Bastard Operator From Hell

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The Bastard Operator From Hell (BOFH), a fictional character created by Simon Travaglia, is a rogue system administrator who takes out his anger on users (often referred to as lusers), his colleagues, his bosses, and anyone who gets in his way.

The BOFH stories were originally posted in 1992 to Usenet by Travaglia, with some being reprinted in Datamation.[1] They were published weekly from 1995 to 1999 in Network Week and since 2000 they have been published most weeks in The Register. They were also published in PC Plus magazine for a short time, and several books of the stories have also been released.

By extension, the term is also used to refer to any system administrator who displays (or wishes he could get away with) the qualities of the original.[2] The term has become common Internet slang.

In the stories, the PFY (Pimply-Faced Youth) is the BOFH's assistant; this too has become a general term for a junior or trainee system administrator.[3]



Early BOFH editions took place in a university, moving on to an office workplace over time (an exact transition is not given). BOFH 2k began with the BOFH and PFY moving to a new company.

Whilst the BOFH gets irritated at the incompetence of users, he does use this to his advantage to further his devious means, mainly using the following tricks:

  • Deleting users' files
  • Deleting users (by arranging "accidents")
  • Lifting raised floor tiles so users (or engineers, or the Boss) fall down
  • Electrocuting users (from an over-voltage cattle prod, using nails as fuses, or by other means)
  • Locking the machine room and triggering the Halon release
  • Trapping them in the elevator
  • Slamming their testicles in desk drawers
  • Pushing users off the comms riser
  • Blackmail, either with real or electronically fabricated evidence
  • Putting users on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list
  • Destroying systems with etherkillers (power plugs spliced onto a piece of coax cable), or talking users into destroying their own systems.
  • Locking them in the airtight tape safe
  • Putting laxatives in their food or coffee

Early BOFH editions focused mainly on the above tricks, although over time many other schemes and plots have been used, with many now aimed at management as well as the users. Early BOFH editions simply featured the BOFH, the systems manager and the lusers — as time developed, the Boss, PFY and other characters (see below) appeared.

An additional technique featured in recent stories is "Wikisalting", which involves the creation of Wikipedia articles by the protagonists to support their theories, excuses, or cover ups. Two of the most prominent examples of this technique are the Mandelboozer Virus (also known as Mandelbrot virus, MandelBank virus and Mandelboat virus)[4] and Reggie Moore's Inverse Square Law of IT Satisfaction.[5]


The following characters appear regularly :

  • The BOFH, actual name of Simon
  • The PFY (Pimply-Faced Youth) (BOFH's assistant, 1996—), actual name of Steven (Stephen in Episode 22, 2007 and Episode 18, 2008)
  • The Boss (changes throughout the stories as successive bosses are sacked, leave, are committed, or have nasty "accidents")
  • "Beancounters" aka accountants (disposable, interchangeable, faceless, used on occasion as balls in a game of "blackout fire-alarm beancounter pinball")
  • The CEO - The PFY's uncle Brian from 1996 until 2000, when the BOFH and PFY moved on to a new company
  • The Head of IT
  • Helldesk Operators (disposable, interchangeable, faceless)
  • The Boss's Secretary, Sharon
  • Security (who will tape Emmerdale over CCTV video tapes; useless with computers)
  • George, the cleaner (invaluable source of information)
  • Sam, the janitor (scapegoat)
  • Ron, the electrician (Mad Ron the Sparky)
  • Engineers, from various suppliers
  • The 'Coloured Crayon' Department - the users of Apple Macs for graphic design



  1. Travaglia, Simon. "The Bastard Operator from Hell Official Archive". Datamation Magazine. 
  2. Raymond, Eric S. (1996). The new hacker's dictionary. The MIT Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-0262680929. 
  3. ""Urban Dictionary: PFY"". 
  4. Travaglia, Simon (2008-10-03). "BOFH: The Mandelboat virus". Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  5. Travaglia, Simon (2008-11-07). "BOFH: Taking out a contract". Retrieved 2009-11-19. 

External links

cs:BOFH da:Bastard Operator From Hell de:Bastard Operator From Hell es:Bastard Operator from Hell fr:Bastard Operator From Hell it:BOFH nl:Bastard Operator From Hell pl:BOFH pt:Bastard Operator From Hell ru:BOFH sco:Bastard Operator Frae Hell

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