Tracy Fabre posted an amusing story from her college days (But Did He Listen?) and she inspired me to write about something that happened at the university where I work.
This was a number of years ago when computer viruses were starting to be a problem but our current automatic protection programs (i.e. idiot proof) hadn't been invented yet. At that time, most of the viruses spread via diskette that people inserted into A:\ drives. (Remember A:\ drives? Most computers don't even have diskette readers anymore!)
Near my office is a computer lab where faculty, staff and grad students can go to do work, read email, etc. I used to use those computers regularly to print things, since my office computer was not directly hooked up to the fancy high-volume printer in the lab. One day, I went in to use one of the computers and discovered evidence of a virus. I don't recall exactly what that evidence was, but I ran the little virus program that lived on the computer and it did, indeed, have a "boot sector" virus which the little program didn't know how to remove.
I took a full 8-1/2x11" sheet of paper, wrote in big letters "DO NOT USE -- THIS COMPUTER HAS A VIRUS!", stuck it to the monitor and went back to my office. I called computing to let them know and they said they'd have someone deal with it.
Later that day, when I went past the computer room again, I noticed the note had been removed. I figured they'd fixed the problem, but then I noticed my note sitting on the table next to the computer. Being the suspicious and way-too-curious-for-her-own-good person that I am (see previous post wherein I admit to being an ambulance chaser), I sat down and checked the computer. Uh-oh. No, the virus had not been removed. Sheesh. I put the sign back up and walked out, shaking my head.
A few days later, I was chatting with someone from the computing group and they complained about how they'd had to work all night several nights in a row, fixing the computers in the huge student computer lab.
Apparently one of the professors needed to hand out diskettes to his class of 175 students. (My friend wouldn't tell me who the idiot was, which was probably better for my continued employment.) This professor chose to do this task on that very same infected computer. The one with the big sign covering the entire monitor. I don't know why he chose that particular computer. Maybe he was attracted by the big letters. I also don't know why he didn't use his own machine, but my guess would be that it wasn't working so well. Duh.
This professor -- who makes easily 10 times my salary -- ripped off the virus warning sign, sat down and made 25 diskettes, which he then gave to his students. The students took the diskettes to the big computer lab, and the virus merrily infected those computers. Then the students made copies of the diskette for the rest of their work group who then took them home and to other computer labs, and ... well, you get the idea.
I was amazed and infuriated that a lowly secretary (me) would have more sense than a professor who (presumably) was way smarter. I mean, this is a major international university! We're known for our computer skills! I mean, REALLY! It's just not right that I should be making so little when idiots like this run around making so very much more. Twit!
It took months to clean up the mess, since any diskette subsequently inserted into the lab computer became infected, too. Home computers, other computer labs across campus, laptops ... all infected. Luckily, this was before viruses knew how to spread over network connections, but the damage was widespread and expensive.
All because of this one professor and his pig-headed stupidity. Sheesh.