The Running of Three-Oh-Three

Author unknown, but dates back to the 1980s or earlier. Thanks to Sarah Hartwell Jshartwell@aol.com for this one.


There are bugs adrift on the late night shift
That cannot be foretold,
The audit trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold.
Debugging nights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see,
Was that time on the way to changeover day
When I ran test three-oh-three.

Now three-oh-three in its infancy
Was simple and sublime,
A bit set here or a patch put there
All done in record time.
"A trivial test is always best"
The experts love to state;
But a test gone sour at the midnight hour
Is a test you come to hate.

All through the day we slugged away
At data errors in store,
Talk about dumps!  They lay in lumps
On every foot of floor
And the printer's stammer beat like a hammer,
In sonic tyranny.
It wasn't much fun and we hadn't yet run
The infamous three-oh-three.

That very night by the lonely light
Of the empty Coke machine,
The problems solved, we all resolved
To embark on the next day clean.
"Just one more test" did Fred suggest,
"Before we end this session,
You're doing well, I'm proud to tell,
But humor this last obsession"

We were really beat; we'd been on our feet
For eighteen hours or more,
Our eyes were glazed and through the haze
We could tell not NEITHER from NOR.
But he just smiled and said "Before the bed -
Just one little test to run;
And if you do - and I tell you true -
Next payday you'll have fun"

Now talk about pay was an eloquent way
To make our adrenalin rise;
And one little pest of a simple test
Was trivial enterprise.
We fell for his tact and swore to a pact
That before the day would come,
Our victory over three-oh-three
Would be absolutely won.

We said "What the heck" and loaded the deck,
Then toggled he bootstrap switch;
But the ROM was burned and a bit was turned -
'Twas the ever present hitch.
We keyed in the code as in days of old,
With nary an audible murmur;
But beneath our breath, we were snarling death,
Misery, mayhem, murder.

I loaded the patch; the floppy was scratched,
Its backup locked in a drawer,
I cursed the slob who did that job,
A damnable disk destroyer!
We reversed ten yards, picked up the shards
Of a version he'd discarded,
It rankled like hell - it was sad to tell,
Each bug was disregarded.

I shouted "Nix! I refuse to fix
A bug that's been glossed over!"
I flung my pencil, listing, stencil
In disgust and went for the door.
But the boss called me back, gave me a pat,
Said it's a night that he'd remember,
He promised booze and great reviews
And a bonus in December.

Just one more hour, with tempers sour,
'Til we could try again,
That code was mangled, tortured, tangled
Unstructured, dumb, inane.
But after a while we began to smile,
We'd corrected every blunder,
Just one little test and we could rest
In sweet repose and slumber.

I hit the key for three-oh-three,
But the system wouldn't have it,
I tried once more from the monitor,
On the verge of throwing a fit.
The more I tried, the more I cried
As the output mocked by silence.
It wasn't fair - I tore my hair;
The time had come for violence!

I kicked the frame and tried again;
The printer bupred the beginning,
Ignoring the risk, I stomped the disk,
Sure now I was winning.
I relished the hate as I beat the tape,
Enjoying its rewinding,
That proc knew fear!  The fact was clear
From its internal grinding.

With every hit, I advanced one bit;
Approaching the conclusion.
My fists were sore, replete with gore,
Abrasion and contusion.
The tapes were rocking, no more mocking:
I drove that system, beaming!
And by morning's light, the end in sight;
I knew I'd soon be dreaming.

But then its bowel began to howl -
My guts turned into jelly.
The metal shrieked, disk platters streaked
Across the room pell-melly.
About the hall, from wall to wall,
They dove at us; we cowered,
One did a flip and in a nip,
Bill was disembowelled.

It didn't wait, but threw a tape
Which bounded and entangled,
The loops unwound, around and round;
My partner died - enstrangled.
The printer dumped, gallumped and thumped,
The platen leapt and zoomed;
As in a dream, there was a scream:
The analyst was doomed.

There wasn't much fuss for the rest of us -
Just fractures and concussion,
An eye gouged out, a busted snout,
From which the red was gushin'.
As for the fire, you shouldn't inquire;
Nor the flood that followed,
Those with skin called next of kin:
The memory forever hallowed.

There are bugs adrift on the late night shift
That cannot be foretold,
The audit trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold.
Debugging nights have seen queer sights
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that time on the way to changeover day
When I ran test three-oh-three.

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Pete Bevin, pete@petebevin.com