Rookie's code couldn't have been so terrible that it made a supermarket spontaneously combust... right?

We'll never know but he was spared the whiteboard of shame

Who, Me? It's March again and we're still (mostly) indoors. Let us take your mind off the long, dark teatime of the soul (to paraphrase Douglas Adams) with another reader confession in The Register's Who, Me? column.

It's back to school for us today as a reader Regomised as "Harry" regales us with a tale from a late-1990s work experience placement.

Harry had been hired by a major supermarket to work in its IT department, then based at the chain's head office.

Things were different in those days, and every store in the chain enjoyed a certain level of computing autonomy. Code updates came from the mothership and were gradually rolled out; first to one store and then to all the supermarkets in the chain.

Illustration of the UK flag, stock listings and a green arrow pointing up

Forget GameStop: Keyboard warriors and electronic trading have never mixed well


The IT department also had its very own version of Who, Me? in the form of a wall of shame, a whiteboard in sight of the programming team listing all the cock-ups created by iffy code.

"One unlucky programmer caused frozen food to be delivered to a chilled warehouse," said Harry, "which ranked number one at the time. He no longer was in the company, he apparently fled in shame of his dire code!"

Seems a bit harsh to us but, as we said, things were different in those days. The whiteboard also had the desired effect on Harry: "As a rookie, I went 'Omg, I don't want to be on that whiteboard ever!'"

Time passed and Harry showed himself to be reliable enough that he was entrusted with his first bit of production code: a minor update to one of the in-store applications.

A supermarket was selected to be the guinea pig for Harry's first foray. He sent the code, tested it, saw that it worked, and went home. A job well done.


"Not an early riser, the next day I arrived in to sour faces and suspicious looks."

The server he'd deployed to was inaccessible. Nobody could even connect to the machine, let alone back out whatever borkery Harry had inflicted. The interrogating came thick and fast: "What code did I send down? Was it compiled to the correct machine type?" and so on.

The central system was festooned with red alerts and, although Harry insisted he really had tested his code, his elders were understandably suspicious of the rookie.

This kept up, right up until the moment, almost an hour into the grilling, that another manager passed by the meeting room and said: "Did you IT guys hear one of our stores burned down last night?"

The server had been reduced to ashes and was certainly unable to connect to the mothership.

There is no record of whether Harry's new routines featured an arson interface. Regardless, he was asked to try his deployment again, at a different store. Hopefully one with some decent fire prevention. You know, just in case.

The following morning he was not greeted with the same hostile stares. The code had worked and nothing burned down. His name would not be troubling the whiteboard of shame. Not that week, at any rate.

We can't help but note that the year before Harry's tale took place, The Prodigy's "Firestarter" was topping the popular music charts. Coincidence, we're sure.

Share your coding confessions with an email to the understanding vultures of Who, Me? ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • New York City rips out last city-owned public payphones
    Y'know, those large cellphones fixed in place that you share with everyone and have to put coins in. Y'know, those metal disks representing...

    New York City this week ripped out its last municipally-owned payphones from Times Square to make room for Wi-Fi kiosks from city infrastructure project LinkNYC.

    "NYC's last free-standing payphones were removed today; they'll be replaced with a Link, boosting accessibility and connectivity across the city," LinkNYC said via Twitter.

    Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said, "Truly the end of an era but also, hopefully, the start of a new one with more equity in technology access!"

    Continue reading
  • Cheers ransomware hits VMware ESXi systems
    Now we can say extortionware has jumped the shark

    Another ransomware strain is targeting VMware ESXi servers, which have been the focus of extortionists and other miscreants in recent months.

    ESXi, a bare-metal hypervisor used by a broad range of organizations throughout the world, has become the target of such ransomware families as LockBit, Hive, and RansomEXX. The ubiquitous use of the technology, and the size of some companies that use it has made it an efficient way for crooks to infect large numbers of virtualized systems and connected devices and equipment, according to researchers with Trend Micro.

    "ESXi is widely used in enterprise settings for server virtualization," Trend Micro noted in a write-up this week. "It is therefore a popular target for ransomware attacks … Compromising ESXi servers has been a scheme used by some notorious cybercriminal groups because it is a means to swiftly spread the ransomware to many devices."

    Continue reading
  • Twitter founder Dorsey beats hasty retweet from the board
    We'll see you around the Block

    Twitter has officially entered the post-Dorsey age: its founder and two-time CEO's board term expired Wednesday, marking the first time the social media company hasn't had him around in some capacity.

    Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as Twitter chief exec in November 2021, and passed the baton to Parag Agrawal while remaining on the board. Now that board term has ended, and Dorsey has stepped down as expected. Agrawal has taken Dorsey's board seat; Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor has assumed the role of Twitter's board chair. 

    In his resignation announcement, Dorsey – who co-founded and is CEO of Block (formerly Square) – said having founders leading the companies they created can be severely limiting for an organization and can serve as a single point of failure. "I believe it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction," Dorsey said. He didn't respond to a request for further comment today. 

    Continue reading
  • Snowflake stock drops as some top customers cut usage
    You might say its valuation is melting away

    IPO darling Snowflake's share price took a beating in an already bearish market for tech stocks after filing weaker than expected financial guidance amid a slowdown in orders from some of its largest customers.

    For its first quarter of fiscal 2023, ended April 30, Snowflake's revenue grew 85 percent year-on-year to $422.4 million. The company made an operating loss of $188.8 million, albeit down from $205.6 million a year ago.

    Although surpassing revenue expectations, the cloud-based data warehousing business saw its valuation tumble 16 percent in extended trading on Wednesday. Its stock price dived from $133 apiece to $117 in after-hours trading, and today is cruising back at $127. That stumble arrived amid a general tech stock sell-off some observers said was overdue.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon investors nuke proposed ethics overhaul and say yes to $212m CEO pay
    Workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability and, um, wage 'fairness' all struck down in vote

    Amazon CEO Andy Jassy's first shareholder meeting was a rousing success for Amazon leadership and Jassy's bank account. But for activist investors intent on making Amazon more open and transparent, it was nothing short of a disaster.

    While actual voting results haven't been released yet, Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky told Reuters that stock owners voted down fifteen shareholder resolutions addressing topics including workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability, and pay fairness. Amazon's board recommended voting no on all of the proposals.

    Jassy and the board scored additional victories in the form of shareholder approval for board appointments, executive compensation and a 20-for-1 stock split. Jassy's executive compensation package, which is tied to Amazon stock price and mostly delivered as stock awards over a multi-year period, was $212 million in 2021. 

    Continue reading
  • Confirmed: Broadcom, VMware agree to $61b merger
    Unless anyone out there can make a better offer. Oh, Elon?

    Broadcom has confirmed it intends to acquire VMware in a deal that looks set to be worth $61 billion, if it goes ahead: the agreement provides for a “go-shop” provision under which the virtualization giant may solicit alternative offers.

    Rumors of the proposed merger emerged earlier this week, amid much speculation, but neither of the companies was prepared to comment on the deal before today, when it was disclosed that the boards of directors of both organizations have unanimously approved the agreement.

    Michael Dell and Silver Lake investors, which own just over half of the outstanding shares in VMware between both, have apparently signed support agreements to vote in favor of the transaction, so long as the VMware board continues to recommend the proposed transaction with chip designer Broadcom.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022