systems have a three-digit LED
display on the front for diagnostic purposes. An AIX
priest will have RTFM
, will be familiar with many codes that can appear there, and can tell you exactly what the machine is doing as it boots up.
IBM makes some parallel-computing supercomputer clusters, called the SP/2, made up of several RS/6000 systems. The control console comes with an XWindows application that displays the LEDs of the individual nodes!
The point of the story is, when an RS/6000 thoroughly wedges itself, the display flashes "888" as a sign that something is severely fucked, and more diagnostic codes are available for retrieval. Thus amongst AIX sysadmins, 888 has reclaimed its association with the dark and sinister.