n. As in "Before testing or reconfiguring, always
mount a scratch monkey
", a proverb used to advise caution
when dealing with irreplaceable data or devices. Used to refer to
any scratch volume hooked to a computer during any risky operation
as a replacement for some precious resource or data that might
otherwise get trashed.
This term preserves the memory of Mabel, the Swimming Wonder
Monkey, star of a biological research program at the University of
Toronto ca. 1986. Mabel was not (so the legend goes) your ordinary
monkey; the university had spent years teaching her how to swim,
breathing through a regulator, in order to study the effects of
different gas mixtures on her physiology. Mabel suffered an
untimely demise one day when DEC PM
ed the PDP-11 controlling
her regulator (see also provocative maintenance
It is recorded that, after calming down an understandably irate
customer sufficiently to ascertain the facts of the matter, a DEC
troubleshooter called up the field circus
and asked him sweetly, "Can you swim?"
Not all the consequences to humans were so amusing; the sysop of
the machine in question was nearly thrown in jail at the behest of
certain clueless droids at the local `humane' society. The moral
is clear When in doubt, always mount a scratch monkey.