I can't believe it. Someone finally managed to write a virus for the WebTV...
Of course, what I find particularly amusing about this is the nature of the virus. Basically, it just reset the box's dialing script to dial 911 instead of the local access number. That in itself is not funny. But remembering how many times the Palo Alto (and then Mountain View) officials had to come to the WebTV campus for accidental 911 calls, back in the old days, makes me wonder that the whole QA staff isn't in lockup on precedent.
You see, when a WebTV box downloads its list of local access numbers, it makes its best guess as to what format the number should be dialed in (seven-digit, 10 digit with area code, 11 digit with one then the area code - I've even seen some bass ackwards places that require one then the number, with no area code - weirdos). But since this formula is not foolproof, it also lets you edit your own custom dialing options. You can tell your box to dial a nine to get an outside line (useful if you're on a PBX, like a hotel or a business), force it to dial a one when calling, and other nifty options.
The trouble is that if you have it set to dial a nine to get out and always dial a one... what happens when your local provider goes away and is replaced with a long distance provider, or a 1-800 number. Instead of dialing 9,1,5551234, you're suddenly calling something like 9,1,18004093288. Which results in the call being placed to 911, and the operator getting nothing but modem screeches in their ear.
The difference, of course, is that this guy did it intentionally, and we always did it accidentally. But man, the folks at the 911 switchboard must have hated us after a while. I'm just glad that our building never had a major disaster, since any call placed to 911 from our PBX probably would have been bumped to the bottom of the queue, under the assumption that it was just those damned WebTV people screwing with their dialing scripts again.