A word about this journal.

Most stations have a terminal sitting inconspicuously off to one side of the main work space. Small, gray, and boxy, it silently presents an array of options in illuminated green text on a black screen:


Years ago these depths were invaded by the bright-eyed minions of the Upper Room, who bore these terminals down into the Shafts on a wave of boundless optimism. They assured us the terminals would increase our efficiency and perhaps even reduce our workload so that other, new kinds of heretofore-unimaginable work might be discovered to fill the time freed up by these devices. They swarmed over our stations. They bored holes in the walls and strung cables and hammered them in place with huge metal staples.

Their mission complete, they departed, leaving each of us with a thick, incomprehensible manual printed on paper (paper!) and a promise that any requests for help or reports of a problem with the new terminals would, if sent via tube to the Upper Room using the proper forms, be resolved in a quick and friendly manner.

The molochs thus afflicted tried to make sense of the manuals but found their prose impenetrable, their diagrams like something from an alien fever dream. Commands entered on the terminals often seemed to do nothing. Many times they merely opened up a new and even more mystifying set of menu options. Once or twice a command would do something truly alarming to the system, and terrified molochs would frantically flip through their manuals and shout suggestions at one who hammered on the keyboard, while another moloch fired cylinder after cylinder up the tube to the Upper Room begging for help. The cylinders would be returned with uncompleted fields on the forms highlighted in red. Days of work would be lost before the situation was brought under control.

Soon the paper manuals fell apart, destroyed by the heat and moisture. The terminals were abandoned by the molochs, who returned to the safe, sane methods to which they were used.

Sometimes when things are slow I explore the contents of my small terminal. I have found a few commands that, while they seem to be of little practical use, at least produce interesting effects. I can change the color of the text on the screen. I can cause certain lights at my station to brighten and dim in sequence. I can make the sound of the Machine change slightly in pitch; sometimes I can almost make it sing.

And finally, I can DOCUMENT.

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