5. $Destroy *FTN OK

posted Nov 2, 2010, 8:59 PM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Nov 7, 2010, 7:52 AM ]
The May 1996 issue of the UM IT Digest (the farewell to MTS issue) under the heading "Some Days Were Better Than Others" told this story:

A professor was giving some visitors a tour of the Computing Center facilities one day and paused at the system console. Wanting to demonstrate some of the failsafe features that were designed into the system, he said, "Watch what happens when I try to destroy the Fortran compiler." Unfortunately, the system was not as failsafe as he anticipated, and the Fortran compiler was indeed destroyed. This impromptu lesson uncovered a bug that the MTS programmers were able to fix and thus avoid subsequent disasters.
    --Bernard Galler

This was before my time, but I had heard a similar story elsewhere.  But the story I remember was a little different. The person involved wasn't a "professor", but someone on the Merit staff, possibly Dick Wagman.  And I'm not sure that the problem was at the Operators' console.

Don Boettner has a better memory than I do:

Originally, the destroy command was just "$destroy xxx" and then it would ask you to confirm this before it would do it.   Many (impatient) users complained at this, so Mike added the immediate option "$destroy xxx ok"  which would just do it without asking for confirmation.   Unfortunately, his addition bypassed the place where it checked if you had access to do this (this was before shared files, so I think it was just checking if it was a public (*xxx) file that the user was "MTS" or some such).

It was indeed Dick Wagman who decided to test this by issuing  "$DESTROY *FTN OK"  and then was appalled when it did it.  I remember that Bartels [UM Computing Center Director] was so infuriated by such irresponsibility (in picking such an important file) that he ordered Wagman's account suspended immediately.  

After the usual Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth, *FTN was restored and eventually Wagman's account was too.

Andy Goodrich and Mike Alexander remember this pretty much the same as Don. Mike says it didn't have anything to do with the operators' console and he suspects that there were a few rebates given out that day.

[Bernie, Dick, Don, Andy, Mike, and I (Jeff) are or were all from UM.]