Sunday, February 04, 2007

Do I Have to Empty the Bit Buckets?

There was a maintenance man named Bill where I worked at Four Phase Systems in about 1985 who was a nice fellow, but one of the dumbest guys I've ever encountered. He was one of those guys for whom carrying a ladder was risky business, and whose crack hung out of his pants every time he bent over.

One time I was running a big test in our lab with at least twenty plain text terminals scrolling text endlessly up the screen. Bill came in to replace a light bulb, one of his more complicated assignments, and one that often sent people running for cover.

When finally he had completed the task, Bill stood in the middle of the lab watching the meaningless display of dancing text, absorbed in thought. Finally, he came over to me and asked: "I've always wondered — where do the words go when they roll off the top?"

I'm not making this up. I should have told him that they fall into the bit bucket in the back of the terminal. I'm sure if I had said that, he might have wondered if it would become his job to empty these periodically.

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