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2 definitions found
 for scratch monkey
From The Jargon File (version 4.4.7, 29 Dec 2003) :

  scratch monkey
   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. 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 a DEC field circus engineer
      troubleshooting a crash on the program's VAX inadvertently interfered
      with some custom hardware that was wired to Mabel.
  
      It is reported that, after calming down an understandably irate customer
      sufficiently to ascertain the facts of the matter, a DEC troubleshooter
      called up the field circus manager responsible 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. [The actual incident
      occured in 1979 or 1980. There is a version of this story, complete with
      reported dialogue between one of the project people and DEC field service,
      that has been circulating on Internet since 1986. It is hilarious and
      mythic, but gets some facts wrong. For example, it reports the machine as a
      PDP-11 and alleges that Mabel's demise occurred when DEC PMed the
      machine. Earlier versions of this entry were based on that story; this one
      has been corrected from an interview with the hapless sysop. ?ESR]
  

From The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (30 December 2018) :

  scratch monkey
  monkey, scratch
  
      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.  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 a DEC engineer
     troubleshooting a crash on the program's VAX inadvertently
     interfered with some custom hardware that was wired to Mabel.
  
     It is reported that, after calming down an understandably
     irate customer sufficiently to ascertain the facts of the
     matter, a DEC troubleshooter called up the field circus
     manager responsible 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.
  
     ESR notes: There is a version of this story, complete with
     reported dialogue between one of the project people and DEC
     field service, that has been circulating on Internet since
     1986.  It is hilarious and mythic, but gets some facts wrong.
     For example, it reports the machine as a PDP-11 and alleges
     that Mabel's demise occurred when DEC PMed the machine.
     Earlier versions of this entry were based on that story; this
     one has been corrected from an interview with the hapless
     sysop.
  
     A corespondent adds: The details you give are somewhat
     consistent with the version I recall from the Digital "War
     Stories" notesfile, but the name "Mabel" and the swimming bit
     were not mentioned, IIRC.  Also, there's a very detailed
     http://mv.com/ipusers/arcade/monkey.htm)">account (http://mv.com/ipusers/arcade/monkey.htm) that
     claims that three monkies died in the incident, not just one.
     I believe Eric Postpischil wrote the original story at DEC, so
     his coming back with a different version leads me to wonder
     whether there ever was a real Scratch Monkey incident.
  
     [{Jargon File]
  
     (2004-08-22)
  

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