Tech memories from a former job.

A past employer was a big DEC OpenVMS and Tru64 Unix shop in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and mostly on AlphaServers. It was also a school owned by a Christian religious order and physical plant took advantage of a short break in the spring academic calendar afforded by an occasion in the Christian liturgical year, namely Easter, using Good Friday to do non-emergency electrical work and inspections. At the time, before more modern inspection technology, this meant powering down campus, including our servers, and us in central IT got to come in that Saturday to bring everything back up. It was also a good opportunity for some maintenance work of our own.

We had powered on an AlphaServer 1000 that ran the library’s DRA system and I noticed a message scroll by: Create DEAD_EATER
I couldn’t boot that machine and continue with my assigned work until the senior sysadmin finished a task on its two cluster partners so decided to use the opportunity learn more about the console.

AlphaServer SRM firmware UI was a Unix implementation and supports some common commands, particularly ps(1). Omitting uninteresting leading numeric fields most of the output looked like EWA0 waiting on RX which is an ethernet network card receive process. The list also contained this one:


In the drone of a machine room nobody can hear your maniacal laughter.