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back to article Is this the world's dirtiest PC?

We're obliged to reader Danny Lee for forwarding evidence of what appears to be a Quatermass-style lifeform, which has attached itself to a PC and pretty well explains why the thing had ceased to function: The world's dirtiest PC, with vents completely blocked by dust Chilling stuff indeed. Anyone out there who has …

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I've seen MUCH worse....

A PC left in a barn area that became infested by a small bee hive (and was STILL WORKING!). The farmer brought it in to our shop for service to have us clean out the "mess" inside the case as part of his free "annual cleaning" as covered under his waranty. He neglected to tell my staff it was bee infested before one of them got stung when he went to pick it up and move it to our back counter after doing an initial systems test. Poor kid picked the tower up as one normally would, one hand on front, one hand across power supply vent in back, but the fan vent was the bees way in and out of the case... He dropped it instantly, causing the side cover to come off and causing some significant damage to the case, a few more bees came out. Fortunately, most of them seemed to have evacuated the case on the way to our shop in the back of the pickup the guy drove.

We had to wrap in in serveral layers of garbage bags, and we used a pack of printable stickers to make some bio-hazard signs. Naturally we refused the cleaning service, and marked his waranty as void citing "unsatisfactory environmental conditions for PC placement and use" He was none too thrilled and threatened to sue the store. This was quickly abated when we threatned to countersue for failure to warn our employees of an eminent danger. 2 of my other staff were so allergic to bees and fire ants that they carry eppy pens 24x7, and if one of them picked up that case instead of the poor kid who did, it would have been a rush to the emergency room not a sore thumb.

We suggested the farmer buy a toughbook to use in his barn instead of a desktop PC, but of course, someone who buys a $400 e-machine desktop package is not the kind of guy to buy a $1800 professional notebook. He left. The PC, after being dropped, never worked again. We never saw or heard from him again.

Even beyond this fantastic story, the PC in the image above, I'd call that about on par normal for some of the crap we had to clean. Sure, most computers just had the sheen of grey/brown dust and caked up fans, but a lot of them, especially those in smokers homes and people with dogs, and for some reason trailer homes just make PCs incredibly dirty. We've actually had to stae in writing to some folks that the attempt to clean the PC might render it useless, and had them sign waivers to protect the store from liability.

I stopped being a manager at that shop in 2002 and moved back to more professional IT work as a network integrator and DR specialist, but the 18 months I spent running a tech bench for a retail shop was eye opening. I can't tell you how many "cup holders" we repaired, how many floppy drives were stuffed full of things by 3 year olds, and how many god awful nasty 4+ year old PCs people wanted to pay os to clean and upgrade (in many cases where an upgrade cost 70% or more of a new PCs cost and still left the old machine FAR below a new machine's specs...)

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Bronze badge
Unhappy

You can tell a lot about a person from their PC...

I used to service customer PCs when they were brought in. The one I remember most reeked of chip fat...

... just like the owner.

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Stu
Pirate

another 'thats nothing' -

I once left a computer keyboard on the floor for aroundabouts 3 years under a desk where I never vacuumed.

Suffice it to say, the caked in food and drink spillages covered in thick thick dust, meant it barely resembled a keyboard in the end. Just imagine what it was like when I foolishly attempted to press a few keys.

I'm still having nightmares about the thick layer of crumbs and god knows what sticky stuff collected underneath the keys, that crunch when pressed! The horrible dirty mess now encouraged to slide down through the gaps between the keys, Then lifting my finger, which of course adhered my skin to the keys, peeling them off with the worst sensation imaginable.

.

*scrubbing self in the shower with ajax and a wire brush*

Unclean.

Unclean.

Unclean.

Unclean.

Unclean.

Unclean.

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Happy

@By Greg J Preece

No with those security star bolts it's a HP / Compaq / EDS, whatever they have become now.

Our old Sco boxes (many moons ago) used to live in coal depots and they almost looked like they ran on coal when you opened then up (no pictures though). I guess the added carbon actually lubricated the moving part s though.

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Anonymous Coward

pfft

Seen worse... much worse. I think one of the worst - if not the worst - cases involved PCs that lived in the factory at a paper mill somewhere in Sittingbourne. The half life of those machines was measured in months not years.

Luckily, I was on-site for software issues not hardware, so I didn't have to get my hands dirty on those PCs as I spent most of my time in the clean server suite.

Oh, and the PCs at the Nestlé factory in Tutbury, Derbyshire where Nescafé is/was manufactured were filthy little buggers too..... that was a bit of an eye opener too!

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LC
Unhappy

Keyboards

I was once given a keyboard at work whose previous owner must have been shaving his head over. It took half an hour for me to get enough hair out of it to actually be able to press the keys. Then I discovered the layer of crumbs underneath.

The keyboards at home are periodically used by sticky children. I think it's time to bake them in the oven again.

(No, my house isn't made of gingerbread.)

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You know

I wish my girlfriend was that dirty

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FAIL

YOU CALL THAT DIRTY???

I've seen far FAR worse, believe you me. I've had machines thick with dust, machines thick with coal dust (enough to completely hide the 4cm capacitors) and machines so thick with china clay that the only thing that stuck out was the top of the heatsink.

I'll have to have a dig through my pictures and see if I still have any of them on file. What you have here is a SLIGHTLY mucky PC.

I won't even begin to talk about the laptop to my left that's been pissed on...

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Is this the world's dirtiest PC?

No, mine at home is just as bad, if not worse.

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Pint

Not even close

In the distant past, I repaired a desktop PC from a brick works, it had a thick layer of brick dust completely covering the motherboard!

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Anonymous Coward

seen worse

I've seen much worse whilst working for a now deceases dispatch company. It had apparently been left running uninterrupted under a desk in a garage environment near a heater for three years in an area where where pretty much the whole workforce smoked.

Filthy beyond recognition of being a PC. In addition to truly epic dust bunnies, it had at some point collected multiple cups of coffee and a coating of motor grease, ensuring that those dust bunnies were well and truly baked on. Awful.

Not as disgusting as the monitor received from a southern english university though..... Accompanying documentation says it has ceased to work, opening the packaging reveals biohazard tape and a strong smell of burnt components and yellow discolouration. Testing discloses the presence of urine. I'm sorry chaps, but your warranty doesn't cover failure after a student p1ssed in the back of your monitor.

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Anyone actually seen worse than this?

a while ago whilst in temporary university accommodation, i had the girlfriend staying over.

said accommodation also had a massive infestation of red ants. EVERYWHERE.

stupidly, my girlfriend left her laptop on the floor overnight.

returning to it a couple of days later, she noticed strange black dots moving around behind the screen. after some poking, swarms of red ants scurried from the closing latch on the lid!

after a quick dismantle, i was a bit amazed to discover that there was a whole established colony inside the damn thing with eggs and even a queen.

cleaned it out with cotton buds with sticky tape on the end. very satisfying.

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Pint

Cleaned that up before...

In a previous life I used to work int he PC-based point-of-sale industry...for restaurants. You should have seen the old 286 machines running next to a chips fryer in the kitchen. I replaced them with shiny new 486 machines and the business owner had the stupidity to ask why the 5 year-old-never-cleaned hardware was failing. There were no motherboards inside, just sticky gray felt mats which smelled like rancid oil.

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air quality measure

several years ago, I owned a Dell P3 while going to school in Pittsburgh. About four years into its life, the graphics card started to act funky, so I opened the bastard up, thinking maybe things were getting hot inside and it needed a good cleaning. It wasn't unusually dirty all things considered, but what really got me was that the dirt itself was pitch black. I guess after all these years since the mills shut down there's still a ton of coal particulates in beautiful Pittsburgh and they adhered to my poor machine. Made me wonder what was happening to my lungs.

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Coat

I found...

...a dead cockroach inside a ZX Spectrum once.

Mine's the one with rampack wobble.

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Go

Ah, that brings back memories...

I used to do field service. I've seen PCs covered in mouse droppings (hosed out the back of my truck after bringing that one in!), and the horrors of a PC used on the intake side of an industrial laundry company that had to be on a wooden block off the flor because the cases would rust to the floor otherwise...

Fortuantely, the only thing I have to worry about anymore is the small handful of servers that inexplicably get cigarette smoke and whatnot in from whatever manages to sneak in to the data center from the front of house area.

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Boffin

That's nothing

Thin layer of tear gas residue. Mildly corrosive, fairly uncomfortable to work around (still stings a bit once it gets airborne again). Result of the SWAT team's entry into a barricaded house where an unfortunately unbalanced individual had recently (but unbeknownst to them) committed suicide.

Boffin icon, cause he has protective goggles, and maybe even a gas mask.

Your move.

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FAIL

Seen much worse

I work in IT support in a Hospital. Thankfully now supporting servers in nice clean server rooms.

But the amount of dust and hair etc caking the innards of the PCs we have on the ward areas are enough to put you off your lunch for a week. We usually have at least a couple a year where the fire alarms get triggered when the stuff gets so hot it starts smouldering.

A very long time ago we had a expensive keyboard returned from our Pathology Lab, as the keys were sticking, and although we had been assured nothing had been spilt, when my mate started cleaning it his hands and arms turned purple up past the elbow. Someone had spilt amino acid identifier all over it - not really dirty, but my mate thought his arms were gonna drop off.

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Coffee/keyboard

You want gross?

I once worked on a contract at a factory which processed cowhides into sausage skins.

Opening a case was akin to something out of aliens, due to the amount of gelatin in the air.

And you got followed by dogs on the way home.

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Unhappy

RE: Natty Posted Friday 6th November 2009 12:10 GMT

"back in the day...

...of no cpu fans I found a dead cockroach on a cpu. Lovely."

I wondered what happened to Uncle Vladimir

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General grossness

I wish I had photos of the old DEC 3100 workstation I got my hands on after my old university replaced them all. After nearly a decade of running non-stop in a dusty ancient building full of students, there was a blanket of dust a couple of inches thick covering *everything* on the mainboard. It looked like you could have lifted it up in one piece (I didn't try).

Despite this the workstation still ran perfectly well, though this did go some way to explaining why the old classic Macs in the same computer suite kept catching fire!

Then there was the computer I had the pleasure of replacing with a newfangled Pentium machine back when I was doing IT support work. The computer itself was OK, but the keyboard looked like stuff could start growing out of it at any moment. He'd only had that computer for maybe a year. We junked that keyboard and probably should have burned it just to be safe. I hope they never gave that guy a laptop.

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Silver badge

The motherboard isn't too bad.

Fluffy PCs usually look like mice are sleeping between the PCI/ISA slots.

Hoovered out many a dusty box. But the worst I've come across was from a fish works. Only two things smell of fish... and this PC was the other one. The smell almost leaches into the machine itself. Left one over the weekend in the test area and the whole place stank Monday morning. It just never faded.

I have had a whisky soaked PC. From a whisky bottling plant. A seal burst and filled the PC from the vent on the front of the old Dec machine. The operator was trying to stand in the way of the jet while clicking on the button to stop the flow. Then he turned it off and poured whisky out the front of it. We took it back, let it dry over the weekend and it started with a minor complaint when we got back, but then most people stinking of booze on a Monday morning complain when you wake them. Still, it was a better smell in the test area that day.

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Coat

That's nothing, my friend's..

computer was emitting a foul smell. Seems the hard drive was full of shit.

So I removed Vista...

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Silver badge

That's not all that bad.

In 1999, for some reason I was the "go-to" guy for many of the Veterinarians on The Peninsula. They were all running late 1980s, early 1990s IBM PCs (486 "ValuePoint" machines, for the most part, if I recall correctly), with SCO Xenix 5.x ... The Vet Practice Management software was provided by IDEXX, but was built by PSI ... Needless to say, IBM, SCO, PSI and IDEXX all claimed the other three were responsible for any Y2K issues that may (or may not) crop up.

Long story short, I replaced most of the Xenix+dumb terminal systems with networked Win98SE machines. None of the old Xenix boxen had ever been cleaned ... All of them were much worse than the pictured box. After a good cleaning, the boxen were recycled into teaching environments, most running Slackware.

Hell, the boxes in the barn office are worse than that, and I clean 'em out every quarter or thereabouts!

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What Dell?

That's an HP Compaq DC7600 SFF if I'm not mistaken (now that's sad).

I hope you disposed of the dirt in a suitably massive box.

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Bronze badge

Childhood memories

I used to get hand-me-down PCs from my father's company. My mother used to insist the years-old dust which could not be removed from the insides was proof my bedroom was too dirty.

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Grenade

Metal shavings

I did some computer repair work at an aluminum shop. Needless to say, PCs don't like having aluminum shavings thrust inside them.

By the way, how many syllables does "aluminum" have? Four? Five?

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Z80
Happy

I haven't seen worse

Man that must have been satisfying to blast with an air-duster! Outside and upwind hopefully.

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Headmaster

@Aaron

Err.. no, the question you should ask is how many i's are in Alumin_i_um...

Yank! :P

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Dead bird

A friend of mine had a horrible nest of wires behind his PC .. He lives alone and has no pets and yet somehow in the middle of all the tangled wires and three years worth of dust was a small half decomposed bird.

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FAIL

Pet Store!

The worse I ever saw was at a pet store.

It was a mom and pop shop, not the big chains. Anyway, I went in there for something I forget now, but but as I was paying, I usually check out the POS (point of sale) setups, just out of curiosity. To my horror, the POS was just packed with fur! So you know, I'm standing around with one hand up on the counter and begin to scan the room, and I notice by the windows.... In the glare of the light coming in the windows, I walk over to break the light glare beam, and lo.... Two more desktops, stripped and unplugged next to the wall, Both were like twice as bad as the live POS I was waiting by! I couldn't believe the volume of fur, it's like a small dog was stuck to the side!

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Pint

Toner

My best one was when I was working for the power company. A HP Compaq D500 was reported as making strange noises. I get the tube there and show up with a replacement PSU (the PSU fans die a lot on those machines) and discover it is sat next to a leaking laserjet 4500 that noone had bothered to mention. The inside of the machine was totally black with toner and it was thick and baked on. The toner had got into the PSU fan and eaten the bearings. I took the psu and all the drives out, picked up the unit and stuck it under the hand dryer in the toilet to get rid of anything that wasn't baked on, then replaced the PSU with the spare.

The machine was still working fine when I left. I think i took pictures but I can't find them.

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Anonymous Coward

@LC

The keyboards or the children?

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Grenade

papaimp

Got in a Dell Poweredge, it was DOA. Opened it up, and it was full of roaches. I put it in a trash bag, stuffed in a bug bomb, and dumped the bag into a garbage tote, shutting the lid.

I told him, he'd be better off getting a new machine.

No, his boss wanted that one fixed, no matter the cost.

Next day, I pull the hard drive, give it a alcohol bath, hook it to a usb adapter into my laptop, saved his info, and sent him home with a identical Poweredge I had sitting around.

My bill listed a $200 filth fee. Surprisingly, his company never questioned the bill.

I so wish I had taken pictures. Nobody believes it could be that bad.

The grenade, because this guy's house must need it.

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Sorry, but this is pretty tame

Unfortunately no pictures (pre digital camera and cameraphone, didn't normally carry my SLR to work), but back in the day if I'd opened up an Alpha (or any other DEC box) or an Indy and found it in this state I'd have regarded it as a pretty clean example.

The DEC boxes were notoriously filthy buggers..eventually got into the habit of popping on a disposable paper mask before opening their cases.

Funniest one I've ever had to deal with though, was a machine that someone had stupidly used in a chemical prep lab. Machine was failing, opened it up, inside was covered completely with various sorts and colours of crystalline 'fur' as various acid/chemical vapours had reacted with all/any exposed internal metal (fume cupboards you say?, aye they'd heard of such beasties..).

Only case I've been involved in of a PC (Pentium Pro, ISTR, which sort of dates this story) that had to eventually be disposed of by chemical waste specialists, and the only one I wish I had pictures of (some of the crystal growths were quite interesting, probably deadly, but interesting), I'll ask around and see if anyone else involved with that one took any photos..now, if only they'd forked out the money initially for that extra long serial cable in the first instance..

On a slight tangent away from PCs, how about a 'faulty' Xbox where the insides and outsides were completely covered in a the dried remains of a large number of what turned out to be brambles/blackberries - it had been stored in a shed where, apparently, the owner's father usually makes bramble wine..he must have bloody steeped the Xbox in the 'must' then...

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@Wize

Not strictly on topic, but I once had to install a photocopier in a fish processing factory. Not at all pleasant....

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FAIL

Seen far worse

My brother's in landscaping. About a decade ago, he called me about some problems they've been having with one of their computers - it sounded like an overheat problem, but he said the computer didn't feel hot, and the air coming from the back didn't feel especially warm.

So I went to his office and took a look at it. There was *no* air coming from the back, but a visual inspection (well, glance) showed there's so much dirt coming out of the fans that's not surprising - they were to the point they couldn't turn. So I turned it off, and opened it up. Dirt came pouring out. Without performing a thorough cleaning job, just picking up the box and shaking it a little, I got a pile of dirt which looked to be about half the volume of a mini-tower case. Considering this was a mini-tower case, and there were components inside, I found that to be incredibly impressive.

He said, "Well, I had been cleaning it out about once a month, but kind of let that slide, since it never seemed to have any problems. It's been about three months since I cleaned it last." I recommended cleaning it once a week.

Note that this computer basically sat on the floor by the main door. The only other door was only there for emergencies. It was a fairly busy office, with people coming in and going out all day - mostly the landscaping workers who were either just back from a job site, just back from the greenhouse (about 20 feet away, upwind), or just back from some other location where they'd have gotten dirt on their work boots.

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FAIL

Actual World's Dirtiest Computer

Can be seen here on "I can has Dev Job":

http://www.icanhasdevjob.com/2009/10/im-dreaming-of-brownish-putty-colored.html

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Stop

I've seen one of these beings before....

When I was "re-allocated" by my employer into a new post last August, it involved moving offices. I went from my lovely air-conditioned office in the centre of Bristol overlooking Temple Quay, to a Portacabin(tm) affair in a dodgy suburb (while we awaited the promised construction of our new offices).

I decided that I was taking my desktop with me (as I had waited months for a DVD-RW drive to be installed and was not waiting for months for another). The local IT chappie said OK, and I duly trekked across the city with my Dell.

When I got to my new desk, it already had an old Compaq desktop plugged in and ready to go. I promptly unplugged it and was horrified when I crawled behind the desk to remove the monitor leads and such. A growth such as cannot be described had formed between the air vents and the sides of the desk.

Dust, hair, cobwebs and crumbs from the many lunches of the previous occupant of the desk. The mass was at least 2 inches thick. Apparently, the previous occupant of the desk had had a hair loss issue as well as psoriasis, most of which had went straight into this machine.

On receipt of that news, I also disposed of the chair, keyboard, mouse and for good measure, the telephone.

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WTF?

Eeeuuwhhh

Just remembered the one that came in from a shop with 'water'damage. the roof of said shop had sprung a leak, only after some careufl questioning di9d we find out that the flat roof was used by the landlord as an exercise yard for his dogs and he never cleaned it so the 'water' that had poured into the PC and monitor was actually liquified dog turd. Explains the smell anyway.

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Memories

I started my career doing PC and server support for a construction company's site offices. Virtually everything we worked with looked like that. Come to think of it, by the end of most days so did I :-)

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The worst power supply.

I have found a lot of grotesque things in computers from rock hard dessicated tater tots, to a Zeos where a mouse had met his end so long ago there was just a skeleton and a puff of fur on the motherboard, but this is the power supply that was the worst. I'm only sorry I didn't get the whole machine, I was so stunned by the PS that I didn't go further. The rest of the machine still worked. "Forgive the fuzzy pics, had the horrid Casio QV 10 back then". its hard to believe there is a power supply under all this.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2668/4087129354_e70969152f_o.jpg

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2446/4087129360_73e2db0431_o.jpg

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2439/4087129366_154e65bf55_o.jpg

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2612/4087129368_59159e311a_o.jpg

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2591/4087129370_6a3c3fac23_o.jpg

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I've seen-em too

A friend with 3 dogs and the PC on the floor asked me to do some upgrades - the dust-bunny was half dog-hair and completely filled the open space in the case. I have no idea how it kept running.

And way back, in the Apple /// days, I worked on one and really did find a dead mouse. Little turds and pee-stains all over the place, but I guess one day he hiked a leg over the wrong component and ZAP - he died along with the 'puter.

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Jobs Horns

Yeah! I got one as well.

And it was still working. I took out two dead mice complete with nest; rat droppings, oh my God, so much; and a great ball of paper which seemed to have come from the shredder. Did I mention the dead dog, oh yeah and cat. And when I finished would it work? Hell no; not a glimmer. I reckon to was a mistake to remove the ants.

Yours

Ponder Stibbons

Inadvisably Applied Magic

UU

Ankh Morpork

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Coffee/keyboard

Many years ago...

I was opening PCs owned by a large telecomms company to upgrade the memory as part of their Y2K/PC refresh project.

On one site, we could lift the dust off the motherboards in a single sheet.

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Anonymous Coward

reminds me...

That does look like a Dell

I work on a large site which is exclusively Dell, I remember the time the training team plastered the site with posters reminding users (oh sorry boss, customers) to clean the exterior vents of their pc's. Cue dozens of support calls coming in all along the lines of 'we don't know how to clean pc vents'

The training team weren't best pleased when we forwarded all such calls through to them in a combined this is a training issue/you started this.. kinda way

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Industrial Terminals

I used to work for a company that serviced DEC terminals. I pulled one apart in an auto shop and it looked like it hadn't been opened for years (this was about 1998 and most of these units were well over 10 years old and developed a lovely yellow hue as a result). The entire PCB was covered in a thick layer of what looked like soot. That one still stands out in my mind, it was the dirtiest machine I ever had to service. You literally could not see a single inch of the green PCB exposed, it was completely covered top to bottom. The kicker was the company still expected us to dress in shirt and tie which was unavoidably covered with this muck at the end of every day. Never made sense to me...

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Quattro Formaggio

486-era desktop after a decade controlling the labelling system on a frozen pizza production line.

Nuff said...

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Pirate

Proper dust bunnies

Back when the motor industry was a four letter word in Essex (work it out) I recieved a Tecra with an acrid smell and a note saying "leaky battery?"

Duly parcelled off to the PFY it made a sparky noise on startup and smelt acrid, so back to Toshiba it went. They sent it back to us saying it wasnt leaky batteries and we had spilled something on it.

While the lean green keen PFY against the advise of the rest of the office stripped it to find a find a milky substance inside, I phoned the listed owner in the ticket to find that it was a bunny issue - his daughters house rabbit was fond of sitting on it, and presumably widdling in it.

Cue the real meaning of dust bunnies, and a PFY who developed an OCD handwashing disorder for the next few weeks.

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