Did We Put It Out?

Back in the mists of time, before becoming a programmer, I was a computer operator. Being a Computer Operator in a mainframe environment was a time of great fun (when management went home) and frustration (when magnetic tapes failed).

We had a lot of leeway and people wanted processing time, this made you feel quite important, still I am wandering from this little gem.

So one night we were running two ICL 2946 mainframes, doing the overnight batches as we did every night, when suddenly one of the printers, spooling out around 3000 pages of reports, just stopped.

The two of us, walked over to the printer and lifted the hood to see whether it had run out of paper or jammed. No lights were showing, on opening the lid, smoke bellowed out and up to the ceiling, onto a smoke detector. Nothing happended, no alarms (we had quietened down our alarm bell by stuffing a punchcard into it), no nothing.

What could two 20 something year old computer operators do?

We went over to the fire extinguishers, read the instructions, picked up the correct one for an electrical fire, well I say one, thats one each, returned to the printer, checked it was switched off and proceeded to empty both extinguishers into the printer. Certain the fire was out (there was no evidence of flames prior or after the printer cut out) we shut the fuse off to that piece of equipment and switched the printing to an alternative printer.

Dutifully, we filled in the operations log, handed over to the day shift, explained the issue and went home.

Next evening, we arrive, in the ops log was a note from the Operations Manager and the Bureau Manager, explaining the proper use of fire extinguishers and how the budget costs of such items should be considered in the future. OK, Yes we got a bollocking!

Looking back, I would do it all again, it was fun.

John Ellis FIAP Cmpn