I remember reading a short story many years ago (1980s) about an old computer programmer who was about to be forced into mandatory retirement. After receiving the news from his boss he returns to his office, makes a phone call and places an order for some obscure part number or form number, or something. This order then triggers a huge catastrophe in the system and, because only he understands this part of the system, is not let go from his job.

I think this may have been an Isaac Asimov story, but I can't be sure of this.

  • 1
    Don't know the original story, but we've got a real-life example: wftv.com/news/26986709/detail.html?cxntlid=cmg_cntnt_rss (whack-a-mole programmer put a timeout in the game so he'd have job security). Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 14:09
  • Is there a list of short stories by I. Asimov that includes a short synopsis of each?
    – oosterwal
    Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 14:45
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    Yes, if you have a large public or University library (we're talking LA/New York sized public library here) they probably subscribe to Wilson's Short Story Index hwwilson.com/bus/storeindec.cfm If anyone can get access to this resource you could answer a lot of questions here. Sadly, my library has no rational reason to purchase it.
    – ccyn
    Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 18:58
  • @oosterwal Wikipedia has a large list of Asimov's work, but the man wrote so much that there's still quite a few titles without articles.
    – user1027
    Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 19:39
  • Doesn't that sound vaguely Tron-ish?
    – morganpdx
    Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 21:56

2 Answers 2


My name is Dennis Delaney. I wrote a novelet for Creative Computing magazine in 1979 entitled "The Contradiction Theory" that was published in their book Tales of the Marvelous Machine. It was a murder mystery/sf tale dealing with the then unknown concept of a Trojan Horse virus. Is this it?

Detective Tobias Warton tries to solve the murder of Philip Carmichael, a man who's been trying to unite Mechanists and Anti-Mechanists, during his secret visit World Computer and Robot. His method of death is simple to determine. The air in his room was removed via a computer command. Detective Warton has to determine whether this was a matter of mere error, or if it is something more malicious.

Partway through the story, a programmer, Raudive Allen, claims to have entered the fatal program into the system as a Trojan Horse, triggered by a dial code to Nahum Sprague, but also claims that the program was slid under his door, and he didn't know who gave it to him or that it was going to be used to target Carmichael.

Ultimately, it is revealed that it was the Governor who engineered the fatal incident in order to foment chaos.

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    Hi Dennis, welcome to the science fiction and fantasy stack exchange. It is very possible that it is your story I'm thinking about. I'll have to look back through my Creative Computing magazines. Thank you for this bit of information!
    – oosterwal
    Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 2:14
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    So we have you to thank for inventing Trojan Horses?
    – Mr.Mindor
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 22:11
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    Seems like there is enough information in the OP's question for you to identify it if it's yours. Did your story involve the triggering of the trojan via a phoned order for an obscure part number?
    – msouth
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 13:34
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    I found a link to an Internet Archive copy of the magazine as included above. I don't think this one is a match for the question after all.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 1:45

This could be The Bastard Operator from Hell


I've tried searching for the specific story but couldn't find anything, I couldn't find an indexed version of the archive.

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