back to article It's round and wobbles, but madam, it's a mouse pad, not a floppy disk

Welcome to festive On-Call, in which we take our regular Friday tales of jobs gone wrong and run lots more of them because there's sod-all news to write in the week before Christmas. And also because we have lots of lovely submissions that deserve a run. Today: tales of floppy disks. Let's start with “Steve”, who once took a …

  1. Brian Miller

    It disappeared...

    A place where I worked had PCs with two 5-1/4" disk drives. Every once in a while, I would get a call that a user had inserted a floppy disk in the drive, but it couldn't be read. In fact, the floppy disk had vanished.

    Yep, right between the two floppy drives. Again, and again...

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: It disappeared...

      Had a situation where a friend of the family called me one September evening in a bit of a panic as her "floppy disc" wasn't working in her machine. The panic came because she needed to get access to something on there urgently (she made out it was life or death serious). So I went round and discovered that she had installed the second battery (shouldn't have shown her how) on her laptop at the expense of the floppy drive. She was trying to use the now unconnected drive and said that the lights don't come on or make any noise. After I explained that she needed to remove the second battery and refit the floppy drive she perked up a bit. I asked what was so important that I had now wasted part of my evening going round to her and she said "Oh my Christmas card list is on there".

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: It disappeared...

        Had my neighbours come round, big panic his GF computer has crashed with her dissertation on it, (no back ups were not seen as important for the culmination of three years work), help help big pamic.

        So spend several hours ffing around and trying to get it back up, find the relevant word doc and recover it, only thing I manage to get back is the cover sheet of the dissertation and thats it.

        Apologise to them saying sorry this is all I can get. They're really chuffed, because that was all she had actually written.

        1. DJV Silver badge

          Re: It disappeared...

          That reminds me of a story I heard when working with Burroughs/Unisys equipment back in the late 1980s. A customer who had bought a second-hand Burroughs/Unisys B28 system. These came as modular pieces of kit that were clipped together - common modules were CPU, hard disk only and combined hard/floppy. Customer had phoned support because she couldn't get the 5.25" floppy to read after inserting it. Apparently, it was only when the support person asked about whether she'd flipped the floppy drive door shut that it turned out that she couldn't find anything resembling the door catch. It finally dawned on support that she'd been sold a CPU module plus a hard drive only module (no floppy module at all) and had just been slipping the floppy disk in between the CPU and hard drive modules.

          There's a pic here of a B28 system (this one DOES include a combined hard/floppy module): https://www.reddit.com/r/retrobattlestations/comments/4wmksf/my_burroughs_b28_aka_convergent_technologies_ngen/

    2. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: It disappeared...

      My favorite "floppy" story is when I was working at the coal face, and a customer called in, needing help installing the printer. They had bought a printer that came with a driver CD. When the inserted the CD into the drive and closed the door, they heard a loud >CRACK< - that's when they called support.

  2. wsm

    But the disk is square and the hole is round!!!

    Nearly two hours on a support call to remove and replace a sound card driver. Why? Because, after almost one hour and 45 minutes we were ready to put the disk into the drive and load the new driver.

    I already knew we were speaking in different vocabularies, but when she told me that the disk was square and the hole for the drive was round, I had to mute the phone for a minute or two while she sobbed.

    I finally worked up the courage to ask her if she had one of the round disks. She did! We got the disk in, found the driver, actually installed it and the system rebooted with sound.

    She immediately hung up without another word.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But the disk is square and the hole is round!!!

      I worked for a company where the main software that was used in one area was DOS based and always had been. This was a specialised program and had become vital over the years despite the odd bug or two staying resident even though there were new versions released. You had to remember to make back up discs of your database each week and this had to be done on a floppy disc. These were hardy though and could be sent off site to our disaster recovery site. The company that wrote it had made a fortune out of that but now there were competitors and they were writing stuff that worked (and worked better) on Windows 95 & XP. So the company had to innovate and brought out a windows version which we were the guinea pigs for. I was the Chief Guinea Pig and was going to be the primary tester of it - Oh joy!

      So I gave a report to my boss at the end of the first day as did a programmer who was also evaluating it. I pointed out that all they had done was port the DOS software version to a windows environment. They hadn't made any changes and the only thing new was the GUI which was now all flashy and shiny. All the things that were bugbears in the DOS version existed in the windows version and some new ones appeared. Sadly they had ported over the back up method too and you could still only back up to the A drive i.e. a floppy. No other options existed not CDR, nor to a server, or an external floppy drive. I pointed out that we had just taken the decision to take out floppy drives once the new software was green lit. We'd also put orders in for new machines with no floppy drives and we'd have to change these. The programmer had an even more damning assessment of the back end and database structure. When we asked about the back up options being severely limited and basically crap the UK office said "What other options are there for backing up? They're not very big back up files and they fit a floppy perfectly"

      We did continue the testing until one day about 3 months in there was a massive failure and restoring any of our back ups had no effect. It took them a few days to find the cause but by that point we were already talking to their competitors.

  3. Tim99 Silver badge
    Windows

    Not Snopes

    I looked after the IT needs of 450 scientists, admin and clerical staff in the 1980s.

    I have seen an 8" floppy cut with scissors because it would not fit in the 5.25" drive; a 3.5" disk hammered into a 5.25'' drive; a 5.25" disk folded to try and fit it into a 3.5" drive; a letter with an enclosed copy of a backup disk, which we had requested from a remote site (yes it was a photocopy); and, my personal favourite, a 5.25" disk that was the only electronic copy of a department's year-end financial data, stapled (twice) to the covering letter, explaining why they were late submitting it.

    Those are some of the reasons why I now look like this >>============>

    1. Ol'Peculier

      Re: Not Snopes

      I've also had a photocopy of a 5 1/2" disk sent to me, as well as (from the same office) another disk with the note stapled to it, so you aren't the only one thinking it deserves to be on Snopes.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Not Snopes

        Part of me admires those users' resourcefulness and give-it-a-go attitude. It's probably the same part of me that found satisfaction in fixing a CRT monitor by smacking it smartly on the side.

        The rest of me shudders at the idea they might just be the same folk for which the following was printed on a packet of cough lozenges: "For oral administration only".

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        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not Snopes

          " It's probably the same part of me that found satisfaction in fixing a CRT monitor by smacking it smartly on the side."

          Early video terminals had an acoustic delay line. Bang the case and the display was corrupted. Popularly people said the letters all fell to the bottom of the screen.

          The English Electric KDF9 was a second generation mainframe with a modular rack for the circuit boards and module boxes. One of these modules was part of the program stack nesting store. It was a work of art in tiny ferrite beads threaded onto a matrix of coloured wires - which you could see through the perspex sides. One day one was plugged into the wrong section of the rack. All the wires instantly fused - and the ferrite beads fell to the bottom of the module. A literal case of "dropped bits".

    2. Andrew Moore

      Re: Not Snopes

      Stapling was a regular occurance, if you were lucky, the staple would be in the top left corner and the disk would be untouched. Thankfully, the introduction of the 3" nearly wiped out this practice- I say nearly because we did have one committed site that managed to get a staple partially into one.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Not Snopes

        >Stapling was a regular occurrence, if you were lucky, the staple would be in the top left corner and the disk would be untouched.

        You could have got ahead of the situation by hole-punching the top left corner of every floppy, and doling out treasury tags!

        Or just dole out A4 envelopes.

        Staples are evil - just ask the person who has to the fix the photocopier!

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Not Snopes

          "Staples are evil - just ask the person who has to the fix the photocopier!"

          Especially the ones in the (expensive!) cartridges where, when they run out, the entire very expensive multifunction photocopier stops functioning, even though the output isn't set to be stapled anyway.

        2. G7mzh

          Re: Not Snopes

          > Staples are evil - just ask the person who has to the fix the photocopier!

          I had a customer who cost himself a lot of money after buying a new laser printer. After a few days, he complained all the prints had nasty black marks on. We investigated, and discovered he's put some pages through with staples in. Now required, new drum and rollers.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    If I could have a dollar for every time…

    … I've seen a CD-ROM stuffed into a 5¼" floppy drive!

    The real fun bit is explaining that that's not where it goes when the machine in question uses a single-speed caddy-loading drive.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

      Hah, it happened to me too :) Had to use a long-nosed plier to get it out :)

      1. VinceH

        Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

        Around 1990ish, I had to extract a few[1] camera filters from my computer's 3.5" drive. I kept it on a desk in the downstairs back room, and my camera gear was under the desk. The actual floppy discs were locked in a holder, and I came home from work to discover that a sibbling's younglings had tried to use the computer - and presumably tried the filters because it was about the right size, and they couldn't get at the actual discs.

        [1] These were very thin bits of plastic that sat in front of the lens in a holder, rather than screw on ones.

    2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

      Many years ago I worked for a University, and the library bought some copies of the Doomsday Book on CD. First day they were made available to the users someone crammed one of the CDs into a 5.25" drive bay. I wouldn't mind but we'd seen that coming and put little Dymo labels on all the CD drives.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

        http://arbitrary.name/blog/all/mac3.html

        This fella shows the things he has removed from the CD slot from his Mac Mini, courtesy of his young children. His other blog entries show him to be a very bright man indeed, as I'm sure his children are. I mean, primary schools have toys where the child is expected to place blocks through slots, and putting foreign objects into CD slots seems to be a continuation of that game.

        In previous decades, VHS machines suffered similar fates - I think you could even buy aftermarket panels to child-proof the cassette door. Small toys not too bad, biscuits and jam less so.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

          Not IT, but I remember sitting in my car wondering where my small pile of change for car parks had gone; took me a while to think of the cassette player.

          1. VinceH
            Facepalm

            Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

            Well, if we're talking cars, then I've done a massive facepalm myself.

            This was back when I used to off-road for fun; I had two cars - one for that, and one for normal getting around. The 4x4 was a diesel, while the road car had a petrol engine. And as soon as I make that distinction you can probably guess: filled one up with the wrong fuel.

            You'd guess right - but that's not the real facepalm.

            You might also reasonably guess that I put petrol in the diesel engine. And you'd be guessing wrong with that part - I put diesel in the petrol engine.

            As any driver should know, the nozzle on the diesel pump is too big to go into a petrol filler.

            The real facepalm, then, is that when I was in that situation I didn't think: Problem - this nozzle is too big. Reason? It's diesel, and this is my petrol car.

            Instead, I thought: Problem - this nozzle is too big. How do I get the fuel into my car?

            And I proceeded to solve that problem, and filled the petrol car's tank from nearly empty to full.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

              "Problem - this nozzle is too big. How do I get the fuel into my car?"

              Thus proving the old adage: "Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool"

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

                No what this typifies is a very common issue for people who are problem solvers by nature or training. Sometimes we fail to identify the initial problem state correctly, especially if it's while we're in off-duty mode (we're only human) or not in our own field of expertise. But then we automatically follow our problem solving strategies to the bitter end. The incorrect starting point leads inexorably to an incorrect solution.

              2. VinceH

                Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

                'Thus proving the old adage: "Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool"'

                Guilty as charged. 8)

                (But I prefer Terry 6's explanation!)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

          http://arbitrary.name/blog/all/mac3.html

          This fella shows the things he has removed from the CD slot from his Mac Mini, courtesy of his young children. His other blog entries show him to be a very bright man indeed, as I'm sure his children are.

          Worst I read about was a child with a chocolate in the shape of a 3½" floppy. Errm, yeah. Not pretty.

        3. G7mzh

          Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

          I used to do TV and VCR repairs, and had a regular customer whose children would post toys, sandwiches and other artifacts into the VCR. (It didn't seem to have occurred to her to put it on a higher shelf).

          That machine finally ceased to be viable (and ceased to be a source of income) when the dear child decided that the machine needed a drink and poured haf a tin of cola down it.

    3. Andy Taylor

      Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

      Back in the mists of time, I used to do support for a company that sold reference databases on CD-ROM. Caddy-loading drives were common at the time and one of our suppliers was selling a cheap caddy which was designed to clip together rather than hinge open. These caddies worked fine if they were assembled correctly, but it was possible to put them together in such a way that the small metal disc that held the CD onto the drive spindle by means of a small magnet could detach itself from the caddy, ending up aforementioned magnet. The only solution was to disassemble the drive and remove the metal disc.

      The 2009-2011 iMacs have an SD card slot on the right hand side, just under the DVD drive slot.

      When working at the fruit store, we would regularly get customers at the bar who had pushed their SD card into the DVD slot and lost it inside their machine. We quickly worked out the best method to get the card out again was to use a combination of gravity and agitation (i.e. hold the machine sideways and shake it until the card dropped out).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If I could have a dollar for every time…

        " (i.e. hold the machine sideways and shake it until the card dropped out)."

        Ah - the "Etch-a-sketch" method.

        http://dilbert.com/strip/1995-04-03

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Ah, good old 5.25" floppies, long live the 5.25" floppies.

    Interestingly I found that the 5.25" floppies were more reliable than their 3.5" brethren, I used to get a lot of read/write errors with 3.5" stiffies.

    It was so bad at one stage that I used to copy a driver onto three or four stiffies, reasoning that if one develops read errors, then there'll be three more to try.

    Keep in mind this was before USB memory sticks. And lugging an Iomega Zip-100 parallel port external around was not an option...

    Ahhh, the good old days.

    And the trick where you punched a hole into the stiffy to make it double its size from 720Kb to 1.44Mb...

    There also was an utility called FDFormat (DOS) which did weird tricks to squeeze in more space on an existing 1.2Mb floppy or 1.44Mb stiffy. I preferred to use plain vanilla DOS format as I was not sure whether data will be safe or not.

    1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

      Talking about reliability, a coupe of years ago I was tasked to put the students thesis online. Prior 2000, they were archived on 3.5" floppies, and the on CD. I was surprised to find out that a greater percentage of the floppies where readable when compared to CD (even those not older than 5 years).

      Floppies were of reputable brand, while CD were on the cheap side. In both case, I tried to use the best or newest peripheral. CD and floppies had been stored in the same box, so storage was not the issue.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        I found that out the hard way with CDs too. One office had the bright idea of putting their end-of-month backups on individual CDs (good), placing each CD in a protective sleeve (good), labelled the sleeve with the month and year (good), and made absolutely sure that everyone knew what and where they were (good). The problem was they used transparent sleeves and pinned them to a notice board instead of putting them in a cupboard or safe. The sunlight panned across the board every morning and the CD coating slowly but surely deteriorated...

      2. Mage Silver badge

        CDs and DVDs

        The commercial ones are pressed. They don't fade.

        Ordinary retail writeable kind only have the tracking groove pressed, the "pits" and "lands" are changed dye. They fade. DVDs faster than CDs. Only MO discs are suitable as a backup, regular writeable CDs and DVDs are only temporary, not archival. They can erase in a few days if left on a window-sill.

        It's not the top, but bottom that is the problem.

        I have 30 year old floppies and 50 year old audio tape that still work.

      3. Simon Harris Silver badge

        I remember archiving my thesis onto 15 3.5" floppies in 1991. I don't think those discs have been back in a drive since. To be honest, I'm not even sure I could find the discs now.

        As for punching holes, I remember round about 1980, when I was at school, making an extra cut-out for the index hole on 5.25" 80K single sided discs so that you could flip them over and use the other side.

    2. Kingston Black
      Coffee/keyboard

      Stiffies...

      Since you brought it up...

      Many years ago I had a attractive Namibian student working with me. She was studying at university in South African, but on year's training placement at the company I was working for in the UK. One morning, she came up to my desk and the following conversation took place:

      Me: "Hello *******" (she shall remain nameless).

      Her: "Hello ***, can you give me a stiffy please?".

      A colleague promptly spits tea all over his keyboard and monitor.

      Me: "A stiffy?"

      Her: "Yes please, one of those" (pointing to a 3.5" floppy).

      Her: "Those are stiffies, 5.25" are floppies."

      Me: "Ah!"

      Her: "What did you think I meant?"

      Silence, except for choking noises from the next desk...

      1. Nick Kew

        Re: Stiffies...

        How was your Namibian's sense of humour?

        When I've lived and worked abroad, I find being a foreigner gives me splendid licence to commit linguistic faux pas that will have the natives in stitches.

        It's not always deliberate, but it's much more likely than you'd think.

        1. Tikimon Silver badge

          Re: Stiffies...

          Utterly unrelated to computers, but it's a great linguistic mixup example. I had toured a wooden sailing ship visiting our sunny shores on a world tour. I was hanging around afterward, observing and annoying the crew with questions. One of them finally told me I could sign up to sail it (which I did!). Well, I also overheard a lady chatting with a couple of the crew about her daughter who was joining the ship there for a leg of the tour. It came up that her daughter loved to dance. She said "Oh yes, she loves to shag. I'm sure within a day she'll probably be teaching the whole crew." Cue choking and giggling, then they had to explain why.

          My week as temp crew was also the coolest thing I've ever done.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      1) Stiffy *snigger*

      2) doubling the capacity with a hole-punch gives you a 1.44 disk that was only rated for 720 and while you might get away with it a lot of the time, this might hint at the possibility of an explanation for the high error rates

      3) putting stuff on re-used compuserve disks has its own "probability set" given the cost-related data survival expectation of said disks, given what you paid for them

      4) Other FAT-but-not-FAT type disks had swearing too

      5) Extra hate to everybody for dredging up painful memories, may you all receive socks for Christmas *that are too small*

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        may you all receive socks for Christmas *that are too small*

        Given that my feet are swollen and inflamed at the moment, I'm quite certain that that is going to happen.

    4. AceRimmer1980
      Pint

      Ah, good old FDFORMAT

      Not forgetting the TSR that went with it, FDREAD ;-)

      Normal DD format 9 sectors/80 tracks would give 720K. An Atari ST disk typically had 10 sectors/82 tracks, giving 820K for not much effort. An Amiga could shoehorn 1.1Mb onto the same disk.

      And +1 for 5 1/4's being amazingly robust. I once had some posted to me, where the postie had folded them in half to get the envelope through the letterbox. They still worked.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Ah, good old FDFORMAT

        Has anyone done a stiffy joke yet?

        - Mike, The Young Ones, 1982.

    5. Muscleguy Silver badge

      During my PhD ('88 to 92/3) I had 3 boxes of 3.5" micros (the 1.8MB HD versions) in disc boxes with my thesis on them. One was the working copy which got backed up to the travelling set in my bag. The third set was at home and came in once a week to be backed up (no computer at home).

      So if I was in transit between home and work and they both burned down or there was a big earthquake (this was NZ AKA The Shaky Isles) I would still have a copy of my thesis, even if I lacked a machine to put it into . . . If while on my bike I encountered the semi-trailer of fate my work was there for posterity. It wouldn't have survived a direct asteroid hit, but deep southern NZ should have been okay-ish in nuclear exchange (until the nuclear winter hit). Well the govt kept telling us to plan for emergencies.

      Mind you in my honours year I properly ejected an 800Kb micro, put it in my labcoat pocket, went and demonstrated a lab and it would not read when I put it back in. I put it down to my animal magnetism.

  6. Mr Dogshit

    Backup the config

    Our receptionist diligently saved the config of the company switchboard to a floppy, and would take it home in her handbag (off site storage you see). She’d been doing this for years. I took a look and found it was just the configuration of her console – not the 2500 users in the system and their extension numbers.

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Backup the config

      Agggghhhh!

      You just reminded me, I logged onto a customer's system the other day, to reacquaint myself with the firewall config, and had an urge to check out the backup system I'd set up a year or so ago.

      Backups are made of a bunch of different directories, and a couple of databases, before being archived and finally rsynced across to a central server where they'll be included in the off site backup.

      Now this customer had moved offices recently, and changed their IP range as well, and clearly someone had though ahead and to avoid getting errors, they'd commented out the entire section of my backup script that copied the backups off the machine to the other server. Of course, they'd never un-commented those lines...

      So, for about ten moths, this server had been carefully backing up everything, but never copying the data off itself.

      (yes I fixed the script, and no, I didn't bother telling the customer, they'll only find a different way to bugger it up)

      1. Vic

        Re: Backup the config

        So, for about ten moths, this server had been carefully backing up everything, but never copying the data off itself.

        I got called in to a customer[1] site where they'd had a disk crash. They'd been running the business on a Deskstar, and that drive had done what Deskstars do.

        The data was gone. I couldn't get to large numbers of sectors, let alone carve anything off them. I had to tell the customer the bad news, and suggest a new drive and a restore-from-backup[2]. This was my optimistic way of asking them if they *had* a backup.

        Yes, they did have a backup. Well, that made life easier. So where was it? On the other machine in the office.

        Except, of course there was no backup. They'd just shared the drive across the network, with both machines merrily writing data off to that paragon of data integrity...

        I was fielding calls for months afterwards. "We used to hace this file on the desktop, but it';s gone". "Do you remember that disk crash you had? Do you remember what I said about most of your data being lost?"...

        Vic.

        [1] They weren't my customer until that day. And I'd probably have been better off not takinng them on at all.

        [2] I made a number of other suggestions as well. I'm pretty sure most of them were ignored...

  7. Oengus Silver badge

    Poor instructions

    I have a story of 5.25" drives as well.

    I worked for a major bank and we would send updates to the branch terminals on 5.25" floppies. It got to the stage where the updates exceeded the capacity of a single floppy. We quickly started receiving calls that the users were having trouble loading the updates. We worked out that the instructions said "When the message on the screen says 'Load Next Disk', insert the next disk in sequence and press return to continue." This was in the early 80's when no one had a personal computer so people did exactly as instructed and tried to stuff the second floppy in the drive without removing the first disk.

    The people writing the instructions were so used to inserting and removing the disks it didn't occur to them that someone would need to be told to remove the disk before inserting the next one.

    The next version included the instruction to "remove the disk in the drive then insert the next disk in sequence"...

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Poor instructions

      I believe I understood I had to remove a disc before putting in the next one since I got my first 45rpm disc player as a child, far before anybody thought you could have a computer at home, or on your desk... thus, no, the issue was not that novelty called PCs...

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Poor instructions

        <i?I believe I understood I had to remove a disc before putting in the next one since I got my first 45rpm disc player as a child,</i>

        You never had an autochanger that would let you stack half-a-dozen disks up for playing?

        1. frank ly

          Re: Poor instructions

          I was once (probably more times) responsible for 'poor instructions'. I'd left an MSDOS floppy with a custom autoexec.bat file to be used by a junior clerk, while I was away, to enter some data that would need to be gathered and processed. My instructions were, "Put the floppy drive in the slot and switch the computer on." When I returned, I was told that it didn't work.

          She said, "But the computer was already turned on so I didn't need to turn it on!" You have to think of everything.

        2. Doctor_Wibble
          Headmaster

          Re: Poor instructions

          > You never had an autochanger that would let you stack half-a-dozen disks up for playing?

          Last seen on my 1974 National Panasonic (or might just have been National) one-piece stereo system from back when radio still sounded right (capacity of 4), and before that, on mother's portable electricity-powered gramaphonic apparatus which would do 78, 45, 33-and-a-third, and 16 (capacity of 6).

          This useful bit of technology was presumably removed after people kept using sandpaper as a friction mat to stop the records slipping?

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Poor instructions

            This useful bit of technology was presumably removed after people kept using sandpaper as a friction mat to stop the records slipping?

            If they were too tight to buy half a dozen little felt discs which fitted over the label area, that serves them right.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: Poor instructions

              If you look at 45's during the era of auto-changers, you would see that many of them had a circular 'bump' track between the innermost grove and the label. This was there so that when they were stacked, they would 'lock' together, preventing the upper ones from slipping while being rotated through a stack of lower disks.

              What was more interesting is that the number of the 'bumps' was such that when viewed under a bright mains filament light while spinning on the turntable, they should appear static (strobe effect) if the turntable was running at the right speed, but you had to look very hard.

              I have a copy of Tommy by the Who, which was a two LP set, which had sides 1 and 4 on one disk, and 2 and 3 on the other. This was so that you could play sides 1 and 2 on an auto-changer, and then turn both disks over together as a sandwich to play sides 3 and 4.

              Mind you, the weight of the records falling down the spindle, especially the heavier vinyl used in the '60s and '70s was such that I was always surprised that the turntable survived. I suspect that is why the BSR decks (at least) has spring suspension to absorb the impact, not for any audio isolation. My Grandmother also used to use the auto-changer on her PYE Stereogram (about the same size as a small sideboard) for shellac 78s which were really heavy.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Poor instructions

                "[...] for shellac 78s which were really heavy."

                My grandfather in the 1950s had Handel's Messiah on 78rpm 10 inch shellac records - at about 8 minutes maximum per side. They were stored in sleeves in a large binder-like case which was very heavy - possibly containing the full 2 hours 30 minutes of a performance.

                They were played on a clockwork wind-up gramophone with steel or thorn needles. The volume control was effected by varying the amount you opened the cabinet's front doors. As kids we used to play "The Hallelujah Chorus" while sliding the speed control backwards and forwards across its considerable range.

                Many such records in the1960s ended up as flower pots by being warmed in an oven then moulded into shape - with the drainage hole ready made.

              2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Poor instructions

                "I have a copy of Tommy by the Who, which was a two LP set, which had sides 1 and 4 on one disk, and 2 and 3 on the other."

                That was common with opera recordings which could very easily run to multiple disks. On long pieces it wasn't always possible to get the turnover right. The CBS Bruno Walter LP of Mahler 1 had a turnover in the middle of the long 3rd movement. It was a relief to move on to CD where that wasn't necessary. Then they came out with a multi disk, multi symphony set where they split one symphony between 2 CDs.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Poor instructions

                  "I have a copy of Tommy by the Who, which was a two LP set, which had sides 1 and 4 on one disk, and 2 and 3 on the other."

                  About 20 years ago I acquired a Sharp record player from a charity shop in order to transcribe an elderly neighbour's vinyl records to CD for her convenience. It was unusual in that the record was placed in a retracting horizontal drawer like a CD player. The head was on a linear bar rather than a conventional pivoting arm.

                  Mine had two heads, one for each side, but Sharp had other models with another solution using only one head.

                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqHsjdYYNus

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Poor instructions

                  "It was a relief to move on to CD where that wasn't necessary. Then they came out with a multi disk, multi symphony set where they split one symphony between 2 CDs."

                  It is said that the size of a standard CD was determined to match the playing time of a particular Beethoven symphony.

                  1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

                    Re: Poor instructions

                    Beethoven's 9th, at the insistence of Herbert von Karajan. As conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic he had a good relationship with Philips/Deutsche Grammophon.

              3. Mage Silver badge

                Re: Poor instructions

                1930s USA autochangers could flip a stack of 78s. So a symphony on 6 x 78s was as you describe, parts 1 to 6, then 7 to 12 just by flipping the stack.

                They had sapphire stylus too, as the steel needles are only single play!

                1949 was the first year of microgroove 33 & 45 with 78 and a flip over stylus. The current retro style record players have a 78 speed, but can't play a 78 disc properly as they only have a single stylus of microgroove type.

                There were 12" 33 in early 1930s but 78rpm, for cinema, playing from inside to the outer edge like CDs / DVDs do. Easier to cue.

            2. Doctor_Wibble
              Boffin

              Re: Poor instructions

              > If they were too tight to buy half a dozen little felt discs which fitted over the label area, that serves them right.

              Thing is, I think I might even have seen a couple of those kicking about but didn't get what they were - if there had been several I might possibly have figured it out but the gramophone took a few records with no problem or slippage and it was unclear what the small piece of fibre-shedding cloth was for except helping to clog up the needle.

              None of the records that had clearly been played/stacked in the thing were showing signs of sanding so is it possible the felt discs were an over-caution for older records?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Poor instructions

                "None of the records that had clearly been played/stacked in the thing were showing signs of sanding so is it possible the felt discs were an over-caution for older records?"

                Probably - the "music" is inside the grooves, so it would seem that just the record surfaces rubbing probably wouldn't do much.

                1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: Poor instructions

                  "the "music" is inside the grooves, so it would seem that just the record surfaces rubbing probably wouldn't do much."

                  But the grooves extend all the way up to the surface. So if the surface has scratches on it they do, in fact, interfere with the shape of the groove and the S/N ratio goes down.

              2. Dave 126 Silver badge

                Re: Poor instructions

                >What was more interesting is that the number of the 'bumps' was such that when viewed under a bright mains filament light while spinning on the turntable, they should appear static (strobe effect) if the turntable was running at the right speed, but you had to look very hard.

                @ 50 or 60 Hz? :) This is why there are four lines of dots on the platter of many turntables: two speeds of records, two common frequencies of domestic AC electricity.

                1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

                  Re: Poor instructions @Dave 126.

                  I've only looked at UK pressings under UK light, so they are for 50Hz.

        3. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Poor instructions

          No, portable players with a slot you put the disc in, with a button to press to eject it, didn't have an autochanger. Some models were for children, but there were models for "adults" too. Maybe some high-end model had an autochanger, but I never saw one.

          Probably I also tried when I was four or five to put more than one disc inside, but guess quicly understood it didn't work and just jammed...

          My father disc player had an autochanger, just it worked almost OK with LPs (but when I was a teenager I was horrified it could damage my precious discs...), 45 were too light, and probably the larger hole created more friction, and often they didn't fall when was the time, or fell too late over the arm. That's why, I guess, they quickly went out of fashion in the '70s when hi-fi systems became more sophisticated.

          But those didn't have a slot to load the discs into. All the ones I saw had a spindle you loaded with discs, started it, and prayed it worked...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Poor instructions

            Dansette made "portable" record players with autochangers. Note the carrying handle on the side.

            http://dansette.com/

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Poor instructions

              With the Dansette the autochanger would play a random selection from the stacked 45s by dropping an arbitrary number each time.

        4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Poor instructions

          "You never had an autochanger that would let you stack half-a-dozen disks up for playing?"

          And let them skid on each other? A great promotional aid for people who wanted to sell more disks.

          1. Doctor_Wibble
            Headmaster

            Re: Poor instructions

            > And let them skid on each other? A great promotional aid for people who wanted to sell more disks.

            Fair point but this was what the capacity limit was about, you could probably get another two or three on top if the spindle but the 4 or 6 max was usually clear (and marked) as being the point after which the slippage started happening, depending on the model of the turntable. Arm weighting, length, angle, needle type etc.

            Also, slippage didn't normally cause noticeable damage unless you managed to get sand between the discs and/or tried really hard.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Those of you who remember floppies will remember they came with a tiny switch that could write-protect the media. Steve knew of this switch and as he attempted to sort out this problem told the user to move the disk lock down."

    Are we conflating disk sizes here? I remember 3.5" floppies having a switch to write-protect them, but I don't remember 3.5" floppy drives having a disk lock you needed to flick/turn down. Equally I remember 5.25" floppies having a disk lock on the drive, but they didn't have switches for write protection, it was a good ol' hole-punch and/or sticky tape for that.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      5.25" disks also had a write protect tab. While the 3.5" disks had a slightly better engineered embedded plastic tab to move up and down the 5.25" disks generally just had a metal clip that served the same purpose. When this wasn't there (which was pretty the case for purchased software disks) there was just a tab cut out instead and to write-enable a disk one just had to put a label (or other tape) over the space; Many earlier used a mechanical device for detecting this slot, later units tended towards optical sensor therefore as long as it was solid and opaque it worked.

      This image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/24/Dysan_Verbatim_5.25_disks_1978.jpg shows both a metal clip and metal over the space.

      Here's one with the write protect slot cut out: http://www.fileformat.info/media/5.25-floppy/top.jpg

      (images provided through nothing more than just a google image search).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I know they still have write protection, I mentioned it as the hole-punch/tape solution. You wouldn't call it a switch though? That image you linked to is just a bit of metal tape. Same thing for audio cassettes & VHS.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "shows both a metal clip and metal over the space."

        Wow, I never, ever saw one of those metal clip doodads, and my computing experience started with cassette tape. Yes, I'm a young'un. I remember drooling over the like of MK14, NASCOM etc before finally saving up enough to get my first computer, a 16KB Video Genie (didn't think much of the ZX80, so kept saving, knowing what else was now available) Every 5.25" floppy I ever saw just had the slot cut out and the box of disks came with a sheet of write protect sticky tabs.

  9. gaz 7

    ahh, floppy disks

    Back in the mists of time, when floppies were common, I often used to get calls where people had hole punched them to put in files, or stapled them to reports, then wondered shy the data was corrupt

    On more than one occasion, I came across someone who had cut the black sleeve open and slid the bare disk out then tried to insert into the drive. To be fair this was the late eighties when floppy vinyl singles were common giveaways on the likes of Smash Hits.

    We found that 3.5" disks occasionally stuck (we had rubbish disks and drives), and that carefully turning the spindle freed it. I actually convinced our office apps trainer that if you turned the spindle it moved the data to the edge which made it quicker to access. She parroted this to her trainees for at least 5 years. she was also told that we saved electricity if empty sockets were switched off as it stopped electricity "leaking out"

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: ahh, floppy disks

      "when floppies were common, "

      indeed . All these tales of floppies being used for things that matter are giving me the heebiee jeebies!

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: ahh, floppy disks

      she was also told that we saved electricity if empty sockets were switched off as it stopped electricity "leaking out"

      A missed opportunity. You have to put a blanking plug in to do the job properly... And be careful of bits dribbling out of spare network sockets.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: ahh, floppy disks

        "electricity leaking, blanking plug"

        Switching off a power supply socket before removing the plug using it is basic safety - if a switch is provided: it used to be optional. If it's live then a slipping finger may get you a serious electric shock.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: ahh, floppy disks

          Perhaps true, however the modern UK plug sockets are pertty damn safe due to the switching mechanism and the insulation on the pins. Rather safer than the equivalend EU and in particular US plugs.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: ahh, floppy disks

            Blanking plugs actually make UK sockets less safe.

            Don't take my word for it, take Johnny Ball's:

            http://www.fatallyflawed.org.uk/

            1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: ahh, floppy disks

              British electricity sockets aren't watertight (normally).

              Admittedly neither are "blanking plugs", but, they help.

              Sockets set in the floor - usually covered I admit - may not stand up to a stiletto-heel shoe, either.

              My situation: washing machine space under the kitchen worktop, with a socket in just the plate to get thoroughly sprayed if something goes wrong with the water side of things.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ahh, floppy disks

            "[...] and the insulation on the pins."

            Looking for a 13amp plug the other day I was surprised that most of my surplus/scavenged stock is the older type with the solid Line/Neutral pins. They always look far more suitable for carrying 13 amps than the modern partially insulated ones.

            I was horrified when I first encountered continental plugs/sockets with their piece of springy iron wire as the earth contact.

            1. Vic

              Re: ahh, floppy disks

              I was horrified when I first encountered continental plugs/sockets with their piece of springy iron wire as the earth contact.

              I did a trade show in Paris some years back. We paid a fairly hefty surcharge to have a 15A feed to the stall. I was less than impressed to find they hadn't fitted one - our kit required electricity.

              I called the electrician, who confirmed that we did indeed have a 15A supply. I was buggered if I could find it, so I got him to come to the stand to show me where lay this mythical cable.

              He pointed to a bit of bell wire sticking through the carpet...

              Vic.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: ahh, floppy disks

      she was also told that we saved electricity if empty sockets were switched off as it stopped electricity "leaking out"

      ...and you sent her to stores for "a long stand". Then down to the hardware store for a left handed screwdriver. You git! :-)

  10. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    The age of floppy disks brings back memories of saving a couple of PhD thesis partially erased by storing them on top of a loudspeaker, or just shoddy quality disks. Using Norton's Utilities I managed to restore about 95% of the work. Not perfect, but it earned me a hug or two from distraught PhD students (I also pointed out to one of them that getting double spacing in text should not involve tapping "enter" twice, but that is another matter entirely). My own take on matters as serious as my PhD thesis was to make daily incremental backups on (reliable brand) 3.5" disks (in duplicate, and take one backup home), and make weekly full backups both on 3.5" disks (which went home) and on a (slow) tape unit we had. I never needed the backups, but they bought me a lot of peace of mind.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      " getting double spacing in text should not involve tapping "enter" twice"

      Yes it should!

      Its better than letting msword pick a random number for spacing and then resist all efforts to adjust it!

      In fact fuck it, all documents should henceforth be authored in monospace text format.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Mushroom

        Oh no it bloody well shouldn't.

        If I had a quid for every fucking time I've been asked to modify a document, only to find it's been written by some abject fucking moron who "doesn't do styles" I'd be giving Croesus a run for his money.

        Everything formatted with spaces and carriage returns. Only one font style, which is umpty versions of "Normal + [interminable list of tweaks]". Looks perfect until you try to insert something, at which point the lack of anything resembling paragraphs or pagination makes itself felt and the whole thing immediately degenerates into illegible catshit.

        The mystery to me is that as typewriters have been obsolete for some years now, I can't see where users are picking this shit up from?

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          TeeCee,

          I don't know about others, but I learnt on a typewriter. And I'm only in my early 40s. It was a hulking great old Imperial too, and not electric, so I had to learn to stop hammering the keys when I moved to computers. Fortunately playing the piano helps with that, as you tend to play with the pads of your fingers and not the tips, so it's a useful movement to adapt for typing.

          And of course, the problem is that I learnt the old fashioned way, by continual repetition. That 'muscle memory' is very hard to unlearn. Such that I still automatically hit space twice after hitting a full stop without thinking, and get horribly annoyed by word processors that try to do that for you automatically.

          Obviously for an important document, that's large or will require editing in future, I do things properly. But if I'm knocking up a quick letter for one-off use, it's as quick to paginate myself with tabs, as it is to take my hands off the keyboard and reach for the mouse to do it the proper way.

          It was a right pain in the arse working in Belgium, when you got onto someone else's computer with a nasty AZERTY keyboard.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: I ain't Spartacus

            Also, even if the user didn't learn on a manual tripewriter, they may have been taught their job by an old-hand who was. It's just the old "This is the way we do things here" problem.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            " It was a hulking great old Imperial too, and not electric, so I had to learn to stop hammering the keys when I moved to computers. "

            I learned to type on the 1960's mainframe consoles and computer terminals. They were electromechanical Flexowriters and Teletypes - which needed a similar key pressure to a manual typewriter - if not more. It took a while to learn to stop hammering the keys when Termiprinters and video terminals arrived.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "It was a right pain in the arse working in Belgium, when you got onto someone else's computer with a nasty AZERTY keyboard."

            In the EEC terminal room in Luxembourg in the 1980s there were several terminals supplied by various European manufacturers. You usually had to queue for the next available free one. Irrespective of nationality mots people an ICL QWERTY one. The others were either French AZERTY or German QWERTZ - with rather arcane key presses to emulate the control functions of the ICL ones.

            A colleague used to tell how he was the only man on an evening course to learn touch typing. He could type text at quite a rate on a terminal. One day he came unstuck using the VI editor. He suddenly realised he had made a mis-key at some point and caused his file to be unintentionally encrypted - with an unknown string.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        ... better than letting msword pick a random number for spacing ...

        It doesn't if you know how to drive it - and turn off as much of the irritating "knows better than you what you want" auto-formatting as is possible.

        or

        You use something that's not to "processing text" as the menu at McDonalds is to gourmet cuisine.

  11. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    the oops I've switched the machine off when I meant to eject the floppy :-(

    doesn't happen now thanks to the annoying 4 second delay.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I envisage that scene a bit like the standard war film cliche. The scout has just stepped on something that's gone "ping" - and now can't move his foot until someone comes along and deactivates the mine.

      I don't see why the bloke couldn't have just sat there with his finger on the button until the end of the day... Or until someone comes along and slides a spring-loaded doohicked under this finger to hold the button closed, until the patrol can get to safety and then mine can go up when they're someonewhere else.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Finger on the button until the end of the day... have you tried this? Don't! :) You'll need to move your finger before too long as cramp sets in.

        As for the mine, these are/were craftily designed killing devices. The pressure to trigger them was relatively high however the release pressure was very low, which was pretty simple to engineer. You'd have to insert a shim under the unlucky walker's foot taking care to release no pressure whatsoever otherwise the thing would trigger and doing so required a second person to assist leading to almost certain injuries to them as well. From what I understand shields could be tried (with leg shaped holes in them) with the intention that the unfortunate soul could try to leap to safety and hope the shield protected them but these weren't terribly successful and were very cumbersome to deploy.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Mines really do that? Seems a stupid trigger mechanism to me.

          I dont want to come over all superweapons-warmonger , but if i were designing i mine id have it go off straight away with the initial downward pressure.

          Same as if i was writing malware i wouldnt put a little pop up saying "Install malware and wipe files? Y/N "

          1. Vic

            if i were designing i mine id have it go off straight away with the initial downward pressure.

            Your design kills one man.

            The fire-on-release trigger delays at least three men, if not the whole squad, making them easy pickings for snipers.

            And then it kills the same initial man, as well as probably killing or maiming the two who came to his aid. And if they're maimed, that ties up yet more men getting them medical attention.

            War is ugly, but it would be very arrogant indeed to imagine you can out-think a weapons designer.

            Vic.

  12. Wiltshire

    Usually we sent software updates on a floppy disc in the post.

    It's 09:00 on April 1st 1979.

    We sent some customers a fax. It told them that we were speeding-up the delivery of the software updates by using fax. Please cut-out the floppy disc below round the dotted line and follow the usual procedure to install the update.

    At 15:45 we get a phone call. Tearful customer is upset. Our software update is stuck in her PC and it doesn't work and she can't get it out and she'll get in trouble and she doesn't know what to do and and and.....

    Morals of the story?

    1) Some customers will believe anything

    2) Never ever assume customers will have any wits

    3) Don't play April Fools games with customers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      On a slight tangent - I was reading a manual for a fax machine, and there was a bit about updating the firmware on it.

      Basically, you could update the firmware by sending it from another fax machine over the phone line.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      1) Some customers will believe anything

      2) Never ever assume customers will have any wits

      3) Don't play April Fools games with customers.

      All true and valuable, if somewhat obvious, lessons

      You could probly do 3 , if you were more subtle about it. IE customer dosent know theyve been pwned, but the results are obvious.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[..] she was also told that we saved electricity if empty sockets were switched off as it stopped electricity "leaking out""

    When homes in Britain were converted from gas to electricity it was apparently not unknown for some people to do that.

    Much of our learning is built on our general experience. Putting together an exercise bike - it took a few attempts to attach the second pedal before remembering it had a left-handed thread.

    People sometimes "correct" me for looking both ways when crossing a one-way street. My reply is: "You know it is a one-way street; I know it is a one way street; someone coming the wrong way obviously doesn't".

    1. Jedit

      "... we saved electricity if empty sockets were switched off "

      Something of a useful lie, that. Switching sockets off when not in use is a good idea just in case something gets into the earthing. It's a rare problem, but it doesn't hurt anyone to do it.

      1. Montreal Sean

        Re: "... we saved electricity if empty sockets were switched off "

        Turning them off when not in use would also make it that much harder for younglings to electrocute themselves when they stick things in the plug.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I still look both ways crossing any road. I tell myself it's for that reason. Plus I when being taught to cross roads I said, "I have right of way" when stepping onto a crossing - only to be told, "and do you want those to be your last words?"

      I've always been quite careful, but it really became a tic after I moved abroad. I was OK on arrival in Belgium, where the cars are on the wrong side of the road. Even on my first trip out there for the job interview I instantly looked the correct way for oncoming traffic. No problems at all. Once I'd moved, the first time I came back to Blighty - total confusion. I couldn't work out which way to look, had to think about it each time, and then just thought sod it and looked both ways each time.

      I was fine when I went back again. But when I came to live in the UK again it took me a couple of months to be able to automatically look the right way if there wasn't an arrow. By which point I'd built up the habit of looking both ways to such an extent I can't get rid of it.

      The weirdest thing is that when I go abroad for holidays, I have no problems at all.

      My brain probably needs a firmware update. Where's the right place to stick the floppy?

      1. NotBob

        Perhaps if driving in the UK was on the right side of the road, eh?

        1. Vic

          Perhaps if driving in the UK was on the right side of the road, eh?

          We do drive on the right side of the road. The left.

          Vic.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I couldn't work out which way to look, had to think about it each time, and then just thought sod it and looked both ways each time."

        If you only know one way to do something then it is a no-brainer. Once you know two ways then you get into a state of metastability while you make the decision.

        One dark night in the UK I was in the right-hand lane of a one way system. Coming to a halt at a T junction to join a deserted dual carriage way - I was suddenly confused about which side of the central reservation to turn on to. My year in Sweden driving on the right had obviously conditioned me to that "I am currently on the right" check when making such decisions.

        In Sweden they still had the precautionary markings from when they converted their roads to the right. A nice curved white line traced your route onto the correct side of the dual carriageway.

        The Stockholm elevated through roads had presented more of a logistics problem post-conversion. You entered from a (previously an exit) slip road into the traffic in the "fast" lane. To leave you also had to manoeuvre into the "fast" lane first - and hit the (previously an entry) slip road at that speed.

    3. Vic

      People sometimes "correct" me for looking both ways when crossing a one-way street.

      When I ws doing my bike test, we were taught that failing to look the wrong way down a one-way street or the other side of a dual carriageway when crossing meant an instant fail.

      I don't know for sure if that's true (I passed), but it makes sense...

      Vic.

      1. Dagg
        Coat

        People sometimes "correct" me for looking both ways when crossing a one-way street.

        In Melbourne Australia looking both ways is a must as the concept of a one way street is just that, it makes no difference to the average drivers and that even includes the local coppers.

        Admittedly there are many inner city roads that could do with better signage. But the local councils don't appear to want to spend the money.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          In Melbourne Australia

          hah, home of that bizarre invention the "hook turn". Do they still have that?

      2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Access to my street is from a one way street, and you'd be a complete mug if you assumed people didn't flout that. Cyclists ignore it routinely, but I've also had cars, and one large delivery truck do so to.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I once heard a story that when asked for the backups, they were shown photo-copies of the floppies. I always assumed it was a wind-up. After reading some of the above stories, I'm no longer sure it was...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The company had a scheme whereby undergraduates would spend a year in industry. Showing a new youngster his PC I explained that the 3.5mm jack socket on the CD drive was where he could plug in his headphones for a music CD.

    His reaction was "pull the other one". He took a little persuading that it really was designed to be used in that way.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      'His reaction was "pull the other one"'

      Maybe he'd heard about some of the pranks traditionally pulled on engineering apprentices.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, but try to tell someone that the little volume knob on the CD-ROM does nothing about the sound level on the computer.

      Especially if you adjust the "real" volume control on the back of the sound card at the same time.

  16. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Insert a new disk and press Return

    We've had so many threads here on El Reg that come down to this. Just because something implicit is brain numbingly obvious to the knowledgeable and IT confident ( not just engineers btw) doesn't make it so to the anxious and unaware. If it's implied it isn't stated, by definition. And if something is for general consumption it has to be stated explicitly. Like looking both ways on a one way street (above) better safe than sorry.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Insert a new disk and press Return

      Just because something implicit is brain numbingly obvious to the knowledgeable and IT confident doesn't make it so to the anxious and unaware

      I had an example of that the other day. My sister-in-law, who's not a techie but has used computers for ages and understands the need for security, was getting me to check what she'd done to lock down her network. Amongst the list of what she'd done was "my WiFi access password and admin password on the router are different". It had never, ever occurred to me until that point that someone might make them the same.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Insert a new disk and press Return

      A colleage last week asked me what the message, "full search results may not appear due to server connection problems" meant. This was on Office 365. To me, that's a pretty self-explanatory message - but I suppose to her, although she's been told we have a remote Exchange server she's probably forgotten. So it's just gobbledegook.

      But it's very hard to write outside your own assumptions. Or at least, it takes practise.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Insert a new disk and press Return

        ...to server connection problems

        More to the point, perhaps. A non-techie user may not understand/know about the existence of servers, local or remote, let alone comprehend what moving remote data implies. Usually it's just there.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Insert a new disk and press Return

        "although she's been told we have a remote Exchange server she's probably forgotten"

        Or not even understood the significance.

        We each have our own mental images of how things work. For some that image is just keyboard and screen.

    3. John R. Macdonald

      Re: Insert a new disk and press Return

      @Terry6

      Still it's a bit sad when stroller/pram manufacturers have to instruct users, before folding said device, to "remove child first".

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Insert a new disk and press Return

        No worse than the nut stand that was in Brent Cross until a year or so back, which had the sign saying, ( have you guessed this?) "product may contain nuts".

        1. Montreal Sean

          Re: Insert a new disk and press Return

          "may contain nuts"

          Food labels have an allergy warning after the ingredient list in Canada.

          The jar of peanuts? Two ingredients: roasted peanuts, salt.

          Allergy warning? "Contains peanuts"

          I should hope it contains peanuts!

          :)

        2. G7mzh

          Re: Insert a new disk and press Return

          "May contain nuts" - this includes the possibility that it does not contain nuts. I'd love to ask the makers what the probability is.

  17. x_tricky
    Facepalm

    While working on upgrading a certain Nuclear companies computer systems we had a graduate who had never seen a token-ring network, ahh good old token-ring. Every time someone didn't connect in the upgraded PC correctly we sent him looking for the tokens falling out of the ring to fix it. He did off his own back also start removing all the kinks in the cables to allow the "tokens to flow quicker and speed up the network" he left him doing that as was far easier than explaining!

  18. EastFinchleyite

    In the land of the blind...

    .. the one eyed man is King, or at least the amateur problem go-to man.

    While working for the country's largest and least loved telecoms company in the mid eighties we all got PCs starting with CP/M based blocks using eight inch floppies and working up to PC XTs with massive 20Mbyte HDDs. . It was called Continuous Improvement - one of the company Values. As I had home PCs (starting with a ZX81 and upwards) I was always asked to fix some balls up.

    - before the office smoking ban, a colleague complained that his floppy drive was getting erratic. A quick view showed he kept his ashtray in front of the drive slot. The internal fan sucked the pillar of smoke into the drive slot. With a bit of screw driver work I unveiled a tar pit. A quick trip to the mainframe dept colleagues to borrow their Arklone-P cleaner (nasty stuff) got it working again.

    - Later, a folded 3.5 inch stiffy was brought to me with the "its the only copy" story. It had been inadvertently left in another office and sent back through the post. It reminded me of the old story of an envelope with the sign saying "Floppy Disks - Do Not Bend" and and added message "oh yes they do!". I transferred the internal disk sliver to a new sacrificed case and luckily it worked. I quick lecture about back ups probably had no effect whatsoever.

    - We also handled some very commercially sensitive information and were instructed to destroy old 8 inch and 5.25 inch floppies in the paper shredder. That was always lots of fun. Sometimes the shredder won, sometimes it was the floppy. When we moved to 3.5 inch stiffies it was no contest but we tried anyway.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: In the land of the blind...

      "Later, a folded 3.5 inch stiffy was brought to me with the "its the only copy" story."

      Impressive, if they managed that without snapping it in half.

      1. EastFinchleyite

        Re: In the land of the blind...

        Yes, folded but not snapped. The metal shutter was well bent but surprisingly the case was in one piece. It was pretty knackered but the internal sliver had survived with only minor creasing. Inserted in a new case allowed it to be read and copied.

  19. Steven Raith

    No story to share, but...

    ...this:

    "“Robert” sent a story of an emergency he was asked to fix, after a server admin mistook a spring-loaded power switch for a floppy drive's eject disk button.

    The server admin wanted Robert to walk around the office – a trading room - and have all the traders save their work, ASAP. While Robert did that, the server admin would keep his finger on the button, because to release it would turn off the server."

    Is it just me who nodded sagely and thought 'good lad' for the smart thinking of the server admin? Yeah, he massively cocked up, but at least he had the foresight to think of the consequences and mitigate them as best he could.

    I didn't really start in the desktop IT world till floppy disks were becoming less popular (I did some ISP support work in the early 2000s, then moved into desktop support in the mid 2000s, although I had been messing with computers since the mid 90s in some form) so I missed a lot of these old skool shenanigans...

    Steven R

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No story to share, but...

      I have made a similar mistake - and sat there with my finger holding the button in while then shutting the machine down tidily with the other hand.

      Reminds me of a story from the Vietnam War. A soldier heard a click as he put his foot down. He had the presence of mind to stand still until the landmine could be excavated and neutralised. It was designed to explode when the triggering weight was lifted.

    2. JQW

      Re: No story to share, but...

      I once had to use a 486 workstation that had a major design fault - the power on switch was on the front of the case and at just the right height so that pushing the keyboard back would hit the switch and power the thing down. The vendor of these things also touted them as low-end servers at the time. No wonder the manufacturer went bust.

      As for floppies, I recall having to once install an early version of NT from a stack of floppies - over 40 of them - as the workplace had a policy of not ordering software on CD.

  20. Alien8n Silver badge

    5 1/4 inch floppies

    I remember these from school, we very quickly worked out that every disc was technically double sided, so could be converted from single to double with careful use of a pair of scissors... very useful for copying all those games for the old BBC B

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Several people assumed that CDs were double sided - especially the ones without a printed side.

    IIRC there really were some CDs that had data on both sides.

    1. lybad
      Unhappy

      Not seen many double sided CDs. But we have a few DVD's - mainly kids cartoons, but they sometimes did them with pan & scan on one side, and widescreen on the other.

      On the multi-insertion point earlier, my son (who admittedly has additional needs) managed to get 6 DVDs into a slot loading TV/DVD player. Much cursing occurred trying to remove them...

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        I've got an old (1987 vintage) hifi CD player still going strong. There doesn't seem much in that mechanism that particularly locks the CD in place though. I moved the player once forgetting there was still a CD inside with the result that it slipped off the tray and jammed things up inside until I resorted to unscrewing the case to get the thing out.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But we have a few DVD's - mainly kids cartoons, but they sometimes did them with pan & scan on one side, and widescreen on the other.

        My copy of Fleetwood Mac - The Dance, is a double-sided DVD. One side has the audio in stereo linear PCM, the other has it on 5.1 surround sound.

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      I have at least one DVD like that - PAL on one side, NTSC on the other. Trouble is, while it's printed on each side in the narrow bit between the data area and the hole, does the printing refer to "that side of the disk" or "the other side of the disk that the player reads".

    3. JQW

      The only double-sided CD I can recall was the short lived DualDisc format, which was effectively a CD on one side and a DVD on the other. Unfortunately the resultant discs were to thick to adhere to the published CD specifications, and many CD players simply couldn't handle the CD side due to laser focusing issues. Some slot loading drives also had problems.

      A double sided CD would be even thicker, and even more problematic.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        The first DVD movies were mainly double sided, this was back when many players (or perhaps it was manufacturing?) couldn't process dual layer, you would have double sided single layer discs, commonly called "flippers". Annoying as hell to get up and turn the disc over, plus there was very few marks on the disc itself to see what the movie was in the first place.

  22. Toltec

    Preventative measures...

    At a college I worked at one of the things we used to find in CD drives occasionally were empty blister packs for the morning after pill. Possibly an attempt to stop a worm replicating?

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: Preventative measures...

      ... or to undo an accidental download.

  23. Baldrickk Silver badge

    For floppy disks, the only tale I have is from when we discovered that inserting an empty 3.5" case into the school machines would instantly crash the school PCs. I forget the brand, mosly likely M3s or Compaqs that were running Windows 98.

    We had some fun with that, helped by the fact that the PC just went down instantly without even a BSOD.

    More recently, I lost an SD card inside my home machine - it has a multi card reader, and it turns out that the CF slot does not have an internal enclosure top or bottom. Card naturally slipped right inside the casing when I missed the correct slot.

    Thankfully quickly fixed with a screwdriver to take it to peices

  24. Potemkine Silver badge

    Where's Peter?

    "On-Call is betting she may have moved on quite quickly."

    With such a display of incompetence, probably for a higher position.

  25. Triggerfish

    Just gonna add this

    No, no, look down the bottom left corner on the monitor, for the power button

    The TV thing, yes,

    Can you see the button, is there a light above it, it's showing orange, ok push the button on the monitor, it's showing green now but the screens still black?

    Ok wiggle your mouse.

    Ah the computers working now is it, good.

    So, so many times.

  26. The_Idiot

    My apologies to those...

    ... who have no doubt lived through similar experiences in years past, and posted them above. But I still grind my teeth (those few I have left) from time to time when I remember a home visit I made to one of the profs at the Tech College mad enough to employ me.

    The individual in question explained to me he'd been doing some disk house keeping on his state of the art 10Gb hard drive Olivetti PC. Clearing up some old files. Deleting them. From the command prompt.

    I know. I suppose it wasn't _his_ fault WordStar let you use * as a file name character. And even *.*. And yes. He'd used that as a name for one of his files. Sigh...

    So. His machine was in an ongoing state of 'I'm buggered'. So I asked him if he still had the release floppies he'd got with the machine. Of course, I was expecting something like 'no'. But lo! Very meticulous he was! He said 'of course', and went to get them. I figured, maybe half an hour and I'd be done.

    Then he bought them. The floppies. All neatly indexed, with little labels on them. In ring binders. Guess how he'd put them in the ring binders. anyone who suggests 'in little packet sleeves with neat pairs of punched holes in them' will be absolutely right. So long as they delete the 'in little packet sleeves with' bit.

    AAAARGH!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My apologies to those...

      Our clerical administrator found she was short of disk space. So she deleted everything in the Windows C: root directory - and complained her PC wouldn't boot. IIRC she didn't delete the directories - so I managed to recreate the essential files.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PC on a data diet

    I was called to one of the sites I used to support to deal with a floppy disc drive on an office PC that was 'eating' discs, back in the day when these things were actually rather expensive. Figuring it was scratching the discs or something similar, I acquired a new drive and headed up there. This is the same office that reported a monitor fault the week earlier that was solved by turning the brightness up.

    So I tested the floppy drive there, and everything was looking ok; no sign of damage to the sacrificial disc. Cleaned it anyway, and asked them to try it. Wandered out for lunch, and came back to "it's eaten another one". I asked to look at the disc, but they didn't have it, which was puzzling, but enlightenment took hold a few moment later, when I opened the case and found over thirty floppy discs inside the case which had been pushed through a very small gap between the drive and the casing.

    A couple of minor adjustments later, and the small gap is significantly smaller, the users educated, and the missing data 'recovered', and I'm heading off site desperately trying to not crack up completely. I went straight over the road to the pub. Too much idiocy for one day.

    The same user some time later asked me to look at her home PC which had stopped working abruptly. This job was quickly identified as a dud power supply, and easily replaced. On inspecting the old one, I asked if she had a long-haired white cat, because most of it was in the power supply (at least it's winter coat). Apparently it liked to sit on top of the PC because it was warm (at least the bits that were getting better insulated against the effects of the cooling fan each day)

    (Posting anonymously incase the persons concerned are reading)

  28. David Neil

    The RS Components catalogue on CD...

    At a client site doing some desktop support stuff and get a call from a bloke in the mechanical engineering office, saying his CD isn't reading properly.

    So I wander up and he's sat there cursing the PC, that the CD drive is crap etc.

    So i press eject and out comes the RS Components CD, which he tells me he's just gotten as people keep nicking his paper copy, but they won't be nicking that. It's at that point i see he's helpfully scratched his initials into the printed side of the CD, nice and deep so no mistaking it's his, and you can see clear through the disk!

  29. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    The source code for a commercial product we sold was safely backed up to 3 floppies, with a master in the fire safe, and several "working copies" throughout the department. This was in the days before desktops had hard drives, and floppies were the only storage we used.

    One programmer needed to work on the code, so loaded one of the working copies. The load failed with a disk error - which was not unusual. So he got another working floppy. Same result. Eventually he had determined that none of the half-dozen or so working copies loaded, so he fetched a backup floppy. That failed. So did the next, and so did the last remaining backup. That's when he asked me for the key to the safe to try the master. I did not believe that ALL the disks were faulty, and so tried them in my machine - and sure enough, none worked. But before fetching the master floppy, I took a look at his computer - and discovered that his floppy drive was faulty with the head being permanently supplied with write current ... so every floppy he had tried to load had been erased.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A more expensive event that happened on various sites was in the days of mainframe "large" exchangeable disks (8MB - 200MB).

      The operator had a failure of the system disk - so he moved it to each of the drives in turn - and they all failed. He then loaded the reserve copy on a drive - and that failed. Finally he loaded the master copy on a drive - and that failed.

      The original fault had been a head crash which ruined the heads on the first drive - and also scratched the first disk's surface. Moving that disk ruined the heads on all the other drives - which in turn ruined the reserve and master disk's surfaces.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You could make one of the older floppies adopt an almost perfect L-shape by positioning it half out of a briefcase and then slamming the lid shut - I recall this being demonstrated many years ago by a gentleman sitting opposite me on a train as we approached Waterloo.

  31. Chris King Silver badge

    Right hole, but two into one does not go...

    Mentioned in a previous On-Call, but worth a repeat...

    One of the technicians gets called out to deal with a weird problem... User had put a CD in his DVD drive, but he was still seeing the contents of the previous CD he'd been using.

    Oh, and the CD he'd just put in must have been too thick, because it took several attempts to slam the drive shut and is was making some god-awful grinding noises.

    Turns out he hadn't removed the first CD, and had put the second one in on top of it.

    The drive had to be taken out and dismantled to remove the CD's.

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