HP announced back in June that end-of-support for OpenVMS will be 2020. I've been compiling this blog post since then. I have very fond memories of VAX/VMS... I used one to store my pillow for two years. Funny story. I learned a lot of life lessons from VMS. Originally this was one big 'ol blog post but I decided to break it up so the post wasn't so long. These posts are just a collection of funny VAX/VMS stories from my youth. I really believe that I learned the most in my career from my few years working on VMS.
Life Lesson Number 1: you need to have a sense of humor to work in this industry
I had a part-time job while I was in college as the computer operator for a VMS system for a large, formerly monopolistic, telecom company. This was way back before email was ubiquitous. VMS has two e-mail programs…PINE and MAIL. Neither has the concept of a “sent items” folder. PINE is the “preferred” email program everyone used. To set up a “sent items” folder you did this:
…where fcc stands for “folder carbon copy”. It makes a copy instead of sending a copy. Cool right? In VMS, folders were not allowed to have spaces, much like the old DOS. So if you typed this:
customized-hdrs=fcc: SENT ITEMS
…you got the same thing, two copies of your email…one in a folder called SENT and another in a folder called ITEMS. With me? A comma and a space were the same thing.
In Outlook you have the “Outbox” which is the temporary holding area where your mail sits until you can connect to Exchange. VMS had the same thing but it was called OUTMAIL. So, I really wanted to have my “Sent Items” called “OUTMAILCOPY”. But I screwed up and typed this:
customized-hdrs=fcc: OUTMAIL COPY
Notice the problem? Every email was copied to two folders…one of course being OUTMAIL, and that caused an infinite loop and caused email to go down for a few hours.
So I crashed the email system by building my own little "mail bomb" macro. I managed to fix it myself but by then people were paged and wondering what was going on. I tried to hide what I did, "Don't worry it's fixed now."
And surprisingly, that worked. "Really? You fixed mail all by yourself? That's great Dave, we should promote you."
This is where hubris of the young takes over, "Oh, it was no big deal really. I know what I'm doing." But of course I didn't know what I was doing. At this point my failure was big but I had the opportunity to be promoted. The next morning management began investigating the logs and saw that clearly it was my mail account that caused all of the problems. Management's tone went from "let's promote Dave" to "let's fire Dave".
I was spared. But I was told I could no longer use PINE for email.
Sidenote: In VMS MAIL you use this command for “Sent Items”:
SET COPY_SELF SEND,REPLY,FORWARD
…which cc’s you on every mail you send, right to NEWMAIL (Inbox).
More funny stories to come...
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