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Date: Wed, 3 Jan 1996 12:22:15 -0600 (CST)
From: Daniel Hicks (hotlicks(at)VNET.IBM.COM)
Subject: The risks of using obscenities
Note: DaveR, a user on an internal IBM system in Lexington, KY, was browsing
the ESPN Web pages and came upon some correspondence discussing U of K
basketball player Jared Prickett. However, the name appearing on the page
was "Jared ett" -- some automatic censor logic was removing "Prick" from
posts to the ESPN discussion boards. I have encouraged DaveR to submit
directly a RISKS article about this [which is now unnecessary], but I
thought the following might make for an interesting counterpoint [...].
Back when I was in college (many many years ago), we had an HP 2000 Time
Shared Basic system. It was a fairly primitive system by current standards
(16 TTY terminals), but the neatest thing since sliced bread at the time.
There were several students, however, who just did not get along well with
computers. One of these, a classmate of mine, had spent several hours
creating a program to do some task, but the program was not working as
expected. In a fit of frustration, the student typed in "SCR*W YOU" on the
TTY. However it was the student who was screwed. Any line not prefixed by a
line number was interpreted by the system as a command, and the system
ignored anything beyond the first three letters of commands. So "SCR*W YOU"
was seen as "SCR", meaning "scratch" -- the system's command to erase the
In a final bit of irony, the system responded with its usual response --
"OK" -- after completing the "scratch" operation. The student was laughing
at the system's response -- until he realized his program had disappeared.
Dan Hicks IBM Rochester, Minnesota