May 2007


I am The Cyberwolfe and these are my ramblings. All original content is protected under a Creative Commons license - always ask first.
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The (brief) history of the Molly Guard

Way back in the 80’s, IBM manufactured a large mainframe system called the 4341. This system, like many today, included an emergency power-off switch, which could be used to immediately stop power should the sprinklers go off (or some other power problem), saving the unit from destruction. This switch was quite large, very red, and a little too accessible – as proved by a programmer’s daughter (named Molly) who managed to hit the switch twice – in the same day.

A Molly Guard is now considered to be anything that covers up a Big Red Switch to prevent mishaps, but is most commonly a plexiglass cover that can be flipped up. These devices have been installed all over the world – usually after someone trips the BRS accidentally.

Such is the case with one of my former employers.

I had just transferred to a new department – we were connecting slot machines from all over the country into one central jackpot. While I was in the installation department, actually getting the games online, we worked very closely with the guys in the data center and were fairly regularly in and out of it’s lovely air-conditioned depths. (Hey, it was ‘Vegas in the summer, and sometimes the building AC got a little overloaded.)

The Big Red Switch was not right out in the open, but it wasn’t exactly hard to get to, either. Nor was it covered with a Molly Guard.

One day I was out in the field testing my latest batch of installed machines with one of the DC guys on the phone when I hear a sudden silence and then “oh shit.” Then, quite distinctly, I hear my supervisor Al say “uhm…ooops?” as every machine in three banks of games starts flashing “no link”.

Turns out Al had been in there just to BS and soak up some AC, when he got bored and started looking around, and there’s this Big Red button, just asking to be pressed… so he pressed it. (None of us were surprised that Al was the one to trip it, it was completely in character.)

We had maintenance in there inside of 20 minutes with a new plexi shield.

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