back to article BOFH: Groundbreaking discovery or patently obvious trolling?

BOFH logo telephone with devil's horns "What do you think?" the PFY asks, as the Boss slips into the office. "I think it'd work. It's a game-changer!" "What's a game-changer?" the Boss asks. "Oh, uh, nothing," the PFY says. "Come on, something must be a game-changer." "Uh … we were talking about the … new Monopoly rules …

  1. simonlb Silver badge

    The New and Improved "Bovine Adjustment Implement"

    Is he repurposing his barbecue igniter to make a more powerful cattle prod?

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Re: The New and Improved "Bovine Adjustment Implement"

      And the Boss will get ignited on said barbecue emulated as an Adjusted Bovine Implementation?

    2. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: The New and Improved "Bovine Adjustment Implement"

      Is that an Incremental Bovine Situation? I hear so many people complain about IBS.

      Or is it a Bovine Excremental Development. I could certainly drop my current task and return to BED if required!

      ----------> Just in case the BED gets sprayed around a bit!

      1. Xalran

        Re: The New and Improved "Bovine Adjustment Implement"

        Don't spray it... Use it in a SMD ( Small Methanization Device ) to get Methane to power up the Improved Bovine Adjustment Implement.

    3. Dimmer Bronze badge

      Re: The New and Improved "Bovine Adjustment Implement"

      2” pvc pipe, end cap, igniter and hairspray

      Potato relocation device.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        Re: The New and Improved "Bovine Adjustment Implement"

        Propane works as well and leaves no residue...or so I have been told

        Also, 4" for the combustion chamber, 1.5" for the barrel

      2. Zarno

        Re: The New and Improved "Bovine Adjustment Implement"

        10 feet of 4" pipe, u-bend, 2" sprinkler valve, 10 feet of 2" schedule 80 electrical conduit sleved on the inside with 1.5" SDR 21 irrigation line.

        Golfball relocation device that will surprise and terrify.

        Standard warning that DWV or foam core 4" is not desigbed to be used for pressure applications, and solid core is not designed to be used for air applications due to shrapnel vs split on overpressure.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: The New and Improved "Bovine Adjustment Implement"

          Ah Mr BofH, you know more than is good for you!

          Bolfeld-like villain -------------------->

  2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
    Thumb Up


    Liked that, it has been a while. I thought I picked up the signs of bringing management stack theory into practice and wasn't disappointed. Extra thumbs up for making the boss think he has a cunning plan.

    1. bemusedHorseman

      Re: >DUMMY MODE ON!<

      Ah, that one is a classic. Also brought one of my favorite euphemisms, the non-maskable interrupt.

  3. Slacker1452

    A Cunning Plan?

    Plan?I suspect that the boss has been taken as a Cupid Stunt once again - by jove, he snuffed it in 95!

  4. phuzz Silver badge
    1. jmch Silver badge

      "Ternary logic is the most efficient base because 3 is the closest integer to e"

      Also to pi, but not sure what the relevance is of either??

      1. Anonymous IV

        > not sure what the relevance is of either?

        That was surely the whole point!

      2. Bill Gray

        I think if you read the first of phuzz's links, you'll see that (given certain idealized assumptions and a modest amount of handwaving) you can minimize the component count by choosing a base close to e. Given the currently available integers, that would make ternary optimal.

        And if you live in a jurisdiction where the Biblical value of π = 3 is accepted, then ternary has yet another advantage.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          And obviously π = e.


    2. martinusher Silver badge

      >various people have created ternary computers

      What's that got to do whether the idea is patentable or not? All you have to do is file it and let the system do the rest. (Depending on where you live you can always amend the application to include any ideas that might broaden its scope).

      The next stage in the game is wait for a Big Tech to use something like it. You could sue them but what you do is typically hand the thing off to specialists who are financed by investors -- often hedge funds these days -- who work for a percentage (most) of the take.

      (ElReg missed a good story a week or two back when there was the annual conference of the patent troll industry -- yes, it is an industry, that's what they call themselves -- down on the Gulf Coast.)

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Generally when people say something is patentable they mean usefully so. There is no point paying patent fees for a patent you can't even troll with.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Unless you work for an outfit who think patents = innovation and so pay beer tokens t people who get patents

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            I have one of those patents.

            It came with a nice plaque and $100. I will admit that it's almost useless, but the carrot was being dangled, so I bit.

    3. WoodlessStickler

      Three-valued logic is not as alien as one might think. It's – as far as I remember – the only sound basis on which to give a mathematical semantics of certain formal methods such as the venerable VDM (Vienna Development Method). See the 1994 Acta informatica article by Jones and Middelburg (

  5. Dave K


    I think they're actually on to something. I would very much like my PC to have a "Mehbe" option for things, particularly where you've been worn down by years of being asked the same questions and just don't care any more.

    "Windows needs to install updates", hrmph, mehbe. I just don't care any more to explicitly click OK.

    "Do you want Excel to show you a list of auto-recover files, even though you usually save everything regularly?" <shrug>, mehbe - I'll let the PC decide, I really can't be arsed with it any more.

    "A fractionally improved GeForce driver has been released. Do you want to install it?" Whatever, mehbe.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Mehbe

      upgraded my home pc bios on a dont-really-need-to whim the other day

      result: A lot of whinging about bitlocker and total refusal to boot from the C drive , despite the data being plainly visible and unencrypted , resulting in a reformat.

      luckily mydocs etc kept elsewhere and backed up.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mehbe

        In your defense, Applying windows updates will break Bitlocker half the time, unless you've taken the ~20 minutes to turn it off before installing the updates, and then remembering to turn it back on.

        Which nominally results in most people just leaving the damn thing turned off. :)

    2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Mehbe

      Windows basically has that. It's some wording that means ask again later.

    3. Andy A

      Re: Mehbe

      I remember a computer from about 1960 with the useless-sounding instruction "Branch if approximately equal".

      It's actually wonderfully useful if you are working out trigonometric functions by iterative series.

  6. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Ideal platform

    It sounds like the ideal platform for performing fuzzy logic.

    1. William Towle
      Thumb Up

      Re: Ideal platform

      My first thoughts were of Setun and its balanced ternary, albeit briefly.

      Ultimately I was prompted to recall a former colleague's summary of fuzzy logic as "true, false, meh".

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Ideal platform

        This needs an extra dimension so that "Meh" can be expanded into its "Null", "Nil" and "NAN" alternatives.

      2. KarMann Silver badge

        Re: Ideal platform

        When I were a lad, I developed my own balanced ternary (or trinary, as I called it at the time) arithmetic well before I heard of Setun or any other implementations. (I didn't really expect it was something new to the world, but I knew I hadn't seen it elsewhere.) It actually has some surprising advantages, especially when it comes to long division. And of course, there's the aforementioned (by phuzz, in another comment thread) base efficiency, although I didn't know about that until that kind of thing became something one could read about on the Web.

    2. UCAP Silver badge

      Re: Ideal platform

      After several pints in the pub, my logic definitely turns fuzzy.

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Ideal platform

        Odd. After a few pints everything starts to seem very clear and absolute, to me: there are very few problems that can't be solved by culling. It's only the next day they become more nuanced again.

        1. David Hicklin Bronze badge

          Re: Ideal platform

          > After a few pints everything starts to seem very clear and absolute, to me: there are very few problems that can't be solved by culling.

          I've lost track of the number of problems we have solved during discussions at the pub - only problem is that we seem to have a memory commit issue as we can't remember anything the next morning.

    3. Frumious Bandersnatch

      Re: Ideal platform

      It sounds like the ideal platform for performing fuzzy logic.

      Yeah, but on a mobile device in bed

      (someone should patent that, quick)

      1. sedregj

        Re: Ideal platform

        Hitting the In Bed button results in a short Perl script that is no longer passed through mod_perl or whatever.

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Quantum Communication Assumed in a Registered TRInary Computer Game Changer Phorm

    Such an entertaining BOFH PFY tale highlights the enigmatic quandary patently evident to all novel inventors and stellar imagineers both flattered and extremely well paid to both deceive and flourish and furnish the future with that which is clearly missing and so desperately needed to avert and/or divert what are newly uncovered/discovered/rediscovered possibilities harbouring the potential to deliver and escape responsibility and accountability for suddenly approaching unconventional disasters ...... the parasitic hanger-on chasing the ambulance of opportunity that supplies such unprincipled deplorable third parties riches/profit for nothing worthwhile in return for first party compliance and core proprietary intellectual property source secrets.

    And that is always destined to fly like a lead balloon in any future developing future derivatives for global market interest in Almighty Interventions.

    Have you any idea how much further that would progress over the course of a pint or three or more at the likes of a "The Patent Office" – a "Traditional Old English Pub” . Cheers, m’dears! TGIF again :-)

  8. Ozan

    Ahh. It's been a while since I seen dummy mode.

    Have a beer and bear. It's friday and I once again have access to Kozel Dark.

  9. Kevin Johnston

    Phased data?

    I recall that in one of the Heinlein books they discussed a trinary computer which used phased data so presumably an optical computer. Would make doing division with Roman Numerals look like childsplay in comparison.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Phased data?

      Maths such as division using Roman numerals becomes rather more interesting than expected because we'd naturally try and use our modern positional number techniques and these are not transferrable to number systems with discrete values. This didn't mean that Roman mathematicians and engineers couldn't do maths, just that their techniques were different to compensate.

  10. Whiskers


    I remember @base, the database plugin for the DOS version of Lotus 1-2-3, had three settings for logical fields - true, false, and undefined. Not quite trinary, but I did have fun experimenting.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: @base

      enum Bool






      < pre > seems a bit broken ?

    2. 0x80004005

      Re: @base

      This is a definite thing in most databases:

      You can declare a field in SQL Server as "bit NULL" allowing values 0, 1 and NULL

      1. Whiskers

        Re: @base

        Interesting. I was a self-taught oik when my customer-facing office had "personal computers" issued (one between 2 or 3 initially) in the mid '80s, so my technical knowledge started from nil. A few of us did learn enough to usefully supplement the corporate mainframe system but we got little or no official support.

  11. KarMann Silver badge

    Serendipity! Emphasis on 'dip'

    Ah, excellent! I was just thinking a day or two of 'dummy mode on', and then realised it had been quite a while since I'd seen it engaged. Welcome back, dummy mode!

  12. Bebu Silver badge

    He really?

    ..."the bit state of the Cosmos and the anterior projection of digitized sine waves?"

    Did Prof Hawking really write that? If I had the faintest idea of what it meant I would probably know.

    Hugh Everett's Many Worlds paper was titled "The Theory of the Universal Wave Function" so Cosmic bit states might be a thing.

    I hadn't considered the BOFH and PFY as instruments of the dark side of the Force - "the force is strong in that one."

    CP/M & DOS had the dread trinary "abort, retry, ignore" none of which were particularly useful. abort = accept your data loss, retry = hope springs eternal, ignore = pretend a great chunk of missing data won't make a difference.

    1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

      Re: He really?

      'Abort, Retry, Ignore' ..... My bête noire is "An error has occurred" and the only option is "OK" which sends you back to where you wish you had never started.

      A genuine solution, OK? ---->

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: He really?

        While commonly laughed at, and often for good reason, Abort, Retry, Ignore were quite a sensible set of options when attempting to read data from an testy storage medium - such as floppy disk.

        Abort - just give up entirely

        Retry - try getting the data again, just in case the god of magnetism and motor whirring are feeling generous today

        Ignore - ignore this error knowing that the data is crap and move onto the next bit of data (and hope).

  13. SonofRojBlake

    "a "Traditional Old English Pub" that Mr Jolly would be proud of"

    Lovely reference there.

    Heimi Henderson's taking delivery of exploding tonic water.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      That's going to be a whacky off-licence when it opens!

      What could be better than living above an off-licence?

      Living in one!

      My favourite Comic Strip.

    2. Zack Mollusc

      What's Mr Jolly got that we haven't?

      1. SonofRojBlake

        Well, things are looking up!

        The thing that happens immediately after this line remains one of the funniest things I have ever seen. I was literally in tears laughing. If you know, you know.

  14. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Ahhhh the BoFH

    Just what I needed to enliven a trip to a customer this morning with the boss.... and he said "Lets bring the PFY too".. so she snaffles the front passenger seat and both USB power outlets and I'm left to fester in the back (and giggle while reading the BoFH.)

    Which brings me to make el-reg an offer, your PFY for mine... yours is devious and cunning and not afraid to baffle with bullshit when blinding someone with science would have done, mine is rather ruthless and charming and comes with a finacee who you could take his shirt off and paint him green and he'd make a good stand in for the hulk (and not the wimpy 1970's TV series one either)

    1. CRConrad

      Re: Ahhhh the BoFH

      A) I think that was the 1980s.

      B) Lou Ferrigno definitely wasn't wimpy.

      1. SonofRojBlake

        Re: Ahhhh the BoFH

        Incredible Hulk debuted in 1978.

        Just to put that into perspective - The Incredible Hulk TV show debuted closer in time to the release of the original King Kong than to today.

        And while Lou Ferrigno is not "wimpy" compared to any actual human, I think the point of comparison was either (a) the comic or (b) the more recent CGI version(s), which in either case make any mere human, regardless of physique, look wimpy.

  15. chivo243 Silver badge

    Trampoline hour!

    I know some one at the EPO, they will be pissing themselves….

  16. NickHolland

    Trinary Storage

    Long ago -- mid 1980s -- a friend wrote something up where he argued that "BIT" was an acronym for Binary digIT (yes, the I coming out of "digIT"), and thus a Trinary digIT would be called ... ok, you get it.

    And what were these Trinary digITs stored? A bra, of course. Floppy bras, hard bras, and if you weren't quite picturing a hard bra, he suggested referring to the 1970s Linda Carter Wonder Woman TV show. As I recall, he went on a lot longer than this, and much funnier.

    1. Anonymous IV

      Re: Trinary Storage

      > he went on a lot longer than this, and much funnier


      1. Groo The Wanderer

        Re: Trinary Storage

        To quote Pink Floyd "I don't know - I was really drunk at the time..."

  17. steelpillow Silver badge


    The problem with ternary computing has always been that the hardware sucked. It is theoretically the most efficient, but was shafted by the failure to develop hardware as cheap and practical as binary logic devices. Beer glasses are no good; does that half-pint in there mean the glass is half-full or half-empty or, err... falling fast perhaps?

    1. tezboyes

      Re: Hardware

      When asked do you want another?

      If the glass is less than half full then the answer is clearly Yes.

      When more than half full, the answer is Mehbe. Have a large swallow, then the answer is Yes.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Hardware

      I've always assumed that there is no tri-state digital electronic device or circuit that isn't basically a 4-state device used inefficiently. Any electronics engineers care to comment?

      Afterthought: This may not be true for quantum computers, since there most certainly are triplets and singlets for systems of two spins.

  18. PRR Bronze badge

    TIL: my father was not wrong, just misinformed. When he (a good RCA computer engineer) taught me binary in the early 1960s, I asked about Base 3. Not quite the same, but he told me that G.E. (the competition) was working on a 3-state computer. (We now know the Russians did it before that, but it was dangerous to know too much.)

  19. Frumious Bandersnatch


    Setun up for us, will you?

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