Bastard Operator From Hell (often abbreviated to BOFH) is a long running series of short stories by New Zealand writer Simon Travaglia. First published in 1992, it is about a Magnificent Bastard system administrator (who is also Travaglia's Author Avatar, given that the character's name is Simon the very few times any first name is used at all) that abuses his position to both inflict misery upon those around him and to advance his goals of getting more money, more alcohol, and less actual work. He accomplishes this through the use of a great many plans abusing his skill with electronics to great effect.The first wave of stories took place with the title character as an administrator for an unnamed college campus. They were almost always revenge stories against clueless computer users that would either bug him about completely obvious computer problems or make demands for more disk quota, often with them acting hostile to him as they demand he fix their problems. He never does, though, usually getting them to do incredibly stupid things to their computers or just twisting their words around as he complicates their life. After a period of time, the setting was changed to a London corporation, the character was expanded to being a selfish asshole who manipulates those around him for self-profit, and he was given a sidekick with the "Pimply Faced Youth" (PFY).Despite the fact that the title character really lives up to the name, he has become a bit of an icon of the computer networking subculture as the perpetrator of things that many an administrator only wishes he or she could get away with. Much of the appeal can probably be attributed to the fact that while most people in these positions have to smile and nod while the user yells at them over inconsequential things, this character instead gets revenge. He almost always wins through just sheer wit and skill, getting away with murder (often literally) as he manipulates events to progress his goals.You can read all of Travaglia's work here and hereThis series provides examples of:
Almighty Janitor: The Bastard, though he's just a sysadmin, is without any doubt the most powerful man in the corporation. The stories also occasionally feature George the cleaner, who has access to a lot of interesting information.
Anti-Role Model: Subverted with the BOFH, who shows all the traits of a very bad employee... and gets away with them.
Backwards-Firing Gun: In one episode we find out that the cattle prods have two settings. "Stir Fry" operates normally, while "Stun" causes the high voltage to fry the person brandishing the device. This is then used by the Bastard when he suggests the Boss use the cattle prod to stun the PFY.
Bastard Understudy: The PFY often has plans that involve manipulating the BOFH. They sometimes actually succeed, too.
Big Damn Game: The Commodore 64 game (yes, you heard right) sees the BOFH fighting off crazy activists who have evacuated the building and taken all the computers hostage. He's not aiming to save the day, mind you, but simply to regain his beloved control and power.
Blackmail: A favourite tool of both the BOFH and the PFY.
Butt Monkey: The accounting department, a.k.a. "beancounters," take even worse and more frequent abuse than the rest of Simon's victims coworkers.
Catch Phrase: If the BOFH or PFY utters the words "There has been a terrible accident!", it means that it's time to ring the employment agency and ask for another candidate to fill the job vacancy that just opened up.
Crapsack World: The bastard gets away with almost every last thing he does. The only times he doesn't is when another bastard is involved, but it certainly won't lead to any justice (directly or indirectly).
And, as noted below, it's implied that everyone else in the world is as much of a bastard as the Bastard himself. He's just a lot better at it.
Evil Versus Evil: Depends on how you define "evil". Most of the people that the BOFH antagonizes aren't very nice people. After all, the vast majority of his blackmail schemes wouldn't work if the targets didn't have some fairly substantial skeletons in their closets.
His conflicts with vendors in particular. The BOFH is frequently using his cunning and unscrupulous actions to counteract various vendors' cunning and unscrupulous manipulation of others in the company (usually his bosses).
Part of the joke is that most of the people the BOFH deals with are only marginally better than him. The helpdesk is utterly incompetent, the beancounters are out to screw everyone out of their budget, the Security people are stupid and greedy, all of upper management are Pointy Haired Bosses or Corrupt Corporate Executives or a combination of the two, and vendors and head-hunters are out to screw everyone only to increase their bonus. Demonstrated best when one nosy boss got killed not by the BOFH or PFY, but the CEO and Security because he was nosing into dodgy tax situations and conflicts of interest.
Exact Words: If you ask the BOFH for more disk space, he'll give it to you. By deleting all your files.
And don't tell the PFY to "fire her up" when you want him to start a computer; you'll be calling the emergency line soon after.
Heads Tails Edge: In this story, Simon tries to decide between "making the most of it" and "exacting petty revenge" with a coin toss. He flips it.
BOFH: Heads. Revenge it is, then.
A freak earthquake shocks the coin to 'Tails'.
BOFH: Revenge it is then. Edge was so close, too.
High Turnover Rate: The Bastard's various bosses, to the point that the employment agencies start sending their absolute crap there in hopes that he'll get rid of them, which he usually does. Accountants and auditors also have a tendency to "disappear" or suffer "accidents".
Hyper Awareness: The BOFH doesn't seem to miss a single detail anywhere except when the plot requires it.
Magical Computer: Mostly averted due to the fact that Travaglia is a computer professional himself, but there are still some rare moments where it comes up in order to facilitate the plot.
Millennium Bug: After finally getting fired in early 2000 for faking his death, the BOFH revealed that he'd left the company a little gift in the form of total Y2Kun-compliance (with near-viral microcode designed to completely annihilate the network on Leap Day, February 29th).
Nepotism: Subverted. When he was first introduced, the PFY was the nephew of the CEO, which (because he usually doesn't completely screw over the CEO) was the reason the Bastard didn't get rid of him. The PFY hasn't made use of it for any other reason. By the time the blood relationship was no longer relevant, such as the post-2000 stories at a different company, the work relationship between the two of them was solid enough the Bastard probably couldn't get rid of the PFY if he tried.
No Name Given / Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The BOFH's name is Simon, which does get the occasional mention. Less used is the PFY's real name, Steven. The Bastard also doesn't bother referring to his boss by any real name due to the position's high turnover rate.
The Password Is Always Swordfish: While no swordfish variants have popped up yet, the series often mocks how the average user doesn't know how to come up with a secure password to save their life... Sometimes literally.
A particular example stands out: via manipulation of C Vs, Terrible Interviewees Montage and good old blackmail, the BOFH manages to hire as his new boss a person who doesn't exist. The boss is not visible the first day (visiting clients) or the second (sick leave, and somehow a computer program manages to sound like a sick man high on cough syrup), though he still manages to authorize an extensive series of purchases and business trips. When the head of IT storms in demanding an explanation, they reveal that sadly, Roger has been run over by a delivery van that very day.
Boss: These network computers are great! Sonya's just been proselytising us. BOFH: Really? I can't say I approve, but hey, what's good for Amsterdam is good for London! Boss: No. I mean she's converted us. BOFH: So you're all prostitutes? Wouldn't quit the day job if I were you! Boss: I'm talking about network computers! BOFH: Of course! And the prostitution? Boss: There's no bloody prostitution!! PFY: Of course there isn't! Walls have ears and all that.
Technobabble: The BOFH can masterfully combine technical terms into something that sounds impressive to the boss but which an informed reader will easily spot as being complete nonsense.
Also, this is used by BOFH to switch whoever is calling him into "Dummy Mode." That means overloading a luser's brain with so many technical terms that it turns off and has the luser do anything the BOFH tells him to do (such as inserting metal objects into mains electrical sockets, sending incriminating email or starting fires).
Bonus points for this being a human-based version of the classic "buffer overflow" hacking technique that many attacks make use of, overflowing the computer with information so that your commands get accepted.
Technology Marches On: Reading the entire archive from start to finish provides a neat cross-section of just how far computer technology has come. In one early story, stealing 32MB of RAM from the helpdesk PCs was a significant victory. A later chapter quotes that exact amount as a ludicrously weak machine being palmed off to some sucker.
Ultimate Job Security: In the real world, just the simple fact that the accusations against him would take up a file cabinet would get him fired in no time at all. Might just be that he has more blackmail material than they have proof.
Or the termination clause in the contract is suitably crucifying. The BOFH is a techno-wizard, but that's nothing on his manipulation of contract and employment law.
That's an understatement. The contract he and the PFY have includes all sorts of weird clauses, only one or two of which have actually been used in a story. One example involves the sighting of a UFO from the workplace.
That clause has been used. After all, if you're not sure if it's a 747-200C or a 747-200F, it's technically unidentified, right?
Another useful clause gives him the right to call his coworkers "knobface".
Crucifying is putting it mildly; there are no reasonable grounds to terminate the B Of H or the PFY whatsoever, not even engaging in behavior that could result in arrest and prosecution, and the company has no legal grounds on which to sue them, not even for outright sabotaging the IT systems altogether. The kicker is that the company has to give two years notice if they decide to terminate their contracts, and pay out the difference if they decide to fire them on-the-spot. And the only concession given for this legal carte blanche is that the B Of H and the PFY have to give two years' notice (or else pay two years' worth of their own salary to the company) if they decide to leave.
Explicitly stated in one of the more recent stories: work obscurity = work security. The less they know what you're actually doing, the less courage they'll have to fire you.
When he was at the University, the boss who wanted to fire him ended up resigning. When he got a job in industry, the PFY's uncle was the CEO. Since then, no-one has managed to avoid being fired, arrested, hospitalised, or killed for long enough to fire him.
A file cabinet full of a flammable material (paper) thatís probably mislabeled something so boring nobody would ever want to look at it even if they knew it existed, which his bosses & the Head of IT certainly donít & wonít. The only ones with a chance to fire him would be the Board. Heís certainly had some run-ins with the CEO, but yes he does probably have enough blackmail material given the CEO certainly isnít interested in any pop quizzes from Inland Revenue, so theyíve probably reached an accord. Simon doesnít completely ruin the companynote he's actually defended it a few times, both from a hostile takeover and from general bad IT purchasing decisions by the various Bosses & the Board will turn a blind eye to his wacky shenanigans downstairs.
The Watson: The PFY often plays this role so the BOFH can explain to the audience him the details of the latest plan.
One of the later Bosses of the pre-2000 episodes, who seemed slightly competent after he and the BOFH had a brief position exchange, had filled the role a few times. Other Bosses, generally the more competent ones, also served this role well.
The last episode of 1999 found here is written from the PFY's perspective as though he were Watson to the BOFH's Holmes, detailing the struggle against Arty Murray. There are plenty of Holmes references including the BOFH apparently dying in the 'Right-Out-Back faller' only to return in the next episode
We Want Our Jerk Back: One story has the perfectly organized server room cause the title character to stop being a bastard for a while. This causes the PFY to suggest that he be brought to "a professional that cares".
Another story hints that he has actually tried being nice as a New Year's resolution a couple of times. His latest attempt lasted 17 minutes before another idiot user pushed him over the line and back to The Dark Side.