Search in: Word
Vietnamese keyboard: Off
Virtual keyboard: Show
Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
scratch monkey
Jump to user comments
As in "Before testing or reconfiguring, always mount a
scratch monkey", a proverb used to advise caution when
dealing with irreplaceable data or devices. Used to refer to
any scratch volume hooked to a computer during any risky
operation as a replacement for some precious resource or data
that might otherwise get trashed.
This term preserves the memory of Mabel, the Swimming Wonder
Monkey, star of a biological research program at the
University of Toronto. Mabel was not (so the legend goes)
your ordinary monkey; the university had spent years teaching
her how to swim, breathing through a regulator, in order to
study the effects of different gas mixtures on her physiology.
Mabel suffered an untimely demise one day when a DEC engineer
troubleshooting a crash on the program's VAX inadvertently
interfered with some custom hardware that was wired to Mabel.
It is reported that, after calming down an understandably
irate customer sufficiently to ascertain the facts of the
matter, a DEC troubleshooter called up the field circus
manager responsible and asked him sweetly, "Can you swim?"
Not all the consequences to humans were so amusing; the sysop
of the machine in question was nearly thrown in jail at the
behest of certain clueless droids at the local "humane"
society. The moral is clear: When in doubt, always mount a
scratch monkey.
[There is a version of this story, complete with reported
dialogue between one of the project people and DEC field
service, that has been circulating on Internet since 1986. It
is hilarious and mythic, but gets some facts wrong. For
example, it reports the machine as a PDP-11 and alleges that
Mabel's demise occurred when DEC PMed the machine. Earlier
versions of this entry were based on that story; this one has
been corrected from an interview with the hapless sysop. -