site for the CEO, I coded all sorts of cryptic abuse into the comments. She was so impressed with it I got a special staff award. I don't think anyone was ever bright enough to "view source".

  28. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Dr Dobb's Journal

    DDJ is also still available in print, though the economics of print periodicals and pressure from free online sources have rather reduced it from its former glory. It still prints occasional solid technical articles, though; there was a good one recently about using Javascript's functional capabilities to implement transparent on-demand code loading and other aspects.

  29. Not That Andrew

    Byte is deceased :(

    Even is no longer updating regularly

  30. Daniel B.

    F**kin error messages

    Ah, profanity in code. I remember my Compilers and Compilers 2 courses; by the time I was in Compilers 2, I had forgot most of my code, and built the code generation phase on top of the year-old codebase.

    Imagine my face when I find something along the lines of:

    case 'A': // accept symbol, fuckin' A!!!

    (loose translation from Spanish, the original Spanish phrase was a little bit more offensive)

    Which was on plain view for my teacher. And the rest of the class, as it was on the projector. Oops.

    Recently, a small change on an existing app caused a bug that triggered one of those "can't get here" logger messages. The reaction from users was amusing, as this message was:


    Ok, that's what happens when you mix Terminator with Iron Maiden. I wonder if my other apps have shown "If you can read this, your system is stoned" messages...

  31. Software Jesus

    mark, it is time to forgive

    QPW was certainly the best of its time. But the biggest problem out the gate wasn't the contents of the files, but the BOX itself. For it said "WinDOS" on it, the initial release being a bundle of Quattro Pro for Windows (Win) and the original Quattro Pro for DOS (DOS).

    Some retailers such as Fry's didn't know that "WinDOS" meant Windows & DOS, and filed QPW away in some dark corner of the store. Similarly, customers did not know what "WinDOS" was, but to a person they were sure it wasn't DOS and it wasn't Windows. Needless to say this did not help matters. So the box got reprinted.

    Which brings the story 'round. Sometimes the drama of the small stage unfolds under the dark sky of a greater mystery.

    In any case, it is time for you to forgive the Borland artisans for whom, minor profanity or not, Quattro Pro for Windows was a labor of love.

    "Again Jesus said[to the disciples], "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Source. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (John 20:21-23)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And then she went to work for Canon :-).

    It was quite funny to see Francis show up again when I worked for [xxx] - I had indeed met her before at Borland as I used to use a lot of Turbo Pascal and Paradox PAL (their database and it's coding language). I had managed to make their first Bubblejet printer (I think it was a BJ 130) to do what they said it couldn't do at all:

    (1) I was printing labels. That wasn't a big deal because it was a matter of checking if the rollers were where I needed them to stop the labels 'uncurl' whilst the tractor feed pulled them through.

    (2) I was going through an ink cartridge in 2 weeks or so - they were supposed to last about 1 month or more, but that's explained by the next line..

    (3) .. I was printing barcodes with it. The silly thing was used to test barcoded stock labelling so we could speed up stock takes (I was heavily into barcodes those days, and used my own barcode printing code to drive that printer), it worked so well after I coded it all together that we just left it until it broke down..

    (4) .. which it never did. I did this for over a year with this printer (i.e. I was operating it absolutely MILES out of spec) and as far as I know it never failed once. I kid you not, NOT ONCE. Same head, heaps of ink cartridges, almost 2 hours/day printing. Not a single failure.

    That's when Canon showed up in the form of Francis Reay, I can believe they wanted to check this for themselves. I think we'd been talking about them about the capabilities of the new model and when they found out just what we were doing they had to come and see that for themselves :-).

    I have VERY fond memories of my first (Canon) bubblejet - it was a relief after years of ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZt ZZZZZZZZZZZZZt dot matrix printing. I once actually tortured a Star printer to death with making it print a solid A4 page of black - the head overheated and it died spectacularly by trying to execute a carriage return with two pins seized and sticking out. The ribbon disagreed with that idea (as the pins went through the ribbon at that point) and the whole assembly more or less shot out of the printer, taking out head, ribbon and cassette, lid and scraping the rubber roll. Wow :-).

    In came the bubblejet. Whisperquiet and super fast. Wonderful.

    BTW, I think Borland should receive credit for their 'license as a book' concept. The idea was that Borland had no problem with software duplication as long as you treated it as a book: i.e. only one person could use it at a time. That meant it was quite OK to have a copy at work, one at home and another archive copy as long as it was just you who used it. I found that personally about the bestm enad easiest explained license policy ever. This crap with serial numbers and online activation irritates the hell out of me.

    When I got to the above place we had two people typing in VAX stocklists every week for sending components to suppliers. Yes, that's right, two man weeks plus the time to sort out typos. - every month. A hack on the VAX (custom report), a kermit download and some crafty Turbo Pascal, Paradox and Quattro work later and the whole thing took 15 minutes, and was as accurate as the stock report on the VAX. Which wasn't, but that's a different story.

    Anyway, enough nostalgia. Back to work..

This topic is closed for new posts.