back to article BOFH: The London Underground vending machine conspiracy

>crash!< >stomp< >stomp< >stomp< >stomp< >clump< "Nice trip in then?" I ask the PFY as the Boss looks on warily. "Straight through was it, no stopping every ten seconds then?" "The tube was fine," the PFY snaps back. "Something else the matter then?" I ask. "Did someone get up on the wrong side of the traffic island?" "I …


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  1. William Hart

    The Whatever

    I want one!!!!!!!


  2. robert
    Dead Vulture


    any beancounters left ?

  3. michael


    "But D4 was a Turkish Delight chocolate bar."

    "NO, the Turkish Delight chocolate bar is F5 – miles away. Not even a bad keypad matrix should do that!""

    "What about," I suggest, "if there's a strip connector in the back which was put on upside down?"

    "D and 4 aren't mirror images of F and 7."

    me thisnks the lest line should read F and 5

  4. Sam

    Love it!

    Another truly inspired creation.

    Keep up the good work :D

    Now to find our old UPS.....

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Ohhh I hope they go via Brentford...

    ...and test it outside EMC.

    Mines the one with the IBM logo ;-)

  6. Peter Mount

    Jubilee line last night

    Although I don't use the tube, is to spooky that the Jubilee Line had a power cut last night?

  7. Tim Bergel
    Thumb Up

    Ever heard of a MagStim?

    Excellent story ...

    I wonder if your readers would be interested to know of a device called a MagStim that does basically what the PFY's equipment does - discharge capacitors through a coil to produce strong (>4 Tesla I think) transient magnetic fields.

    Medics use it to trigger nerve firing in the brain without cutting people open. I wrote software to control one - but you won't see me near one running at full blast...

  8. Anonymous Coward

    I want one.

    Oh please someone post a "how to make your own pinch." There's a sun mail server thats "going to take a year to export to exchange" and few novell servers that are "impossible to get to talk to a 2003 server"

    Plus it would mean that a few people that put 'MSCE (NT4, 2000, 2003)' after their name on their emails would be getting a much disreved p45.


  9. Michael Jolly
    Thumb Up

    can I have

    A Pinch please i have an intresting use for it. Top BOFH

  10. Nick

    Good stuff as ever!

    Perhaps they can visit a few people on my behalf, too...

  11. dervheid
    Thumb Up

    Just do it!


  12. Robert Sneddon

    The EMP briefcase

    Sounds like the device we, ah, theoretically mind, designed over a few pints in order to ameliorate the BLOODY JUKEBOX!!! MINE'S A PINT!!! at a certain city-centre pub one evening. Other targets^Wuses sprang to mind as the doodles got more and more adventurous, like doof-doof cars and speed cameras. I recall everybody nodded when someone uttered the fateful words, "TV detector van".

  13. Andy Taylor
    Thumb Up

    Wonderful stuff

    "There's a reasonable chance no one parked along the north wall will be driving home tonight."

    Had me laughing out loud. Luckily I know better than to drink anything while reading the BOFH

  14. Anonymous Coward


    This piece brought up a gripe i have with the London underground...

    No damn vending machines on platforms! The only close thing you get is like 2 or 3 stations which have shops on the platform, but that's it, atleast for all the places ive traveled to. Where is a geek supposed to get his fix! :P

  15. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Underground...

    The vending machines they used to have on the platforms (when did they disappear, anyway?) were useless anyway - they only dispensed ever so slightly melted chocolate that would stick to the wrapper.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Pinch and a punch.

    bit late for the first of the month...

  17. Stephen
    Thumb Up

    No IT Department should be without one

    That's right we need a pinch, just what the Department needs to leverage a pay rise and nuke the company back to the dark ages for a little while.

  18. Brett


    classic - thank you

  19. Rob

    So, this Boss,

    seems to be a little too with the programme. Is he likely to stick around for a while?

  20. Jamie

    Best one yet

    Truly think this is the best BOFH yet.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In Japan you can't walk 100 yards without finding a vending machine - ahhh that was the life.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    You got Turkish Delight?

    You lucky. lucky bastard!

    Whenever I visit London and play the vending slot machines they usually just swallow my dosh and look smug.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    The Boss

    is on a dangerous path. He's getting to know too much "sensitive information"... Ignorance (i.e. approving IT budget without asking unduly questions) is the key to a long life expectancy.

  24. Fluffykins Silver badge

    Ah, so you want toys.

    Say please............

    Pretty please.........

    Go on............

    Oh, all right............



    for the front door.

  25. robert cooke


    and i know, i've read them all.

    "No," the PFY says, to my internal sigh of relief given his propensity for conspiracy theories.

    "No, it's the Underground that's doing it."


    FANTASTIC, Thanks, Simon. You've surpassed yourself this time. I found the BofH in my first IT job 12 years ago. He's inspired me ever since. I've used the solar flares from the excuse card to explain non explainable GPF's.

    BofH and The Register, coud there be a coupling?

  26. Dave Bell

    A possible solution.

    It's the boss trundling the elecrtrcal gear through the Underground wghen the Met's finest come looking for electricians

    Bit risky though, there might be tracable parts inside.

  27. RW

    Truth is stranger than -- or as amusing as -- fiction

    Many many years ago when I was a wee lad studying at Caltech, one of the guys in the student residence (a native of Texas) was fond of playing obnoxious country music on his radio at top volume with the door to his room open.

    Another denizen was something of an electronics whiz and was using a nearby storeroom to build an RF induction heater for some company in the LA area. About a kilowatt, iirc. Old school electronics with *big* vacuum tubes and a largish induction coil.

    Eventually the scenario arose where the music lover would do his thing and the electronic whiz kid would simply tune his induction heater until the radio was jammed. Music lover would retune to another station, shortly to be followed by the jammer.

    Highly illegal, I s'pose, but I don't know the range of the jammer. We all had a good laugh at Mr. Music.

    There is nothing new under the sun.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    *REAL* vending machines ...

    "In Japan you can't walk 100 yards without finding a vending machine - ahhh that was the life."

    Especially as vending machines in Japan dispense useful stuff like, say, tiny bottles of scotch.

  29. StopthePropaganda


    homemade EMP weapons, now on El Reg instead of Instructables!

    with a little work, he's got a coil gun lager launcher.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    True story

    I once knew a genius-level, self-taught electronics expert. He told the story of living in the dorms of a Midwestern megaversity, when "my HiFi rig is louder than yours" was all the rage (this is looong before iPod earBud hearing destructors came on the scene). He would politely knock on doors and ask that the volume be turned down ... which of course resulted in it being turned up even higher.

    So he retired to his lab and built his ODKD (Omnni Directional Klingon Disruptor). *High* amplitude pulse tuned to the frequency of delicate, critical, expensive-to-replace components in the stereo systems of the day (analog, of course).

    >knock< >knock<


    "Could you please turn the volume down? I'm trying to study"

    "Eat shit and die, dweeb" >SLAM< [music turned up to 12]

    Back in the room ...

    >snap!< ....hmmmmmmMMMMMMMMMM... 3..2..1.. >CLICK!<

    And all stereos in a 100 meter radius go quiet.

    Ah, silence is golden!

  31. Ross Fleming
    Black Helicopters

    @Peter Mount

    Exactly my thoughts!!! Can't believe I've been (lucky enough to be?) inconvenienced by the PFY...

    Rocked up to the Jubilee line last night to be told there was a suspension due to a "local power failure" - affecting the line between Stratford and Finchley Rd. For all you non-Londoners, that's over 80% of a 36km line - quite how you define that as "local" I've no idea...

    Damn that PFY!!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Underground... @ Sarah + AC

    There are still vending machines on the platforms of the Underground. Canary Wharf is a good example.

    What gets me is why they vend chocolate, when nearly everyone would only ever want water to endure the sauna that is most trains. The first person to do vending of water would be a millionaire in a year!

  33. Dr. Evil

    Psst.. You want a Diispicible Deviice?

    Next time you're in a large-ish bookshop, wander along to the electronics section and take a peek at the '..... Devices for the Evil Genius' books for projectile weapons and EMP guns!

    IMHO should be kept on top shelf in plain packaging, typically for less than £100 (much less in some cases if you can scavenge some components) you can build some amazing toys.

    Still not finished building any, YET, but never ever break into my shed without really thick insulated bodysuit - you have been warned!


  34. Anonymous Coward

    The conspiracy deepens

    Haven't we had a number involving a bastardised vending machine before?

    It's not like Simon to not be in on such a deal... or isn't he? I'm wondering if the little rampage plan might not have been intended to divert the PFY's wrath away from Simon's... investment.

  35. J
    Thumb Up


    "the life expectancy of a Brazilian electrician"

    Muito boa, essa... I just hope his loved ones do not read it. :O)

  36. Sceptical Bastard

    Phrase de jour

    "The life expectancy of a Brazilian electrician"

    A metaphor is born :)

    @Sarah Bee "Pssst, want some chocolate li'l girl?"

  37. Dave

    Truth is stranger than -- or as amusing as -- fiction

    It doesn't take a lot of power, certainly not 1 KW for stereo jamming. You really just need to create a field, at roughly the same power level at the antenna of the receiver, as the broadcast station does. Since most broadcast stations run between about 1 KW and 10 KW, but since electromagnetic fields go as the inverse square of the distance, that usually means that under a Watt is sufficient for any radio within hearing distance. 4 Watts could take out the better part of a college campus (Ask me how I know! ;-) ). 1 KW would probably take out the front end of the receiver, and probably a good portion of the rest of it, if it's anywhere close.


    P.S. Mine's the one with the lightning bolts on it.

  38. Phillip

    At Last!

    At last! The BOFH is back in destructive fullness! I noticed a while ago that he seemed to have lost his killing streak, but I can see it's getting back into full swing again. :) More senseless killing, just like in the good old Striped Irregular Bucket days!! It's truly what sets him apart from the other IT writings.

  39. Remy Redert


    The device we're looking at here is no mere induction heater or jammer. It's designed to release an as large as possible jolt of energy into an as small possible target area and an as short as possible timespan.

    If given enough power and at short enough range, it wouldn't jam the radio. It would outright fry the thing.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Another good one. Things have been a bit patchy over the last year or so (I too have read them all) but the last couple of weeks have been a real return to glory.

    All we need now is a lime pit, a cattle prod and the excuse calender.

  41. Rosuav

    Cars on the north wall

    So.... we don't find out that the boss was parked along that north wall? Awww. I was totally expecting the boss to start screaming.

  42. Mark

    About the Boss

    @Rob: this Boss knows his Sun-Tzu "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer!". He might just live a little longer that way

  43. Peter Stone

    I want one......

    or failing that, can I suggest that anything to do with phorm is made a ligitimate target?

    Pretty please?

  44. Andrew Jones

    @ AC Conspiracy

    there was the episode where the vending machine had a debounce 'problem' that caused it to dispense 'nasty cola' but a secret code delivered a nice cool lager. only problem eas the doubling in price of said lager for each can

  45. Anonymous Coward

    @RW Truth is stranger than...

    Did the same during school years, but smarter. You tune the oscillator to the IF frequency, knowing that most commercial radios don't screen that well, and blot out *every* station in the one go! Not very legal admittedly...

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    hash 100

    Or 100 or 110 , the vending machines in my underground station respond with a status check, or "hello" message.

  47. Jan Buys
    Paris Hilton

    First boss ever to live long and prosper?

    Is it just me or has the current boss been passivily agreeing with and knowing of the evil plans of the BOFH and the PFY? This is not a normal BOFH-boss relation anymore. Something is rotten in the state of that company...

    Paris, since she has as much a clue about anything on earth than I have about where this boss is going to end and why/how his end will be.

  48. Craig
    Thumb Up

    I remember the last vending machine article...

    and it was so funny...

    the debouncing features, the arrangement with the vendor, the laughs they had at pfy's experiences :P

    Been a long time bofh fan, since 1997.

    God it helped me survive being an isp tech support, for a company that didn't want to deal with problems it caused, just get the damn customers on and off the phone fast.

    jeez lol...

    keep the laughs rolling on!

  49. Aeternus

    Ahh, so they -are- electro-savvy...

    ... was wondering about that. Microelectronics is one thing, but nothing quite gets a person started like half a KV through one's groin. I'm wondering how effective that EM emitter is... could be interesting to see some peeps fall over as their pacemakers are literally ripped from their chest. Mhhh...

  50. Jon Tocker

    To the ever wishful...

    Any of you guys drooling over wanting a pinch so you can wipe out deserving targets stop to consider that a pinch would not do the task?

    Considering that not even the 100-foot diameter, 20-foot tall z-pinch at Sandria can belt out enough EMP to affect more than the most sensitive electronics, I'd say that a portable pinch wouldn't stand a chance.

    The only portable device capable of producing the requisite EMP is a small thermonuclear (or nukular) bomb. The "briefcase nuke" beloved of terrorism movies could do it but sadly it's a one-shot device and likely to be detrimental to the person placing it.

    </geek mode>

    Sorry to spoil the fun.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Lameness Rating

    Extremely Lame, the Boss is still alive.

  52. Philip Perry

    Time for a true story!

    So, back in college, I studied Physics under a wonderful guy who was teaching as a sideline (his main job was as a research scientist for a large local company). He told me this tale (paraphrased since it was a few years ago):

    "So I was giving a speech about careers in Physics at a high school in central Michigan, and I had some free time before the event. I was relaxing in the main hallway when a bunch of A/V club types wheeled a huge dolly covered in speakers and electronics into a corner. While I watched, they set up their gear and pointed the speakers at the school principal's office, way off down the hallway."

    "They plugged in their gear and started fiddling with it. It didn't make any noise, but it seemed to be vibrating like hell. Far off down the hall, the windows of the principal's office seemed to be rumbling, almost shaking. One of the kids said 'yeah, yeah, that's it!'. I tried to get closer to see what they were doing, but they gave me a weird look and hustled off down the hallway."

    "I forgot about it until the next morning, when there was an article in the local paper about how every single window in the high school had been shattered the previous night. The only clue the police had was a white van driving around the neighborhood, but nobody had seen anyone doing anything, and there was no evidence about how the windows were broken."

    "I wish I'd talked to them! Man I'd like to build one!"

    He was my favorite professor. Best! Physics! Teacher! Ever!

  53. Jos


    yes.... And there was beer in those Japanese vending machines too... And hot coffee when waiting the full 1 minute for the next train to arrive. Good times indeed. :-)

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    The Sandia z-pinch...

    ...produces mostly X-rays, which wouldn't have much effect on electronic devices. Something with more EMP-generating power could well affect, possibly destroy, microchips, especially CMOS.

    I can't say whether you'd ever get anything small enough to carry with you that could do serious damage, but... what the hell. Allow a bit of poetic licence here (or perhaps, poetic larceny).

    What I'd *really* like to get hold of or make is a jammer for cell phone for those twits who insist on using them in restaurants and other places where I like my quiet.

    Paris connection: she has a cell phone.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Philip Perry

    Infrasonic resonance?

  56. De Saegher

    Deus Ex

    "Are you sure you pressed the right button?" she said.

    "I wanted orange," said Gunther. "It gave me lemon-lime."

    "The machine would not make a mistake."

    "It's the janitor. He knows I like orange!"

    "So the staff has a conspiracy against you?"

    "Yes! They just want to annoy me!"

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