Folklore The Archives of Compsci Folklore

Here's the folklore page from the (currently down) compsci ug web pages, too good to be lost from the web.
  1. Why is V/058 called vuft?
  2. Where did the spare DECWRITER come from?
  3. What is traditional behaviour during projects?
  4. Where can you buy breakfast after number 3?
  5. Why is there a white-board in Vuft instead of a blackboard?
  6. What connection is there between the University and the Canadian police?
  7. What does `ubiquitous' mean?
  8. Why do the vuft PCs start at number 7?
  9. I smell a wumpus...

  1. Why is V/058 called vuft?

    Contraction of vee-oh-five-eight.... v'oh-fv'ght... v'hf't... vuft. See? Simple.

  2. Where did the spare DECWRITER come from?

    Once upon a time, there was a DECWRITER III in Vuft. It sat there, quite contentedly, minding its own business, never for one moment suspecting the dreadful events that were about to unfold.

    Late one night - in the middle of the Team Software Project, in 1994, there were three compscis who could no longer face working (footnote). One of them proclaimed to the others:

    ``Lo! It is said that in Wentworth, the infidels have cast a DECWRITER into the wilderness, that it might perish or be collected by the bin-men! Can we, true believers all, allow this to happen?''

    ``Nay!'' was the righteous reply, and Lo! they did set forth to save the decwriter, for such is the True Way of The CompSci.

    The valiant trio did trek across campus, verily unto the portals of distant Wentworth college itself, and there, amidst the debris and rubbish, they did find the lone DECWRITER, scorned and abandoned, awaiting salvation.

    By dint of much effort, the three did carry the DECWRITER, with much agony, and many stops - for a DECWRITER is a heavy load, even for the righteous. Eventually, the haven of Vuft did appear before them, welcoming them with its softly glowing emergency lights, and the smell like a wumpus' armpit in summer.

    When the DECWRITER was finally placed within the confines of the inner sanctum itself, the devoted trinity did rest heavily upon their laurels, and declare that Lo! It was not enough to restore the DECWRITER to civilisation, but more should be done! It should be given life!

    The junior of the trio was sent forth for a screwdriver set, and the said item was retrieved.

    `` But where shall we get a plug?'' they did wail, until it was decided that to save the new DECWRITER, the old must sacrifice its plug, that the new might live.

    The plug was duly removed, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and placed, fully upon the new DECWRITER, for all that it was battered and water damaged. Finally, the DECWRITER was plugged in, and the printer did spring into life! Fully one and a half lines of test printing did burst joyfully forth from the head of the printer, before tragedy struck, and the printer breathed its last, nevermore to work again, for its fuse had been blown by its ordeal.

    ``But where shall we get a new fuse?'' they did wail, until it was decided once more, that to save the new DECWRITER, the old must be sacrificed. But calamity! The DECWRITERS were not of the same species, and they could not share fuses as they had shared plugs!

    Thus the DECWRITER of old was repaired - its plug returned and its fuse replaced, and yet it did not work! Lo, a tragedy had ensued! In seeking to add to their printers, the hapless compsci's had deprived themselves of their sole, prized DECWRITER... ... and the decision was made, that only the techies could save the printer now, and the matter was left unto their hands...

    When the morning came, and the techie did arrive, he did look to the original DECWRITER, and moved in mysterious ways - as is his wont - and Lo! It did spring to life once more! A miracle! He saw the printer, and saw that it was good. He checked the paper, and saw that it was plentiful. He turned, and beheld that the DECWRITER had spawned a child, (Footnote1) and saw that it was mightily confusing. He fled rapidly, and did return with another techie, who saw the second DECWRITER, and did declare it mightily confusing.

    In the corner, the three compscis, deprived of sleep, and odd of mood, did verily piss themselves laughing at such a sight - but the spectacle had not finished... for the techies did return with a trolley, and load the DECWRITER that it might be transported away. A ransom note was left in its place, reading only:

    ``If you have lost a decwriter, it is in A block.''

    And thus the parable of the DECWRITER ends, with the second DECWRITER sitting, to this day, in A-Block.

    Footnote: Even the compsci who wasn't even doing the Team Software Project that year, but had nothing more worthwhile to do.

    Footnote1: This is a great feat of observation for an average techie, who takes over six months to notice a `damaged' Blackboard.

  3. What is traditional behaviour during projects?

    In days of yore, when the real compsci stalked the land, vuft was more exciting. Before any hand-in and during the team software project, vuft would become crowded. Perhaps surprisingly, this in itself doesn't encourage bad behaviour. It's when the regulars are left alone at night that things get out of hand.

    Apart from the obvious sleep deprivation, there are four main traditions:

    1. Aussie monitors.

      Orbit, the sad gimp's operating system of choice, is monochrome. Anything to add colour to the gimp's life is like manna from heaven. There's a colourful effect that can be produced on the monitors in vuft. It involves standing a monitor on its head and then pressing the de-Gauss button before righting the monitor again.

      This causes a purple infusion from the corners of the display. Highly amusing. But only if you've been awake for three days...

    2. Fire! Fire! Fire!

      Everyone likes to burn things. Compscis like to burn each other. Vuft is the perfect place to start a fire. There are no smoke detectors, and there's lots of paper. You just need to supply the matches.

      The other good thing about vuft is that it contains a fire extinguisher, but we've never had occasion to use it.

    3. Vuft cricket

    4. Breakfast

  4. Where can you buy breakfast after number 3?

    After a hard night's hacking^H^H^H^H^H^H^H software engineering, you'll need breakfast. But where is breakfast to be found on campus early in the morning? In our experience, Langwith is the place to go. This contrasts sharply with the rest of the day, when Langwith is a place to avoid.

    Sadly, despite the underlying principles of software engineering, and the Team Software Project, they do not serve quiche at this hour.

    Quiche: the staple food of software engineers, along with the
    ubiquitous mince.

  5. Blackboard

    N.b. all names in this anecdote have been changed, to protect the innocent, the not-so-innocent, and the downright guilty.

    Once upon a time, there was a blackboard in vuft. During the annual torture known simply as CTS, there was a compsci - we'll call him simply `James' - asleep on the ample space beneath the blackboard, in an effort to regain enough coherence to be able to add anything worthwhile to his report.

    Another compsci - we'll call him `Steve' - thought it would be a jolly jape to throw a solid object at the blackboard to rapidly wake `James', sleeping beneath it. The first such object that came to mind - and sadly, to hand - was a mouseball. After all, this inoffensive little item is made from rubber, isn't it? I know it's very heavy and all that, but rubber is heavy, isn't it?

    Taking this somewhat weighty projectile in hand, `Steve' proceeded to throw it at the blackboard... The result, somewhat obviously, in hindsight, was a loud crackling smashing noise, followed by the soft tinkling of shards of glass falling onto the table, the floor, and the unfortunate `James'.

    `James's reaction was simply to pick fragments of glass from his face, and return to sleep, while the assembled compscis watched in horror as the blackboard - now revealed to be made from a sheet of thick glass, painted black - cracked across the middle, leaving a somewhat distinctive star-shaped shatter mark.

    And so it was, for several months - each morning the techies would arrive as usual, check that each machine still had a keyboard, check that the printer hadn't spawned again. (See the section on the decwriter for details).

    And not once did they notice that the blackboard was severely damaged - to a dangerous degree, with the compscis continually poking and prodding at it, until the backing panel could be seen, what with shards of the blackboard being removed...

    Eventually, some months later, realisation dawned, when they realised that the blackboard shouldn't really have a crack running from bottom to top, and from side to side - not to mention the gaping wound in the middle, with brown backing showing through. Something had to be done!

    They immediately declared that the two PCs beneath the board were unsafe, warned everyone not to use them, and hurried off for some brightly coloured tape, which they proceeded to tie at suitable points around the board to stop people getting too close.

    Naturally people quickly moved to sit inside the cordoned off area.

    The excess tape - bright orange, almost luminous - was left neatly coiled bennneath the table, out of harms reach... until the compscis sliced it off, and cut it into useable lengths. For example, one compsci, known here for anonymity's sake as `MAD', fashioned himself a headband, marked in typical samurai style.

  6. What connection is there between the University and the Canadian police?

    In the words of Dave Snowden:

    Someone at has screwed up the reverse lookup entries for the University subnet (144.32). In fact they have managed to overwrite our entry by one for the York Regional Police in Ontario!

    This change occurred on 25 January, and as our entries expire from the caches on other domain name servers we are finding that some sites are refusing to accept mail and FTP connections from our machines.

    They are working to fix the problem, and then it will take a little time for the corrected details to propagate.

  7. What does `ubiquitous' mean?

    According to the online dictionary, ubiquitous means:

    turf vb : to cover with turf

    Another interesting dictionary entry is that for the word `occasion':

    'occasion' not found. Perhaps you meant:

    1. occasion

    Such befuddlements, especially when the reader is in the throes of the Team Software Project can lead to great agitation, and eventually, to nervous breakdowns.

  8. Why do the vuft PCs start at number 7?

    A boring answer, this. As we all know, the vuft PCs' numbers are related to their addresses. Thus PC 31 is The numbers up to 106 were used by staff machines, so student machines had to start at 107. Thus, PC 7.

    Why is the question about the number 7, number 8?

  9. Wumpus

    If you need to ask what a Wumpus is, then it is probably for the best that you remain in blissful ignorance. With the emphasis on blissful...

Original Version:

Elliott Hughes (
University of York, Heslington, York YO1 5DD

Related pages:

* The end of the vuft terminal room
* Computing Science-related history
* Computer history on campus
* The first York computer

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