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Keyboards should be used as disciplinary tools - true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 12

Intriguing as the title of this episode might be, and obviously a keyboard COULD be use to bludgeon the offending end user into unconscious oblivion, what I would love to see is something that would shoot red-hot needles out of the keys and up the fingernails of the numpty at the keyboard.

Cruel? Maybe. But, if there WERE such a device, the numpty in question would certainly learn fast not to make the same error more than once…

We’ve all heard the urban myths like using the CD tray as a coffee cup holder, but there are others in the ether that I have personally encountered.  For example:

Floppy disk storage by using fridge magnets to hold them on a whiteboard “for convenience”
    • Corollary: one particular creative numpty place three of the diskettes as though they were a set of flying ducks as per Hilda Ogden’s “muriel”, thus  screwing up the data of three disks – a genius masterstroke worthy of mention
Floppy disk storage by stapling a set of diskettes together to make sure that the backup set was kept together.  After all, how ELSE would they be stored…?

A call to the helpdesk from a home user asking if we could assist as her screen was blank.  The first question I asked was “Is it plugged into the wall socket?”

Caller: “No, it’s plugged into a 4-gang extension outlet and THAT’S plugged into the wall.”

Me: “OK, so is the computer showing any lights at the back of the system unit?”

Caller: “System unit?”

Me: “The big box under the desk”

Caller: “Hang on a minute”…sounds of scuffling under a desk…“Hold on, it’s too dark, I need a torch”…steps walking away, then returning a short while afterwards…

Caller: “No lights at the back of the box”

Me: “OK what about the monitor?  Are there any lights on that?”

Caller: “No”

Me: “Is the wall socket turned on?”

Caller: “Yes”

Me: “You may have a blown fuse or circuit breaker in your main fuse box – do you want to go and check?”

Caller: “OK, but it’s in the garage and I don’t like going out there in the dark”

Me: “Don’t you have a light in the garage?”

Caller: “Yes, but because of the power cut it won’t work, will it?"

…with all the patience I could muster, I gently replaced the receiver at this point

One of my favourite calls when I was working with PCs would now, ironically, be considered non-PC. 

We were installing Wang PCs in the company to replace the intelligent terminals that had been installed when we got the Wang mainframe (hardly a mainframe, but that’s what Wang called it) as a means of communicating company-wide but also with some local intelligence and processing power.  Sorry, I geeked out a little there – back to the call. Anyway, a new user joined the company Personnel department (This was before the days when the Personnel department was called HR), so I installed the Wang PC on her desk, gave her a brief show around the unit and how to use it but, as she said she was familiar with PCs, I left her to it.

About an hour later, the helpdesk got a call from her saying the PC had stopped.  I went over to the Personnel floor (which was in another building) with another PC system unit just in case there was something wrong with the one already in place and had a look.  Sure enough, it was dead from an operating system perspective, although the system unit was still powered on.  I power-cycled (“Have you turned it off and on?”) the unit and watched the screen. A few legible words on the screen, then blackness. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

So, I swapped out the bad unit for the one I had brought with me, made sure it was working ok and left her to it.

That afternoon, the helpdesk got a call from her saying the PC had stopped again.  I again took a system unit with me, trudged across the road and up to the 5th floor of the other building and, sure enough, the replacement unit I had installed earlier was displaying the same symptoms as its predecessor. Very kindly, the user asked if I’d like a coffee so I thanked her and she got up to get me the beverage, in the process of which she got a static-electric shock (the carpet tiles were cheap…) which got me thinking…

“Do you get many shocks like that?”

“Oh yes, all the time.  Here and at home as well”

Aha! The problem found – Wang PCs were particularly bad at suffering static discharge. Just on an offhand comment, I joked “I suppose you wear nylon underwear as well?”

“Actually, yes I do”

So, we got some anti-static mats, placed them on her desk, under her desk/chair and she agreed to stop wearing nylon underwear.  By which, I think she meant she’d wear underwear made from another material rather than go commando. (Then again, to each his/her own.)

You see what happens today if the same situation was handled today in the same way.

Pick a window, you’re leaving…