Packet switching pickle prompts potential pecuniary problems

Techie's 'oops' moment goes unnoticed due to massive bills

Who, Me? Our warmest of wishes to you all on this fine Monday. Let us provide you with some of El Reg’s finest word sustenance, with this week’s Who, Me?

This time, our trip down the cringeworthy memory lane is led by a chap we’ll name “Bryce”.

In about 1989, Bryce made what was technically a rather costly mistake for his company – but not many people noticed.

At the time, he was working for a market research company with a customer who was based in Japan.

That customer connected to a VAX database in the UK via packet switching, using a terminal emulator on a Mac.

“Thankfully, our Japanese office had set them up with a System 6 Mac which coped with Japanese System software and English language applications,” said Bryce.

Every so often, Bryce sent them a floppy disk with the latest version of Red Ryder, a shareware terminal emulator, and appropriate settings files.

Smashing windows

Ah, this military GPS system looks shoddy but expensive. Shall we try to break it?


On one particular occasion, the process went like this:

“From an office in the UK, I made a dialup connection to a Tokyo phone exchange for their international packet switching service,” Bryce said.

“I then used their International Packet Switched Service (and customer credentials) to connect back to our office.”

Having confirmed that all the login credentials passed through, Bryce created a Red Ryder connection macro.

He then dutifully dropped the connection, rebooted and confirmed that it all worked, before sending a floppy disk via DataPost.

Bryce quickly forgot all about it, until a couple of weeks later.

“A colleague mentioned that one of the Macs took a while to log in to the VAX,” he told El Reg.

Bryce, of course, knew immediately what the issue was.

“Red Ryder was still using the Tokyo packet switched connection…”

Luckily for Bryce, though, he got away with the potentially rather costly mistake – because the firms were already big spenders.

“The phone bills for both UK and Japanese companies were big enough that nobody noticed.”

Have your company’s spendy ways ever managed to save your bacon? Tell Who, Me? and you might see your story featured on these very pages in the coming weeks. ®

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