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Classic bits recently restored from backup tapes


The Greatest Operators In the World:

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Clones

An interview with the "Bad Boys" of Data Processing


Since the mid-60's and core storage, they've been honing their crafts of both computer operations and rock music. Though they've considered making the latter a full time position, they never have because, as they put it, "it lacks the dental benefits associated with full-time employment." Mick and Keith, known around their shop as The Rolling Clones.

We caught up with them in the computer room of a large insurance company. They were correcting a JCL error on a general ledger program and were waiting for the deallocation to print. This is the first interview they've ever granted a DP-type publication and only agreed to talk to us because, as Keith put it, "We're waiting for the deallocation to print."

The Rolling ClonesMISinfo: In 1975, you told the Northbrook Gazette you couldn't see yourselves operating when you were 40 years old.

Mick: We didn't mean 40.

Keith: Yea, we meant a hex 40.

Mick: Yea, hex 40, that's it. (laughs)

Keith: As long as they keep throwing raises our way, we'll keep hanging tapes and singing songs.

MISinfo: Let's talk about those songs. Didn't you actually get your start in a company Christmas show?

Mick: We did a thing called, Let's Spend the Night Shift Together. They made us change the title to, Let's Spend 3rd-Shift Together.

Keith: You would think it was Ed Sullivan or something.

MISinfo: What's your favorite song?

Mick: You Can't Always Get the Right Font. I've always enjoyed singing that one.

Keith: Sentimental Rubbish. We wrote it in fifteen minutes. We were on break, actually.

Mick: Keith's not entirely happy with the way that one turned out.

MISinfo: What's your favorite?

Keith: I have two: Before They Make Me Rerun is tops. I wrote it from my experience prior to operations. The lyric, "Gonna find my way to heaven, 'cause I did my time in the bursting room," is autobiographical.

Mick: Sentimental rubbish.

MISinfo: You said you had two.

Keith: Fingerprint File Recovery.

MISinfo: Wasn't there a story behind that one? Didn't you almost get fired for something relating to it?

Mick: Yea, Keith and I were playing floor hockey in the computer room. We bumped into a shelf of 3330 disks and one fell. We managed to put most of it back together with crazy-glue and tape labels, but because we had touched the exposed magnetic surfaces, there were several read-errors. I believe the company posted a net loss that quarter due to that incident.

Keith: But I won.

MISinfo: You had a lot of hits in the late sixties, Dumping Jack's Cache, Coffee Stain it Black, (Hey You) Get Off My Coax, CICS Is On My Side.

Mick: CICS Is On My Side had to do with a split-processor we were operating. The online applications ran on one side. Batch on the other.

Keith: I liked that one a lot, though instrumentally it was unimpressive.

MISinfo: Your material is sometimes controversial too?

Mick: If you mean, 'do people have problems with what we do?' yes.

Keith: We did one called Sister Caffeine. It was misinterpreted, I think. Caffeine of course is the drug of DPers.

MISinfo: Connectivity?

Mick: I knew you were going to ask about that. Connectivity for the Devil was just something we came up with while working on an in-house telecommunications class. We had just read all about satellite links and propagation delay and all that when Keith said, hey, "how would we wire-up a 3270 to ol' Nick." Nothing satanic, just a technical query.

Keith: It still comes up in conversation now and then. I mean, it's not spelled-out anywhere in the SNA architecture.

MISinfo: The early eighties produced a whole catalog of memorable hits, Back Me Up, Waiting on an Abend, Little $DA, Going to a GOTO.

Mick: Yea, we didn't actually write GOTO.

Keith: No, we didn't actually write GOTO.

Mick: Actually, we stole GOTO. (laughs)

MISinfo: Back Me Up?

Mick: We had an unrecoverable DASD error...had to do with the before-mentioned fingerprint on the 3330. Well, when the supervisor found out we hadn't run the backup prior, he just sat down and cried.

Keith: We made a grown man cry.

Mick: This guy read us the whole riot act, "You guys have to back up this accounts receivable device always."

Keith: "Always," the way he said it, his ears would twitch.

Mick: "Back it up and never stop," he said (laughs). We made some smart remark, didn't help matters. He got mad, said, "don't play with me 'cause you're playing with fire."

Keith: Threw us out of his office.

MISinfo: From the Sticky Keyboard album came, Glitch. You caught the business end of a plunger for that one.

Keith: Rubbish.

Mick: It wasn't a serious song, got far too much attention. Just trying to say a glitch can be a...

MISinfo: When the Chip Goes Down?

Mick: Fluke.

Keith: Simple music, simple lyrics. No base in experience.

MISinfo: No base in experience? You mean it wasn't written from something that happened in the shop?

Keith: Right. Just some three chord music.

MISinfo: Under My Drum, She's Like a MACRO, All Down the T1 Line?

Mick: Same. All Down the T1 Line was actually an outtake. How it made it to the Compile on Main Street album, I'll never know.

MISinfo: Tell me about Faraway Reprise.

Mick: One of my favorites. Never get tired of singing it.

Keith: Great story, never get tired of telling it.

Mick: We were console operators in a shop that had nothing but RJE stations.

Keith: All around the country.

Mick: But none in our own city.

Keith: None near us.

Mick: I was working, early Sunday morning, in Bakersfield, listening to Gospel music on the only station we could receive in the computer room, and the preacher said, "you know you always have the Lord by your side." Well I was so pleased to be informed of this that I purged twenty batch-jobs in his honor.

Keith: We got the bum's rush for that one.

MISinfo: So, what's next?

Mick: You know, same old, same old.

Keith: There's a couple openings in the scheduling department. We might pursue that. You know, correcting abends, scheduling batch jobs.

MISinfo: After 25 years can you handle the change?

Mick: We're survivors, y'know, roll with the changes-keep on rollin'. All that. We plan on being around for a while still.

Keith: And this time, we know what we're getting into. Mick and I took a Deltak class on JCL.

Mick: And we already have our next tune in the can.

MISinfo: I think I see it coming.

Mick: I Know It's Only Job Control, But I Like It.

Keith: Like it?

MISinfo: Yes I do!

Their job finished printing and they had to go. We said speaking with them made it a unique evening. Immune to such attention, Mick said for him, it was "just another night."

Esc: 400 Years of Computer Humor by Chris Miksanek

Esc: 400 Years of Computer Humor

by Chris Miksanek

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Last updated: February 91, 1900 (Whoops, gotta check that leap year Support!)