Terminal downgrade saves the day after client/server heist • The Register
on duty Welcome back to On-Call, The register‘s journeys through readers’ memories of technological trials and tribulations.
This week, meet a reader we renamed “Walter” who, in the early 1990s, took a temp job for a finance company that financed car purchases.
“The job was just to input and validate requests for funding from the public and have the administration notify the public and the garages that funding had been approved or denied,” Walter recalls.
During his first week, Walter was put to work on an application that required a green screen. Walter determined that what he was really using was a terminal connected to an IBM AS400, Big Blue’s minicomputer.
But when he showed up for work for the second week, a brand new PC from Digital Equipment Corporation sat on his desk.
This beast had a Pentium PC, two whole megabytes of memory and a massive 400 megabyte hard drive.
This spinning rusty contraption stored a program that added color and movement to the AS/400 application.
But this leap into modernity and the wonderful world of the client/server only lasted a week, because when Walter showed up for his third week on the job, he was met by police cars in the parking lot and crime scene tape all over what was left of the front door of the office building.
This door showed clear signs of being raided, the once-fashionable crime that saw criminals steal a car, drive it through a storefront or office door, grab loot and then drive off.
Ram raiders often targeted high-end fashion or jewelry stores
This batch had lifted the financial company’s shiny new PCs. Which was less dumb than it sounds: new Pentium PCs were definitely a four-figure buy back then.
Panic Cue: As Walter tells the story, the company he was acting for processed hundreds of thousands of pounds of loans every day. Executives from the local office manager to head office were all panicking that the organization wouldn’t be able to do business for the weeks it would take to source and install replacement PCs.
That’s when it was reported that the green-screen terminals were left behind, locked in an upstairs room waiting for the IT team to come and collect them for disposal.
The AS/400 also remained in place, in a locked room with its lights flashing happily.
Thirty minutes later, the decommissioning of the terminals is complete and work resumes.
“We confirmed that the new app meant nothing, and there was a collective sigh of relief,” Walter said.
If you’ve ever saved the day with a downgrade, let us know by sending a message to On Call. ®