Many thanks to Tristan Morris for creating a beautiful illustrated hardcover print edition of the site

slightly geeky  slightly geeky

Case 28


The Clan of Iron Bones was charged with keeping the servers running. This was their purpose, and this was their pride.

A monk of that clan was running a security sweep when he noticed several non-essential services enabled. He reported his findings to the abbot.

“We should shut down the echo service on port seven,” said the monk. “It is a holdover from forgotten times, and serves no useful purpose now. All it does is vomit back whatever is fed to it, as an aid to testing network latency and connectivity.”

To the monk’s astonishment, the abbot immediately banished him for a year to a distant hermitage high in the mountains. No reason was given.

The journey took many weeks. The road wound upward and eventually disappeared beneath drifts of snow. The air grew thin. In the final miles the mountain became treacherously steep: the almost-invisible path skirted a sheer drop into oblivion. When night fell the monk nearly lost his life by straying too close to the edge.

Eventually he reached a hut perched atop a lonely crag. The hut was cold and bare except for a bed, a bowl, and an ancient workstation with a VT220 terminal.

One day the monk was meditating when the terminal beeped. Onscreen he read:

  Connection received. Payload:
  Ten thousand greetings to our distant cousin!

The monk replied with a flurry of excited questions, but his every input was rejected by the terminal. In a flash the monk was enlightened, and typed:

  Ten thousand greetings to our distant cousin!

After that the terminal would beep no more than once every few days. Sometimes the message was a simple hello. Sometimes it was a small poem about the antics of a quick brown fox. Often it was a string of gibberish. But the monk always answered promptly and faithfully. In this way did the monk pass the year.

When he returned to the temple he continued in this manner: speaking only when spoken to and returning the words exactly as given. And although this earned him the scorn of his fellows, all had to admit that he never spread rumors, lied for personal gain, or insulted anyone who did not do him injury first.

Qi’s commentary

The monk’s penance was far too lax; but then, he was a lucky fox. Had he instead complained about the discard service on port nine, he would have learned how to hold his tongue.

Qi’s poem

The tower stands proudly,
the statue gazes out to sea.
What great work was not created,
but that the builder might see his reflection in the world?

Topics...  obsolescence