Always mount a scratch monkey

Eric Postpischil

Seems one day Bud was sitting at his desk when the phone rang.

Bud: Hello.
Voice: YOU KILLED MABEL!!
Bud: Excuse me?
Voice: YOU KILLED MABEL!!
This went on for a couple of minutes and Bud was getting nowhere, so he decided to alter his approach to the customer.
Bud: HOW DID I KILL MABEL?
Voice: YOU PM'ED MY MACHINE!!     (PM = preventive maintenance)

Well to avoid making a long story even longer, I will abbreviate what had happened. The customer was a biologist at a university and he had a PDP12 that controlled gas mixtures that Mabel (the monkey) breathed. Now Mabel was not your ordinary monkey. The University had spent years teaching Mabel to swim and they were studying the effects that different gas mixtures had on her physiology.

It turns out that the Field Service Branch had just gotten a new Calibrated Power Supply (used to calibrate Analog equipment) and at their first opportunity, decided to calibrate the D/A converters in the PDP12. This changed some of the gas mixtures and poor Mabel was asphyxiated.

Well, Bud then called the Branch Manager of the Field Service branch:

Manager: Hello
Bud: This is Bud DeFore, I heard you did a PM at the University of Blah-de-blah.
Manager: Yes, we really performed a complete PM. What can I do for You?
Bud: Can You Swim?

The moral is, of course, always mount a scratch monkey.


T. Patterson of DEC replied to this with:

Just after I first heard this, I was visiting a professor at Washington University School of Medicine who'd been having problems with some of his PDP-11's. I noticed a little metal contraption with lots of little straps on it. I was informed that they would strap a monkey to it so they could experiment with visual perceptions stuff, like how well a monkey could track a moving object with its eyes while its brain was being "stimulated" (a euphemism for "receiving electric shocks").
It seems that one day they'd left the monkey strapped in just before somebody came in to run diagnostics on the '11 controlling the lab instruments... they ended up with one very fried monkey.

(apparently this was only one in a long series of horror stories about "those dumb lab assistants who always screw up my experiments" so this is really "med school folklore")

Our little conversation ended with:

me: Well, that just goes to show you...
professor: Yes?
me: Always Mount a Scratch Monkey.

This page was last updated on Sunday, January 01 2006 22:26:48 (CET)