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Ask Slashdot: Where's the Most Unusual Place You've Written a Program From? 310

theodp writes: "Michael Raithel was polling the SAS crowd, but it'd be interesting to hear the answers to the programming questions he posed from a broader audience: 1. What is the most unusual location you have written a program from? 2. What is the most unusual circumstance under which you have written a program? 3. What is the most unusual computing platform that you wrote a program from? 4. What is the most unusual application program that you wrote?"
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Ask Slashdot: Where's the Most Unusual Place You've Written a Program From?

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  • Caravan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by millwall ( 622730 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:30AM (#47162737)
    As a consultant in the UK I once worked for a council, programming out of a small caravan. It was cold, wet, and to add to the eeriness one of the guys there kept a collection of jars of pickled eggs on his table.
    • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 )

      My dad and I did a lot of the design work on a BASIC interpreter for the PC while on a caravan holiday in France when I was a teenager back in the '80s.

      • Tent in Djibouti (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I got deployed to Djibouti while working on my masters degree. Can't get a masters in math without programming. Can't put any unauthorized software on government computers. VBA in excel was my programming language. It was horrible, but it made me learn.

    • Re:Caravan (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SimonInOz ( 579741 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:11AM (#47163037)

      The inside of a small yacht, crossing the Atlantic.
      I was sailing (an Iroquois 30' cat, in case anyone's interested), and found sight reduction (yes, a sextant was involved) rather tedious. So I wrote a program for my HP calculator to do the calculations.

      Those HP41C calculators were really neat.

      • I remember those. My dad used to have (I'm pretty sure he probably still has it) a 41CV. I thought thew card reader was integrated, but according to Wikipedia it seems it used one of the expansion slots.

      • by rjune ( 123157 )

        The Air Force developed celestial precomp programs for the HP 41CV. It was nice because if you were doing day celestial you didn't have to remember whether or not the declination of the sun was "contrary" or "same" and it supplied the GHA and declination. (No Air Almanac required for sun shots) You could plot out of your DR position and not have to worry about an assumed position. (This made for small, easy to calculate intercepts) It also applied the coriolis/rhumb line correction. Also, with regard

      • Submarine (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @10:58AM (#47164301) Homepage

        *shrug* I wrote several programs for my Tandy PC-2 []* inside a nuclear submarine (mumble) feet beneath your keel. I also diddled around with BASIC on the IBM-PC clone that Squadron bought and provided to the boats.

        * Obtained from my housemate in exchange for paying up his share of the rent. J. actually one of the best housemates I ever had other than his habit of occasionally blowing his paycheck on some new shiny.

      • I've done a bit of coding on a slightly larger yacht (45', in the Caribbean and crossing the Pacific) but I think the actually weirdest one was something I hacked together at around 3970m (13000') in the Khumbu (Everest region) of Nepal, specifically in the village of Khumjung []. Nepal has a weird timezone and only some of our digital cameras supported it, so some of our photos were being created with EXIF data that was off by a bit from the others. So I pulled out my seriously-underpowered-and-lightweight-f

    • Re:Caravan (Score:4, Informative)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@wo[ ] ['rld' in gap]> on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @08:29AM (#47163347) Homepage Journal

      I went on-site at the London Olympic Athlete's Village while it was being built to debug the fire alarm system. The place was a building site, people using power tools and making lots of noise/dust all over the place. There were no mains sockets so we cut the plug off the laptop power supply and twisted the bare wires into the fire alarm panel's supply. Obviously I had to wear a very uncomfortable hard hat and steel capped boots.

      There were two of us there, the other guy being the one installing the actual hardware (smoke detectors, motorized vents, extract fans etc.). We communicated by walkie-talkie. I could change something in the code an he could check that the physical device actually reacted properly.

  • My Job (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cyclomedia ( 882859 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:31AM (#47162743) Homepage Journal

    Just my job, generally. They've no idea how to run a software business, think agile means throwing a constant stream of changing requirements and bugs at you until the minute before "go live" ... then they get annoyed at YOU for not being able to put out an emergency patch release within 24 horus (took me two weeks to track down and destroy a nasty bug, but that was my bad, apparently, not management for letting a piece of shit out the door). then there's finding out that our Prototype area of the system is being released to the public in a fortnight. Via a press release that one of our team happened to notice. And then there's the fact that despite my recommendations the manager decided the best platform was Silverlight with a VB backend. Oh and instead of using the .Net EntityFramework or in fact ANY standard components we'd write our own from scratch. Then be stuck with it for 3 years.

    • Re:My Job (Score:5, Funny)

      by immaterial ( 1520413 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:48AM (#47162803)
      A 24 Horus deadline? Just six of those falcon-headed bastards strutting around all godlike and hassling me about missed TPS reports is bad enough, but 24... To be honest, at that point I might just throw myself into the Nile and let my ka move on to the realm of Osiris.
    • The unusualness of your job pales in comparison to high school.

      Imagine a building that is constructed along the lines of a prison. Students are routinely padded down, put through metal detectors, and practice going into lockdown. There is no freedom of thought or speech.

      Deviation from social norms is treated with torment by fellow inmates or punishment from the building staff. The ostensible goal of the institution, education, is secondary to social and athletic considerations.

      No one wants to be there.

  • modified (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:33AM (#47162753)

    I didn't write the program, actually a script, but I did modify it to run on a Kindle. The epaper version with a keyboard. Needed some sort of calculations done while traveling without a laptop. Some sort of one line script, but the simplest solution was to take an existing sample script and modify hard coded numbers.

    Yes, modifying a script with a web based editor on an epaper device is a bit awkward. But it got the job done.

  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:37AM (#47162763)

    That would be in the butt, Bob. []

  • by Torp ( 199297 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:38AM (#47162767)

    When I do yearly oil changes and stuff like that it ain't worth going back home in a cab, or getting someone to drive me away, so I just take my laptop, find a quiet-ish corner and make a customer happy.

    • by Torp ( 199297 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:40AM (#47162785)

      As for most unusual circumstances, about 15 years ago me and the owner (and also programmer) of the company i was working for at the time fixed in 15 minutes a bug that neither of us had been able to fix in the last 2 weeks sober. It was 3 am and we were both dead drunk as we were celebrating someone's birthday at the office :)

      • by Warhaven ( 718215 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:33AM (#47164673)

        As for most unusual circumstances, about 15 years ago me and the owner (and also programmer) of the company i was working for at the time fixed in 15 minutes a bug that neither of us had been able to fix in the last 2 weeks sober. It was 3 am and we were both dead drunk as we were celebrating someone's birthday at the office :)

        Ah, yes, the "Ballmer Peak." [] A well-documented phenomena.

    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )
      That's darn nice of you, but what do you do with the laptop?
  • On the Toilet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by necronom426 ( 755113 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:38AM (#47162771)

    I once wrote the formula for a gravity routine while on the toilet, for a tank game written in Amiga Basic. It was in my head, so I had to quickly get back the the keyboard to type it in before I forgot it :-)

  • That would be in the butt, Bob.
  • I teach 3D graphics, programming and compositing & postproduction at a university of applied sciences. Every year, our students build machines for the annual Roboexotica [] cocktail robotics festival. I usually accompany the students at the event and fix their machines on the exhibition floor - with soldering irons, lots of tape and a notebook. Since most of the student machines are created in a hurry, their Processing [] and Arduino code usually has errors. Sometimes I find myself sitting on the floor betwee

  • by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:02AM (#47162843) Homepage Journal

    Wrote and debugged a dial up message board server for the Commodore 64 while at camp for 2 weeks.

    In a paper notebook, since this was the 80's are we were 15 miles from the nearest power lines.

    When I got home, I transcribed it, and it worked perfectly. (for a single phone line dial up board for a few friends)

    • Similar story here. I wrote a game from scratch, in a dentist's office. Use lined notebook paper, spiral bound, to write out C=64 code.

      I was maybe 10 at the time, and thought that number the lines with even numbers would give me room to make changes, should I want to.

      Game worked perfectly, even line numbers, not so much,

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Writing a machine language C64 "demo" (interupt bars, scrolling text, music player, etc.) on a long stretch of chain paper, because it was impossible to insert instructions using the machine code editor from my cartridge, using the hardware specsheet for a 6500 CPU as sole reference. A few years later I discovered there were things called "assemblers", which would have let me use branch instructions without manually having to count the branch offsets. Lesson learned; writing code on paper motivates you to m

  • Wind Industry (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DeathToBill ( 601486 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:04AM (#47162849) Journal

    1. From inside the base of a wind turbine tower in rural Inner Mongolia province, China. Or, alternatively, from a caravan in the middle of a forest in Eastern Finland in the middle of winter - minus 30 C outside.

    2. While nearly frozen to death (see 1b).

    3. Wrote a program from? Or wrote a program for? The latter is probably a Danish PLC which I will not name here. It has an in-house OS with an in-house executable format which is based on ELF, loosely enough that none of the standard ELF tools work on it. A serial console is the only debugging interface available. An actual debugger is out of the question. All debugging output is truncated to 20 characters. The thing has a 100MHz CPU and all floating-point math is done in software (no FPU). Its reaction to almost any programming error is to hard reboot (and "programming error" here includes calling printf with any but the most basic formatting string). Perhaps most frustratingly, when it hard reboots it claims to write a stack trace of the faulting code; about 4 times in 5, this is truncated to some extent, often to only the first function in the stack.

    4. A Windows programme to drive EtherCAT IO modules from a standard Ethernet socket.

    Do I win?

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:06AM (#47162855) Homepage

    So I have written software sitting on a bucket in the electrical closet many times.
    One place they were grinding the cement floors, so I found the only room that was not a cement cloud, the womens bathroom.
    Behind the racks in an AV closet on the floor.
    One place had no heat at all until my software was up and running, it was winter, so I was in my car with a 200 foot cat5e ran to inside the building to a small switch, and then into their network.

    • One place had no heat at all until my software was up and running, it was winter, so I was in my car with a 200 foot cat5e ran to inside the building to a small switch, and then into their network.

      You win - that is a cool visual :). I could see Gary Larson going to town on that.

  • by Candlelight (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Demerara ( 256642 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:24AM (#47162905) Homepage

    I spent some time writing billing data analysis by candlelight. This, of itself, is not unusual in a developing country (where I lived at the time). But since the client was the electricity company and it was their data being analysed, the irony was not lost on my client who insisted that I never mention this fact to anyone... Well, that's all over now!

  • by 6Yankee ( 597075 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:25AM (#47162911)

    I wrote parts of an aviation photo database while sat under a tree by the airport fence. (Keepin' it real, yo.) Naturally, I picked days when it looked like this [], not like this [].

    OUL isn't the busiest airport in the world, so it's actually a really peaceful place most of the time, especially if you walk round to the south side. You're right on the edge of the forest, and you hear far more birdsong than jet noise.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:26AM (#47162913)
    In a very expensive 6DOF full motion flight simulator capsule with projectors whilst the motion platform was malfunctioning, all jittery. Was easier to boot up Visual Studio on the system driving the projectors used for visuals and motion then it was elsewhere, so here I was coding in a cockpit that was being thrown about waiting for me to fix it, examining debug data.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:33AM (#47162929)

    Dripping with sweat, inside a demountable building with no air con and 12 other programmers + machines (including CRT monitors, heat makers that they are) in the middle of a large black-tar carpark in the middle of an Australian summer.

    The company we worked for was trying to get us to quit, so they dumped us there.

    We quickly reasoned that if they were prepared to pay us for working in debilitating conditions, we were going to take their money and produce the small amount of work it was possible to get done under those circumstances.

    Work attire was the first thing to go, replaced by shorts and hawaiian shirts. Management dropped in and threatened to put a mark on our files - prelude to being allowed to terminate our employment - until we pointed out that it was not in their interest for us to get the work safe authority involved.

    This continued for several months while our effective output dropped to near zero, but they were still paying us.

    Management blinked first. One lunchtime we all watched while the biggest forklift I've ever seen picked up the whole demountable and carried it inside one of the warehouses on site, where it became our home for the next couple of years.

    The warehouse was used for military storage. One day I came into work and looked over at Mark.

    "Hey, Mark" I yelled out.

    "Whaddya want?" he said

    "OK, " I replied, "follow these instructions. Put your chair in front of your monitor. Look at your screen. Now, swivel 90 degrees left".

    Mark was a sport, so he did all that.... pointed straight at his head on the other side of his window was some sort of military artillery cannon. He screamed and fell off his chair. How we all laughed!

  • LP Mud (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:44AM (#47162951) Homepage

    So this is more of an "unusual way to patch a system" story...

    Back in the day, I used to code for an LP mud, and I accidentally locked myself - and everyone else who wasn't already logged in - out of the mud. The guy who could reboot the thing was often inaccessible, and there was only one person - another wizard (coder) - still logged in, coding away and oblivious to what had just transpired. I managed to get him to resolve the problem by inserting a file in his working directory called "(His name)_PLEASE_DO_NOT_LOG_OUT,_READ_THIS_IMMEDIATELY!!!.txt", which explained the problem and how to fix it. Half an hour later, he noticed the file and undid my mess ;)

    The problem was the consequence of a coding arms race (oh, coding for LP muds was so dang fun.... every instantiated class object is treated as a physical object, its functions can be bound to user commands, and you can override the default interaction functions). Wizards (coders) often made "dest" tools - tools designed to destruct player objects, aka, kick them (temporarily) off the mud and make them have to log back in. Often they were done with artistic fluorishes, such as a long leadup sequence.

    My friend at the time - oh, let's just pick a name nobody would realistically have and call him "Elim" - created this elaborate dest, wherein the target sees him pick up a flower and play "she loves me / she loves me not" with it, and when the last petal is plucked ("she loves me not"), the target would get kicked off. After he used it on me once, I wrote a counter tool which would detect when he was using his dest, and instead kick him off instead with my parody of his dest**. So he wrote an alternative dest tool, which would instantly kick me off without any leadup to detect, and do the flourishes afterward. So I wrote a tool which would be invisible and hop into his inventory and detect when he tried to use his dest tool, take precedence, and kick him off instead; plus a tool that would sit in my inventory and look for any unexpected objects and instantly destruct them. And on and on the code war went. The problem that one night, however, was when a bug led to my inventory-protector desting me and thus dropping to the floor, where it would wait to destruct any objects it could see in the same room (thinking the room was my inventory). And stupid me was coding in the login room at that time (which led to a new policy, never code in the login room! ;) )

    ** My parody of his dest involved sticking a paralyzation object into his inventory (one that would intercept and ignore all of his commands) and had a giant ogre run into the room, pick him as the flower, and play "She loves me, she loves me not" with his limbs making him randomly scream out for help.

  • Using NS Basic for Newton, a complete IDE that ran on the Newton. I wrapped the Newton in a baggie, then went to the bottom of the pool and tapped in "Hello World".
  • by Port-0 ( 301613 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:53AM (#47162967)

    Currently I'm sitting in the rift valley of Kenya, in a small rural Maasai community. We are the last house on the power line. No one south of us has any Utility power. We had a Giraffe just outside the back yard a few days back. Internet is via the cell network... there is a single spot in the yard where I've found 3g works. So I've planted a short pole, which has a power and a spot for the hotspot modem to sit. It's covered with a plastic bottle with the bottom cut out. to keep the rain and dust off.

  • Either Heathrow airport, or the middle of the Kalahari.

    It was the production system for FiOS TV's design to development pipeline.

    I told my team and bosses I was going to go into hiding for a week. I was off coding in a bar in Africa when they asked me if I wanted to go down the street for Indian food.

  • I was really bored in my college compiler design class, so I was browsing the web and came across the programming website []. While browsing, I discovered a language with the greatest name ever, Brainfuck []. After looking it up on Wikipedia and quickly reading over the code sample [] at 99 Bottles, I wrote an interpreter during class. By then end of the lecture, I had a working interpreter that ran the sample code perfectly. So in the span of ~40 minutes, I went from never knowing about this

  • Once my wife woke me at 2am to fix some code in a Perl script I had written months earlier. It took a few minutes to figure out what was wrong, but I soon realized it was a case that I realized could happen when I wrote the code, but I didn't account for. Maybe it took 10-15 minutes to fix the bug, and I went right back to bed. Good thing I wrote readable Perl code.

    The bug was in some code that removed rows and columns of no data from a table. Where there was no data, there was a period "." in the input ins

  • I wasn't writing code from scratch, I was modifying it to work in the field.

    The user display end of the system was in the hut. The sensor end was in an WWII gun pillbox that was built by the Nazis as part of the Atlantic Wall. It was an empty concrete shell with all the emplacement hardware removed. Being there was unsettling.

  • 1. What is the most unusual location you have written a program from?

    As soon as WAPs became available, I was outside by the pool on my laptop, coding from a lounge chair without cords. It was beautiful.

    2. What is the most unusual circumstance under which you have written a program?

    Way back in school, I helped someone write a program on a phone call. The compiler was on his side. I just dictated and debugged code by memory.

    3. What is the most unusual computing platform that you wrote a program from?

    From? Lin

  • Modifying something in Perl without having ever used the language. The only background I have in programming is 65xx BASIC (Apple ][e and C64) along with 65xx and 6809 assembler in the late '80s/early '90s.

  • Did some programming&debugging from inside a 3D printer: []

  • Perched on a rickety kitchen chair in front of a monitor that was sitting on top of the computer tower with the keyboard in my lap and the mouse on a card table to the side.

    We were just starting a contract and the furniture hadn't arrived yet. :)

    • by msobkow ( 48369 )

      I was lucky to have the card table -- one of the guys had a mouse pad on a couple of milk crates. :P

    • by 6Yankee ( 597075 )

      My first day here, I had a desk but no chair, and had to run power and network cables to the desk myself (as well as hunt down an extension cable when I refused to run power straight across a door at floor level). I also went monitor-shopping with the sysadmin, which involved a long cycle ride through the forest.

      Took three days to get it all set up, and another three hours to work out that I couldn't do a damn thing with five other people bouncing about in a room built for two.

  • by MTEK ( 2826397 )
    Arrived at a client site and was directed to a terminal in a server closet. As I was making changes to a script something flew past the corner of my eye. There was an active wasp nest above and behind my head. I never coded so fast in my life.
  • Balancing a Compaq luggable and an MCS-8051 full in-circuit emulator on top of a cigarette machine in the vestibule of a restaurant next to a Methadone clinic in Brooklyn, New York. I was writing answer-detection and rate tables for a pay telephone for which I developed the hardware and firmware. After getting things right, I burned an EPROM on-site and it was good to go. This was back in about 1986 or so...

  • by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:56AM (#47163207) Journal
    remoted into a server with my old blackberry bold using a SSH app that bound certain keys to the shoulder switches, volume, and custom side buttons, I had volume down bound to tab
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @08:14AM (#47163259) Homepage

    1. What is the most unusual location you have written a program from?

    while working for a major automotive manufacturer in the south, I once wrote a perl script from 40 feet off the ground in a hydraulic lift to update firmware across several switches in the plant. I was replacing a switch that had been tucked away near a sodium vapour lamp and had melted.

    2. What is the most unusual circumstance under which you have written a program?

    during a celebratory lunch for our team I acted as the on-call engineer, and ended up spending an hour writing a python script to set watchdog bmc timers on servers. I never ate, and cant even remember what speech the manager gave.

    3. What is the most unusual computing platform that you wrote a program from?

    I once wrote a program through a dmx512 board to control conference room lighting and a projector. 5 buttons, one joystick, and a week of hell. i also programmed a 4 button sequence that triggers 'disco mode'

    4. What is the most unusual application program that you wrote?"

    A major insurance company i worked for had an HR office that could never remember to shut off the coffee maker. After several fire department visits I repurposed an old PDU from the datacenter and wired the thing up so the HR department had to send an email to get the coffee maker to turn on for 5 minutes. This started out as a joke, and unfortunately received praise from the office for 'upgrading the coffee maker' :(

  • Many years ago, pre cell phones, I was paged by an FDA reviewer writing on a database system I wrote, Friday night at the drive in theatre.

    Fixing his proven required stepping through the code (Borland Paradox) over a pay phone in the concession stand, remembering exactly how the code worked, to tweak the behavior.

    Admittedly not millions of lines of code, but still a pretty nifty feat.

  • The "only" place I could fix my system control code was sitting on a chair right next to the oven's output cooling fans. Lots of snacking on nice, fresh biscuits :)

    Plenty of time spent in other snack food factories, and lots of other stories (eg. packaging machine failure left me frantically rebooting an NT4 system whilst it was raining corn chips from the overflowing scale above me).

  • the U.S. Navy, in the engineering log room with a broken AC system, in 17,000 feet of water. Long live Turbo C++!

  • A Solaris sys-admin on my team deleted '/bin/ldd' from the department server and found that he could not issue any more commands. Other processes on the server began to hang when they needed to load libraries.

    He was in panic mode and planning to take down the server to boot from the installation CD in order to fix it. That would have resulted in a few hundred people unable to work for a while. I had the idea of writing a quick program on another workstation and copying that to an NFS share that was mounted

  • I was offsite production support in 2007 but decided to go to Calistoga Springs for the day. On my way back my boss BBed there was an urgent production problem. I pulled onto some dodgy side streets, the sort of area the Hells Angels might live (~2 miles from Skyline Wilderness Park), to look for an open ethernet connection from a house w/my laptop. I connected. As I was diagnosing and writing a Perl program to remediate a data problem, a dude and his wife/girlfriend were having an out-of-control screamin
  • by Squidlips ( 1206004 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @09:08AM (#47163575)
    flying through the air while riding his motorcycle. Does that count?
  • by arizonahockey ( 3681531 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @09:15AM (#47163617)
    On Christmas Day 2008 I stepped off a plane at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. After sitting in a cube for the first five years of my career coding, I needed to "go work with some end users" and volunteered to help out the Marine Corps. I was working on the Army Battle Command software of the time, Command Post of the Future. I did not know anything about the military, the ranks, the culture, the protocols. When the first rocket attack alarm sounded (a false alarm), I hightailed it out of the combat operations center where I worked, giving all the seasoned and salty Marines a good laugh. This, and working my ass off coding for them, I guess gets you on their good side. I became part of the team and learned a ton.

    About a month before I left in April, now slightly seasoned myself and quite used to the regular rocket attacks, I was coding up a personnel tracking system in CPOF. For the first time the operations officer could, in real time, know exactly where everyone was for whom he was responsible. It was towards the evening when about 80 meters away you heard the familiar THUD! followed by the alarm 10 seconds later. Not a drill and at this point annoying. Imaging being in the zone for hours, when suddenly you need to stop and run out to a crowded concrete bunker for hours. Damn! I was just about to compile, too. Well, being the operations center, Marines can't just leave. They have to continue running the war. So some them stay with the helmet and vest in case of a direct hit in the operations center.

    Some time later I finally returned and say the assist operations officer, a very tall Marine Major (now LtCol) and one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, taking off his battle rattle. I notice a tomahawk on the back of his vest.

    "Sir, what's up with the tomahawk?".

    "This? Oh, I was platoon leader in Fallujah. Our designation was tomahawk and I was tomahawk-6." I smiled in genuine amazement which quickly turned to sadness.

    "That is so cool! All I've done so far in my life is sit in a cube coding."

    The Major stepped back and said "Wait a minute, you were just coding, weren't you?"

    "Yes. The perstat program for the OpsO."

    "Well, you were just coding under ENEMY FIRE. You are a COMBAT SOFTWARE ENGINEER!". He said with the seriousness you sometimes see in Marine Corps officers. It put the biggest smile on my face for the rest of my time there. On my last day, the team I worked with gave me a flag and plaque designating me a "Combat Software Engineer" which to this day is one of my most cherished possessions.

  • Yes, inside a military bunker. Writing a program to interconnect 4 different batteries of a antiaircraft battalion, through RL-431 antennas. Part of it was being written during an actual full-scale military exercise; re-writting parts of it as the exercise went on for 5 days.
  • Sitting on a closed toilet seat in a college bathroom where someone decided to install the Cisco router I needed to do unnatural things to with a Perl script.


  • 1. What is the most unusual location you have written a program from?
    Underneath a theatrical stage

    2. What is the most unusual circumstance under which you have written a program?
    Same place with a raccoon staring at me.
    No knife, but I think I would have been less scared if had one like the 'possums in this skit [] . At least the knife won't have rabies

    3. What is the most unusual computing platform that you wrote a program from?
    The "Whole Hog" Lighting console.

    4. What is the most unusual applicat
  • While in HS, the school's rock band, QP (Quater Pound) wanted special effects for their performances. With some of us AV geeks, we got an early data projector (LCD screen that went on a overlay projector) and me and another guy wrote a program in QBASIC to rotate and scale a pot leaf (1bpp bitmap, converted to a list a vertices - by software we also wrote) using a ASM library based on the values of the SoundBlaster 16 card. Some of the programming was done while drunk, of course.

  • first location, Sandusky, Ohio, at Cedar Point amusement park. in 1993, I was working for a company building atm-like machines to sell tickets at venues like Cedar Point. I had to do some emergency maintenance, so I was inside the machine with the monitor turned around so I could use the internal computer. In this configuration, it looked a little like a trash can, and I would routinely have stuff thrown in on me. Worst was a half-eaten ice cram cone landing in my lap.

    Second location, the Tito Barracks

  • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @09:51AM (#47163845)
    When we adopted my daughter, we were not allowed to leave the hotel grounds for 2 weeks, until some specific paperwork went through (or else it was considered felony kidnapping).

    The bank I was working for had this horrible transaction system that had a whole bunch of bugs and was written in a dead language (VB6, oh the humanity). I already had a Java stack running another newer arm of the application. When I landed, I learned that the whole time I was flying out there, I had been getting panicked emails from the higher-ups about how the whole world was finally falling down with this old VB6 horrorshow.

    I rewrote the whole thing. From top to bottom, replaced nearly a million lines of legacy code, in a 2 week feverpitch of sleepless nights and rocking a 2 day old baby in my arms while running unit tests.

    I worked with that application for 6 more years after that... and never had to change a single line of that "Adoption hostage" code. I'm actually shocked it went so well, looking back on it.
    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

      I rewrote the whole thing. From top to bottom, replaced nearly a million lines of legacy code, in a 2 week feverpitch of sleepless nights and rocking a 2 day old baby in my arms while running unit tests.

      And for this amazing feat, in addition tor fixing an emergency they caused by knowingly letting a bad buggy system slide for years, you were of course greatly rewarded. Perhaps a big raise, promotion, a big one-time award a sizable % of the money you saved them, etc..

      (Yes, I'm shooting for +5 funny on this one)

  • A couple of decades ago I was in a twin engine aircraft over the Amazon with some scientists who were collecting atmospheric data including distribution of smoke particle sizes, CO2, CO, humidity, temperature, Hg, etc. when it became apparent that some code I wrote wasn't working well with the interface on the aircraft (supposedly identical to the one in my lab). I was able to devise a fix on my (luggable) notebook, compile, link, and install it in flight and the rather bumpy mission continued. This was a

  • When I started programming in PHP 12 years ago, I was still living in Belize. Talk about a place ill-suited to programming. I hear it's better now, but a lot of places barely had electricity back then.

    In other news, I've apparently been doing PHP for 12 years. I need to reevaluate my life.
  • Caught some wi-fi and fixed a production problem while sitting in the middle of the desert at 3 AM, while wearing a kilt and not much else.
  • One day, I decided to go program in the great outdoors so I drove up to the cliffs of Palos Verdes, CA overlooking the ocean. That day I was working on a tool for simulating flocking behavior. As I was testing it out, bees decided to swarm. :-O It was a Matrix-like moment several years before The Matrix came out.

  • The client had a separate network off the Internet hence physical presence was required to access the contents needed to build/deploy that particular internal site. Machines were loud, even behind the closed door. Naturally the place was completely filled with coffee beans of all kinds in all stages of processing, and just after an afternoon there both my boss and I smelled like coffee - the scent was transferred to his car so it still smelled like coffee the next day I stepped into that car.

    What's more un

  • Doesn't these polls usually go:
    "Where's the Most Unusual Place You've had sex?"

    /. indeed...

  • I win.

  • I was out hiking and I couldn't get couldn't get a coding problem that I was having out of my head. When the solution finally came to me I was in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a patch of sand and a stick. I wrote out my code as clearly as possible and took a picture with my camera...this was pre-cell phone days, so I had to wait for the film to get developed before I could see my code.

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      That's pretty funny. I will admit to having left myself voice mail messages so that I wouldn't forget ideas I came up with on a hike. Not sure what I would have done without phone signal.

  • On a Bendix axle plant production line. On an Altair. Hardness tester. Test hardness. Spray red or green paint.

    Project got dropped in my lap, no software had been written. Ship date had arrived. Boss told a white lie and sent me and a technician to "install the equipment, and make some final adjustments".

    The "final adjustments" were writing the software.

    Oh. He told one more white lie. As far as the plant personnel were concerned, we were three days late. We didn't know we were three days late. They started

  • At Microsoft Redwest, vendors don't have office space. I saw many people working on the floor in halls. Others in the lunch room. You were expected to work from home. Some like me were good enough that they would make office space. Sometimes vendors would gather on the floor in their lead's office.

  • On a long drive from LA to Portland I was the driver and I was bored, so I wrote a simple moon lander game (modeled from one I'd seen written in BASIC) for my new HP-25 programmable calculator by dictating instructions to the guy riding in the shotgun seat. The display showed your altitude on one side of the decimal place, velocity on the other side (and with the +/- sign) and remaining fuel in the exponent. After each iteration you entered how much fuel to burn on the next step and pushed R/S (Run/St

  • Actually, I just fixed a bug in the invoice printing routine.

    I'm usually around the place for bigger events for general troubleshooting, which does include fixing bugs. In this particular case, I was subbing in for the real cash register personnel to give them a little break when I noticed a printing error on an invoice I just printed for a customer who wanted to pay his stuff.

    I asked him whether he had 2 minutes? I'll fix that." He goes, he doesn't actually mind the error, but he'll wait two minutes.

    So I d

  • There was a robotics competition I participated in the middle of the sand dunes outside of Alamosa, Colorado. We had pretty decent code running, but then the hardware guy decided to swap in some new, higher voltage batteries the night before. The motor controller got fried (should've seen it coming), but thankfully, we cobbled together enough parts to get a basic bot together in about 45 minutes the next morning, all while squatting in the middle of the desert. Learned a lot on that trip - including discove
  • 3. What is the most unusual computing platform that you wrote a program from?

    In order to write a BASIC interpreter, we needed an assembler. So my dad wrote one in GW-BASIC. Once our interpreter was sophisticated and stable enough, we rewrote the assembler in our own language (based on Acorn BBC Basic). Eventually we splashed out on a copy of MASM once we had a computer that was PC-compatible enough to run it (the Sanyo MBC 550 wasn't quite up to it, IIRC).

  • by bhlowe ( 1803290 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @12:54PM (#47165387)
    I'd love to hear some stories of coding triumphs... Stories where a bug fix, patch, or hack saves the day or gets it done right..
    Does anyone have any fond memories they'd like to share?
  • by rlh100 ( 695725 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @02:15PM (#47166157) Homepage

    At San Jose Family Camp in the middle of the Tuolumne River writing a Perl/CGI script to generate files.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann