Long - but a good read
I am posting this anonymously, for reasons that will become obvious.
In the early 1980s I was working for a large engineering firm in the North West of England. Sadly the firm, the office block, and the heavy industrial engineering buildings are no more, but I don't think my efforts were part of this. During my time, I was System Programmer on a brand new VAX 11/780, then hot off the shelf which we kicked off with a massive 456MB of RAM (a nod to the original story of having to make your code compact). Like the original story, much of what we did was coded in Macro32 Assembler (or machine code). I became very adept at system internals and how to use and write system service calls.
I was also the go to person to laise with the mainframe boys who worked out of the midlands. I had experience of HASP. JES, IEBGENR and all the fun tools we accessed via punch cards. I got on well with the midland computing team.
All was well, until my boss who was a great leader to work for, was replaced by someone we will call the Ginger Bearded Giant (GBG). He was a right bastard. If he could do something to upset you, he would. Just for the sheer hell of it. He and I did not see eye-to-eye, so the time came when I handed in my notice to move jobs across town.
I was given an exit interview, during which the HR person asked me why I turned down the plumb jib to become a system programmer with the mainframe team, after all it was a great promotion and a big pay increase. I was struck dumb. I knew nothing of this, and said so. HR told me that GBG had spoken to me, showed me the transfer request and that I had turned it down. HR pulled out my file and showed me the document where I had signed that I turned it down. The trouble was, that wasnt my signature. Not even close. GBG had forged my refusal to take a plum job at a huge salary hike.
So, out comes the BOFH grin (though this was BSPFH). It was too late for me to take the job, but not too late to have a little fun and revenge. I used my last week coding a timebomb that I placed right at the heart of SYSLIB, the VAX/VMS System Library at the heart of the operating system. A week after I lkeft, the code kicked in. Next Monday. GBG logged in and asked for his directory. ANd the system said "No". So he tried again, and the system said, "I told you before, No". So then he asked to get the current work list for teh engineering team and the system said "Sorry, GBG, but I am unable to do this". It had over 30 different ways of not doing what he wanted. In fact, the only command that would work was logout. Eveything else, and I do mean everything, redirected to the program that say No.
He called my young apprentice over, who looked at this and laughed. He called the System Manager over, who also laughed. System Manager logged in, and hey - everything works. GBG logs on and it all falls apart. So they go to System Managers terminal and try - it works for System Manager, but not for GBG. This goes on for a week. They called Digital (DEC) in. They look at and laugh, and conclude that what ever was done, its smarter than they are. They couldnt figure it out at all.
The fix was quite simple, and I was surprised later when I met up with my apprentice (who by now was a leading light in database technology) that no one spotted it. Simply save all of GBG's files somewhere (which System Manger could have done in his sleep), delete his account. recreated it and restore the files. But no, they didn't do that. They nuked the whole damn operating system and reloaded from tapes.
I was asked to come back, on a contract, at extra ordinarily high rates, to fix it. But of course, I denied everything. I even managed not to laugh on the phone. Being able to fix it would have been tantamount to admitting liability, so I used plausible deniability as the way out. After all, it worked for a week when I wasn't there, so it couldn't have been me.
And the moral - if you are going to piss off a competent sysprog you had better be prepared to walk him/her off site immediately they hand in their notice.