back to article There's something fishy going down in the computer lab

Welcome to Who, Me? The Register's headlong plunge into the pit of reader recollections and confessions. Today's story takes us back to the glory days of the early 1990s when our hero (at least until he made a nuisance of himself) "Cliff" was coming to the end of his schooling. The 8-bit generation had very much passed into …

  1. OssianScotland

    An Act of Cod, or was he merely in the wrong plaice?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I sprat coffee all over my keyboard when I read your comment.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        It piked my interest herring about all the mischief he got up to before he was caught and canned.

        No floundering about, just doing things for the halibut...

        1. DailyLlama

          Please stop...

          You're giving me a haddock!

          1. Omgwtfbbqtime

            Re: Please stop...

            That could be loud bass.

        2. HildyJ Silver badge

          I'm not being koi, but I'll just perch here and try not to carp.

          1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

            I think it is brill, just brill!

            I'll get me coat

    2. Korev Silver badge

      Apparently his later "indiscretions" were off the scale...

    3. Korev Silver badge

      If these fish puns carry on then I'll batter someone...

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper

        Want some vinegar to go with that chip on your shoulder?

        1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble?

          Stop it, you're krilling me!

        2. Korev Silver badge

          >Want some vinegar to go with that chip on your shoulder?

          Nah, they've got bigger fish to fry...

      2. 0laf

        That'll earn you a one way trip to Tartare-us

    4. Alien Doctor 1.1

      Tuna great comment. You should all be pun-fished with tuna awful word-plays. Tuna net must be creaking. If you ever do that again tuna powers that be will be bloody swimming mad.

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    This kind of behaviour is deeply enTenched in certain people.

    They often develop a lot of bad halibuts.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Crabby comments.

      Will you lot stop carping on about this?

      1. ricardian

        Re: Crabby comments.

        I'll just snoek a final bit in

  3. big_D Silver badge

    Lucky git

    This hack...

    the serious business of Pascal on the VAX terminals.

    You lucky Alan B'stard, you! For me, it was COBOL on a Prime mini, before that BASIC on PETs, although I did a summer internship doing Fortran and DCL, before I went to college.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Lucky git

      "... although I did a summer internship doing Fortran and DCL, before I went to college

      And you still went on to study something IT related??? You must be a masochist!!!

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Lucky git

        Even more scary, I did RPG/II and RPG/III on System/36 and System/38 one afternoon a week at Upjohn's Pharma, and yet, 33 years later and I'm still working in IT!

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Lucky git

          I hope you upgraded to RPGLE.

        2. lglethal Silver badge

          Re: Lucky git

          Definitely a sudo-masochist...

          OK OK I'm leaving, no need to push...

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Lucky git

            Why push, get works much better ;)

      2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Lucky git

        I went to college to study something non-IT related. When I got there, discovered VAX Basic, Fortran and DCL. With countless hours spent in front of TeleVideo terminals, no surprise I ended up with a career in IT.

        1. Mandoscottie
          Thumb Up

          Re: Lucky git

          bet you dont regret it? i dont.

      3. Black Betty

        Re: Lucky git

        SYSTEM$ is your friend. Once I discovered that pretty much every DCL command was available as a system call my DCL projects went --->

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Lucky git

      Where I worked we had a Vax/VMS and the early word processing had a big dictionary to do 'spell checking' or some fangled thing. A program called crunge appeared which took a document and replaced random words with words that were somehow similar. A crunged document often made more sense than the original (we were mad boffins at the forefront of our fields and often didnt understand our own work). Better still a crunged document could be sent in 'by accident' to reveal bosses who had even less of a clue than normal. Once you've found out someone doesnt read your reports you are effectively untouchable!

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Lucky git

        A program called crunge appeared which took a document and replaced random words with words that were somehow similar

        One fine day, or rather night, in the late 1980's our secretary decided it would be fun to not only type the meeting minutes in WordPerfect as usual, but run its spill chucker over it and replace any word not in its dictionary with the first suggestion. This was a record library I was volunteering at, and as with any non-mainstream meeting minutes it was replete with domain-specific jargon. Which WP was totally unfamiliar with, resulting in predictable and often humorous large-scale mangling, and presented at the next meeting.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Back in the early 1990s a relative applied for a senior technical position at Microsoft. After seeing around the place he turned it down because he thought they would soon be out of business because they had no concept of security and no concept of structured APIs.

    He was of course right, he just didn't realise it would not stop them.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: History

      Not forgetting the other hooks into the operating system and net-work...

  5. Korev Silver badge

    Readers will be unsurprised to learn that he was later invited "to stop attending" the school following further, er, indiscretions.

    You can't write that and not go into more detail. Inquiring minds need to know!

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Are you fishing for details?

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Yes, hopefully ElReg can line up some more details

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          I would hake to think El Reg would kipper secret from us.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            You will get pun-ished for that ;)

            1. Robert Helpmann??

              It's clearly a hook for a follow-on article. Don't be crabby just because you are going to get it in installments.

    2. JulieM

      He had been making a rod for his own back.

  6. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Lovely punnery as usual, kelp it up, and keep on making waves all over the show.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Enthralled with his newfound powers, Cliff did the obvious thing and created a macro that would would find and replace "the" in documents and replace it with "tuna" on saving. "

    Why, oh $DEITY, why did he do something that stupid ??? I can't even fathom this ...

    Did he think about also jumping out of the window and killing himself ? Would have been more productive ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: stupid

      It's not so much stupid as, well, ... invisible? As in: only those kids who had access to a PC and Word (which was expensive in those days) at home would actually notice.

      Now, if he'd done the replacement on printing that would have been funnier.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are we all fin-ished with the puns yet?


    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Are we all fin-ished with the puns yet?

      Nah, there's plenty moray came from...

    2. OssianScotland

      Re: Are we all fin-ished with the puns yet?

      Have you haddock-nough?

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Are we all fin-ished with the puns yet?

        Five squid says he hasn't...

        1. OssianScotland

          Re: Are we all fin-ished with the puns yet?

          Whale oil continue then....

          (I had fin-ished, but the punnery was prawn again)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We used to hook *KEY 10 on the BBC-bs at school to OLD| RUN so every time you pressed the break key it would restart the previous program instead of exiting to the prompt. Pretty handy when debugging.

    But when the last program messes with the prompt, captures all keyboard input and outputs messages from ghosts, teachers freak out.

  10. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change


    Was this dolphin-friendly tuna-fishing?

    Give a bunch of schoolkids a shiny toy and ... I'll bet this wasn't the only such prank the school had to deal with.

  11. Jaspa
    Thumb Up


    Ahhhh PASCAL, heady days indeed .

    After beavering away on a serial comms app that utilised (iirc) a 20x2 LCD display to display the chat, I clicked compile and nipped out for a beverage (damn those 286s were slow.)

    Returning to the Lab my fellow students were eager to test so we ran a cable along the length of the room with my fellow (g1ts) Students gathered at the opposite end.

    After a few hiccups the LCDs sprang to life and as a group of late teens and early 20s do, we started to exchange "pleasantries" via our new toy.

    While trying to think of ever more effective put downs I failed to notice the crowd of Senior Uni Staff gathered around me.

    Long and short of it, the prospective new Head of the Electronics Faculty was mildly amused by the childish messages, our Lecturer was slightly less impressed.

    Still got a distinction however, just :)

    Thumbs up as the code worked like a dream.

  12. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    As man tunefs says:

    You can tune a file system, but you cannot tune a fish.

    1. RockBurner

      Re: As man tunefs says:

      Not even with percussive maintenance?

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: As man tunefs says:

        Only if you know the scales.

        1. Ken Shabby

          Re: As man tunefs says:

          Or play bass.

    2. ibmalone

      Re: As man tunefs says:

      Actually you can, but you'll need a good perch.

  13. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

    Microsoft's cash cow

    from TFA: "...what would become Microsoft's productivity cash cow..."

    I respectfully submit that you have included an extra word in the phrase above.

    "Productivity", in my experience, has very little to do with Microsoft Word.

    Else, why would they change the UI every couple of years? Come to think of it, that applies to pretty much all their products, which seem to have reached "peak function" many years ago and are now being plastered with essentially useless "features" and "design changes" which add little but clutter to the UI.

    Monday Microsoft rant over, please continue...

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft's cash cow

      Of course it's productive. You give your boss Powerpoint or Word, and while he's trying to work out how that works, you can go off and get some real work done.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Microsoft's cash cow

        Also, the boss knows it's "intuitive" so he* can't admit it because that would suggest he* was thick.

        *Gender inclusive pronoun because men, women, and every variation thereon are prone to this phenomenon.

  14. d3vy

    No me but a friend was "asked to leave" by his employer after adding a single rule to the auto complete in word/outlook on his bosses machine.

    Bosses Name -> "The Lord of Darkness"

    Dear XXX


    Thank you for your help in this matter.


    The Lord of Darkness.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Much funnier if it had been "Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light"!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      our test meeting room in the legacy domain was room 666 the cupboard of evil.

      in a project call an exchange guy in new global corp post takeover burst out laughing reviewing it post domino to exchange conversion....

      wasnt till he laughed room 666 both myself and my boss realised it was still live......oops! Id bulk converted all the resourcing and didnt notice that the boss had forgotten to delet that one beforehand...

      teehee, and anon for a reason ;) still there (room also) old boss is too, diff teams now.

  15. Annihilator

    "so that the document always looked ok on screen"

    Unless the document legitimately contained the word "tuna" in it. Presumably they were replaced with "the" upon loading.

    I wonder also if he was smart enough to consider spaces before and after, so that words like "thesaurus" and "lathe" weren't converted to "tunasaurus" (a fishy sounding dinosaur..) and latuna.

    1. MOH

      Good point. Otherwise the results would be quite unforthete.

    2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

      tunasaurus and latuna. Similar principle to filters that have problems with Scunthorpe and Penistone, but a bit of novelty. Anyone want to parse psychotunarapist?

      The story says early 90s. So regexps to make it easy existed, but weren't quite so widely-known as they became when the Web - and with it Perl - went mainstream.

  16. Frank Bitterlich

    Bones and Cookies...

    Probably around the same time as this tale occurred, a friend of mine got a copy of ResEdit into his paws and was thrilled to find out that you could alter all kinds of menus and alerts both in applications and the OS on the Macs of the newspaper he worked for. So the most logical thing was to spend multiple hours to work through all resource forks he could find and replace the work "file" with "cookie", and "folder" with "bone."

    At that time, data between the machines was mostly exchanged by floppy (well, rather "stiffy") disks. I still don't know how it happened, but soon after, the madness spread to other machines, more and more eventually asking stuff like "Are you sure you want to copy this cookie into this bone?" Took a lot of effort to clean that up, but it was really funny. Especially seeing him try to explain that to the boss...

  17. swm Silver badge

    2's and 3's

    Working on the Dartmouth time sharing system we noticed that all input characters were converted to an internal representation and vice versa on output. So we changed the tables so 2's were converted to 3's on input and output. People would type programs with line numbers 1,2,3,4 but this was sorted to 1,3,2,4.

    Our plan did have a hiccup when we mapped 2's to 3's and realized that we couldn't input a real 2 for the next mapping. So we mapped a to 2, 2 to 3, and 3 to a.

  18. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Did this funster later work for M$?

    This really smells like the forerunner to a GPO!! Enforcing some unreasonable change on unsuspecting users!!

  19. LeahroyNake

    Loved mine

    I was very fortunate to receive a second hand Amiga 500 for Christmas plus quite a few copies of Amiga format and some coding manuals. I had great fun playing Zeewolf and typing out lots of code including the REM /comments (I didn't know any better at the time lol) in blitz basic.

    Qbasic several years later while bored during the fire service strikes on a monochrome laptop (seriously skint) I wrote playable versions of pong and then arkanoid (that's a massive step up in complexity). Few years later spot the difference game then a really crap command and conquer rip off with a map editor (how else do you make the map).

    Now I do professional services work and spend most of my time trying to make documentation and statements of work fool proof... For actual fools I. E. The REM parts :/

    I miss my Amiga.

    1. Ribfeast

      Re: Loved mine

      I still have two Amiga 500s in the shed, I pull them out for nostalgia from time to time. Have a few boxes of game disks etc. All still working, surprisingly.

      They have the 1 meg upgrade, external floppy drive and the composite video output adaptors too, so I have them hooked up to an old LCD TV.

  20. dfsmith

    Here's a simulation

    Open tuna web console (ctrl+shift+K), type:

    document.body.innerHTML=document.body.innerHTML.replace(/ the /g," tuna ")

    Note: if anything goes out of plaice, well, tough.

  21. Slipoch

    Ahh the joys of substitution

    I once did something similar but at a much lower level in the pre-word days.

    I reprogrammed the keyboard mapping on boot, so that some letters were whole verbs and others nouns and then joining words like and and the and a.

    So someone would type in 'the' and would get something like 'yabbie pumps anonymous', someone would type a sentence and look up to see 'what you enjoy are yabbie pumps after dark with goat hampsters'

    They never caught me.

    1. adam 40 Silver badge

      Re: Ahh the joys of substitution

      Pre that (punched card era) someone at Durham Uni figured out how to change the constants on the IBM 360 mainframe, I think 3 was changed to another 2.

      So for a while, 2+3 = 4. In everyone's programs....

      Obligatory fish joke: I said it for the halibut.

  22. Bazzair

    Reminds me of the time i wrote a TSR forDOSs swapping the N & M keys on alternate key presses. Oh the number of keyboards that got swapped out to fis the probelm. funny how the issue disappeared as soon as it started.

  23. swschrad

    I was more circumspect

    I only changed all the MOTD-ish comments of the terminal software for the PCs on copies, not the master disk.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022