Guide to Perverse Computing

Dan Flood Computer Humour Leave a Comment

by Alan Meiss,

Using the Line Printer

  • If your printout does not arrive within 1.2 seconds, immediately take the printer offline and press line feed enough times to place the perforation in the center of all subsequent printouts. Leave the printer in this inoperative state, but be sure to place your document (140k minimum) in the queue at least five (5) more times before going home. In the unlikely event you return for your output, give it a cursory glance before discarding in a convenient location. 
  • Be sure and send graphics output to the line printer as often as possible. Fill at least 200 pages with brief cryptic strings such as q:!@ in the corner. After observing that this output does not match the plot you intended, perform the exact same action a second time, in the hope that the first error was simply the result of intervention by evil spirits. 
  • Wad, crush, crumple, stomp, spindle, paw, and rip at least six (6) other users’ output in retrieving your own. Broadcast this refuse in random directions or coat the vicinity of the printer with it in an act of Cristo-like performance art. 
  • Note to administrators: change the print ribbon at least once every presidential administration, whether it needs it or not. Ensure that the print queue is mysteriously disabled before all major class projects, and that name/banner/whitespace pages exceed printed output by a ratio of at least 3:1.

Using Dot Matrix Printers

  • Randomly strewn tractor feed paper edges give your workspace that festive, ticker-tape parade atmosphere. Fling these everywhere so your fellow users will feel like returning Mercury astronauts. 
  • Make sure the paper will wrap around and re-insert itself into the tractor feed while you’ve left to pee.

Using the Laser Printer

  • At the slightest delay, begin randomly pushing buttons on the front panel. If this elicits no favorable response, switch the printer on and off several times. 
  • Do not bother busy service personnel with problems, perform maintenance yourself. Insert paper haphazardly in the tray to ensure that it will misfeed or jam so thoroughly in the rollers that disassembly is required. 
  • Remember that the twenty people behind you in the queue are just as eager as you to see your 1200k postscript printout of HOTMAMA9.GIF. Be sure and make copies for all of them, too. Make sure that at least one copy is not in encapsulated form, so that rather than HOTMAMA9 the other users clustered around the printer are treated to the even more invigorating spectacle of the single remaining ream of paper being filled with vital information such as M#6%%iou{{^pK/$.

Using Terminals

  • Those mysterious functions keys at the top must be good for something, so press them all. Whine loudly when the terminal subsequently displays the Magna Carta in inverse video and locks up. 
  • Seek out all possible actions that produce a bell/beep, and perform them at least 9,734 times over the next half hour. 
  • Achieve a sense of oneness with the information on the screen by pressing your grubby greasy mitts all over it. Make sure there are at least three clear prints for each finger. 
  • Leave mysterious and/or repulsive stains or goo on the most frequently used keys. Make sure to extend your own casual approach to hygiene to your favorite terminal. 
  • Note to administrators: be vigilant in guarding against novice users learning vital secrets such as how to set their terminal type. Remember, ex and edlin build character. Furtheeeer, makeeee sureeee that at leeeeast oneeee keeey sticks on all teeeerminals.


  • If the workstation has locked up, or is not performing with the proper pep and vigor you expect, switch it on and off a few times just like your pc. 
  • Run large jobs on at least five (5) workstations at once from remote logins for the true sensation of multitasking. 
  • Note to administrators: at all costs, DO NOT let mere users obtain sensitive information such as how to run various windowing systems or properly set their path. Actual productive use of workstations creates wear and eventually necessitates replacement. Hide all manuals at an undisclosed location on the Ross Ice Shelf. Make sure users are able to set their cursor to Gumby shape, but do not renew vital software licenses on a timely basis.


  • To guard against any future deciphering of your code, use less-than- illuminating variable names such as a, b, and c. However, for the most frequently used variables, assign names such as “this_is_my_new_value”. 
  • In Fortran, make sure to use undeclared variables starting with the letter m for real values. 
  • If your code isn’t working, be sure to fish through the trash to find some that does. 
  • Remember, no task is too simple or brief to perform on a mainframe. Anything done on a pc, even generating times tables, is inherently suspect. A brief C or Pascal program written on your pc in a convenient ten minutes simply can’t compare to the grandeur of a 400k executable file running on a decrepit behemoth the size of a recreational vehicle. Even if your results are wrong, just think of the precision to which they will be wrong. 
  • Core dumps are fun! Copy them here, there, and everywhere, mail them to friends, and list them to lock your terminal or make it squeal. Take full advantage of this valuable service needed by at least a whopping 0.001% of the computing public.



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