This article is more than 1 year old

Hacking a Foosball table scored an own goal for naughty engineers

Such a blatant offside the manager couldn't see a funny side

Who, Me? Greetings once again, gentle reader, to the confessional booth known as Who, Me? in which Reg readers unburden themselves with tales of things they shouldn't have done – or that they should have done, and didn't.

We'll let you decide which of those categories this week's tale falls into, as a reader we'll call "Edgar" (because that's what we called him last time he shared a tale) admits a bit of down-time shenanigans.

Edgar, you may recall, worked for Burroughs, the company that made adding machines (and dominated the market for such things, right up until the dawn of the PC age meant no-one wanted them anymore). As such, he and his co-workers were quite the dab hand at mechanical gizmos.

On one occasion early in his career at Burroughs, Edgar was sent on a training course, which was held at a hotel in Bournemouth. You don't particularly need to know where the hotel was – it's not relevant to the story – but it's the kind of detail that makes a narrative like this all the more compelling.

Anyway, this particular hotel had a games room, where the adding machine engineers could blow off a bit of steam after a long hard day learning wrangling adding machines. One game that attracted their attention was a table football game (also called table soccer or foosball). The kind of thing where rows of wooden players are controlled by pulling and twirling handles along the side of the table.

Now, Edgar and his fellows noticed that this particular table had a slight flaw, inasmuch as when you scored a goal the ball went through a series of chutes into a receptacle, and you had to – shock, horror! – insert money to retrieve it before you could play further.

Surely the hotel's owner must be unaware of such a tragic design failure hampering the recreation of their guests?

Edgar and the gang decided to rectify the fault, and used their handy tools to re-route the chutes on the underside of the table so that when a goal was scored the ball landed with a clang in a metal bin. Fun was restored.

Then, naturally enough, the hotel owner arrived. Edgar asked the we call him Basil, so we shall.

Basil saw the engineers playing a spirited game of table football and announced "Come on lads, let me show you how this game is played!" Fun continued, with the Burroughs side desperately defending while also not particularly aggressively trying to score lest their handiwork be found out.

Inevitably, of course, the stalemate could not be maintained.


Basil investigated the source of the noise and discovered the fix to the machine. Was he grateful? Appreciative of the engineers' work in freeing his game from the oppressive shackles of capitalism?

No, he was not. He demanded to know if the Burroughs folks had done this to his machine. While no-one claimed credit, the pile of tools and two removed chutes sitting next to a "Burroughs" bag on the floor gave the game away somewhat.

At the following morning's training session, the trainer was not in a great mood. "I'm ashamed of you," he thundered. "You've let me down, you've let the company down, and you've let yourselves down!"

"How dare you get caught!"

So what do you think? Is this a tale of something that shouldn't have been done ("fixing" the game) or something that should have been done, but wasn't (hiding the evidence)? Make your case in the comments.

And while you're at it, if you've got your own stories of shenanigans – on the job or off – that you think might be worth a run in Who, Me? tell us all about it in an email and we'll tell the world – protecting your anonymity, of course.

More about

More about

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like