“I figured out how to shut the library computers down!” said my friend in a whisper though I could hear the exclamation mark.
I was an easily distracted York University student in the late 1980’s so I simply said “Wha?”
“We can shut down the library search computers!”
Short of unplugging I didn’t see how. So intelligently I asked, “Wha?”
“The programmers put in a secret code that can shut a terminal down. I’ve found it.”
“I don’t believe you,” I said.
“I can show you.” So we went to the nearest search computer in the library. No one was there.
“See,” said my friend,” if you press these 2 [or was it 3?] keys simultaneously, the terminal shuts down.”
Even seeing the blank screen I didn’t believe. So I tried some keys on the terminal to bring back the screen. Nothing happened. “What keys again?” I was getting as excited as my friend.
He told me and I went to the 2nd closest terminal and shut it down. Nothing would work on it. My friend and I were thinking the same thing. “This is cool. Let’s shut down all the terminals in the library.”
Perhaps my friend had already imagined it. Essays due tomorrow wouldn’t be completed. Research would halt in its tracks. This was Scott Library, the 5 floor monstrosity that Arts majors relied on. Without search it might be almost useless. Did they have accessible cards anymore? Probably not.
Perhaps the university would need to call in some expert who could only fix things late the next day. Perhaps the university would have to put a halt to deadlines the next day. Perhaps life would be so disrupted they would cancel classes the next day. It could be a party day. And it would all be due to my friend and I.
If we pulled this off, we could brag to our friends. The non believers could be shown what I had been shown.
There were about 20 terminals in Scott Library. We went around quickly, shutting each computer down as we went. We got all the upper floor terminals down. Most people did searches as they entered on the first floor which had by far the most terminals. Still there were empty terminals there, too and we shut those down.
We shut down about 15 of the 20 before we realized something. The remaining 5 terminals had lineups. With the other terminals down, the line ups would only grow.
Now we could stand in line and wait our turn to shut down the rest of the terminals one by one. But the law of supply and demand stated that the lines would only get larger. It was inevitable that there would be a person behind us watching as we shut down that terminal. Frustrated they would surely rat us out. And we had to go through this five times.
So we had to pass the rest of the year, knowing the code, but unsure how to wield the knowledge in anything but a nuisance fashion. Operation: Shut Down Scott Library was a fail.