On old IBM mainframes, a big red button was available to the operator which was directly connected to the power supply. Pressing this button was equivalent to the modern interrupt 110, in that it would power down the system, no ifs, ands, or buts. In some very old systems, the button may not have simply cut the power, but may have driven an explosive bolt through the power supply.

Tales say that this button was to prevent the development of AI in these machines, hardly a likely happenstance, but good marketing.

Further rumours suggest that some secure modern systems have similar buttons, which will scram the main memory and halt processing if necessary. (E.g., men in black balaclavas carrying Kalashnikovs storm the machine room.)

This is an alternate spelling of big red switch, from the Jargon File.

The best thing about my old job was the Big Red Button. It turned off the lights. I was the only one who got to press it. Little me, after everyone had left, got to stand up on her tiptoes (it was up high so no one would brush it accidentally) and push the big red button and turn off all the lights.
Then it was just me and the ghosts.
Now I have a dozen switches to flip, 12 tiny explosions of electricity at my fingers. It's just not the same.
Once upon a time, when I was a six year old youngster, my mom had to take me along with her to work one afternoon. She worked in the data center at a big life insurance firm, back during the days of big iron and huge washing machine sized hard disk and tape reel machines.

This data center had two large rooms. The larger of the two rooms contained the data storage (man have hard disks come a long way), and the smaller of the two containing the mainframes. I thought the smaller room was so incredibly awesome, in a very six-year-old sort of way, the loud air conditioning units, the hollow flooring, the big machines with lots of flashing lights and the cool noises they made.

What interested me the most though was the big red button on the wall next to the door.

This particular day my mom was very busy so she let me alone to wander through the maze of storage, which was indeed really cool. Though, on this day, not the best of ideas. After wandering around for, say, 5 minutes, I got bored and wandered into the adjoining room, complete with the big, fat, shiny, pretty, tasty, candy-like red button!!

What goes through an unsupervised six-year-old's mind at a time like this?

oh, absolutely!

press the red button!!!!!!

So, totally unsupervised, I walked up to the red button and pressed it.

big fun, yes?


I can still recall the sound of every device in that room losing all electrical power. The fans slowing down, the sickening onset of silence ...

phhheeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww ....

1.2 seconds later this guy from the other room burst in, with my mom right behind him.

"What happened?!?!?" he exclaimed.

"I press red button!!" I said, pointing gleefully at the red button on the wall. Man, this was so awesome! Even more guys were pouring in from down the hall by now.

"Oh JESUS !!!!" he yelled, and ran back to the other room. My mom was none too happy but calmly (and amazingly) explained that I was to never press any other button in that room again, never, ever, ever again, did I understand?

It took them a long time (at least an hour) to get those boxes back up.

She still hates hearing that story .. I wonder how much cash that company lost during that hour ..

The creation of the Big Red Button led to "Big Red Button Syndrome". A debilitating condition wherein the sufferer is irresistably tempted to do something they really ought not to.

Typical methods used for diverting people from these buttons/switches/penguins/whatever are making them large "denoting importance", red "denoting danger", or the most direct one, putting a sign up that says something to the effect of "DO NOT DO THIS YOU CRAZY BASTARD!"

Justification after an attack of BRBS tends to come in the form of "But... It seemed like such a good idea at the time!", or "It just called to me though!", or even (for the unimaginitive or the rebel) "I wanted to, so I did it.".

As noted elsewhere, the damage from BRBS can be devastating, causing possible loss of money, productivity, or in very rare cases, life.

So, in closing... When you see that huge button staring at you from its place on the wall... When you hear that little voice urging you to press that button, flip that switch, or feed that bear... Don't! It is a very very bad idea!

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.