Faxing hell: The cops say they would very much like us to stop calling them all the time

Brrrrr... dunngadunng... braaaaarp: that's the sound of da police

Who, Me? Bid farewell to the weekend with a story from the Who, Me? mailbag that struck a little close to home for one Register hack.

"Lucas", for that is not his name, was charged with setting up an internal fax server for his company. Predating the ubiquity of email and the like, it was a big moment for communications and merited only the very best: a Compaq server.

"I don't recall the brand of the fax card or software," he told us, "but it was analogue and we (colleagues) thought it was pretty darn cool."

The unbridled joy of being able to send and receive faxes from one's desktop is something those jaded by Slack, Teams and Outlook will find difficult to understand nowadays. It all seemed like wizardry back in the day.

"Well," Lucas went on, "the fax server software was easily set up and tested, I was pretty full of myself, all was working really great."

So chuffed was he that he decided to use the new toy to send the IT team a daily report of fax activity… by fax! It was a simple matter to configure the report, and Lucas awaited the inevitable backslapping for his cleverness.

"However, after a few hours of ignorant bliss," he admitted, "one of my colleagues called me and said 'The Police would VERY much like us to stop calling them ALL the time. Do you know anything about that?'."

Uh oh.

It transpired that Lucas had committed that most innocent of crimes and dropped a typo into the fax report destination number. In a stroke of misfortune, the number he'd entered was actually that of the local police department.

"So, the fax software was calling them, trying to deliver the fax report and when that failed, it would retry in 30 seconds, no abort retries counter set," he said ruefully.

"The police didn't like their main number spammed with fax calls."

While Lucas survived his brush with the authorities with little more than a red face, his tale reminded this hack of a similar incident, closer to home and back in the dim and distant past.

One particular project needed to send fax messages with the result of system functions. Developers working on the test system needed some way to pop in dummy destinations and, for reasons that have been lost in the mists of two decades past, decided that "999" would be the perfect number.

It was with a certain inevitability that something crept into production, an accidental dialling occurred and a stern call from the authorities was received.

Hurrah for email.

Ever received a slapping from the long arm of the law for an innocent typo? Or done something that, with hindsight, was sphincter-looseningly stupid? Now is the time to confess all with an email to Who, Me? ®

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