Campus Conversation

As if it weren’t enough that students still using vax received the unsettling yet amusing message over Spring Break, “Soon the carrot will be gone and the stick will be employed,” all AOL Instant Messenger users were also greeted with similar disappointment this past Monday at 10 a.m. as they were kicked off of the vital service.

As Instant Messenger came to a grinding halt, many experienced devastating shock as well as sheer terror at the prospect of actually having to speak to their friends face to face, or using such primitive technology as the telephone.

Nothing seems to bring everyone on campus together as a cohesive whole quite as well as when they are all pissed off for a common reason. This time, that reason was recently the complete failure of Internet service to the campus, nixing interaction with what many of us refer to as “the outside world.” The only website that functioned was the ever-popular, and any related links, such as Webmail.

In an apparent attempt to alleviate students’ confusion, the vax prompt explained the problem in brief-even though students are no longer supposed to be using vax. “Inert Internet: A hardware failure at the Verizon switching center in Springfield has caused our new internet link to go down,” explained the prompt. This local “hardware failure” caused several problems, making it impossible to send or receive email to or from other servers and rendering the Internet useless.

Some students were still left in the dark however; “The vax prompt was less than helpful, seeing as I had no idea what it meant,” said Peter Cymrot ’03.

The fiasco of moving email, that many holdouts still face, contributed to the general distress as well, some students’ mail malfunctioned. Others were not as upset over the change. “I had thought that moving my mail would be an arduous process, taking all afternoon from how they made it sound,” said Alex Linden 04, “But it was so easy, and my mail is thankfully still fine since I’m a loyal fan of Webmail.”

(???) Finally, this technological nightmare came to a happy ending, with Internet, email and our beloved Instant Messenger being restored, along with most students’ overall mental health and happiness.

For whom the bell tolls

At a school like Amherst, rarely do we discover an occurrence so inexplicable that students of every class and degree of experience are baffled by its recurring existence.  But this is exactly where we find ourselves in regards to the bell chimes at Johnson Chapel, a sound so constant and regulatory that the mystery behind its peculiar pattern begs us to routinely question its mechanics.

Thanks to Aaron Hayden, Campus Systems Utilities Engineer, we now have the answer to unlock this well-kept campus secret.  According to Hayden, there is one bell in the tower of Johnson Chapel that is controlled by two separate mechanisms, one that drives the clock hands and rings on the hour, and another that operates on a classroom system and is independent of the hour system. “For the hour bell, there is a cogged wheel that controls the rings, so there is an equivalent number of rings for every hour,” said Hayden.

“For the classroom clapper, however, there is a motor, not an automatic mechanical system, that runs for a number of seconds; therefore, it can result in either more or fewer rings at each hour, depending on how many times it rang the previous hour.” In the basement of Chapin Hall, there is a program of punched paper tape that controls the classroom bell system.

Some students may remember an incident last school year in which the Johnson bell rang over 20 times in a row; Hayden explains the problem as a systematic malfunction. “The two systems slipped out of sync for a minute,” he said. “When they both attempted to correct themselves at the same time, the result was the bell responding to both systems simultaneously.”

Seth Bernard ’03 recalls the event. “It was disorienting when those bells went crazy,” he said. “I didn’t know what time it was. Then I remembered I was wearing a watch, so in the end, it wasn’t a big problem.”