back to article Four techies flummoxed for hours by flickering 'E' on monitor

Salutations dear readers, and congratulations on reaching the last working day of the week, on which The Register runs On-Call, our reader-contributed tales of gigs that get you giggling. This week, meet “Sonny”, who told us of his first job as a System Engineer with a local IBM PC reseller, in the early 1980s. Or as Sonny …

  1. LDS Silver badge
    Joke

    "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

    In good circle, educated people would never use the M...C... word.

    Anyway, I would have been much more worried when I discovered the reason of the flashing E, and I would have looked for a place very well shielded from the radar dish (how tall was the building? Or was it the ground radar?)

    1. wallaby

      Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

      Complete nightmare with the ADF files and the config floppy for each PC, but the ability to pull apart a PC in seconds with that small blue lifting tool under the hood of the IBM PC's - joy

      1. PickledAardvark

        Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

        Sadly most of the PS/2s I worked on required a Phillips (or another crosshead flavour) screwdriver to remove the case lid. The case lids were badly fitting too.

        So it was one minute to remove the lid and one minute to expose the motherboard. Do the job, two minutes to refit disk drives etc, five minutes to refit the case lid and five minutes to wipe up the blood.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

          five minutes to wipe up the blood

          You gotta leave the blood - it's what the daemons[1] feed on!

          [1] Yeah, yeah - TSRs on the PC. But then the 'joke' wouldn't have worked..

        2. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

          "wipe up the blood"

          I'm sure they sharpened the corners of those case panels on purpose.

          Mind you, my worst IT related bloodletting used to come from copper bonding tape.

          1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

            Technical Manager of one place I worked at always wanted to dismantle broken LCD screens "To see how they work".

            It always ended with him cutting his hand badly.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

              "Technical Manager ...It always ended with him cutting his hand badly."

              So you didn't try to dissuade him?

              1. Kiwi Silver badge

                Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

                "Technical Manager ...It always ended with him cutting his hand badly."

                So you didn't try to dissuade him?

                Sometimes experience can be the best teacher.

                And the most entertaining for those of us standing nearby!

          2. techdead

            Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

            ...or lifting floor panels edged with what felt like razorblades

        3. willi0000000

          Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

          my father taught me at a young age (about 60 years ago, now) that all tools and most things you work on require occasional blood sacrifices . . . i thought i found the one job, draftsman, that broke his rule and was thinking of telling him when i cut a finger to the bone while trimming mylar sheets to size.

          it was years later that i discovered that they make computer cases from old razor blades.

      2. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

        Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

        "the ability to pull apart a PC in seconds with that small blue lifting tool under the hood of the IBM PC"

        The early PS/2s were like that. Older models, not so much.

        But the article also brings back memories of a summer job writing code for a now-defunct company(1) whose main product was project management software. This was 1987, so Microsoft Project was some way in the future, and the software ran on a wide range of mainframes and different sizes of minicomputer. What would today be the server room had an IBM 4300-series something or other, VAXen, a Wang, probably a DG thingy, and so on. (The office was in Westborough, MA, if that helps.)

        Anyway, there was this big contract with IBM, and my fellow student and I were provided with brand-spanking-new PS/2s, a desktop Model 50 and a tower-format Model 60. Trivial to open and dismantle, with floppies full of ADF files, especially with the 3270 terminal emulator cards we got so we could log onto the 4300, produce text-mode data dumps from the software running there, and download it onto the PC for post-processing to produce graphical displays.

        And of course, the IBM contract provided those cards, which duly arrived and they let us two students loose to install the cards in the machines, and then to install the support software.

        And there was the pen plotter. For an American size of paper, approximately the same as A1. It had a bar over which you draped the paper, and the head ran left/right along that, while the paper moved front/back. We had fun putting weird colour combinations in the pen carrier and then plotting things. The manual included detailed instructions, with pictures and words of about 0.75 syllables, on how to put the mains plug into the socket. (The socket on the wall that provides the electricity.) There were similar instructions for the other end of the cable, with just a normal kettle-type plug.

        Fun times. (To say nothing of the 3.5-inch external floppy drive for the PC/XT on the other desk. It was mounted on its side, and the friction between the edge of the floppy and the bottom of the drive was low enough that the eject button could throw the disk entirely out of the drive and onto the floor.)

        EDIT: forgot the footnote.

        (1) "a now-defunct company": these words feature a *lot* in descriptions of my career. Maybe I'm cursed, or maybe I'm just bad at choosing companies

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

          Ah, VAX. My one-and-only experience with a VAX was an employer who had one that was both recording live production data, and running the entire calibration scheduling system. In 2005. It was, surprisingly, quite reliable. And besides, the primary record for the production data was actually paper - specifically chain-printed on serial dot-matrix printers. (They were great. Wouldn't stop for anything, jams were extremely rare, and when "low" on ink would simply produce lighter print, instead of stopping like an inkjet.)

          Twelve years later, different employer - and someone in my office has a chain-feed dot-matrix printer for the express purpose of printing triplicate NCR forms.

        2. Kiwi Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

          (1) "a now-defunct company": these words feature a *lot* in descriptions of my career. Maybe I'm cursed, or maybe I'm just bad at choosing companies

          If the humans and Minbarri start something called "The Babylon Project" during your lifetime, please stay away from iterations 1 to 4, thanks.

    2. davidhall121

      Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

      I fondly remember my first ever (attempted) PC upgrade was to add a MC Soundblaster to an IBM 286. I never managed to make it work; which meant I didn't get to listened to sampled speech in Dune II - which made me very sad; but also probably set the path for my career.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

        You can download a direct port of Dune II for Android for nowt... It lends itself well to tablets!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

        I fondly remember my first ever (attempted) PC upgrade was to add a MC Soundblaster to an IBM 286. I never managed to make it work; which meant I didn't get to listened to sampled speech in Dune II - which made me very sad; but also probably set the path for my career.

        So you've never got anything to work EVER?!?

        1. AdamWill

          Optional

          ...and that young man went on to invent Flash. True story.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

        Man, Dune II was terrific.

        -

        My first paid IT work was with BBC Bs but my PC IT career is largely down to memory management skills honed by trying to get Civ running on university PCs without uninstalling the hideous printer drivers, the absence of which caused serious tantrums among the non-gaming users.

        I imagine there's quite a few commentards who started out in much the same way.

      4. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

        You had to change the IRQ from the default IRQ 7, that conflicts with the LPT1, to IRQ5.

        I am sure that you are glad your problem haas a solution. ;)

        1. Benno

          Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

          Correct - but I had some kind of trainer/cheat for Dune II that did IRQ emulation, meaning I had to set my AWE-32 to IRQ9 (from memory), which then buggered up the VGA card...

          Fun times!

      5. albegadeep

        Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

        My first hardware install was a sound card into a 486 DX33. Physical install went fine, Win 3.1 played the startup sound, my brother and I gave each other high-fives... and suddenly File Explorer was "not found". Not a single program worked. Huh. Restarted - no Windows. In our inexperience, we didn't know what IRQs were, much less realize that having the sound card on the same IRQ as the hard drive could cause problems, like corrupting the entire Windows directory. My parents were NOT happy.

        I still have my folks' Atari Video Pinball machine (white version). 7 built-in games, no cartridge capability. Still worked last time I tried it.

        1. Stuart Castle

          Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

          My first install was a Western Digital FileCard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardcard : A HDD and interface circuitry on an ISA card) into a Amstrad 1640 (IIRC). Surprisingly, bearing in mind I knew nothing about IRQs etc at the time, it worked for the rest of the time the company kept both me and the PC.

          I was made redundant a couple of years later. As far as I know, the PC could have outlasted the company.

          1. Fink-Nottle

            Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

            My most memorable early add-on was the HP ScanJet interface card. A huge, solid bit of kit that could double as a cricket bat.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

              What's all this about PCs & PS/2s? Has nobody used S100?

              1. Simon Harris Silver badge

                Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

                "Has nobody used S100"

                No, but I've used SS50 (SWTCP 6800).

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

                  Didn't have the money for that fancy stuff. My first computer was a COSMIC ELF.

                  After getting done with college, I then I bought an Ohio Scientific Instruments Challenger 8P with dual 8" floppies that could hold around 250K bytes each.

                  1. gregthecanuck
                    Happy

                    Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

                    COSMAC. Oh the memories... punching in hex codes to get a light to blink or something.

                    Cheers!

                  2. bob, mon!
                    Windows

                    Re: "an Ohio Scientific Instruments Challenger 8P"

                    Wow, someone else actually bought Ohio Scientific! My first personal computer was an OSI C4MP --- 6502 processor, something like 16KB of memory, and a 5.25" floppy.

                    Sort of an Apple II alternative, but OSI's attitude was that they built the hardware, the OS was your problem. As in, create a disk file by first loading the monitor routines from the system floppy, using it to manually allocate as many sectors on the target floppy as you expected the file to need, then load the editor from the system floppy, edit the file (typically in BASIC), swap the target floppy back in and save the file to the disk. If you got cheapthrifty and allocated too few sectors, nothing for it but to discard all your work, de-allocate the file and start over with more sectors.

                    Double-sided floppies? Cut a read/write notch on the other side, and put the floppy in the drive upside-down.

                    Old phart icon, 'cuz that was in the 1970s.

                  3. no-one in particular

                    Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

                    Upvoted, for bringing back memories of the COSMAC ELF, and the RCA CDP-1802 processor. Still have my '1802 kit-built board stashed away somewhere, wonder if it'll still fire up?

              2. broomy

                Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

                Not just S100, S100 running TurboDos, tweaking the MiniWinnie hd driver, and supporting multiple 910 terminals. Oh, the joy of CP/M based Wordstar and Multiplan. Multiplan, which had linked sheets about 10 years before Lotus got it.

            2. TheGriffin

              Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

              Since we're all discussing our first hardware installation.

              Mine was on the old HP 2100, it was replacing a failed serial card.

              https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/HP_2100

              Then the joy was reloading the thing, with its 8" floppys and setting the registers for each load iteration.

              Those were the days.

          2. Dabooka Silver badge

            Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

            My first PC was the Amstrad 1640. Parents had far newer (and frequently replaced) but mine as a 1640.

            Upgraded quite a bit from scavenged bits, out went the B: floppy and in went a 30mb HDD. Sure I did something to get colour (EGA?) graphics. A modem went in, 9600 baud or something terrible I think, and I even stripped the whole thing down to spray it black. Looked half decent really, and ahead of its time.

            Absolutely no idea what I actually did with it though.

          3. Kiwi Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

            My first install was a Western Digital FileCard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardcard

            Thanks! I've seen a couple of these IRL (in a metal scrap yard, went hunting to see if there was any cheap PC stuff, they were in a machine that was an XT in at least late 486 days). Have had many people tell me they could never have existed.

            Even better, the one in the linked wiki is on a 8-bit card! No way to argue it's PCIe or some internal USB device!

            Thanks muchly. Now have some "See, I told you so" emails to send! (But will be worded differently).

      6. Stuart Elliott

        Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

        Dune... the building of a dy...nasty

    3. kmac499

      Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

      A non techy admin friend in the airport business had to meet up at Heathrow by the '23cm radar'.

      (You know the big red one in the middle that's always on the TV and does the ground scanning stuff,)

      When they eventually turned up; the explanation was;; yup they thought 23cm was the sizel.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

        Back in the early nineties (in the dark days before email) I had the luck of mentoring a new far younger workmate who had just joined us. This job wasn't anything technical but we did use computers mostly for Word and Excel. Anyway on the first day I suggested that we go for lunch and then I'd go off to a meeting from there. When I came back there was an IT support bloke sitting there reattaching the VGA cable to the monitor. Puzzled I asked what had happened and VGA wasn't screwed in and had fallen out over lunch. Except I knew that couldn't be the case because I'd tightened the screws a week earlier when it looked loose after moving the monitor. Weird but then these things happen, thought nothing of it and continued on with the day explaining things to my new workmate.

        I was off the next day but after lunch the day after that he complained that his computer wasn't working again and started turning the monitor on and off. I really didn't know what he thought was wrong but I asked if I could help.

        Do you know anything about computers?

        A little.

        During lunch my computer crashes, this is the third time.

        What are the symptoms?

        The screen goes black

        Okay what are you using as a screensaver if anything?

        What's a screensaver?

        Turned out he was new to IBM compatible computers and had never encountered a screen "time out" before. The first day he'd thought it must be the cable and had disconnected that, then phoned IT support. Second day he called IT support and the computer had magically "fixed itself" whilst he was waiting for someone to turn up. When I showed him that he only had to touch the mouse or the keyboard for it to work the look on his face was priceless. His only previous computer experience was on an Acorn.

      2. Stuart Castle

        Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

        The 23cm Radar has gone now.. http://nats.aero/blog/2014/12/end-era-iconic-heathrow-landmark/

    4. phuzz Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

      "Pwhoooor, look at the size of his Micro Channel Adapter Description File collection..."

      >>>>>> Mines the one with...actually, you probably don't want to know....

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

        @phuzz

        "Pwhoooor, look at the size of his Micro Channel Adapter Description File collection..."

        Take a peek...

        http://www.mcamafia.de/mcapage0/adflist1.htm

        http://www.mcamafia.de/mcapage0/adflist2.htm

        http://www.mcamafia.de/mcapage0/adflist3.htm

        http://www.mcamafia.de/mcapage0/adflist4.htm

        http://www.mcamafia.de/mcapage0/adflist5.htm

    5. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      @LDS

      I would have been much more worried when I discovered the reason of the flashing E, and I would have looked for a place very well shielded from the radar dish

      Well, there's the chance of getting a little extra tan. And by tan I mean slightly burnt skin. Nothing to worry about ;-)

      Note to myself: don't wave fluorescent tubes with bare hands in front of radar to see if it's on.

  2. Danny 14 Silver badge

    Have a similar story but it was network connectivity and a microwave oven. The cables were in the wall and ran behind a cheap microwave oven in a room below.

    1. Daniel Gould

      Had similar issues with a user who would find the image on her screen (this was 1997, so CRT not LCD) shimmering and bouncing several times in the day, most notably around lunchtime. Microwave oven in the kitchen the other side of the wall :-)

      1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        We had a user with a constant 60Hz flicker on his crt. Wasn't a nearby fan. Swapping monitors didn't fix it. The same monitor worked fine elsewhere. Changing settings just changed the patterns.

        I was totally stumped until I realized that the ginormous breaker panel that fed half a factory office floor was directly on the other side of the wall. The user simply rearranged his desk with the monitor on the opposite side and all was well.

      2. Graham Hawkins

        CRTs were great. Used to put my GSM mobile under mine. The wobbly image told me the phone was ringing no matter how loud the rock was in my earphones. Bloody flat screens stopped that dodge.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The boss of a friend of mine continues to deploy new 1920*1200 monitors connected using the VGA cable that, for some reason, still even nowadays comes in the box. Invariably, a support call is received after a few days from most people complaining that their new monitor is blurry and flickery. The solution, obviously, is to swap the VGA cable for a DisplayPort cable instead: instant miraculous improvement!

        No amount of gentle reminding by my friend seems to ever sink in to the boss (who seems incapable of comprehending that the ancient analog VGA connection has a very definite usable upper bandwidth limit), and they feel like they're banging their head off a brick wall...

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I have a similar story but from a long, long time ago.

      One day my parents were out for the evening. So I decided to play computer games on the family TV (because it was colour). Now this was a long time ago as I wrote at the start. So I ended up looking for somewhere to put..a cassette recorder. Luckily there were some stacked tables in the living room so I put one in front of the TV and placed the recorder on there. Then for half an hour I struggled to get anything to load from the damn recorder. I tried several games but to no avail - I could barely get the Spectrum to even flicker the screen border. In frustration I kicked the stand over and the cassette recorder ended up dangling beneath it on its leads.

      Low and behold the border started to flicker a bit. So on a whim I rewound the tape and tried again. The game started to load. That made a 15 year old kid very happy :)

      Of course this is not a problem any child would suffer today but it served as a useful lesson for the rest of my life concerning electrical equipment and interference ;)

      1. nportalski

        >but from a long, long time ago

        No, it wasn't a long long time ago........

        Ohhhh we used to DREAM of having a cassette recorder! Woulda' been almost magical to us. We used to load games by slotting them into the front of a wooden panelled Atari. We got woken up every morning by my Mum shouting about who'd not swapped the leads back on the telly! Cassette Recorder!? Hmph.

        1. AndyJT

          No, it wasn't a long long time ago .........

          Ohhhh, we used to dream to have a wooden panelled Atari, we used to have a pong machine with paddles which only had one game, problem was one of the paddles was broken, so it was a "one sided" game.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No, it wasn't a long long time ago .........

            One sided pongs! Luxury! my dad used to pick up broken TV games machines in the market and we had to fix them before use. One had a motorbike bike jump game that had enough screen space for about 20 buses and ramps, I could do about 35 buses by listening for the landing ramp/crash, sounds after the bike had disappeared from the screen.

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: No, it wasn't a long long time ago .........

              My cheap but cheerful car stereo still has issues like this. FM reception suffers if I leave my 3.5 mm aux car plugged in. Audio quality through the aux car suffers if I use the head unit's USB socket to charge my phone. But hey, the stereo takes SD cards so I forgive it.

              (The vehicle came with a Sony head unit that despite having RCA inputs on the rear would not accept aux input. Apparently it needed either a Sony CD changer or else a microcontroller-based DIY project to enable aux-in. I took it apart and tried soldering cables directly to its disc drive daughter board, but was left with a lot of left over screws and no sound. I took some irrational satisfaction in torturing such an obstinate but of kit to death)

            2. Adam 1 Silver badge

              Re: No, it wasn't a long long time ago .........

              You had sound!? Luxury! We used to dream of having no sound. We just had a tarpaulin covering the hole where the broken TV should have been. We had to get up at 12 o'clock at night, lick the tarpaulin clean with our tongues, go to work for twenty four hours a day at the mill for fourpence every six years, and when we got home, our Dad would slice us in two with a bread knife.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: No, it wasn't a long long time ago .........

                Ooh, lah-di-da! Hark at you, chelpin' about how your family had a bread knife.

          2. ridley

            Re: No, it wasn't a long long time ago .........

            If your paddles were broken what you needed was.....cyclepong

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9urO--9rZeA

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          We used to load games by slotting them into the front of a wooden panelled Atari

          Games cartridges? Luxury! In my day, we had to type them in from magasine listings done in 5-point text (grey on a grey background) on a system that randomly rebooted[1] every so often.

          Kids today eh?

          (Sometimes, if we were lucky, someone else on the BBS would have typed it in and we could download it using our 1200-baud modems and try and save it before the computer randomly-rebooted or our parents picked up the phone to talk to someone, thus disrupting the modem connection..)

          [1] The moral of the story children, is to never, never trust a cheap power supply that you bought from some bloke at school..

          1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

            "someone else on the BBS would have typed it in and we could download it using our 1200-baud modems"

            BBSs and modems? Spoiled rotten, you lot!

            1. Tim Brown 1
              Pint

              1200-baud modem???

              What I woudn't have given for a 1200-baud modem!

              I had to do overnight support for vital banking systems using a portable teletype machine, which, if it worked at all, could only manage 300baud, spitting out text a letter at a time on to thermal paper with the consistency of that shiny bog roll cheap hotels used to use.

              1. Tom 7 Silver badge

                Re:1200-baud modem

                I had a strangely psychotic boss who thought I should work from home when ill and he turned up with a modem and terminal for me to connect in to work with. 300/70 jobie too. I was save by the fact it required the handset to be pushed into the two rubber holders. I had a trim phone so didnt actually have to tell him to fuck off while I Hills Bronchial Balsomed myself into a semi-coma for the next week.

              2. ricardian

                My first Open University course was in 1977. It was PM951 "Computing & Computers". I lived in a small coastal village in Sutherland and the nearest terminal was in Thurso. It was a 75 baud teleprinter system for which 1 hour sessions had to be pre-booked. It was not unknown for me to turn up (after a 2 hour drive) to find that the link was down.

                An alternative to using the 75 baud link was to write out the code (OU BASIC) and post it to the OU who would then type in the code, run it and post the result back to you - warts & all. All went quite well until I got a letter from the OU asking where my data had gone. I was flummoxed! However, the OU eventually realised that they had two data centres which were unconnected and that my hand-written code could be entered by either of the two data centres, hence the "missing" data.

                Despite all that I did manage a grade 2 pass

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              "BBSs and modems? Spoiled rotten, you lot!"

              Yeah! We had to whistle into a tin can and string!

          2. Grouchy Bloke
            Joke

            Sometimes, if we were lucky, someone else on the BBS would have typed it in and we could download it using our 1200-baud modems

            Luxury! 1200 baud modems were for rich people. I had to suffer with a 300 baud modem. And was thankful for it.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              "I had to suffer with a 300 baud modem."

              Back in the earlyish days of the OU (I think it might have been in the days of S101) the chemistry module had a computational component. As Tutor/Counsellor for more or less everything west of the Bann I had to trog out Omagh with a teletype and an acoustic 300 baud modem which was about the same size as the teletype.

              1. newspuppy

                modem? luxury

                a modem you say?

                we had punch cards, and one had to reserve time on the card writer. as desperate students we quickly learnt to fix a bad run with razors.

              2. Andy A

                I've still got a 300 baud acoustic coupler somewhere in the attic. A proper quality one in a nice wooden box to keep the external noise out.

            2. Nunyabiznes
              Meh

              @Grouchy

              "Luxury! 1200 baud modems were for rich people. I had to suffer with a 300 baud modem. And was thankful for it."

              You members of the genteel class had it easy. We were happy to get a baud.

          3. PNGuinn
            Go

            magasine listings

            Luxury!

            Our dad made us use Vaseline. And lick the typewriter platern clean afterwards.....work for 37 hours a day, paying 9d for the....

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        "it served as a useful lesson for the rest of my life concerning electrical equipment and interference"

        I presume you realise that 99% of teenagers would not have learned anything of the sort from the experience you describe. (They'd probably have learned that the world hates them and "this shitty shit is shit".) Kudos to your 15yo self.

    3. Chris 125

      "Have a similar story but it was network connectivity and a microwave oven"

      I'll raise you baby monitors and WiFi.

      When I was consumer phone tech, WiFi was in its infancy. Most users didn't care about the Internet, and those who did mainly used the pre-installed AOL environment. Only a few folk had wireless adaptors as nothing we sold came with it built-in back then.

      We noticed a spike of failed WiFi connections in the early evening... people calling in (to our premium rate number, as 3rd party peripherals weren't covered on the free warranty helpline!) to report their performance had just dipped, or they've lost connection. Netscape Navigator was taking ages to load pages, that sort of thing.

      One guy came into work quite excitedly when this had been going on a while with a solution.... he'd just had a baby, and bought a baby monitor. On the back of the packet it proudly stated it used the "new digital 2.4GHz band"... hang on, isn't that the same as WiFi?

      First customer we had... "do you have a baby monitor?" "Yes, I've just turned it on as little Bobby has gone to bed, I wanted to go online and.... erm..... <think of something that's not smutty>" "Right... could you just turn it off and see if things improve for a minute?"

      Bingo. No easy solution as the customer is then forced to choose between alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.thomas-the-tank-engine and the safety of their little darling. But a reason nonetheless.

      1. Lord_Beavis
        Coffee/keyboard

        @ Chris 125

        "alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.thomas-the-tank-engine"

        You, sir, owe me a key board. Or a pint.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ Chris 125

          >>"alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.thomas-the-tank-engine"

          >You, sir, owe me a key board. Or a pint.

          Even with those terrific pics it would take me a while to produce a pint.

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: @ Chris 125

          I looked for that newsgroup, couldn't see it on any archive or elsewhere. I found a "rule 34" site that had "thomas and friends" stuff. It was all laughably lame.

          yeah nothing shocks anybody who's spent more than 5 minutes on "teh intarwebs"

        3. AdamWill

          Re: @ Chris 125

          Pfah, he should've gone with the old standby alt.sex.bestiality.hamster.duct-tape ...

          ftp://ftp.armory.com/pub/user/leavitt/html/data/bizarre.html

          1. J. Cook Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: @ Chris 125

            ... Holy cow the armory is still around?!?!?!?!? I wonder who's running it now, seeing as the owner passed on some time ago. *raises a glass in remembrance*

            ... aaaaand apparently, my account is still there. I'll be hanged if I know the password for it, though.

      2. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge
        Unhappy

        "I'll raise you baby monitors and WiFi."

        My very first experiments with WiFi ran into interference from a new neighbour's cordless phone.

        It took me a while to work out the cause. I couldn't hear them making outgoing calls, all I knew was that my WiFi would drop at random times.

        Once they'd settled into their new abode and started getting incoming calls, the penny dropped: Every time the phone rang, the WiFi connection disappeared.

      3. UK_Bedders

        Wireless interference

        A story from an engineer at my last job:

        He once attended a callout at a secondary school where they were complaining about a lack of wireless connectivity at random times; sometimes multiple times a day, other times a couple of days without any problems. It was one particular area that was affected, about 5 classrooms across all 3 floors.

        When he went to each of the affected classrooms he found one of them was a Food Tech room with 20+ microwaves all around the walls. These were usually all used at the same time.

        His comment when recounting the story to me was "Yep, that'll do it".

      4. scarper

        >> I'll raise you baby monitors and WiFi.

        I'll raise you EPROMs and radioactivity.

        Back in the days of 1-kilobyte UV-erasable EPROMs, a customer called us, saying that the system he'd bought had stopped working.

        Installing a fresh new EPROM fixed his box. But a month later, he called again.

        Eventually, our field technician asked the critical question. Which was, what was on the other side of the wall ? Well, this was a human-occupied office. But the customer was Atomic Energy Of Canada, and the gear on the other side of the wall generated the odd particle or two. In fact, we calculated, it generated about enough particles to cause a one-bit erasure in about a month.

        The technician moved the system down the hallway 30 feet, and the problem never happened again.

  3. wyatt

    Satellite link back to the UK from one of the Balkans countries kept dropping. Tech was convinced it was the trees/forest. Reported this and had them chopped down to improve the line of sight path. Later turns out it was a faulty tx/rx unit on the kit..

    1. TRT Silver badge

      However the new matching solid wooden furniture set in the commandant's office was utterly stunning.

    2. Pedigree-Pete
      Go

      Signals.

      @wyatt. He can't have been proper Royal Signals. You need a Sig to get the job done proper. PP

  4. Korev Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Over it?

    "By now the customer was over it "

    You mean she no longer cared about it?

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Over it?

      I think he meant 'all over it'. Little words can have large effects.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Over it?

      Yep, I couldn't figure out why she was over it in one para then pissed off in the next either!

      1. teebie

        Re: Over it?

        I read it as something like <valley girl accent> "Oh my god, I am like *so* over this", which fits the context, but doesn't reflect well on me.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Superb

    Yet another page in the book of 'excuses why there's pr0n on my screen'.

    "Yes dear, it only appears when a radar dish is pointing at the screen.....why are you holding that rolling pin? It's actually not that kind of pr0n, but if you are feeling adventurous, I'm up for it....Ah, you are just going to hit me with it, fair enough."

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Superb

      At my university when the web was the new big thing and floppy drives abounded anyone with a university library card could use the computers. One day one of the librarians caught two 15yr olds looking at page three material on one of the screens and barred them from using the library again. She was slightly perplexed because she'd been assured by the IT department that the internet was filtered and such smut couldn't get through. One of my friends who was doing a media degree discovered that you could do your dissertation on absolutely anything so long as you could link it back to the media in some way. So his first thought was Pr0n and how can I link that to the media? When he'd come up with something suitable that was accepted as a legitimate topic he tried researching this on the college internet connection. Although he had shown the librarian what his topic was and that this all legit and above board He didn't have any luck because all the sites he wanted to visit were blocked.

      So he enlisted the help of his tutor who get IT to allow him to have access to the unfiltered internet (but supervised) in a room away from everyone else. He was supposed to have a member of staff there at all times but apparently they got bored and left him to it. Went home with a pile of floppy discs full of mostly low resolution images of naughty stuff that was all for 'research'. His house mate was not impressed when she found out he had a hard drive (500MB) almost full of Pr0n and a legitimate reason for having it. She'd already accidentally recorded over a vhs tape of dubious nature because she disapproved of it and he'd left it in the machine.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    Calling your b***s***

    Pedantically speaking, that is.

    Setting a story in the early 1980s and then bringing PS/2s into it rings a warning bell: something ain't right. A quick google confirms, PS/2s first appeared in the late 1980s.

    1. SpammFreeEmail

      Re: Calling your b***s***

      I suspect it's not BS but incorrect nomenclature

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Personal_Computer

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_PCjr

      I used Big Blue PC's in the early/mid 80's, the whole thing really took off for business when Visicalc launched originally on the Apple ][.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Calling your b***s***

      Not only that: from extensive experience of working in office environments within a couple of hundred metres of ATC radars back in those times, while they certainly inserted regular bursts of noise in VCR recordings and the like they had zero effect on PCs, monitors, or any other IT equipment we used. This tale makes a nice story, but so does JK Rowling.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Calling your b***s***

        "This tale makes a nice story, but so does JK Rowling."

        Yeah, the whole thing of a flashing E in the middle of the screen strikes me a bollocks too. General and/or random data corruption, or weird patterns on the screen, yeah, maybe. But one highly specific byte (or couple of bits) of video ram being affected? Nah, don't believe it.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Calling your b***s***

          "But one highly specific byte (or couple of bits) of video ram being affected? Nah, don't believe it."

          Possible if those cells are weaker than others. Most likely due to impurities. May be stable under normal circumstances, but flip when subjected to harsh conditions like high temperatures or strong EMI.

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: Calling your b***s***

            Yes, my experience in tech in general, not just IT, is that anything can happen. Just because you can't see a mechanism, doesn't mean that mr Sod (of law fame) won't stick his fingers in and make your life hell.

            Witness the other day, trying to use 'turn the power on to the cable in question' to identify cables coming from 2 identical 32 amp circuit breakers. Either breaker made BOTH cables live. Cross connection or other weirdness? No, just a long parallel run of cable was enough to trigger a non-contact voltage detector that's usually pretty good at discriminating. An actual meter (high impedence) picked up about 100 of the original 240v at the end of the 'isolated' cable. Touching it caused me to go 'hmm, yes, i can feel that...'

  7. John 110
    Boffin

    Laboratory waterbath

    My experience was with my wonderful new 19inch CRT monitor that flickered like buggery. But only when the plate pouring crew were next door (Google it for goodness sake, add Bacteriology and Agar to the query). I nipped next door and turned off the waterbath on the other side of the shared wall, flickering stopped.

    The head of media prep was too bloody minded to care, so I moved the waterbath when everybody had gone home and problem solved.

    1. PickledAardvark

      Re: Laboratory waterbath

      A colleague installed a bunch of PCs in a teaching room at a research facility. CRT monitors flickered all of the time.

      Unlike John 110's water bath, the MRI scanners two floors above couldn't be moved.

      1. Geoff Johnson

        Re: Laboratory waterbath

        When I worked at a University, the MRI department all had bar magnets blutacked to their monitors to compensate for the big magnet in the next room.

      2. HPCJohn

        Re: Laboratory waterbath

        Talkin about big magnets, in my younger days I was on a CERN experiment. Underground in the experiment counting rooms there was a 2T detector magnet next door the size of a house.

        When running all of our lovely VT100 terminals slanted to the side. I remember getting a definite stoop to one side when working on them!

        Talking about VT100s I was the very proud owner of a Falco terminal. Vt220 compatible AND switchable to a Tektronix colour compatible mode. SO you could write code, then see the results of your graphics program ON THE SAME TERMINAL No having to go to a special room with huge Tektronix CRTs, or print your histograms out on the central line printers. Happy days.

      3. PerspexAvenger

        Re: Laboratory waterbath

        Similarly, the great big transformer one of our previous offices sat above wasn't going anywhere, so to save our monitors (and probably genitalia) we went instead.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Laboratory waterbath

      I nipped next door and turned off the waterbath on the other side of the shared wall, flickering stopped.

      Sadly, the lesson that I learnt was never to run Cat-5 cabling along the same conduit as the 3-phase power supply cables to the industrial machinery.

      Not that I did, but I had to fix one such situation (line boss' PC would lose network access on a regular basis, meaning he couldn't see/adjust the line parameters. Had to route a cable round the other 3 side of the factory floor with a number of repeaters as total length was > 300 metres)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Laboratory waterbath

        "Sadly, the lesson that I learnt was never to run Cat-5 cabling along the same conduit as the 3-phase power supply cables to the industrial machinery."

        Yup, that''s proper network cabling practice. At least 6" away when in parallel with mains leccy and only ever cross at right angle to minimise the interference. If you learned on the job, then well done for spotting it. If you were taught beforehand, then black marks for whoever did your training.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Laboratory waterbath

          It's a breach of the electrical regulations* to run ELV like Cat3/4/5/6 in the same conduit as LV on account of the risk of death.

          So it's not a problem one should ever encounter anyway.

          * In most places.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: Laboratory waterbath

            "So it's not a problem one should ever encounter anyway."

            ROFL! I've lost count of the number of times I've seen it done. I was on a site just the other day that had "special" combined wall trunking containing both LV and cat(n) along with the mains sockets and network ports. Not sure of the age, so may pre-date electrical regulations amendments, but certainly post-dates good network cabling practice.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Re: Laboratory waterbath

              In the EU those regulations pre-date Cat 3, so it is not possible to be "grandfathered" in.

              Mid 1950s or so, incorporated into EU regs in the 80s.

              Any install not following them is simply dangerous - whether it actually works is irrelevant.

        2. Kiwi Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Laboratory waterbath

          Yup, that''s proper network cabling practice.

          I learnt that fixing Mitsi cube microwaves. They had the routing to keep the data and magnetron wiring separate, but they didn't bother to use it during manufacture, the result being an issue where they could randomly reset the clock1 when the magnetron turned on (inducing current in the "reset" wire). Only a 1 in a million occurance sure, but when you consider a) the number of these things sold and b) the number of times a magnetron would turn on during regular use during a week, well there were a lot of "warranty repairs" which involved opening the cover, moving the magnetron (or data, can't be sure of specifics) into the designed path, then closing up.

          Taught me enough to be sure that data and power cabling has sufficient gappage where possible.

          1 Common term, in reality the whole thing was reset. That said, all there was to "reset" was the cooking time remaining, the cooking power setting, and the digital clock, back to first-power-on state. Given the commonality of flashing "0:00" on VCR etc clocks, most people would probably have assumed the thing had run it's cooking cycle and had stopped, never realising it'd reset itself after 10 seconds on a 10 minute cook, resulting in cold food, sore tummies, and very smelly toilets.

  8. RhoganJosh

    CRT vs Magnetic desk toy

    On one callout, many years ago, I had to go see a user who reported that the one side of their monitor was all blurred and distorted.

    This was back in the day when we still had clunky CRT monitors and sure enough, when I got there his right hand side of his display was distorted to an alarming degree. Now this was just before Christmas, and I noticed that on his desk, next to the monitor, was the still wrapped secret Santa present he’d been given that morning. With his permission, I picked up the pressie and moved it away, bingo! His display reverted to normal.

    I was explaining it was probably due to a magnet in the present when the girl sitting next to him sheepishly admitted that not only was she his secret Santa, but that it was one of those magnetic desk toys that were popular at the time.

  9. Lee D Silver badge

    Found a tape in our ZX Spectrum collection that we didn't know what it was.

    Put it into the tape deck, played it into the Spectrum. Spectrum caught the loader, even gave us a program name, gave us the loading bars, tried to load. Would never succeed, though.

    Was just going to throw it in the bin, but by accident pulled out the earphone cable from the tape player.

    Turns out, it was my brother and I messing about with the tape recorder downstairs while - in the background - dad was trying to load Nonterraqueous into the Spectrum.

    Just the background noise of the loading tones, behind us recording all kinds of nonsense and fake news reports, etc., was enough for the Speccy to be convinced it heard a leader and try to load the game.

    I always wondered if - if you were able to clean up the signal enough - you'd actually be able to load the game from that historical recording.

    1. Chris 125

      "I always wondered if - if you were able to clean up the signal enough - you'd actually be able to load the game from that historical recording."

      Yes, and then you'd be arrested for copyright infringement and fined a million pounds.

      "You wouldn't steal a handbag. You wouldn't steal a car. You wouldn't leave a tape recorder running whilst someone loaded a game into a spectrum across the other side of the room. PIRACY IS THEFT"

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Coat

        "You wouldn't steal a handbag. You wouldn't steal a car."

        During his youth a mate of mine certainly made sure that such things never quite worked on him..

        Though why he was stealing handbags we never did work out, nor dare to enquire.

  10. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Also, light bulbs

    There was a house in Scotland where the light bulbs kept blowing. The mains voltage tested quite normal, there was no evidence of heavy surges or brownouts. There was no correlation with thunderstorms in the area. But eventually someone got suspicious and connected a loop coil to a scope.

    How does the MOD communicate with submarines? On such a low frequency that if you happen to have a house in the way it can induce significant voltages in the wiring.

    The MOD of course refused to admit that there was any such thing in the area, but oscilloscopes ignore the Official Secrets Act.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Also, light bulbs

      but oscilloscopes ignore the Official Secrets Act.

      So we can look forward to all lab equipment being banned on the basis that they can be used to break the OSA?

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Also, light bulbs

        "So we can look forward to all lab equipment being banned on the basis that they can be used to break the OSA?"

        I was thinking more of Turnbull's claim that the laws of Australia trumped[stet] mere mathematics.

    2. Lord_Beavis
      Alien

      Re: Also, light bulbs

      "On such a low frequency that if you happen to have a house in the way it can induce significant voltages in the wiring."

      Wasn't that an 'X-Files' episode? Except the people went crazy or exploded?

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Also, light bulbs

        @Lord_Beavis "Wasn't that an 'X-Files' episode? Except the people went crazy or exploded?"

        You'll have to be more specific, people going crazy or exploding was every X-Files episode.

    3. ricardian

      Re: Also, light bulbs

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthorn_Radio_Station

  11. Marky

    Minor correction 3270

    The 3270 was not a mainframe, it was the terminal used to access mainframes. Hence the IRMA was a 3270 emulator. Pedant mode off :)

    1. discalced

      Re: Minor correction 3270

      IRMA cards... oh the luxury of being able to run a resizable 3270 terminal in Windows 3.11... and the same "if it's not working, plug the coax into one that is working, then plug it back into the one that wasn't" troubleshooting technique worked just fine... plus I had a lot more desk space for large piles of fanfold printer paper.

  12. Marky

    Another microwave story

    In the 1970s we heard a story from our IBM engineer. Their computers at North Harbour would all crash at the same time every day to much puzzlement of the engineers.

    It turned out that a Royal Navy radar establishment nearby was testing an experimental new radar, guess what, at the same time every day the machines were crashing. The engineer told how the microwaves were affecting the conductivity of the air allowing shorting to take place.

    From what I heard, they had to install Faraday cages around the site to prevent the crashes.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. sandman

        Re: Another microwave story

        When those new-fangled Walkman thingies came out I was working in Portsmouth Dockyard. If I was wearing the earphones I'd get a repeated "ziiiiip" going through my head when I turned a certain corner - you could predict the interval by watching the radar turning. There was also an apocryphal story about a fitter falling asleep in HMS Victorious's huge bin-shaped radar (long before I worked there - just saying) - and then it was turned on.....

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: Another microwave story

          I took some lovely video of a T42 when we were doing deck landing training on it. Only slightly ruined by the burst of static on the recording every time the 1022 radar was pointed at us.

          Re the fitter and Victorious's radar, there was a similar story about someone standing in front of the 909 Fire Control radar on a T42 and suffering a grisly fate. I'm assuming it was to scare people into following the correct procedure for going on the roof...

        2. Tom Paine Silver badge

          Re: Another microwave story

          You can see this effect in VT from the Falklands conflict. Pictures from Devonport - fine; pictures from Ascension Island - fine; but half way down the South Atlantic when the FC radars were turned on, there's a burst of static sweeping down the frames every 2s or so.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Another microwave story

        Like a fork in a microwave oven.

        Or a CD[1]. Allegedly. Any smell of burnt plastic and ionised CD recording layer in my kitchen was pure coincidence. Honestly..

        [1] Not one of the dye-based ones - a proper metalised-substrate one. Any pop-CD would be suitable and have the bonus effect of increasing the cultural value of society if destroyed.

    2. Len Goddard

      Re: Another microwave story

      I worked for IBM in Feltham for a while. The Heathrow high-intensity landing radar used to crash the small on-site mainframe until it was moved into a shielded room.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: I worked for IBM in Feltham for a while.

        The Heathrow high-intensity landing radar used to crash the small on-site mainframe until it was moved into a shielded room.

        Why on earth would anyone put their radar in a shielded room?

        This sort of idiocy is why Britannia doesn't rule the microwaves.

        Fought them on the beaches, rationing, thrashing's too good, etc, more etc.

    3. Andy A
      Facepalm

      Re: Another microwave story

      In the late 70s I used to visit one of our company's mainframe sites, in an industrial unit which backed onto the West Coast Main Line about a mile north of Euston.

      The side of the building facing the railway had to be covered with mesh to cope with the EMF induced by the passing trains.

      The door of the fire exit had to be metal-covered too, though anyone using it was directly in line to be clobbered by the 10:34.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not so bad but

    I recall a computer with a Matrox 3D accelerator card. There was a whole faff of installing drivers in the right order or it wouldn't be recognised. I don't remember the details but I sold the computer to a friend after spending an entire night scratch rebuild with everything installed (in the right order). 2 days hence he called be to say he had been fiddling in the registry to "speed it up" and nothing worked any more. I have no idea why a build only 2 days old required that sort of fiddling - he wasn't even a techy - grr

    1. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Not so bad but

      Ah, the old user response, "Yeah, but all I did was...".

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Not so bad but

        Ah, the old user response, "Yeah, but all I did was...".

        Or (one I had in my DOS-herding days): "But I don't even know how to delete all the files from the C drive".

        As offered by someone who had dropped he (non-working) DOS 5/Win 3.11 computer off with us..

        1. ma1010 Silver badge

          Re: Not so bad but

          Or "I didn't do ANYTHING!"

          And they didn't. Except to apply user-forbidden software (Norton Utilities) to bugger around with HD's FAT for no particular reason.

          "You lost your files? Oh, too bad! Well, let me...help you." Evil laughter as I switch on the cattle prod.

  14. The Electron
    Happy

    Flickering CRT near LHR

    Back in 97-98, I worked in a company next to Heathrow's north runway. We in IT used to sneak up to the un-used 3rd floor to experience Concorde take off. One day, one of the users starts to complain about a random screen flicker. This was not the big spinny "23cm (brilliant!)" RADAR at LHR, but the mobile phone the user had plonked on top of the Compaq desktop's case. Each time it called back to the cell to confirm it was still alive, the CRT would go nuts. Users were then told to keep their phones away from their screens.

    Of course, the old fun was to walk into a room full of CRTs and spin the lump of disk drive magnets around in my pocket. "My screen's going all funny colours!" never got tired!

  15. Steve Evans

    I've seen some horrendous glitches caused on satellite feeds by cheap/knackered microwaves in the office kitchen.

    We eventually moved the dish further down the wall (and away from the kitchen)... And since the requisition request for gonad shields was declined, we tend not to go into the kitchen if someone is using the microwave!

  16. David Nash Silver badge

    Microwave Ovens?

    This seems like the point to mention perytons...

  17. flashydave

    Also Standby Generators

    Like the once per month “magic corruption" of analogue radar recording tapes ion a system I designed – only to discover behind the wall on which the shelf the tapes were stored on was the company's huge stand-by generator which was test started – you guessed it - once per month!!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Joysticks!

    My boss of the time (long ago) phoned me up one weekend to tell me he'd bought a joystick and adapter card and he wanted it fitting in his office PS/2 for his "son"...

    I asked him if it was a MicroChannel or ISA adapter card (I was young and optimistic in those days)... I then proceeded to describe the two connectors so he could tell me which one it was...

    Turned out it was an ISA card so I didn't have to spend my weekend getting his office gaming PC to work!

  19. silks

    RFI-directional-radar-tastic-EMC!

  20. Orv Silver badge

    CRT monitors' own deflection coil fields could interact in funny ways, producing odd squirming and shimmering. I had one or two issues where large monitors on opposite sides of the same cubical wall would destabilize each other.

  21. Juan Inamillion

    Right....

    Ok I'm telling this as it involves early comms and 'interference'. In a former life I was a roadie for well known band in the '80's. Round about '84 the management bought a couple of Tandy 100 laptops for the office and we also had Telecom Gold 'email' accounts. I can't remember too much about this but it was someone we knew had started up this service. So told the band I should have this too.

    So I was duly supplied with a Tandy 100 ( 8 x 32 lines of text!!) and an acoustic modem. A 300 baud acoustic modem. (For younger viewers this was a device which you connected to the laptop and squeezed the phone handset into the rubber cups. Yes, Acoustic. Making any sort of connection involved a list of commands and characters to entered at the appropriate moment.)

    All was well until we went to the Caribbean island of Monserrat to record an album. We'd got all the new codes to connect (a nightmare in itself) but every time we tried to connect the connection would drop, sometimes immediately sometimes after a few minutes.The island had a very small population so we asked one of the studio techs to ask around to see if there was a way of getting a better line (assuming it was problem). After a couple of day he came back laughing. Apparently, the operator at the phone exchange who was patching the calls would hear the squealing tones of the modem and think there was a problem an pull the plug on the connection...

    The there was the resident who owned the only TV satellite dish on the island. He shared his connection but it meant you could only watch what he watched...

    Happy days!!

  22. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    The "engineers should have figured out in a heartbeat that:

    a) The window seat was worth keeping and so a shielding solution was ideal.

    2) Moving the user as a solution to an EMR issue is so typically "IT Clueless" as to perpetuate the idiom in this site.

    $) Everyone owed the bloke who saw the radar and understood the implications a beer.

    ?) The department needed an EMR scanner soonest.

    Nice story. Believable and entertaining. Should have won a T Shirt.

  23. Diogenes

    Similar supposedly crashed server at SYD

    Heard from an IBM engineer who claimed to have been there, that there was server that would not boot. It would crash at some random time with a few seconds. Everything replaced, until engineer looking out of window noticed it would crash when the radar dish was pointing at the building.

    I heard the story whilst working for a QANGO in the city (between 1983 & 86) as it was the reason for an interesting test . When the recently removed monorail was being built, it was at the same level as the mainframe room. As part of the testing, all load was shed from the mainframe, but it was on, and the monorail repeatedly passed with driver continually on the radio and numerous 'fake' jobs were run, no issues were found .

  24. abubasim

    "connecting their PS/2 desktops to the company 3270 mainframe"

    3270 was not the mainframe type. This is the terminal type. The mainframe was probably from IBM's System/370 range, not necessarily with an IBM logo. The company I worked for in those days upgraded from a 4381 to a Hitachi machine, and as it was a Japanese box, it was nicknamed the rice boiler.

  25. TheElder

    Re: I still have my folks' Atari Video Pinball machine

    I still have TWO Vectrex vector graphics video game machines. I have a full set of cartridges and overlay screens as well as a fully working 3-D helmet and extra keyboards.

  26. TheElder
    FAIL

    Major Fail with very sensitive equipment

    Once upon a time I used to do some work at the British Columbia Loran-C Master navigation station. I had dropped in to calibrate my GHZ frequency counter on the triple atomic clock system. While I was there they decided to run a test on the new fire suppression system. That system was a fair number of Halon cylinders on the walls just below the ceiling tiles.

    I stepped out of the main control room into the entrance space, fortunately.

    Countdown and then the GAS BLAST for a few seconds.

    It blew every single ceiling tile out of the ceiling in most of the station. They fell on everything including the atomic clock system. I was very lucky that it did not damage my counter. It nearly broke some of the protection windows on the very high power transmitter amplifiers which had tubes/valves the size of 1 gallon glass containers.

    The station manager was just standing there with a very interesting expression on his face. I had finished the calibration so I picked up enough of the tiles to clear a way to retrieve my counter.

    What a total mess. Stacks of papers and system logs everywhere. Many things knocked off the tables and desks. Looking at the Halon cylinders they were all aimed up, not down.

    Simple mistakes can really matter...

  27. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Still happens

    The navigation system in my 2007 Audi A3 used to reboot every time I drove under an airplane leaving SJC. Radar is scary powerful. Some large doppler weather systems on mountain peaks have warnings that you'll be injured if you get in the scanning path. (I'm guessing the injury is becoming disoriented then falling 30 feet off whatever you used to get in the path)

  28. Florida1920 Silver badge

    moved the PC back to its original location

    Later, she gave birth to a two-headed sheep.

  29. fizz

    Similar thing

    An old IBM sysadmin told me a very similar tale few years ago, only happening in Italy.

    The protagonist was a brand new IBM mainframe that refused to boot up: it started, but a few seconds in, it blinked out before accomplishing anything.

    After a lot of head scratching, a guy watching out of the window recognized the timing of resets was the same as the military airport radar not far from the building.

    Mutating legend? Common event? Who knows?

  30. herbgold

    "the company 3270 mainframe.”

    No, no, no, failure of concept here.

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

  32. david 136

    Give the user a medal for moving back with a shield.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IRQ

    Sheesh, all these tales of horrible IRQ settings and the like from the distant past just remind the rest of us who were around at the time how much easier and better we had things with our Macs and Amigas, wondering how on earth those DOS boxes could ever possibly become popular...

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