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@DDD6 Making the NOVA Program by Cliff Stoll GDDY
: Service Outage in N. Illinois :
Making the Nova program
The first that I heard of Nova was May, 1989. The director,
Robin Bates, asked if I might be interested in working with him
on making a Nova program. I discouraged him: I was busy in
astronomy and was also finishing writing a book.
He again contacted me in September 1989 ... I agreed to work
with him. There were several other productions being made
around that time including Connie Chung/CBS and Yorkshire Television from
Nova's intent was not to discuss the ethics of computing.
Rather, the show was "a documentary based on a story by Cliff Stoll".
It was not a docudrama version of my book, The Cuckoo's Egg.
It was written by Robin Bates and although I had some opportunity
to review/revise the script, the final show was the responsibility
of WGBH TV.
I volunteered to play myself in the show, as did everyone else,
with the exception of the 4 cia spooks (they were played by some
football coaches). It was filmed on location - at my old office
in Berkeley, at my house in Oakland, and in Hannover, Germany.
A few hours after I testified in Hess's espionage trial, they filmed
the Hannover scenes. This was Jan - Feb, 1990.
I ad-libbed my parts. Typically, the script would say one thing,
but it didn't feel natural, was factually wrong, or made a stupid point.
So I'd invent as I went along, without prompts.
Sometimes, this led to tension with the director: typically, he
wanted me to stay in one place and not move around so much.
("Sit still! Don't move your hands! Don't twist your head!")
Other times, he wanted unimportant things (like the shower scene
or the cia spook scene) which, to me, conveyed little information.
The entire production was shot on 16mm film,
which meant that for most scenes, we did exactly one take.
With video work, you can do 5 or 10 retakes of each scene.
Film's more expensive: I didn't have that liberty.
The part I'm most sensitive about is the last scene in the film.
They took me to the forest where hacker Hagbard was found dead.
I was moved by the solemnity of this place and event. The director
suggested that I be more lighthearted, but I couldn't.
On the whole, it was fun. All the same, being momentarily famous
is much less enjoyable than you might imagine. Indeed, if I had it
to do over again, I'd certainly do things very differently.
>From Berkeley, my cheers & greetings to all!
Cliff Stoll email@example.com
Massive Service Outage In Northern Illinois (Oct 17, 1990)
Michael Glodek must feel like a million dollars today. He's the
landscaper who was building a new lawn for a home at 3521 Madison
Avenue in Oak Brook, IL on Monday morning when his digging machine
uprooted what Illinois Bell termed a 'very major, very important' part
of their interoffice network covering northern Illinois.
Glodek said, "I didn't do a JULIE because no one said there were any
lines in the immediate vicinity." JULIE is the organization which
keeps track of underground telephone and electric cables, plus water
and gas pipelines in northern Illinois. A spokesperson for Illinois
Bell retorted that "Every contractor is to do a JULIE before they
start work, and he knew it as well as anyone..."
Glodek said his machine 'snagged something down there', but he thought
it must have been part of an old septic tank system which was common
in that area many years ago ... so he decided to 'dig right in and
root it out ...' and in the process he literally severed several
thousand conversations then in progress on the fiber optic cable.
Folks at IBT found out about it instantly, of course, but finding out
*where* the problem was located was another matter. Some frantic
employees of Illinois Bell set out in various directions looking for
trouble. But as in May, 1988 after the Great Fire, their cellular
phones were dead also, since the cable which had been cut served both
Cellular One and Ameritech here. Using two-way radios, the employees
began coordinating their search. Once the cut was located, two-way
radios were used to bring many employees to the location in minutes.
From about 9:30 AM Monday, when the cable was cut until more than
twelve hours later, at 10:04 PM, Bell employees worked feverishly to
restore service in what was described as the 'worst telephone outage
in the area since May, 1988'. It took only about fifteen minutes to
locate the cut and Mr. Glodek, who was still standing there wondering
what to do next ...
In terms of severity, the disruption in service knocked out all
interoffice traffic between central offices in the 708 area code. Some
re-routing of calls was possible, but like Hinsdale in May, 1988, the
cut cable was so important and so strategic that very little could be
done for the several hundred thousand subscribers in northern Illinois
who were unable to place calls outside their local exchange all day.
If you have a detailed map of northern Illinois, you will note the
area involved: From Elk Grove on the north to Hinsdale on the south;
from Oak Park on the east to St. Charles on the west ... all
interoffice service was out, and much local service around Oak Brook
was out. All cellular service throughout 312/708 was out, since both
Cellular One and Ameritech have their offices in Schaumburg, right in
the affected zone. Naturally many paging devices were out, since these
are also operated by companies in the western suburbs.
Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood lost all phone service
for ten hours, until 8 PM Monday night. Illinois Bell was able to
provide the hospital with a limited amount of cellular service and
two-way radio service late in the morning.
911 service was out everywhere for several hours. Police officers
cruised the streets and used their radios to relay reports from
Ohare Airport operated at one-third its normal schedule, since the
control tower was totally cut off from the FAA Chicago Air Route
Traffic Control Center in Aurora, IL.
FAX machines and computers throughout the area were out of service,
and several companies simply let their employees go home for the day.
The abruptness of the cut, forcing thousands of calls off line all at
the same time caused some major confusion for several minutes as
Illinois Bell operators became deluged with requests to 'assist in
dialing' numbers which not only did not answer, but simply returned
dead silence to the caller. Once network re-routing got under way,
limited as it was minutes after the problem was isolated, the burden
on the operators became somewhat less, but Chicago (312) callers, who
were never without operator service (lots of 708 people go over the
cut cable to reach an operator) still bombarded the operators for
several hours with requests for assistance in calling the suburbs.
No one in 312 or 708 could reach the cellular companies to find out
why their cell phones were dead ... much of the affected (708) area
could not even reach the operator, repair service, directory or the
Guardian Of Time
Ignorance, Theres No Excuse.
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