When in doubt, consult the online Magic 8 Ball


On our team's web site, buried among the other debugging documents, was a page titled simply "Magic 8 Ball"®¹. If you visited it, you got a dark blue circle with a lighter-blue triangle, on which appeared white text with a randomly-chosen message. The messages were things like

  • Memory corruption.
  • Try a newer build.
  • Known bug.
  • Can't connect.
  • Hardware failure.
  • Looks like a X bug. (Where "X" was a random component.)

It was fun to give the 8-ball a shake, but the real purpose of the 8-ball was to be a link sent out in response to failure reports.

You see, there was a secret URL for each of the 8-ball's responses, so you could respond to a failure report with something like

The Magic 8 ball says... http://internalserver/magic8.asp?TWVGS

and when the person clicked on the link, they got an 8-ball that said "Known bug" or "Memory corruption".

Some teams liked the 8-Ball's responses so much, they asked us to add new custom messages to the repertoire.

Anyway, I was reminded of this by the story of Radio8Ball.

¹Magic 8-Ball is a registered trademark of Tyco Toys, Inc. When the Tyco scandal hit the airwaves, I always did a double-take before realizing that it was a different company.

  • Tyco International = scandal-plagued multinational conglomerate, cursed by shareholders.
  • Tyco Toys = a division of Mattel, maker of the Magic 8 Ball, beloved by soothsayers.
Comments (13)
  1. Tom says:

    I know it’s off topic, but I wanted you to know that people still read this, even on holiday. :)

  2. Darryl says:

    What holiday?  

  3. Tarmin says:

    Don’t forget Tom: not all of Raymond’s subscribers are American…

  4. e.thermal says:

    you mean there other countries have electricity too? just kidding.

  5. Szajd says:

    The Old New Thing is syndicated in newspapers here, still no electricity. :(

  6. Szajd's stand-in says:

    Szajd is telling the truth.  They have no electricity.  On our side of the river though we have electricity.  Szajd reads Old New Thing in newspaper, forwards a reply via smoke signals and I post it for him. Hard to read his messages on windy days like today.  :(

  7. Szajd's stand-in's stand-in says:

    Szajd’s stand-in shares only part of the truth.  He has electricity but no Internet – only telegraph.  He read Szajd’s message, walks to telegraph office, sends to me on modern side of country.  I do have Internet.  It visit me daily in how you say donkey cart.  I post message for Szajd’s, Szajd’s stand-in, and myself.

    We all very thanksgiving for your column Raymond.  Most of all Szajd.  When electricity finally make it to his village in 2015 he plan to be Windows 98 Programming Guru.

  8. Miral says:

    That’s amusing.  I’ve often used this form of reply for bugs I’ve looked at (usually when I’ve only had a quick glance at the code or even am just recalling the code from memory, but sometimes after a more in-depth investigation too).

    I’ve never had a website to back up my responses, though.  Maybe I should make one :)

  9. Peter says:

    Reminds me of this:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20001205142700/http://8ball.federated.com/

    Raymond’s one is pretty cool, but there’s something cool about knowing it’s a real thing you’re looking at :-)

  10. Sarah says:

    I’ve unpacked the excellent "Yoda 8-ball" here in the UK.  Good memories of employing his wisdom in the office.

    Try not, do.

  11. Scott says:

    Didn’t know it wasn’t the toy Tyco in the scandal until just now.

  12. GreaseMonkey says:

    It reminds me of BOFH (b****rd operator from hell).

Comments are closed.