Subject: Always Mount a Scratch Monkey

Date: Wednesday, 3 September 1986 16:46-EDT From: "Art Evans" <Evans@TL-20B.ARPA> To: Risks@CSL.SRI.COM In another forum that I follow, one corespondent always adds the comment Always Mount a Scratch Monkey after his signature. In response to a request for explanation, he replied somewhat as follows. Since I'm reproducing without permission, I have disguised a few things. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My friend Bud used to be the intercept man at a computer vendor for calls when an irate customer called. Seems one day Bud was sitting at his desk when the phone rang. Bud: Hello. Voice: YOU KILLED MABEL!! B: Excuse me? V: YOU KILLED MABEL!! This went on for a couple of minutes and Bud was getting nowhere, so he decided to alter his approach to the customer. B: HOW DID I KILL MABEL? V: YOU PM'ED MY MACHINE!! Well to avoid making a long story even longer, I will abbreviate what had happened. The customer was a Biologist at the University of Blah-de-blah, and he had one of our computers that controlled gas mixtures that Mabel (the monkey) breathed. Now Mabel was not your ordinary monkey. The University had spent years teaching Mabel to swim, and they were studying the effects that different gas mixtures had on her physiology. It turns out that the repair folks had just gotten a new Calibrated Power Supply (used to calibrate analog equipment), and at their first opportunity decided to calibrate the D/A converters in that computer. This changed some of the gas mixtures and poor Mabel was asphyxiated. Well Bud then called the branch manager for the repair folks: Manager: Hello B: This is Bud, I heard you did a PM at the University of Blah-de-blah. M: Yes, we really performed a complete PM. What can I do for You? B: Can You Swim? The moral is, of course, that you should always mount a scratch monkey. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There are several morals here related to risks in use of computers. Examples include, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it." However, the cautious philosophical approach implied by "always mount a scratch monkey" says a lot that we should keep in mind. Art Evans Tartan Labs

Back to Net Gems Page.
Back to Jef's Web Page.