Memories of technology days gone past


Ticketmaster Canada confirmed Friday it is shutting its only unionized call centre in Toronto, along with centres in Vancouver, Calgary and Red Deer, Alta.

I worked at Ticketmaster’s Toronto office (not sure if it’s the same actual office – probably not) as a Night Run Operator back as an undergrad, I think it was 1987 or so.

I would go in on Friday nights and sit there with the computers in an empty office doing homework or listening to the radio. I would wait until all the box offices had closed – around midnight, and then run a bunch of “scripts” and get printouts and move these enormous cake-box sized disc packs from one VAX drive (about the size of a small dishwasher) to another. I had no idea how any of it worked so when something broke in the scripts I had to start paging the regular IT staff who were always drunk and wouldn’t call back forever.

I don’t know why I took this job; it seemed cool. I knew other people that worked there, both doing what I did, or even answering the phones. I got second-dibs on tickets, before they went on sale, and I think that’s how I got 4th row Rush and 12th row Yes or something like that – at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The drives looked something like this
and the discs themselves were

You had to rotate that handle a number of times and then pull it straight up. Sealed inside were many platters of magnetic media that gave the whole assembly it’s capacity. They had two systems running that recorded each purchase transaction, and I would run a backup from A->B and something else, every night.

One guy I worked with had figured out how to purchase General Admission tickets – for free – in between one of the backup stages and then would overwrite any record of it during the backup stages. Since there were no seat assignments, it wouldn’t be very detectable – yeah the overall ticket count sold versus number of arriving guests would be off, but it was GA, so who’d notice? I was horrified at the dishonesty, actually.

And I think we had, in the computer room, these DECwriter terminals.
They weren’t for regular operations but if something went wrong, that was what you had to use to interact with them – but mostly they spat out many pages of transactions – you could see, on paper, every ticket purchased that day. If you worked on a day when a big show sold out (i.e., Floyd) then you would be there a long time while it generated output for each purchase. Name, address, credit card info, etc. And it could take a long time for the credit transaction to be verified – it didn’t happen in real time, so the transaction could go through but you wouldn’t get your tickets sent out in the mail because it would turn out that your credit was no good. I think they had someone who would call you up and talk to you in that case.


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