back to article The healing hands of customer support get an acronym: Do YOU have 'tallah-toe-big'?

"I have something to show you," she purrs, reclining suggestively across the sofa. "Come and have a peek." This invitation from Mme D is irresistible. But just as soon as I kick off my slippers, don my welding goggles and settle down beside my wife, she sits up abruptly and exclaims: "Sorry, no, it's not there any more!" Such …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge


    Glad to see that you've got your mojo back :)

    Happy New Year !

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    My often used comment in those situations is: "If I Could Bottle That I'd Make A Fortune".

    Similar to the one where - not having any competence in the particular language/app - you keep pointing at things and saying to the user "what does that do?". At some point they see their mistake - and thereafter think you were very clever for spotting it.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge


      It gets even better when you *read the thing in front of them* and they ask "how did you know that, years of computer training?"

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: IICBTIMAF

        *read the thing in front of them*

        My first port of call is always "What does it actually say on the screen" because (a lot of the time) the programme isn't responding because the user has been asked a question and is waiting for an answer before doing *anything* else.

        And it gets bonus points if it manages to pop up the dialog box behind everything else.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: IICBTIMAF

          And it gets bonus points if it manages to pop up the dialog box behind everything else.

          That's a whole nother point of contention. Forget the untutored users. I'll bet most of us here have been caught out by a hiding dialogue from time to time. Usually when we've performed some simple action that didn't lead us to expect any options.

          1. Fred Dibnah

            Re: IICBTIMAF

            Alt + tab tab tab tab usually helps, I find.

            1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

              Re: IICBTIMAF

              Alt + tab tab tab tab usually helps, I find

              Not if the software developer is sufficiently determined to depress you with his dedication to shitness. Citadon*, if you ever get the misfortune, for example. Not only does the logon screen appear behind all open windows (hat tip to CrazyOldCatMan upthread) but it stubbornly refuses to join the alt+tab party.

              The shitness of Citadon is truly boundless, here's a couple that trip me up daily; Ctrl+v doesn't work in Citadon, you have to right click & paste. If you have some text selected backspace will delete it as you would expect but the DELETE key doesn't. How, FFS how do you break the function of a key accidently? It has to be deliberate so they can bill their victims when the request to fix it comes in.

              *Go on, take a guess at what it is universally known as.

          2. Unicornpiss Silver badge

            Re: IICBTIMAF

            "And it gets bonus points if it manages to pop up the dialog box behind everything else."

            In Windows, this is done to atone for the OS shamelessly stealing focus from you with EVERY other dialog and application the rest of the time.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: IICBTIMAF

          "And it gets bonus points if it manages to pop up the dialog box behind everything else."

          ...and it's not immediately obvious on the task bar either, what with the 180 documents and apps all being open at the same time "just in case".

  3. CT


    My other half swears I've got magic eyebrows - walk over, frown at the problem and it goes away.

    1. Tikimon Silver badge

      I call it Mechanic Effect

      Long before digital widgets invaded our lives, I did a fair bit of freelance car repair. Half my repair supplicants would bring me to their car, look confused and say "It's not doing it now." Thus I labeled it Mechanic Effect, but it inevitably happens with any new tech as well.

      I'm not mystically inclined, I have no valid reason to ensoul the inanimate. Cars can't possibly have an awareness and personality, nor aircraft, washing machines, or computers. But somehow... they KNOW. They know a Fixer has arrived, a holder of arcane knowledge and exotic tools, a dealer in hacks and workarounds when the Accepted Method doesn't work. Someone willing to use them without restraint or remorse. The smart ones back down and behave, seeing the door to hell cracked open is warning enough. The others? The ones too dumb to spot a Fixer or too stubborn to straighten up?

      (cracks knuckles menacingly) Okay then... let's have a look!

      1. BillG Silver badge

        Re: I call it Mechanic Effect

        The Mechanic Effect. Ah, yes. As in "that car stops making that noise when I bring it to the shop".

        Another is that eerie moment we all like when the car somehow senses the warranty just expired.. and you all know what happens next.

      2. JWYO

        Re: I call it Mechanic Effect

        Me Too, I always thought these devices were afraid, from antique to the most modern "what did you say it does?" see me coming, know I have a spare can of Coke, open of course for plausible deniability reasons, and they just start working. The users tend to require some BOFH style comments muttered quietly of course, for plausible deniability, to straighten things out.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Eyebrows

      If you have a sense of drama.... walk over to the errant device carrying a small sledge hammer (I find the 5 pound works well) and tap it in your hand while staring at the device. Seems to work and they behave themselves for longer period of time than just the frown.

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Eyebrows

      Before I have even bent down to look over the user's shoulder, he or she cries out: "It's not doing it now!"

      The real problem starts 1 hour after you have charged the client and are back on the M25 .. only to get the call, "Its gone again"

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    I think the opposite have happened, that Dabbsy's mojo caused this Spectre and Meltdown ruckus in retaliation :p

    Good to see you're back on form, keep it up, and may 2018 be a most excellent year for you.

  5. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    " every click on a program menu would launch iTunes in the background and immediately begin streaming a random song by Justin Bieber."

    Ye Gads! a cruel and unusual punishment indeed!. Must be malicious, something that terrifying couldnt be a random error. I'd have evacuated the building and then burnt it down. just to be sure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Though easy to diagnose.

      File attributes set to iTunes for every file type, including desktop icons.

      I was concerned my post would ruin your joke, then I remembered iTunes on PC... it's a joke and it's already a ruin!

    2. DNTP

      Re: Bieber

      Was the user running Biebian, the Linux-based OS dedicated to Justin Bieber? True fact: Biebian was the third most requested OS for desktop deployment at my company in 2017, after Windows and Ubuntu, and narrowly edging out OSX.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Bieber


        Was the user running Biebian, the Linux-based OS dedicated to Justin Bieber?

        The ideal upstream distribution for... Dabbsian!

    3. herman Silver badge

      Well, fortunately it wasn't Celine Dion.

    4. veti Silver badge

      That sounds uncannily like a hazing prank I pulled on my new boss, many years ago.

      Fortunately she was a good sport.

  6. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    "But surely I can't be the only IT professional (of sorts) to experience being called over by a user to investigate an issue and then told not to bother just as you present yourself at their desk."

    You certainly arnt . Its a strange phenomenon that makes us look like witchdoctors. I might get myself some sort of magical staff to wave at the computer on the way over.

    I think its caused by overerexuberent users behaving like toddlers running round banging into things , and the mere appearence of an adult will tone the behaviour down a bit, and they "walk dont run".

    1. Alister Silver badge

      You certainly aren't . It's a strange phenomenon that makes us look like witchdoctors. I might get myself some sort of magical staff to wave at the computer on the way over.

      Sacrificing a chicken over the keyboard is always a show stopper, although removing the blood and feathers afterwards is a bit of a chore.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My theory has always been that tech can detect fear - it smells the dread and hesitation of the supplicant seated before it, and laughs before tormenting them. Faced with the "Pro" who's learned from years of experience to adopt the Countenance of an Expert and just bluff it as usual, it scuttles back into it's corner and behaves.

        1. Britt

          Tech can also smell desperation and urgency, and likes to play trick on those that needs documents printed asap.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Tech can also smell desperation and urgency, and likes to play trick on those that needs documents printed asap.

            Printers are a different kind of beast altogether. Most have a special chip in them that detects document urgency and generates mechanical and processing failures on demand. The level of failure is cross referenced against the day of the week and time of day.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              The level of failure is cross referenced against the day of the week and time of day.

              Special bonus points to the user that jammed the queue at 5:05pm on a friday after all the admins had gone home.

              And then said - I don't think it's the printer, I sent the job to all the other printers and it did the same...

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          My theory is swearing.

          We all know that 50% of computer problems can be solved by a swift reboot. A further 10% will just go away if you leave the thing alone for five minutes. 10% take lots of work - and the remaining 30% will go away if you swear at the computer enough.

          I think because I've sworn at so many computers while fixing or setting them up, that I'm over my quota for many of them. So as soon as I walk near to them, they fix themselves - as I'm in obscenity-credit.

          Thus friends and work colleagues are amazed by the things just working as soon as I'm even vaguely close to them.

          Printers seem to work differently though. They're swearproof. The more angry and frustrated you get with them, the worse they get. They'll be totally impervious to all fixes in the ten minutes before you have to leave with some documents for that vital meeting or deadline, then work perfectly as soon as you get back. Perhaps I need to video myself taking an axe to one - and have a still from it as my screensaver. Or just use it as my printer test page on all the ones I install...

          1. Andytug

            Very much this

            Electronics respond to glowering looks and swearing. Mechanical things, on the other hand, respond to kind words and pleading. I guess a printer, having both electronic and mechanical bits, is impossible to reason with either way..........

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Very much this

              Mechanical things, on the other hand, respond to kind words and pleading

              I seem to recall a Ford Cortina that very much gives a counter-example to that..

              (Split-pin at the bottom of the distributor-rotor had sheared and so the distributor didn't. Took me ages to find that problem - spent ages taking off the carbs & cleaning them, replacing the coil and varous other bits. In desperation I finally took off the distributor cap to see if the timing had shifted, only to discover that the rotor rotated freely.. Mind you, that car was pre-disastered by a number of previous owners - much like the Honda C70 that I ended up with after all 3 of my older brothers had had it..)

          2. Rusty 1

            There is a most excellent video of Alan "Brick Top" Ford having words with domestic appliances.


            1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

              Windows 10 can certainly smell urgency and desperation.

              Whenever I need to leave the office in a hurry for an appointment or just to pick up the kids, that's always the time when it decides it must install an update that it downloaded especially in the background without telling me.

              And then to top it off it even says "do not turn off your pc" on the screen whilst sitting there whirring away but otherwise seemingly doing nothing with the percentage counter sat stationary.

              Unfortunately that one also does not seem to respond well to percussive maintenance, the other failsafe backup tool of the tech repairing overlord.

        3. Potemkine! Silver badge

          my mother always told me...

          ... that objects are mean. Maybe it's because of the Gremlins in them.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Sacrificing a chicken over the keyboard

        Some people apparently prefer a goat to be the sacrifice. Although, at least with a chicken the resultant meat is edible..

        (Goat tastes entirely too much like lamb for my liking. The only time I've managed to eat lamb/goat without retching is when sufficient masking flavours[1] are applied).

        [1] Mint sauce for lamb. And no, curried goat doesn't contain enough other flavours to disguise the taste of goat..

      3. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Sacrificing a chicken over the keyboard is always a show stopper, although removing the blood and feathers afterwards is a bit of a chore.

        Not a problem. Tell the user that removing the blood and feathers will leave the computer unprotected and that the problem will return only stronger and with more malice.

      4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Sacrificing a chicken over the keyboard

        Interview question: in how many places do you terminate a SCSI chain.

        Answer: In three: one end, the other end and a black goat with a silver knife at full moon in the middle.

    2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      At Prst. V.Jeltz, re: behaving aura.

      I'll raise my hand to be included in the group of folks that seem to make a computer behave merely by getting close to it.

      In my case they see me coming & decide to behave out of pure desire not to die a horrible & grisley death. My approaching while brandishing a screwdriver & cackling in insane glee might have something to do with it.



      1. Morten_T

        Re: At Prst. V.Jeltz, re: behaving aura.

        "In my case they see me coming & decide to behave out of pure desire not to die a horrible & grisley death. My approaching while brandishing a screwdriver & cackling in insane glee might have something to do with it."

        You're talking about the user now, right? :D

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Its a strange phenomenon that makes us look like witchdoctors. I might get myself some sort of magical staff to wave at the computer on the way over.

      Don't forget the sacred pebbles and animal skin cloak with skull and horns.

  7. Empty1


    A well endowed young lady who could never demonstrate the problem when a techie arrived to see what was wrong - due to her pushing her chair back somewhat to let the screen be seen.

    Phantom keystrokes returned when chair pushed back to normal position.

    1. Alistair Dabbs


      I think I read that tale, or an equivalent to it, in an IT support workers’ forum on CIX back in the 1990s. I do hope it was true.

      1. Empty1

        Re: TITSTOOBIG

        I witnessed this event for the first time in the 70's so at least I know it's true

    2. Andytug


      I have genuinely seen this happen, it was caused by an electric "rise and fall" desk forcing the keyboard upwards into the user's chest. She found it hilarious once explained!

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge



      A well endowed young lady...

      Phantom keystrokes returned when chair pushed back to normal position.

      Could that be a contributory factor for the dearth of "well endowed" ladies in computer programming?

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge


      I have not seen that one, but I have seen the other one - nylon skirt and tights (and apparently based on the user confessing to it later - nylon underwear) combined with an operator chair which had a polyester seat pillow.

      Bzzzzt. Here went another motherboard.

  8. Alister Silver badge

    Computers fear me!

    Yep, I seem to have the same influence, when I stand and glare over the user's shoulder, the reported issues always go away and everything works properly.

    I'm sure I've recounted before how we keep a 20lb lump hammer hanging in the server room where all the racks can see it. Our MTBF went up massively when we did that.

    And a friend of mine has the carcass of a Dell PE860 displayed on a workbench in the server room, with a large flat-bladed screwdriver driven right through the motherboard...

    1. hplasm Silver badge

      Re: Computers fear me!

      I had a sticker for years in my wallet that said something along the lines of:-

      "Never let this equipment know just how important and essential it is to the workings of the company, as it will immediately cease working for no reason."

      I was given it by a hardware Eng, (DEC I think) who used to stick them on kit that behaved oddly...

  9. Andrew Moore Silver badge

    Meeeeee tooooooo.....

    " It means my innate ability to solve software issues simply by bringing my aura within the proximity of an offending device..."

    Happens to me all the time. I think that my arrival causes the user to actually use the computer/software correctly, in case they might expose themselves as being the problem. Of course, said user then proclaims that the computer has resolved the issue by itself.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Meeeeee tooooooo.....

      I sense a marketing opportunity here for The Reg: “TALATOBIG” club badges, ties, smartphone covers, etc.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Meeeeee tooooooo.....

        ... lump hammer, cattle prod, large and weighty screwdriver, disc shredder, angle grinder, big spiked stick.

        The opportunities for “TALATOBIG” club merchandise are endless

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Meeeeee tooooooo.....

        "I sense a marketing opportunity here for The Reg: “TALATOBIG” club "

        Sponsored by Costa and/or Starbucks? ta-LATO-big ;-)

  10. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    I think we all are deprived of our regular OnCall fix...

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      OnCall is like chocolate - very enjoyable but having had so much of it in the last week or three it's nice to have a little rest to let the enjoyment muscles recuperate.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      "deprived" or "depraved" by it?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Opposite effect

    I knew a guy at university with the opposite effect; you would just have a complicated setup running (like with critical alignment of optics) and it would stop if he got close to it. When he left it worked again.

    1. Salestard

      Re: Opposite effect

      I worked with a chap who, I eventually concluded, generated his own EMP - anything and everything with a CPU, PCB, or any other form of electrical component would suffer catastrophic failure in his presence.

      Company Audi A6, in a permanent state of electronic collapse under his care. I had it for three months after he'd given up on it and put it into the pool - it behaved perfectly.

      Psion PDA lasted approximately four hours before mysteriously dying completely. On his desk. Whilst he wasn't using it.

      He even used to kill the old IBM Thinkpads (the proper IBM ones)

    2. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Re: Opposite effect

      Happened to theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli to the extent there is a Pauli Effect

    3. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: Opposite effect

      I used to work with someone similarly gifted. I tried to get him to test anything and everything - hardware, software, coffee machines, help files, chairs - if he he couldn't break it, it was bomb-proof. We called him "Entropy's Little Buddy". Every organisation should have one.

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: Opposite effect

        Like that fat kid in The Goonies.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Opposite effect

      I call that the 'Sadim effect' Midas in reverse, everything they get close to turns to sh*t.

      The thingyverse often seems to install them in important places at crucial times, they are governed by he God Sod whose law is well known.

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: Opposite effect

        Knew a guy who appeared to have the ability to curdle milk. No hot drink made by him was ever drinkable, there would be unidentifiable scum floating on top even when you watched him do everything in the normal fashion.

        Another guy I worked with had the abililty to make any screwdriver, pliers, scissors - well, basically, anything metal he came into contact with - start to rust within a couple of days.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Opposite effect

          The rusting can probably be explained by corrosive skin excretions. Some people just seem to sweat pure sulfuric acid.

          1. DailyLlama

            Re: Opposite effect

            Yep, that's me. I can't wear anything metal - glasses frames, watch, any form of jewellery, or it begins to corrode both the object and my skin where it comes in contact with it.

            I also suffer(?) from TALATOBIG to the extent that someone once referred to me as a "Computer Whisperer".

    6. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Opposite effect

      I knew a guy at university with the opposite effect

      My Dad was very much the opposite with any watch that contained electronics. After about 3 weeks wear they would all die - no matter how well sealed or how expensive they were.

      Mechanical watches however - they would last and last..

      1. Sam Therapy

        Re: Opposite effect

        An ex GF made watches - any watches - run backwards.

    7. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Opposite effect

      I am one such opposite guy. My dark talent first appeared around 1970 while I was still at school, when a paper tape puncher inserted a character that did not exist on my keyboard and did not appear on the printout. It crashed the mainframe repeatedly until I was banned. The professionals blamed me and refused to investigate the bug, I had to develop my own methodology and prove the cause to them.

      I have always been popular among the cognoscenti at work, as a UI tester: If I can't crash it, nobody can. But the arrogant and ambitious always hated me and kept away because my talent routinely showed them up at the most tactless moment possible. Nice.

  12. Filippo

    Praise the Omnissiah!

    My standard explanation in these cases is "you've offended the Machine Spirit". This often seems to work just as fine for the end user as the technical answer, if not better.

  13. ShortLegs

    Ah Joe 90. Brings back memories of Saturday mornings.

    The opening credits had higher production values, and more time and attention lavished, than entire episodes of today's TV dross. Derek Meddings was, simply, a god. YouTube also has a stereo version of the theme, claimed to be an original work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      While we're on the subject of "Joe 90's Dad's BIG RAT", here's a photograph of what I imagine Joe 90's dad would look like.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Just hovering over the URL was enough to complete that joke :)

        1. MrT

          True, though my favourite photo of the walking slap magnet is the one Private Eye keep reprinting every time he gets out of his depth. Which is often.

          1. Sam Therapy

            Argh!! My eyes! You utter bastard!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I usually use "Magic" as my explanation for these events.

    (Might need to find a suitable explanation for that acromyn...)

    Especially fun when the user has come to get me, have seen I haven't done any server side voodoo, and it still inexplicably just works when we get to the users desk.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Simplify

      MAGIC - hmm... Mechanical Aversion to Gits In Cardigans? Massive Ability to Galvanise Insolent Computers?

      OK not my best work...

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Simplify

        Mechanical Aversion to Gits In Cardigans?

        Oi! Don't diss the might cardigan!

  15. Airborne Cigar


    For thirty years (that I know of) this has been known as HMV - as soon as the device detects His Masters Voice (or presence) it sorts itself. Very frustrating for users, wives, children, parents, neighbours, etc

  16. CrispyD

    It's all in the timing.

    Long ago, as a college techie I experienced similar experiences almost hourly towards the end of term. Panicky students would rush into the office with cries of "IT'S NOT PRINTING!!!!".

    One of us would nod, finish the current Doom Level, drink some more coffee, saunter into the hall, stop for a chat, buy a mars bar from the vending machine and then - with almost supernatural timing - not quite step into the computer suite when the ageing LaserJet III would finally finish warming up and star spewing the 15 copies of the coursework they managed to queue up.

    Ahh, those were the days.

  17. Kevin Johnston

    Very much on topic (how odd)

    A friend and I went to a motorbike dealer (a woderfully named place - Dave Death Motorcycles) as the horn on his had stopped working. The man himself came out and pushed the button with no result so he called his wizened mechanic who came out, pushed the button and the horn blew ours ears off. He then gave us a look and went back to his coffee.

    Some people just have it

  18. Spanners Silver badge

    I tell users...

    "Just carry a screwdriver. It intimidates them."

    Either that or I tell them that computers are like lions, tigers and bears. They can sense your fear.

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: I tell users...


      Computer decides to misbehave, show it a rusty cross-head screwdriver & cackle "This is my software fixing tool. Work or I'll gouge out your software with it!"

      Strange how fast the computer decides to behave out of a sense of self preservation...

      Then there's brandishing a chainsaw & calling it your "hardware fixing tool". Hammers work too, but nothing is as satisfying as cranking up a big ol' Husqvarna & revving the engine a few times to scare the ever lovin' shite out of the computer (and everyone else in earshot).

      *Cackle* Behave or I'll reseat your RAM! *RevRevRevrevrevrevrev* MUH Hahahahahahahahaha!

  19. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Keep up with

    the positive waves!

    Happy new year, Mr. Dabbs, it's good to see you here again.

    So your magic fluid is back? Does Mrs. Dabbs know she's a lucky woman? ^^

  20. imanidiot Silver badge

    My theorie

    Those "in the know" have no problem taking drastic action. The normal (l)user has trepeditions about maybe breaking something or throwing out "perfectly good" equipment. The grizzled veteran however not going to spend 8 hours fiddling with drivers and pushing buttons in the hopes it fixes the problem. A reformat is the best outcome the tech in question can hope for. If it's older equipment it goes straight into a skip. So when they encounter someone with the care-free attitude of "work or die, you choose. Better make it snappy, I've only had my 2 morning coffees and it's 10 am" they just work. Resistance is futile as they say.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is my belief that

    This ability comes part and parcel with The Admin Gene.

    1. avassileva

      Re: It is my belief that

      I call it the Admin's aura - happened many times to me. However, you might be right about the genes - I think I got it from my father who is an old Dog Admin. It was he who introduced me to BOFH and theRegister - this great source of admin inspiration and news.

      Have a great New Year to all of you! Less incidents and let the Admin's Aura be with you!

      P.s. it works for me also for printers (even the beancounters')

  22. Nunyabiznes


    Fine Art of Electronics Intimidation

    When I was younger I could simply grab a computer case and twist it until it folded. Now I have to carry an equalizer (BFH).

    Most electronics and software respond well. Notably anything from Nuance or Netmotion are immune.

  23. TrumpSlurp the Troll

    Users just panic

    Run around shouting The printer isn't working until someone comes to see what the noise is all about.

    Then they go It's all right, it is just out of paper.

    Often it is just the calming presence that unlocks their brain.

  24. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Yeah gods, that video is older than I am.

    Though I found myself waiting for Barbarella to arrive....

  25. JohnFen Silver badge

    Quantum Bogodynamics

    This is a very well-known effect, studied heavily over the years and resulting in the birth of a new field of science

  26. MrT

    Opposite effect...

    ... usually the office phone stops ringing just as I reach it. Not before I've gone and put in the physical effort of getting up and moving across the room - that's also part of the Rules of Engagement With Any Ringing Device.

    Unfortunately, because of poor definition of the term "ringing" by the person who drafted the rules, it has unusual side-effects: I'd be a bad choice for working on some sort of RSPB rare breed protection scheme, for example...

  27. Mark 4913

    Decades old invocation: "Don't hassle me, beast!"

  28. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Be careful what you put in acronyms

    I used to work with a pretty young immigrant whose English was excellent but had very predictable gaps. The cost of using a word she did not know was you had to explain it to her. I promptly repeated the words "Read the FRIENDLY manual" over and over to myself. Thanks to her, even when the deadline is minutes away, when a fan starts to rapidly distribute mushrooms I can now say bother.

  29. The New Turtle

    I'm astonished that no-one has yet mentioned Larry Niven's TANSTAAFL, which seems entirely appropriate to the idea of things fixing themselves when one walks over to investgate. Remember, their ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

    1. Sam Therapy

      Not Niven, Heinlein.

  30. Paul

    Sometimes I've been asked to help because the person can't print, say, a Word document.

    So I go over and operate the computer, and let them watch me see it being done. I'll open the word document in question, click the right buttons to print it, and we'll walk over to the printer where everything is printed just fine.

    Then I'll say "it seems to be working now", and "how were you trying to print it?" and they'll mumble something incoherently whilst looking at their feet.

  31. Sam Therapy


    In my time as IT Support guy for British Coal (yep, that long ago), the most common fault was

    Staples In Computer Keyboard

    usually solved by turning the thing upside down and giving it a whack on the desk.

  32. Yobgod Ababua


    I suffer from the same blessing, which I usually ascribe to the unacknowledged sentience of all systems and devices which are capable of sensing the presence of either a Fearful User or a Trained Expert.

    When only Fearful Users are present, ALL electronics, plumbing, electrical and similarly Fear-Inducing Modern Technology Magic will take any excuse and opportunity to skive off and misbehave in otherwise impossible and unexplainable ways. However, all it takes is the observing presence of a Trained Expert who knows how it Should Work to cow the unruly device into submission and return it to service.

  33. PM from Hell

    Diagnostic disasters

    Many years ago I worked with a software engineer a few years older than me. He would often mention that his previous experience as a level 3 hardware engineer. Telling me war stories where he was usually the hero. Once my skill levels hit the point where I was trusted to go solo commissioning new mainframes I was working directly with his old

    colleagues. It turned out that while he was a fantastic diagnostician the second he started trying to repair something all hell broke loose. Apparently he was called out to help out with complex issues but was not allowed within 3 feet of the failing hardware and was banned from even holding a screwdriver in the data centre.

  34. timnich


    I have experienced many similar occurances of my 'presence' being enough to enable 'malfunctioning' technology to 'behave itself'.

    I recall one particular occasion where I was required to stand in a particular place, within 'aura' range of the sound recording equipment while recording took place on a Pinewood Sound stage. Otherwise the sound equiment would start to 'do its own thing' which did not include making satisfactory recordings.

    Go figure.

  35. Dan 55 Silver badge

    I know what bit is

    My talent left me a year ago. It has been a difficult 12 months, as you can imagine. Throughout 2017, my training courses were replete with catastrophic freezes and crashes, undocumented dialogue windows, error messages fonted in Cyrillic, OS language switching spontaneously to Cantonese, and display performance visuals reminiscent of T-Rex on Top Of The Pops.

    This last year I have witnessed software problems I never imagined possible. Emails would appear, vanish and then re-appear, jumping between various folders and labels with shameless abandon. On one user's machine, a virus checker contrived to put itself into quarantine. On another, every click on a program menu would launch iTunes in the background and immediately begin streaming a random song by Justin Bieber.

    Yep, it's been a pretty bad year thanks to those Windows 10, iOS 11, and High Sierra updates.

  36. 0laf Silver badge

    I think most competent computer fixers have this ability most of the time.

    It works best when you've made a long journey to see the problem.

    I have always referred to this as the 'magic screwdriver' effect. i.e. the computer is scared of the magic screwdriver in my pocket.

  37. John 61

    Back in the olden days I did the impossible

    When I was a callow youth at school, the computer room had several Electrons, Beebs (one being a Model A which was stolen; the better Model B wasn't), an IBM terminal and a TRS 80. I had an Electron at home so was used to how they worked (*FX 200,3 was used quite a lot). I was sat in front of one when it started behaving rather strangely; graphics mode changes, random triangles, text etc. I looked away from it and a conversation along these lines ensued:

    Me: "Sir, this computer's broken"

    Bearded Teacher (he was cracked):"What have you done to it?"

    Me: "I haven't done anything to it; it's broken."

    This continued for a few minutes or so and a smart arse kid (who seemed to have it in for me) shouted rather loudly "HE'S REPROGRAMMED THE ROM!!" Cue classmates looking at each other in bemusement.

    Me (looking puzzled in front of the rest of the class)"How can I do that? It's ROM, READ ONLY memory. How can I reprogram it?"

    Bearded Teacher (he was still cracked):"You must have done something to it."

    Me (getting really exasperated):"I haven't done anything to it; it's broken, I haven't done anything to it."

    To my amazement this was accepted seemingly as gospel by the beardy bloke (I didn't really like him at all) and I left school a "computer legend".

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