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This is a true story and it happened to my mother, my own flesh and blood. She was taking a course to brush up on her office skills. The course focussed on learning how to use a computer for business purposes. Like most modern, up-to-date business courses, they were teaching the students how to use DOS. (I can hear the screaming already…)

One morning, like every morning that week, my mom was attending a class. (I have to admit, my mom didn’t really like computers, ... the last time she had worked in an office everything was done by hand, no faxes, no photocopiers, no tape recorders, you get the picture.) They were teaching a lesson, but my mom got lost part way through. She asked the instructors what the commands were, and they told her to punch keys, ... any keys. So she did.

Suddenly every printer in the room starting printing at the same time, and they wouldn’t stop! Page after page came pouring out in every direction! It was awful, and so embarrassing for my poor, dear mother! The instructors were running back and forth, screaming above the deafening roar of the machines, punching keys and pulling wires in a vain attempt to stop the onslaught. Meanwhile, the students were fighting the urge to panic, each of them having horrific visions of suffocating in a classroom slowly filling up with paper output!

homicidal printer Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, a crack team of technicians burst into the room and initiated an emergency shutdown of the power grid. The immediate crisis was over, now all that was left was to evacuate the traumatized, begin the long, agonizing cleanup, and find out why this had happened.

The Official Inquiry into the Incident reported that, in her so-called “random” key punching, my mother had commanded all the printers to print, kind of a hard thing to do if even she were trying. I got the feeling that they thought my mom was actually a master hacker on some secret agenda to bring down the school. In an unanimous ruling, the Board ordered that my mother be forbidden to ever again touch one of the school’s keyboards without supervision.

No counseling was provided for the victims of these printers gone mad. My mom... she never got over it. She never wants to see another computer again. And from this geek’s perpective, that is the greatest tragedy of them all.


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