back to article Office junior had one job: Tearing perforated bits off tractor-feed dot matrix printer paper

Why look at that! Friday is upon us, which means it’s time to read this week’s edition of On-Call, our weekly column featuring Register readers’ recollections of tech support jobs gone wrong. This week meet “Pablo” who told us that “In the '90s I worked as a field service engineer for one of the leading companies supplying IT …

  1. Olivier2553

    They fixed it!

    It tends to show they knew how to remove the ribbon cartridge and install it anew.

    And despite that they did not consider installing a new ribbon but they resolved to fix the old one?

    Pablo was too nice, he should have taken the printer for repair, one month delay, and charge full price because that's obviously abuse of the equipment.

    1. JimC Silver badge

      Re: They fixed it!

      You don't understand customers. They did the lash up to get them working while someone ordered the new ribbon, then promptly forgot about it.

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: They fixed it!

      Yeah.. And they said it was urgent and the office junior was about to go home.

      If it was that urgent, the poor little rich boys could have hung around a bit longer and done the mundane paper folding themselves!

  2. jake Silver badge

    "Has a foreign body caused you grief?"

    Well, there was that Greek girl I dated at Uni ...

    1. Sam Therapy

      Re: "Has a foreign body caused you grief?"

      "I met her at St Martin's College

      She said she had a thirst for knowledge..."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Has a foreign body caused you grief?"

        An all too common story.

        1. Symon Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: "Has a foreign body caused you grief?"

          Ah, the wife of former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis!

          https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/may/12/greek-finance-minister-responds-claim-wife-inspiration-pulp-common-people

          p.s. Shatner anyone?

        2. Korev Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: "Has a foreign body caused you grief?"

          "Oh you're so funny."

          I said "Yeah?

          Well I can't see anyone else smiling in here.

          cos there's no rum ad coca-cola icon -->

    2. Celeste Reinard

      Re: "Has a foreign body caused you grief?"

      Yes jake, I remember it too. Only I am still not Greek, nor Natasja. O, and btw, I am sure you might be looking for your car keys - they are swimming with the fishes. Inside the aquarium with that BMW-logo on both sides... And, always trying to show my good side, I left a surprise in the locker-thingy, how do you call it, the trunk? No, not Natasja - we are going to get married next week: it's what promisses to be your new laptop (the old one was dirty!).

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: "Has a foreign body caused you grief?"

        I think you just b0rked my parser.

        1. Celeste Reinard

          Re: "Has a foreign body caused you grief?"

          So you remember me. And you know how I loved to 'b0rk' your things. Russian style. Maybe we should come back together again, and b0rk a few other things you are attached to. ... What does 'b0rk' mean?

  3. jake Silver badge

    Ah, the "good old days" ...

    Anyone but me remember "bursting" mainframe print jobs? How about jobs that included carbon paper copies? Doing this job manually, one would invariably get thoroughly coated in ink/carbon. Invariably, I would manage to get fairly bad paper cuts in the web between my left thumb and index finger. To this day, I have a "smudge" tattoo in that location, which I guess could be considered a foreign body that gave me grief.

    1. jdoe.700101

      Speaking of carbon paper...

      I used a sheet of it the other day whilst filing my tax return at the Japanese tax office. Can't remember the last time I saw anyone else use carbon paper.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Speaking of carbon paper...

        "Can't remember the last time I saw anyone else use carbon paper."

        As recently as yesterday evening. Should have been a month ago but my local Civic Society couldn't take subscriptions because the carbon in their receipt book had worn out! They've now got a new sheet.

      2. Andrew Newstead

        Re: Speaking of carbon paper...

        I keep some stashed away for model making projects, It's damn useful for tracing patterns onto sheet plastic.

      3. W4YBO

        Re: Speaking of carbon paper...

        I keep a half dozen sheets of carbon paper in my shop. Great stuff for finding where you need to file or sand to fit parts properly. Useful for transferring measurements from part to paper as well.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Speaking of carbon paper...

          Great stuff for finding where you need to file

          Dentists also use it for exactly that reason - new filling or crown, put the bit of carbon paper and ask the victim^W patient to bite down on it and wiggle their jaw. The carbon side leaves nice marks on the teeth showing where the filling needs to be filed down in order to fit properly.

        2. Gnomalarta

          Re: Speaking of carbon paper...

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineer%27s_blue

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. JoJ

        Re: Speaking of carbon paper...

        I deeply approve of carbon paper..now what was the good brand I couldn't get any of my employers to buy, the one with a look of a large After Eight mint to it. Those carbons really did triplicate..and who remembers the quadruplicate wads of stencils for the Gestetner? This was classy carbon, taking the imprint via a bullet stub intermediate sheet, that blunted your Imperial typewriter's cutting edge.

        Bring carbon copies back!

        Why?

        Analog is harder to forge.

        Even camera sensors are fingerprinted by their analog ADC traces. Anna is good. With a typewriter.

      5. ArtCaffrey

        Re: Speaking of carbon paper...

        anyone remeber last year's Microsoft borking of Epson Dot Matrix printers - 1600 doctor's perscription printers in Republic of Ireland affected; carbons still required

        https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/11/17/windows_update_killed_my_printer/

        1. Captain Obvious
          Pint

          Re: Speaking of carbon paper...

          Sadly, one of my clients who sells supplies to school still have AND use these printers for orders. They still use hand signatures to go across all three copies vs using a tablet for a signature. Even though the paper is getting really expensive, I cannot get them to switch :(

          Yes - they were impacted by the stupid MS updates on Windows 10. No - they do not want WSUS installed either :(

          Need this ====================================>

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Speaking of carbon paper...

            "They still use hand signatures to go across all three copies vs using a tablet for a signature."

            Ah. Signatures that look like signatures. That's getting rare these days.

          2. DavidRa

            Re: Speaking of carbon paper...

            "Sadly, one of my clients who sells supplies to school still have AND use these printers for orders. They still use hand signatures to go across all three copies vs using a tablet for a signature. Even though the paper is getting really expensive, I cannot get them to switch :(

            Yes - they were impacted by the stupid MS updates on Windows 10. No - they do not want WSUS installed either :("

            Time to fire them as a customer. You have a problem, and there's a known solution. You won't let us implement the solution, and you're still complaining.

            "I'm sorry, but at the termination of our existing contract, tomorrow lunchtime, as governed by section 44.3.7.91(g) 'Unreasonable Customers', we will not be offering a renewal."

        2. Cian Duffy

          Re: Speaking of carbon paper...

          And all the pharmacies dispensing them - although they use Oki units about 95 times out of 100 for whatever reason despite all three software vendors offering Epson also.

          Spent too long in that sector to ever forget how to input page length to a LX300 or LQ590.

    2. John70

      Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

      I remember carbon paper, stuff printed in triplicate. So messy separating the 3 prints from the sandwiched carbon papers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        Maybe once a week, I hear the dot-matrix printer in our office fire up. Apparently there are certain forms (for a regulator, I think) that have to be filled out in carbonless triplicate, which simply isn't possible on a laser/inkjet. So, it's 2018, and we have, and use, a tractor-feed dot-matrix printer. I hear there's a way of submitting the info electronically, but that we're not quite ready for that yet.

        (AC to hide the guilty (and current) employer)

        1. David Nash Silver badge

          Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

          Can't you just print it 3 times?

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Can't you just print it 3 times?

            Depends. I once entered a room of disgruntled staff who had been waiting "all day" for the printer.

            A fellow consultant had been told to print a bill of materials (a full box of stationery right there) for nine departments and she was on box five. I asked her very quietly why she hadn't sent it to three lots of three-part, and the look on her face was classic.

            Multi-part stationery. Much over three part and the hammer velocity had to be wound up so much the top copy would be a stencil. I remember seeing a box of five-part once. Once.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

            "Can't you just print it 3 times?"

            There are these things called requirements and if the requirement calls for it to be printed in a single pass so there's no possibility of one "copy" being different/altered (regulators can be fussy about these things) then 3-part NCR it is.

        2. Roopee

          Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

          "carbonless triplicate, which simply isn't possible on a laser/inkjet" - Not true; several suppliers produce multi-part NCR A4 sets for laser printing, and I can confirm that it works very well - I use it to create my hand-written job sheets and invoices.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        "I remember carbon paper, stuff printed in triplicate. So messy separating the 3 prints from the sandwiched carbon papers."

        Worst I saw was 7 part self-carbon. Cust reported the printer kept jamming. Adjusted printhead gap and generally cleaned/lubed the printer and got it working but told the cust the printer was only rated for up to 3-part paper and any further calls for this issue would not be covered under contract.

    3. CT

      Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

      We had a "burster" machine, with two rotating knives to slice the tractor-feed sides off, and a device to rip off the perforated sheets and stack them neatly. Made a hell of a racket when it worked, and despite hiding it in a soundproof cupboard, we were all tuned in to the remaining noise, so that any change in tone had us running to the rescue for the frequent hiccups, slips and general paper mangling/automated origami.

      1. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        Yup - worked on one of those, waaayyy back.

        And a 'decollator', too

        An upright triangular device... shelf across the bottom where the stack of multi-part stationery sat... drag the paper up to the top of the triangle by hand and separate, one paper 'part' over a rough-coated roller, wind the carbon paper round a spindle, and the remaining 'parts' across a rough roller on the other side.... switch it on, and the rough rollers would provide enough friction to drag the paper through and the spindle would rotate to take up the carbon paper.

        The trick was to adjust the speed of the thing to a maximum that allowed the job to be done without spewing finely creased paper across the room at a high rate of knots.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        We had a "burster" machine, with two rotating knives to slice the tractor-feed sides off, and a device to rip off the perforated sheets and stack them neatly.

        One of the customers I occasionally visited had a burster/decollator which did the tearing off the perforation by two pinfeed tractors aligned slightly outwards, with the paper itself pinched between rubber rollers. The multiform carbon would then be wound on two spindles, the lower form stacked underneath this part of the machine, still continuous, the middle and top forms being bursted by additional sets of rollers running slightly faster than the first one, then stacked.

        This allowed the rotating knives to be fitted in the corridor to the BOFH den.

      3. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        We had a "burster" machine, with two rotating knives to slice the tractor-feed sides off, and a device to rip off the perforated sheets and stack them neatly.

        In the post room of a company where I had one of my first jobs (so we're talking many many years ago) they had a device to open envelopes. This was a device with a circular blade that spun round as the letters were fed past. They'd get a lot of letters that didn't have a recipient stated and these needed opening to locate the correct department/person. The machine manual stated that you were supposed to tap the letters so that the contents were clear of the top 3mm of the envelope. Then you just put the stack of letters on the tray in a vertical position with the top down and let the thing feed them through at some speed. However one day they had a work experience in the post room who was doing a week with us spending a day each with several departments. He remembered to tap the letters and had them with the correct gap at the top,

        Sadly he then put them into the machine with the top up. About 100 or so letters were sliced into two at the fold. There was often a 6mm strip that might contain vital information to decoding any sentences that were sliced by the machine. After putting quite a few outgoing letters in the franking machine upside down he was told to go home for the day. HR put him somewhere the next day where he could do less damage.

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Olivier2553

      Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

      Speaking of the good old days... I don't know elsewhere in the world, but in the early 90's, printer ribbon was expensive, here, in Thailand, the original ribbon cartridges with the name of the printer manufacturer (they invented nothing with the astronomical price of the ink cartridges).

      So we would buy ribbon refill, pry open the plastic cartridge, trash the old and dry ribbon and install the new ribbon that was delivered in a plastic tube like wrapping. It was a dirty job, fresh ribbon, fresh ink that would stick to the fingers, and to arrange the ribbon in the feed rollers of the cartridge, it was almost impossible to use gloves, you would have not enough feeling.

      I think we even experimented with re-inking an old ribbon, but it was not really a usable solution.

      1. Dabooka Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        @Olivier2553

        I need a lie down.

        Clicky-clicky

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

          Dabooka,

          Thanks for the link.

          Always wanted to improve my grammar.

          Thought not sure @Olivier2553 is so thankful for the somewhat witty reply :)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

          "I need a lie down. Clicky-clicky"

          Amazing as it might seem, there are some people in the world whose native language is not English.

      2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        I remeber my parents bought a printer with a 4 colour ribbon which had to changed back out to the black one if you didn't want it smear yellow on everything. It also had tendency to pick up the ink colour on the pin heads so turn the colours black before you knew it (Or make anything yellow mildly red).

        Also remember how the quiet mode did nothing....

      3. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        > I think we even experimented with re-inking an old ribbon,

        Ah yes, using a ribbon until it literally fell apart. Not sure what was worse, messy fingers from ribbon re-inking or a messy mind from remembering the dreaded ESC-P codes. Those were... Hang on, no, let's never go back to the printer hell of the 80s and early 90s.

      4. Black Betty

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        Back in my penny pinching days, I recall reloading worn out film ribbon cartridges with regular cloth typewriter ribbon. The print head would gum up every six months or so, but it was easily cleaned.

        Fan fold? That stuff cost money. A roll of butchers paper run through the bandsaw a few times saved more bucks for the important things like a second computer.

    5. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

      In my first computer-related job in the 1980's, me and other trainees had among others the task of printing and mailing monthly reports to branch offices around the country from a line printer, with ink ribbons that resembled Torah scrolls. I recall the printer itself rarely caused grief (apart from the regular need to change the scrolls and clean the print head), but whoever had written the reporting software (for the Honeywell Bull mainframe) did not bother to sort the output by office. So we implemented a manual sort algorithm on the mailing room floor. That was to most time-consuming part. But I guess trainee time was cheaper than CPU time in those days...

      1. ds6 Bronze badge

        Re: Classical wizardry

        I surely hope you made jokes about casting spells. If not, bring your 1980s self a bit closer and get hit a little.

    6. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

      We used a burster and trimmer, which separated the sheets and cut the perfs off at the same time, but I digress...

      One of our clients (I used to work in an ICL service bureau) supplied input data on paper tape. This arrived as several pieces of tape, each rolled up, end of tape outside, start inside with a rubber band round it to stop it unrolling. So, the first thing our computer operators did was to remove the band, dump the tape in a bin and wind it up again so the start leader was on the outside. This was done with a tape winder clamped on the bin.

      One day the client had run out of rubber bands and used a bit of sellotape to keep one of the rolls from unrolling. It was thrown in the bin and rewound as usual, but the operator forgot to remove the bit of tape from what was now the end of the roll.

      Result: the tape shot through the 1000 cps reader as usual, but the tape on its end stuck to the reader's capstan and promptly sucked a metre or two of tape back into the reader's close fitting, transparent cover jamming the thing solid. It took the engineers an hour to work out how to remove the wedged-on cover without breaking it, get the paper tape clear of the reader, and allow the operators to feed in the rest of the tapes.

      I think we were all startled at the amount of tape that reader had managed to cram into itself: it had a remarkably powerful drive motor.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        "I think we were all startled at the amount of tape that reader had managed to cram into itself:"

        ICL card duplicators had interesting ways of cramming cards into output hoppers. User standing nonchalantly beside the duplicator that was swallowing his stack of cards but not looking at the hoppers. One of them was somehow managing to crease the cards as they went into it. The hopper was filling up with a sort of random corrugated cardboard. Fortunately it was only one hopper.

      2. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        Martin, you're an ICL man? Are you aware of the various collected stories of ICL by its old-boys?

        Anthology I :

        http://www.bitsandbytes.shedlandz.co.uk/icl_anthology.pdf

        e.g.: Hot stuff, c. 1974 Chris Horrobin

        In the 2903, all the mechanics of the peripherals were controlled by programming in the central processor rather than by their own electronics. Of particular note was the pair of instructions to switch the card reader’s ‘picker’ solenoid on and off. The solenoid was rated for dissipating heat on the basis of only being ‘on’ for extremely short periods. This led to the famous software failure known as ‘select card reader and catch fire’.

        Anthology II:

        http://www.bitsandbytes.shedlandz.co.uk/anotherICL_anthology.pdf

        source of the great Sales word Apolocolocyntosis: extravagant or absurdly uncritical glorification

        .

        Also stories in the pension newsletters, eg:

        http://www.bitsandbytes.shedlandz.co.uk/B&B36%20spring%202013v3.pdf

        > Bert Morton and Jim Woodhead were members of Doc Keene's development team during the 1939 - 45 war, and to us new starters, they were characters in their own right. Bert never used an Avo to time camshafts on his machines. 110v (the general machine voltage) was his accepted safe voltage and he generally used his right hand with his two middle fingers withdrawn to his palm, and index and little fingers extended as probes, to "feel" the open and closed voltage conditions at the cam contact points. He warned his team against trying to emulate his success in this measuring technique.

        .

        I think my favourite story was ICL trying to install a machine for an outpost of an African railway. Couldn't get an electrical Ground so couldn't fire it up. Lots of attempts, culminating in digging a vast hole with mechanical diggers, wiring together a dozen junked cars and pushing them in with the diggers, refilling the hole then soaking it thoroughly, and... still nothing.

        Finally someone twigged. There's a thousand miles of railtrack passing by the building. Run a line out, quick spot of soldering, tada -- they have a ground.

        .

        Charles Dickens's grandson has some glorious stories there -- an outstanding tech.manager, with precisely 0 tech knowledge.

    7. Rtbcomp

      Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

      We had a machine to do that, but it wasn't very good, we called it an inferior decollator.

    8. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

      One place I worked had a seriously fast line printer - my memory says 5000lpm which sounds ridiculous now but I remember trying to feed it some card like fan fold and accidentally sent it a 'box' of form feeds and the 'paper' shot across the print room faster than the eye could see some 30 feet or so. Took me hours to repack so I could print the occasionally creased party invites.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: One place I worked had a seriously fast line printer

        Yep, we had something similar that used laser printing and a huge drum to get the speed up, much the same as high speed film cameras have the film follow a band-like shutter to overcome the engineering impossibility of a conventional shutter driven to stupidly fast speed.

        It too could hurl paper around wantonly. Rumor had it that the prototype would tear the sheets apart because of the vacuum that could form between the folded pages in the box, so a perforated box was developed.

        1. Diogenes

          Re: One place I worked had a seriously fast line printer

          At my first job i spent ages getting our bills to print at something close to the rated speed we gave up when we got 197/215. One night it stopped putting paper out. It seems our operators were so adept at changing the paper and the speed at which paper was going through was so fast we ended up with a solid inch of paper fused to the fuser roll; there was another 2 inches wound around that.

          Ive been told that roll sat in IBMs world printing VPs office gor many years.

          I had to go back to my penultimate version which did 185 ppm and the opetators wete instructed to wait 5 mins before changing boxes of paper (10k sheets fanfold IIRC)

    9. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Anyone but me remember "bursting" mainframe print jobs?

      Yes, though our machine had blades rather than cotton strands and so was more properly called a "guillotine".

      We got all the carbon paper out using a machine called a decollator. 3-5 part went in one side, paper fanfolded into the hoppers and the carbon was rolled up on forks.

      Also good for catching ties, which were mandatory as we were on the Director's Suite. That shop was the DP equivalent of Grace Brothers in every way, and DP was run by someone who was a dead ringer for Dilbert's PHB - also in every way.

      Oh how we laughed (On Fridays when discrete laughter was permitted and not a firing offense).

    10. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

      Thanks for reminding me of a former recurring nightmare of a job. Grief, tears, and blood all way.

  4. GlenP Silver badge

    I've had...

    A (very expensive when bought) document feeder on an HP scanner ruined when somebody tried to feed paper still held together with paperclips through it. By then spares were impossible so the feeder was trashed.

    The there was the company that though it would save money by reusing paper in the fax machine. Quite why someone felt the need to Tippex out something on the "clean" side just to reuse 1 sheet is beyond me, I did point out that the cost of a single replacement toner/drum for the unit would keep them in paper for a long time but fortunately a quick clean with 1,1,1 Trich* did the trick.

    Reusing label sheets in laser printers is always a recipe for disaster of course, although possibly not so much these days. I've had to peel a few stickies off drums before now, generally they've got away with it but I recall there was one that didn't.

    *That probably dates how long ago it was!

    1. Dabooka Silver badge

      Re: I've had...

      Ah good old 1-1-1.

      Amazing stuff

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        Re: I've had...

        Used to use it by the 5-gallon pail to clean Teletype machines.

      2. Niall Mac Caughey

        Re: I've had...

        Ah yes, wonderful stuff. Back when I worked at a certain third-level institution I never had to buy, requisition, steal, etc. Tippex. I just used to collect the half-full but dried-up bottles the students used to dump in my bin. Pop up to the Chemistry Department and scrounge a bottle of Trich and the job was done.

        My attitude was slightly modified after a chat with a Chemistry lab assistant one day. Her late husband had run a dry cleaning business some years previously. It appears that the Trich had dissolved his spine.......

        Ah yes, the good old days!

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: I've had...

      1,1,1 Trich*

      We used to have to keep that under lock and key to stop the juniors sniffing it all the time. Some of the seniors[1] too.

      [1] Allegedly. Wasn't me honest. Now, that bridge you want to buy..

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've had...

      Ooooh, labels in lasers.......... I worked for a large medical organisation that printed a sheet of 16 sticky address labels for every appointment. (Yeah they used two and chucked the rest away!)

      The Dell monochrome lasers of the day were ex IBM/Lexmark designs with a convoluted paper path.The real issue was the 180 degree turn after the fuser. And possibly the cheapo labels we used. Heat and cheap labels meant regular service calls. I could strip one of those babies down in no time at all! Took hours to get the labels out of the rotating bits mind.

      Eventually replaced them with...........Dell colour lasers! Bit straighter, but much longer paper path that left labels in the paper input side!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've had...

      "Using label sheets in laser printers is always a recipe for disaster of course".

      TFTFY

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I've had...

      "Reusing label sheets in laser printers is always a recipe for disaster of course, although possibly not so much these days. I've had to peel a few stickies off drums before now, generally they've got away with it but I recall there was one that didn't."

      I remember getting a call to a Panasonic(??) laser printer. Got on site and the manager was nearly in tears! He'd decided that label sheets must be fully used so partially used sheet was duly placed in the feed and promptly discarded most of the remaining labels over the optical transfer drum.

      The printer was 2 days old. Panasonic(??) had introduced ceramic optical drums expected to last the life of the printer.

  5. chivo243 Silver badge
    Devil

    out of paper!

    I guess he is lucky that they couldn't load the paper... I've been called out on printer issues, only to find the paper tray was empty, and the user had the gall to ask me to fill it for them! So, I filled it, and also left with the comment: "Let me know when your stapler is empty, I'll be by to fill that too!"

    1. defiler Silver badge

      Re: out of paper!

      Been there. Over to Glasgow to check a non-functioning Kyocera. Paper tray was empty, and when I filled it, it promptly emptied again. I think I went through 3 reams of paper before it settled down because everyone's solution to the problem was to hit <print> <print> <print> <print> <print> and see if the printer fairies would sort it...

      1. Dave K Silver badge

        Re: out of paper!

        I've seen that before when someone had the wrong printer selected. Thought they were printing to one just down from their desk, but actually had one further down the corridor selected. Once I pointed this out to them and we went to the correct printer, we found 16 copies of their report in the tray...

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: out of paper!

          Also brings back memories of university days (a quarter of a century ago, eeek!) and the shared old HP laserjet which people were forced to use. Normally not much of an issue, except when some puppet tried to send a postscript image file directly to it, where for certain files rather than printing out an image on a nice single sheet, it tried to print out a few random characters per page on every page in the tray until it ran out.

          Of course by sods law this always happened out of hours, and when you had something you needed to print urgently. Especially annoying when they just bunged the paper back in again after sorting things out, so your print-out ended up with various random characters superimposed on it.

          Still it did end up with me being given admin rights to the print queue to help kill off such jobs, which I never ever used to queue-jump my printing rather than wait half an hour, honest guv'nor.

          1. agurney

            Re: out of paper!

            That reminds me of the embarrassing blunder I made at a new job in the 1980s.

            I was looking through a database on a Friday afternoon and spotted something interesting so sent it to the print queue. I arrived Monday morning to find several boxes of wide line printer paper on my desk .. I'd somehow managed to dump the entire database. I still have a few hundred sheets for old times sake.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: out of paper!

            "university days (a quarter of a century ago"

            What it is to be young - only a quarter of a century out of University.

            "when some puppet tried to send a postscript image file directly to it, where for certain files rather than printing out an image on a nice single sheet, it tried to print out a few random characters per page on every page in the tray until it ran out."

            Getting the printer control characters wrong on FORTRAN could and did do this with fan-fold.

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: out of paper!

            "the shared old HP laserjet which people were forced to use....where for certain files rather than printing out an image on a nice single sheet, it tried to print out a few random characters per page on every page in the tray until it ran out."

            I spent quite some time diagnosing this (and printing with reversed contrast fonts) back in 2002-2003.

            Postscript standards allow for up to 4096 bytes in the headers.

            HP printers bork themselves if they see more than 1024 character headers.

            HP promised they'd fix this "in the next formware release", back in July 2003. they never did and to this day HP printers still bork themselves if they see long PS headers.

            It's "yet another reason" to never buy another HP printer.

        2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          @ Dave K - Re: out of paper!

          Reminds me of one of my favourite Dilbert cartoons of all time... http://dilbert.com/strip/2008-06-15.

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            Re: @ Dave K - out of paper!

            Reminds me of one of my favourite Dilbert cartoons of all time... http://dilbert.com/strip/2008-06-15.

            Been there done that...........Whilst working for an illustrious firm one day I received a phone call that the printer was down and to fix it right away please. We had taken a copier/printer/scanner in the building offline because it was in need of a replacement part and there were instructions on the wall above the printer about how to use a different printer. I asked politely if they had followed these instructions and was told yes they most certainly had thank you very much. I then went upstairs to find the source of the problem and found the caller waiting at her desk looking annoyed. She showed me the full colour 50 page document on screen that she had now sent 10 times to print and still nothing had printed. The print queue was empty and so I checked that she'd actually connected to the correct printer. She had, it was one the other side of the building and when I got round there had a bit of a shock.

            She'd certainly sent the thing to print as there were copies of her document neatly stacked by the side of the printer. The intern who was there as the last page of the last copy of her document came out said that he'd refilled the A4 paper tray twice whilst waiting for his document. Carrying the 500 pages back round I met the caller standing by the defective printer saying that it still wasn't working. She had assumed that despite the fact that the machine was unplugged both from the network and the mains the "different connection instructions" would still allow her to print to that machine. She'd sent it to print three more times since I'd left her desk but fortunately she was stuck in the queue and I was able to cancel them. I explained where the new printer was and said the extra walk would do her good. I also pointed out the print both sides option when we looked at the print options menu.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: @ Dave K - out of paper!

              "She'd certainly sent the thing to print as there were copies of her document neatly stacked by the side of the printer."

              One of our staff did this once. The printer she sent it to was an A0 poster printer. When confronted with the evidence, she then denied having done it.

              Have you ever seen what 80 pages of A0 looks like?

      2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Re: out of paper!

        "I went through 3 reams of paper before it settled down because everyone's solution to the problem was to hit <print> <print> <print> <print> <print> and see if the printer fairies would sort it..."

        Probably like most companies the copier company which supports our copiers loves when that happens (I've given up with going back to my desk, emptying the queue and sending a strongly worded email after one of my strongly worded emails was almost a career limiting manoeuvre)

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: out of paper!

          Probably like most companies the copier company which supports our copiers loves when that happens (I've given up with going back to my desk, emptying the queue and sending a strongly worded email after one of my strongly worded emails was almost a career limiting manoeuvre)

          I once watched a person press copy several times on an empty machine because they needed a few sheets of blank paper. The copier was rented on a service contract where we paid for the number of prints we did. Fortunately they always did black and white copies of nothing as opposed to colour copies that were quite a lot more expensive per copy. I explained that she could just open another pack or as a last resort pull the tray out and retrieve the paper that way. Her face was a picture. The copier bill went down a bit after that.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: out of paper!

            I had forgotten all about witnessing an almost identical situation... strange how such things are blotted from one's mind!

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: out of paper!

        "when I filled it, it promptly emptied again. I think I went through 3 reams of paper"

        Seen that too many times now that by default I always phone the cust. IT support team and ask them to delete the queue while I'm working on it. The users have usually given up by the 10th attempt to print and sent it to another printer anyway.

      4. bobajob12 Bronze badge

        Re: out of paper!

        Curious, what do people do to solve the problem of a ton of queued jobs these days?

        Back when I was a nipper on UNIX you would stop the printer service and clean out the spool directory.

        But how would it work for a typical office floor with 100 Windows PCs? Surely not 100 invocations of "net stop spooler" followed by del blah\System32\spool\printers\*? Surely??

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: out of paper!

          @ bobajob12

          If you have 100 Windows PCs then you use a central print server (unless you enjoy making life difficult for yourself), so there's only one place you need to delete print jobs. You can push shared printers along with their drivers with Group Policy, so (eg) Accounts get their own B&W printer, while Marketing get some crayons their own really expensive colour printer etc.

        2. Trixr

          Re: out of paper!

          With 100 PCs, you'd hope they'd be be sending their jobs to a print server, not individually straight to the device.

          You can use the GUI or NET PRINT commands to target a specific queue (naturally your print server will generally be used for multiple printers), or stopping/restarting the spooler (after a pause) is normally sufficient to clear the whole server without having to delete SPL/SHD files (some might be left hanging around if they were corrupt).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Anyone remember ?

      When I first started out in this industry I was employed as a trainee computer operator on an ICL 1904T mainframe system. There was a large tractor fed printer that used continuous paper of various sizes. Different sized paper required punched tape loops so it knew where top of page etc was. The inked ribbon revolved from one roller to another in front of the print head.

      Well as a trainee op your first task of the shift was to ensure that printer ribbon was straight on the rollers. So for a couple of hours you sat there stroking it left or right to ensure it was aligned correctly. Pheww, what a job !

      Next, if you were lucky, you'd get to sort the WPR's for the tapes in colour sequence !

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: out of paper!

      Not called to refill paper but often see the staff filling a 2,500 sheet paper tray (i.e. you put the whole box of 5 reams in it) with about 20 sheets from a ream when it has run out and there job won't print due to a paper deficit.

      Doesn't matter how many times I say to fill it to the top, never gets done unless I do it.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: out of paper!

        "Doesn't matter how many times I say to fill it to the top, never gets done unless I do it."

        An old saying: If it's everybody's job it's nobody's job.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: out of paper!

        We had one of those 2500 sheet trays (more an entire separate box that bolted on to the side), which at first was great. Yes, I was still the one that had to refill it, but at least I only had to do that once a week.

        Eventually though we started to be plagued by mis-feeds, and I was constantly having to carefully un-jam multiple sheets which had all tried to go through at once. It took one of the engineers to point out to me that the massive stack of paper was spending so long in the tray, it was getting damp enough over the course of a week that it failed to feed properly.

        So it turns out, you can have too much paper capacity.

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

          Re: out of paper!

          "So it turns out, you can have too much paper capacity."

          Not sure why this was downvoted as it does happen if for instants like our office the heating and air con aren't on over the weekend. For us tends to be A3 paper as majority of prints are on A4, if the rollers are smoothing out as they wear, just slip and won't pickup paper.

        2. The Oncoming Scorn
          Coat

          Re: out of paper!

          New job in a slaughterhouse, one printer constantly jamming in one area, ham-fisted users constantly ripping the paper trying to extract from the fuser, resulting in numerous service calls.

          Cause of the jams - Damp paper.

          Why was the paper damp - Old wooden table removed (before I started) & that used to soak up all the moisture in the air.

          Solution - Department collected a fresh ream of paper at the start of every shift.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: out of paper!

            "New job in a slaughterhouse...ham-fisted users

            Say it ain't so! (imagines workers spattered in blood with bloody pigs trotters for hands)

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: out of paper!

            "Solution - Department collected a fresh ream of paper at the start of every shift."

            No dehumidifier next to the printer?

        3. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: out of paper!

          The above mentioned line printer once produced a seriously high security document about (amongst other things) document security from one of those shitty little Hitler types that pick up on the slightest mistake you make and then write a policy to stop you breathing. This was late on a Friday evening and the document was safely stored for a few days before being placed in his in tray when he was out of his office searching all the printers in the very large building where we worked and dripping sweat from every pore on his terrified body.

        4. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: out of paper!

          "the massive stack of paper was spending so long in the tray, it was getting damp enough over the course of a week that it failed to feed properly."

          More specifically in such cases, as it absorbs moisture it curls slightly and it was curling the "wrong" way. You need to make sure it curls "upwards" into the printer rather than downwards where it'll jam as the separator rollers do their thing.

          A lot of paper reams used to have an arrow on the side to show the curl direction. If not, assume the curl is towards the long seam on the packaging. The curl is an artifact of the guillotining process and supposedly doesn't happen with laser-cut paper but I never trust that assertion.

          If you get that right you'll have far fewer jams. The other classic issue is people loading paper and not making sure the feed tray paper guides are setup correctly. If they're loose the paper might skew or it night jam.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: out of paper!

            Just to add to Alan's comment ... You can actually feel the lip of the curl. Open a ream of paper, split the ream in two and run your thumb across the edge of both halves. The "curl up" side will feel rough, the "curl down" side will feel smooth. This is kind of important to know when operating sheet-fed anything.

            I also habitually check the grain of business cards ... If the card is printed "grain wrong", the owner gets a tick on the "probably clueless" side of the balance sheet.

  6. smudge Silver badge

    My foreign body story

    A long time ago in a computer room far far away we had a DECwriter II attached to a PDP-11. For those under 50 (55?, 60?), a DECwriter was a keyboard terminal, but with paper, not a screen. You could type stuff in using it, and it would print stuff out - up to 132 characters across the page.

    Here's some info - http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/3367/Digital-DECWriter-II/

    So all of a sudden, this DECwriter suddenly starts printing only 80 characters per line. This was very significant because, as no one under 60 (65? 70?) will know, 80 characters is the width of an IBM punch card. The IBM card became the industry standard, and, when computer terminals were introduced - both printer terminals and screen-based terminals - it was very common for them to be 80 characters wide.

    Everything was working perfectly - except that it just wouldn't print more than 80 characters on a line. A longer line would be split into two. Annoying, and very puzzling.

    So we spent a few days trying everything we could to find out what the problem was. Re-installing the OS (RSX-11M). Re-starting the machine umpteen times. Disconnecting and re-attaching the DECwriter. And so on. But the damn thing wouldn't print past the 80th column.

    Then one day it occurred to me - a software guy - that maybe I should actually look at the device itself. I immediately discovered the problem - a pencil! It had fallen into the DECwriter and was firmly jammed in the path of the print head. By adjusting the position of the right-hand side paper tractor, you could use different widths of paper in the DECwriter. So our DECwriter was quite happily printing away, hitting the pencil, and doing CR/LF.

    It was sheer bloody coincidence - down to the posiion of the pencil - that it was printing only 80 characters!

    1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      Re: My foreign body story

      This was very significant because, as no one under 60 (65? 70?) will know, 80 characters is the width of an IBM punch card.

      Do you mind? I'm 52, nearly, which is definitely under 60, and when I was at high school in the US, we had wodges of IBM-style punch cards as part of the registration process each year.

      Of course, the school *was* in Endicott, NY, "home of IBM"...

      1. phy445

        Re: My foreign body story

        When I worked at certain UK academic institution – which had probably better remain nameless, but it is in a city that fancies that its northern (but isn't really) and there is currently a bit of an issue with trees – there was a cupboard full of those cards. The technicians used to like them because they fitted nicely in lab-coat and overall pockets and were just the thing to jot down measurements etc on.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My foreign body story

          Pfft. If you're in God's Own Country, that's t'north, innit?

          (Heckle comes from the distant south, but with fond memories of that city and it's senior academic institution).

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: My foreign body story

          "...just the thing to jot down measurements etc on."

          From High School (I worked in the unit record shop) through University, those were my notecards.

          I miss the old 5081.

          // Face down, 9 edge first

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: My foreign body story

          "remain nameless, but it is in a city that fancies that its northern (but isn't really) and there is currently a bit of an issue with trees"

          Just say Sheffield and be dine with it you wimp! :-)

        4. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: My foreign body story

          Thinks it's northern, but isn't? Must be Derbyshire. Everything north of there is North.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: My foreign body story

      a DECwriter was a keyboard terminal, but with paper, not a screen

      Ah yes, as used on VAXen for the console terminal.

      They were useful, because when the system crashed the console printout had a very distinctive rhythm, several (4?) long lines of error text followed by the rapid brrp-brrp-brrp-brrp of a stack dump, one word per line. We already knew what had happened even before someone asked "is there a problem with the VAX?"

      1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: DECwriter

        I still somewhere have a printout from when I was a kid, happily playing Zork I on a university mainframe (PDP-11/40 or 11/70 I think) using a DECwriter as a terminal. One of my first exposures to computers and definitely to computer gaming.

  7. A K Stiles
    Boffin

    It's printing upside down!

    Several times (now in history) I've had to deal with people complaining that the printer was printing the letters upside down, to go to the print room, pause the print run because clearly leaving it to carry on printing 100 letters in the meantime was the best plan, open the paper drawer and rotate the sheaf of headed paper by 180 degrees so the heading was in the correct location - as stated by the large label I'd previously affixed to the front of the paper drawer ("Headed paper only, heading this end, face down"). Also removing the plain paper from the headed drawer, readjusting the paper-size margins and the old classic of pressing 'resume' on the printer to compel it to print the 'letter' format document onto the A4 sized paper when it has "stopped working again". Amazing the number of times one could resolve a problem by simply reading the information displayed on the LCD screen and doing what it said.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: It's printing upside down!

      > Amazing the number of times one could resolve a problem by simply reading the information displayed on the LCD screen and doing what it said.

      "PC LOAD LETTER"? What the fuck does *that* mean?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QQdNbvSGok

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: It's printing upside down!

        We all know what it means, but why doesn't it just print on A4 anyway?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: It's printing upside down!

          "We all know what it means, but why doesn't it just print on A4 anyway?"

          Depends on the printer, either firmware or driver may have the option. HP lasers used to have A4/Letter override, but that seems to be a fairly well hidden driver option now rather than something the printer does itself.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: It's printing upside down!

            "Depends on the printer, either firmware or driver may have the option. "

            Every printer I setup, gets this enabled and it's on the print server too.

            If the message pops up it means the user has been bolloxing with settings as it's in the defaults loaded to workstations as they load up the printer.

            None of that is helped by the fact (which pisses me off no end) that Postscript standards say that Language English = 'US letter' and Language {anything else} == A4, which is 'helpfully' also the default for MS word and Openoffice

            There's only one variety of "English" where the paper type is "US letter" and the vast majority of native english speakers use A4 paper.

    2. gotes

      Re: It's printing upside down!

      PC LOAD LETTER

      (oh crap, you beat me to it)

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: It's printing upside down!

      "Amazing the number of times one could resolve a problem by simply reading the information displayed on the LCD screen and doing what it said."

      It's even more amazing what getting the user to read what the LCD says and asking "Now, what do you suppose that might mean?" in front of a room full of onlookers does, in terms of having them stop repeatedly calling you out for the same damned problem.

  8. Richard Crossley
    Boffin

    I know that printer!

    That graphic is either an Epson LX80 or LX86 (I see it was sold under supplier badges too) a rather noisy and slow 9 pin dot matrix printer from the 1980s.

    https://www.hottoner.com.au/image/cache/printers/epson/ribbon/Epson%20LX80-200x200.jpg

    Sad, I know, but it's nearly beer o'clock here.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: I know that printer!

      Almost - although the buttons aren't quite right.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I know that printer!

      Sadder still, I had the EX version (don't recall the LX one for colour) and I recall fitting the colour option to be one of the first (and most fiddly) screwdriver jobs I had (and have) ever done in IT. It was very hard to locate the components (all sorts of bits in the way). I recall the device almost screamed as it developed a page, and given the 4 colour ribbon it would print each line 4 times varying only the pitch without modulating volume.

      I recall it got me good marks for a school report (think I was one of the first to word-process homework) and then began the long and slippery slope from book review homework into the IT business...

      1. Richard Crossley

        Re: I know that printer!

        My LX80 certainly didn't have a colour option, just various shades of grey depending how many times you reprinted the same line.

        Most of my O level and A level homeworks were done using it. Out put from Wordwise!

      2. Diogenes

        Re: I know that printer!

        I had a uni assignment for systems analysis and design bumped up from a B+to A+ as i had printed portrait on an a4 landscape printer (ie the tractor holes were on the top an bottom of my pages).

        The fact that i had been sole access to the very expensive printer for 3 months and was given time to play (best job i ever had ) helped as well as very helpful IBM SE whose bacon I saved on several occassions(advice for other users of the printer) supplying me with several redbooks and internal manuals with the otherwise unpublished control codes, helped.

  9. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Stationery

    That is all.

    1. Symon Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Stationery

      Good spot! My complements.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Stationery

      The print-head is often stationary, for lack of loaded stationery...

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: My complements

        You swine!

    3. NXM

      Re: Stationery

      A friend of mine reckons he saw a sign on a door of an office he was visiting which said 'The stationary department has moved'. That is just sublime.

  10. OssianScotland

    In a similar vein, early 1980s watching a boss waiting for his financials printout to emerge from the impact printer. Neatly dressed - business suit (jacket open) and tie, and holding a cup of coffee. He saw an interesting bit emerge, leaned over to look more closely and... I now know that coffee, polyester scraps and high speed printers do not form a good combination

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Why couldn't the printer have just done the right thing, sucked in his tie and then printed all over his head?

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Had it been a real high speed (drum) printer, he'd be dead.

      Those things are nothing to mess around with. They have a very large motor spinning that drum.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Had it been a real high speed (drum) printer, he'd be dead.

        Or even one of the old IBM line printers. You really, really didn't want to be in the same room when it was printing and especially didn't want to put anything you cared about anywhere near the print head..

        1. Admiral Grace Hopper

          Proper printers aren’t for messing with

          Drum printers were lethal. Similarly, chain printers would eat the unwary alive. Long hair and neck ties had to be safely secured before venturing anywhere near them.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Proper printers aren’t for messing with

            Neckties were fair game for anyone with a pair of scissors at several Silly Con Valley companies I was employed by in the '70s through the '80s ... Even IBM field engineers removed them before entering Santa Clara County. The damn things just weren't safe, and needed to be eradicated.

  11. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    I think I had one of those printers

    Certainly a Mannesmann Tally most likely an MT-86. Quite robust but noisy. Not as noisy as the Diablo daisy wheel printer, however. That sounded like a machine gun going off. Quite apart from the hellish racket, it broke down so often we thought naming it Diablo was very very appropriate.

    1. Oz

      Re: I think I had one of those printers

      We had a Juki daisywheel printer at home. It was slow and very noisy. You knew when someone was printing as the whole house reverberated!

  12. gaz 7

    I remember when...

    We started rolling out word processors and laser printers to the medical secretaries in the hospital I worked in (still do).

    We had several that took a while to learn that you didn't use carbon paper when printing 2 or 3 copies.

    We had several that would do that but with the added bonus of paper clipping or stapling the sheets together first

    We had several more that would print, proof read, tippex out the errors then feed back in with wet tippex and reprint

    We had several that tried to use up the old non-laser safe acetates and labels to save a couple of quid and knackered a £200 toner unit or a whole printer instead

    Happy days

    1. Steve Graham

      Re: I remember when...

      "We had several that tried to use up the old non-laser safe acetates and labels to save a couple of quid and knackered a £200 toner unit or a whole printer instead."

      I once did that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I remember when...

        In an LN03 if I remember...

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I remember when...

      "We had several more that would print, proof read, tippex out the errors then feed back in with wet tippex and reprint"

      I can't imagine anyone doing that twice. Apart from the wet tippex screwing with the printer, the paper shrinks slightly after passing through the fuser so reprinting the same document a second time leaves in interesting blurred effect. Unless the user was clever enough to only print the corrected text in just the right place. But if they were that clever, would they screw up in the first place?

  13. Richard Gray 1

    Lost count...

    I've lost count of the number of times as a service engineer (North West England .. easy mate, my patch was John o' Groats down to Edinburgh, Aberdeen to Fort William and Oban.The muppets who did the planning never looked at how big the Perth or Inverness post code areas are... in the same area my arse! Bastards!) that I had a problem with paper feeding, taking the printer, turning it upside down and giving it a damn good shake...

    Paper clips, drawing pins, coins. how they ever managed to fit these things in there is a mystery.

    Pint for anyone who has had to suffer admin staff with no idea of geography and that 30 miles away does not always mean a 30 mile road trip, and you can't shouldn't go as fast on twist country roads as nice big roads in the more "civilized" areas. I did get offered much more coffee, cakes, biscuits etc than any of my colleagues from those areas though.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Lost count...

      We have the same problem but in reverse. One of our people organised a 9am meeting in Croydon for one of our road warriors, followed by an 11am in Barnet. Because they're not that far apart on the map, so it'll only take an hour to drive across the middle of London. Not to mention the going round the M25 for a 9am meeting bit...

      It's a tricky thing arranging meetings. Seeing as you never quite know how far apart places really are unless you have experience of travelling there - and of course you never quite know how long the meetings will turn out to be.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Lost count...

        @Richard Gray - I take your highlands and raise you a Japanese HQ, where some of the minions think that "Europe" is one country where any location can be reached from any other in a matter of a couple of hours.

        Best one they tried was a morning appointment in Sicily and an afternoon one in Newcastle...

        1. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward
          Facepalm

          Re: Lost count...

          Japanese? Americans?

          I once worked for an American company in the UK. Wasn't unusual to get a call from stateside to someone in the UK along the lines of "I'm trying to get hold of Hermen in the Berlin office but he's not answering - do you know if he is in today?"

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Lost count...

            "I'm trying to get hold of Hermen in the Berlin office but he's not answering - do you know if he is in today?"

            It's been known to work the other way round.

            UK to relative in Vancouver: "Our daughter's going to Quebec. Can you meet her"

            Relative in Vancouver to UK. "You meet her. You're closer."

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Lost count...

              A friend of mine's Wife was absolutely certain that the City of London was south of where they lived, because "my Uncle lives in South Kensington, which is near London" ... Their abode? Croydon.

          2. Diogenes

            Re: Lost count...

            In the 80s Had an IBM road warrior hire a car in expectation of driving to Ayers Rock to see the sunset after he finished with us in Sydney.

            He thought we were pulling his leg until an NRMA strip map was produced.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lost count...

          English Electric Lightning two-seater, ferry tanks, refuel in Milan, Brussels...?

          1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Lost count...

            Whilst my zen for creative accountancy on expenses and travel requests may be fairly advanced, I think even I might struggle to get approval on that one.

            Although it would be fun trying, and even more so if it succeeded.

        3. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: Lost count...

          I take your highlands and raise you a Japanese HQ

          I once had a phone call from a London-based recruitment agent regarding a job in Manchester which he believed to be only a short commute from Newcastle. The grid lines apparently converge just north of Watford...

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Lost count...

            I raise you the oil industry

            HQ in Aberdeen, I live in Vancouver.

            Since I'm in Canada can I pop over to Halifax NS to look at a problem on a boat?

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Lost count...

            London-based recruitment agent regarding a job in Manchester which he believed to be only a short commute from Newcastle

            I *still* get calls from contract agencies asking if I'm avalable for a high-profile contract in London. This is despite the fact that I stopped contracting in 1998 and all the agencies I used before had been told that under no circumstances would I consider a contract more than 20 miles from my house in Wiltshire..

            In short. recruitment agencies, in the main, are only just above insurance salesmen in the ethics stakes.

            1. Jos V

              Re: Lost count...

              Oh boy. HQ in Tel-Aviv.. Could I please fly out for a meeting in Sydney planned for the next morning, as "I'm in the country next to it". I wished sometimes HQ owned a globe (Jakarta-Sydney is about the same as London-NY).

              Of course it didn't beat the rush job in Seattle that needed attention, while working in Melbourne, subsequently changed to LA, then Dallas (all east-bound), with a flight back to Melbourne through Dublin and Amsterdam.

              Round-the-world trips are sooo romantic and adventurous :-)

              (I have some news for you flat-Earthers around there)

            2. David Nash Silver badge
              Stop

              Re: Lost count...

              Let's not get started on recruitment agents. That's a whole Friday afternoon gone and too OT for this page!

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Lost count...

              "In short. recruitment agencies, in the main, are only just above insurance salesmen in the ethics stakes."

              I was puzzled as to why recruiters kept contacting me about jobs as a waiter, until I realized that they were finding the word "server" in my CV. I don't know if that was really a question of ethics, but it sure raised questions about their level of competence.

            4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Lost count...

              "In short. recruitment agencies, in the main, are only just above insurance salesmen in the ethics stakes."

              In the sort of circumstance you describe I don't think they get as far as ethics stakes. They need to tackle competence first. Including the one who sent me someone else's contract. Same name, different skill set.

            5. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Lost count...

              "I *still* get calls from contract agencies asking if I'm avalable for a high-profile contract in London."

              Quote them 7 figures and see if they're still interested.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Lost count...

                40 years ago, my brother bought a house in Ukiah, California. Somehow, he managed to keep the telephone number that the prior owner had owned ... something about limited numbers at the exchange. To this day, he gets occasional snail-mail advertising and telephone calls addressed to the original owner.

        4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Lost count...

          morning appointment in Sicily and an afternoon one in Newcastle

          Not a problem is they can lay on a nice fast executive jet to get you from one to the other. With an appropriate level of consumables[1] in the in-flight fridge of course.

          [1] Something to take away the culture shock of going from Sicily to Nooky. Fine single malts should do the trick.

        5. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Lost count...

          This and previous: which Newcastle?

          I've told this not-quite-a-story recently: we considered travelling from Glasgow, Scotland, to attend a demonstration of new software, advertised in Newcastle. Newcastle upon Tyne isn't too far to go from here. But, depending on what you're going to see, Newcastle under Lyme may be.

          1. Colabroad

            Re: Lost count...

            I still get emails from Reed offering me IT jobs in the Cleckhuddersfax and Leedsford area, even a couple of WhatsApp calls.

            The offer tends to get withdrawn once I ask if the travel allowance covers transatlantic flights.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Lost count...

        so it'll only take an hour to drive across the middle of London

        Depends on how fast your motorbike is and how close to death you want to be :-)

        (I vividly remember riding across London[1] on my power-restricted 125 Honda XL125 and having taxis overtake me on both sides on the bit of road near Hyde Park corner. It's the one and only time I've ever been terrified on a motorbike.. This was pre-M25 - not that I could have used that bike on the motorway since I was still a learner at that point. That bike regularly took me London-Leicester when I was a student there - even if it did take 4 hours and involve several stops so I could put my hands near the engine until the feeling came back in my fingers.)

        [1] I lived in Barnet, oldest brother lived somewhere sarf of the river. It might even have been Croydon. I never did that ride again on that bike..

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Lost count...

        "Seeing as you never quite know how far apart places really are unless you have experience of travelling there"

        Being able to read maps is a big help.

      4. jake Silver badge

        Re: Lost count...

        People really don't grok the concept of scale when it comes to maps. Worse, throw in the concept of different traffic conditions at different times of the day, and they really get confused.

        Case in point: The last 9-5 I interviewed for (in 1989), I was wearing my racing leathers. When the interviewer queried my choice of "uniform", I pointed out that he had asked me to drive up from Palo Alto to South San Francisco by 10AM ... and had called at 9AM. I knew I could make it on the bike, but there was no way I was driving the Bayshore without armor ... I got the job.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Lost count...

      North West England .. easy mate, my patch was John o' Groats down to Edinburgh, Aberdeen to Fort William and Oban

      NW *England*? You sure about that?

      I think Robert the Bruce might object to that, especially after all his hard work..

      1. Richard Gray 1
        Pint

        Re: Lost count...

        I was referring to the article who said *he* was in the NW of England,,, *I* worked in Scotland, and I well know the difference thank you.

        Given a pint rather than explosions 'cos we've all made a mistake once in a while...

      2. Stevie Silver badge

        Re:NW *England*? You sure about that? (4 CrazyOldCatMan)

        No, you have to replace that first comma with an exclamation mark. That first clause is responding to someone else who works in NW England. Our Scots commentator is one-upping the sassenach who dared suggest he (the sassenach) had it hard.

        Re: North of Watford syndrome: When I worked in New Malden my native colleagues were astounded that I, coming from Coventry, didn't nip up to Scotland of a Saturday afternoon for some R+R.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lost count...

        CrazyOldCatMan,

        You have misread the text. !!!

        Please note the comma !!!

        :)

    3. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: Lost count...

      When I worked (briefly) as I delivery driver for a sausage maker in the Midlands I phoned in from a drop in Liverpool to asked if I minded doing a pick up in Poole, “on my way back”.

      I declined.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Lost count...

      "Paper clips, drawing pins, coins. how they ever managed to fit these things in there is a mystery."

      For a while, we had a contract with a major retailer to do their warranty work. A plastic toy solder was stopping the el cheapo cannon inkjet printer from working. More memorably, the house smelled horrible and even after a shower when I got home, I felt itchy for days afterwards! No evidence of flea bites, it was psychological, the one and only time. This was 25 years ago and now I'm remembering it, I can still smell it!!!!

  14. Jc (the real one)

    Ah... the days of a (miss-spent? ) youth!

    I can remember removing the manual typewriter ribbon from the secretaries typewriter and using a paperclip to attach a tiny message. Mid morning she shrieks "it's talking to me".... she had seen the paper with "Good morning Jenny" just go past her eyes!

    I wonder where she is today!

    Jc

  15. qwertyuiop

    Size matters!

    Not a "foreign body" story, but the headline reminded me of something...

    Early 1980s and I was working as a junior programmer at one of the NHS's 14 Regional Computer Centres. We were in the throes of preparing for the replacement of our venerable ICL 1904S mainframe with a shiny new (orange!) ICL dual 2966 mainframe. Amongst many changes we learned we'd be getting new printers which would be industry-standard (at that time) 13.2 inch width rather than the 16 inch character width we'd had up until then.

    Inevitably much redesigning of reports and other printed output was taking place. The system I was working on had one very unusual piece of output; it was printed on thin card and was 16 inches wide by about 12 inches deep. It was lightly perforated in various places so that when printed it could be split into a large record card, a small index card, a postcard to go to the patient and a fourth piece whose purpose I've forgotten.

    After many attempts we eventually conceded defeat on trying to accommodate the existing documents within the new narrower printer format, so it was decided to split the print into two separate jobs: the large record card would be one and the three smaller pieces another. All the programming had been done and it was ready for final test, including a print run. The only problem was that we hadn't yet received a delivery of the new stationery.

    Thus it was that a young trainee programmer and I spent a day using the burster to trim the tractor feeds off the existing stationery then split it along the perforations before sellotaping it back together to replicate the new design stationery. To my astonishment it actually worked!

    1. Fat_Tony

      Bodies in a foreign body

      We moved into a new building and the new post room had a xray machine. All xray images were sent to HQ. One night around 3am 2 large images popped up and the security bods in HQ had a look as it was unusual to see xrays come in at that time, and even more usual for 2 large images to be generated.

      Upon investigation the images were of 2 skeletons - the security guys were intrigued by the new xray machine and decided to give themselves full body xrays to see what it would look like.

      HQ were not impressed and wanted to fire the guys. The powers that be in our building saw the humour in it and gave the guys a half hearted ticking off and posted a print out of the xrays on the wall saying it was forbidden to xray people in future

  16. NightFox

    Mid-to-late '80s, a complaint from one of our offices that the documents being faxed through from another office every night were coming through corrupted and unreadable. After replacing the fax machines at both ends to no avail, eventually it was discovered that the lady who had to send the faxes through before she went home every night had discovered that she could speed things up by firmly pulling the pages through the fax machine roller which she found tediously slow otherwise.

    And as regards manual carbon copying, we had some strange sort of manually-operated machine called a Banda which duplicated hand-written forms, it seemed like something from the previous century, the sort of thing you'd expect to see operated by 7 year-olds with one of them occassionally losing a limb in the process. I just remember a lady known only as 'Banda Anne' who spent the whole day sat at this thing pulling levers and inking drums, a bit like those people you see in Vegas perched on stools in front of the one-armed bandits (except the inking drums part, obvs).

    1. smudge Silver badge
      Pint

      some strange sort of manually-operated machine called a Banda which duplicated hand-written forms,

      Oh God, I can smell it right now :)

      "The duplicating fluid typically consisted of a 50/50 mix of isopropanol and methanol"

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

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Banda machines

        Memories of primary school, where only the senior year were allowed to use the machine to copy the school newsletter - just like in the wiki article. The smell and the purple ink will never fade from my memory.

        By the time I moved up to secondary school (1980) there was a photocopier outside the secretaries office - but no way were any kids allowed anywhere near it!

        Six years later I was at Uni and we had computers and HP laser printers - technology marched on quickly in those days.....

        I always thought it was a Bandex or Bandola machine, but maybe the memory of names is not as good as the memory of smells and colours.

        1. DuchessofDukeStreet

          Re: Banda machines

          Oh god, what a flashback. We had one in my first job (late 80's) which I'd happily forgotten about. I can still remember my manager's delight when a publishing company moved into the office suite across the stairs and had a new-fangled photocopier that they were willing to let us use occasionally. For some years later, I discovered that whenever I applied for admin jobs, there was always a question (alongside your touch typing speed and ability to take shorthand) as to whether you knew how to operate a photocopier...

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Banda machines

          "Ditto" machines in the US.

          Cheap way of making a limited number of copies.

          Hand out slightly damp copies to classroom of grinning students who proceed to deeply inhale the fumes.

          A staple of my secondary education.

        3. ma1010 Silver badge

          Re: Banda machines

          A long time ago, when I was in college, I was a student assistant. Sometimes instructors wanted to copy passages from a book and hand them out to students. To do that, we had to first use the "thermo-fax" machine to make a copy of the page onto a spirit master, then run all the copies on the "ditto machine." They always had me do that because I was the only one there who could get legible copies out of that process.

      2. 's water music Silver badge

        spirit duplcator sensory memories

        That smell (when operated in a school store cupboard). That purple ink. Much better than cruddy thermal paper photostat machines which stank of ozone, curled up like bastards and faded almost as quickly as you could read them

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: spirit duplcator sensory memories

          That smell (when operated in a school store cupboard).

          Wonder if it would pass any H+S COSHH assessments today?

          1. ChrisC

            Re: spirit duplcator sensory memories

            Oh, on the scale of one to "WTF were they thinking when they allowed this sort of stuff to be done by students", I'd suggest that the risks of getting nicely high on Banda fumes (which I too remember with a mixture of fondness and sadness - my late mum was a teacher and would often bring home the Banda machine during school holidays so she could prepare her teaching materials for the next term) pale into insignificance compared with some of the other things schoolkids were expected to do...

            * carving expanded polystyrene using hot wire cutters (and the "hot" in their name wasn't just for show - you only touched the bare wire once before learning to treat it with respect!)

            * cutting paper on a safety-guard-less lever-action guillotine

            * drilling/cutting/shaping/etc bits of wood, metal and plastic using the variety of workshop machines which at best might have at least heard about this new-fangled thing called H&S, and even occasionally might have done something about it like having a safety guard retrofitted so badly that it was still entirely possible for a kiddie-sized finger to quite easily have an encounter with a sharp spinny thing

            * pretty much anything to do with chemistry practicals...

            And then there were the "after school but not actually after school" activities we used to do in 6th form inbetween lessons, one of which was run by a teacher with a passion for model rocketry and making home-made explosives. God only knows how he got away with some of the stuff we did then (whilst H&S wasn't such a hot topic back in the 80s/early 90s, the threat of IRA and other Euro-terrorist action was certainly not to be taken lightly), but being given the chance to do some real hands on science and engineering beyond just the somewhat contrived examples required as part of our practical coursework was one of the many highlights of my time as a 6th former.

            Kids today eh, don't know what they're missing out on :-)

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: spirit duplcator sensory memories

              "pretty much anything to do with chemistry practicals."

              Nothing in a decent school laboratory should be able to pass H&S.

              Having said that, although in all my years working in a lab we never had anything but the old-style lab coats with a few buttons we did ban one of the peroxidase tests for blood. It was carcinogenic (one obstinate bloke kept using it and was in due course treated for its specific cancer, papilloma of the bladder). I wasn't pleased to discover that my daughter's lab was still using it years later.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      manually-operated machine called a Banda which duplicated hand-written forms

      Yup. My school used those extensively in the late '70s and early '80s. Partly, I suspect, because the fluid it used to get the teachers and admins high enough to forget the misery of having to teach us..

    3. J.G.Harston Silver badge
      Flame

      Ahhh, the heady days of Banda fluid.

  17. Fihart

    Foreign body, literally.

    Kitten asleep on keyboard. Kitten climbing on rotating turntable. Kitten dabbing at tape running through reel-to-reel recorder.

  18. spold Bronze badge

    Grief, possibly death.

    I've seen someone almost killed by a printer.

    An old old ICL "hit-on-the-fly" model as big as a large freezer and with a very powerful tractor drive. The "hit" was powered by a 1 Farad capacitor (yes none of your poxy microfarads).

    Anyway said individual was ripping off his printout... t'was a cold winter day and the unfortunate soul had omitted to take his scarf off... yes this was quickly ingested into the tractor drive ensuring much panic as he was about to become the first person strangled to death by a printer. Narrowly avoided by an emergency stop.

    It was difficult to predict whether he would have had "RIP", "MWAH HA HA HA", or "TWAT" printed on his forehead if this had not been avoided.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Grief, possibly death.

      "he was about to become the first person strangled to death by a printer."

      Probably not. Not the first, that is.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Years ago I had a job repairing car stereos and this woman who recently had a new stereo fitted comes in all irate that the cassette mechanism isn't working so quick a "excuse me madame while I whip this out" revealed the source of the problem, I believe this false fingernail belongs to you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >a "excuse me madame while I whip this out"

      Fnaar. I bet you told this story just so you could use that phrase.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        I bet you told this story just so you could use that phrase.

        Yeeees, that is rather the point of such inclusions.

        Good of you to pull it out into the daylight and paint it bright fluorescent yellow in case anyone was in doubt, though.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Printer memories

    My first IT job was in a company where no two printers were the same, and there were loads of them.

    Big IBM band printer, big matrix printer on a stand, several unnecessarily massive Epson letter quality printers (24 pin if I recall). All needing different media and stationary.

    The big band printer was actually the easiest to manage, and was relatively straightforward to change the ribbon and paper, even when accounts wanted cheques, and other multi-part prints.

    Piles of music ruled paper everywhere.

    Until we had to change the band... PITFA fiddly, and the old band was like a razor.

    Each one of the others would simply have its own Rubik designed openings and levers to wrangle to get ribbons/media changed. I am sure the sons and daughters of the printer designers went on to develop transformer toys that are almost un-guessable in their combinations of manipulations...

  21. richardg7vyi

    Pen Drive

    Back in the 80's I once got a call to a hard drive on a Jaquard system giving read errors, also at an insurance company. Think the drive was a Trident one if I remember correctly of the old large removable disk pack type. Testing showed the head carriage would not seek beyond a certain cylinder for some reason. After stripping s few things away and delving into the mechanics of the head carriage I discovered a broken up Bic biro lying in the bottom of the head carriage guide assembley. It had fallen out from behind the operators ear she recalled while she was changing disk packs !

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Pen Drive

      Re-aligning heads is not a fun task.

      And they're not inexpensive.

      I had a summer job as a disk drive tech on the DEC RK06 assembly line while in grad school.

  22. ukgnome Silver badge

    Office junior had one job: Tearing perforated bits off tractor-feed dot matrix printer paper

    Huh? Hadn't they heard of a trimmer and burster.

    **ahh happy memories of the data control boys Gypo and Duncs

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Office junior had one job: Tearing perforated bits off tractor-feed dot matrix printer paper

      Huh? Hadn't they heard of a trimmer and burster.

      Course they had. But a YTS trainee was cheaper and could also make tea (for a somewhat limited value of the word "tea".)

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: Office junior had one job: Tearing perforated bits off tractor-feed dot matrix printer paper

        Also - this headline is really nothing to do with the problem described in the article.

  23. Karl Vegar

    Had a demonstration of what happens if you use inkjet overhead transparent papers in a laser printer.

    Who knew not all plastics are good with high temperatures.

    I would have assumed the local Fire dept should have some idea of these kind of issues. Apparently I was wrong.

    Fuser was quite accurate.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Had a demonstration of what happens if you use inkjet overhead transparent papers in a laser printer."

      Less expensive and less messy than using a non-inkjet transparency in an inkjet!

  24. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I had a colleague who made a sign for a dot matrix printer to inform one and all that the printer "had no ink" (the ribbon was a one-use thing that had despooled as per proper usage).

    I calculated it took him three times what it would have done to ask the secretary for a new ribbon and figure out how to fit it.

    But then, he was the Union Rep and couldn't be seen working "out of title".

  25. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Oki dot matrix printers had a channel to guide the printerer head IIRC. Sometime this channel would get clogged wiith debris (paper from the paper feeder perforated strips on both sides of the paper) causing misprints and other funny stuff.

    Was relatively easy to clean with a paper clip, but best results was that you strip the printer completely.

    And frequently a wee drappie of oil wil manage to speed things up, especially if applied in minuscule amounts to the polished bar carrying the printerer head (forgot what it is called).

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "And frequently a wee drappie of oil wil manage to speed things up"

      For a while. Until it attracts in paper dust and gums up again.

      Teflon "white grease" is better, or a non-sticky silicon lubricant.

  26. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Dot matrix printer cartridges had one really useful thing I miss a lot: when stripped out they contained all sorts of nifty gears, wheels, spacers and springs.

    I can't count the number of times these, cleaned up, painted and arranged artfully, have been included in my Wonkhammer 401K vehicles and model railway scrap heaps or foundry wagon loads.

    Even the cartridge casings had neat details that could be scavenged. One type were great for perforated "metal" covers for improvised Orc strongpoints, trench reinforcing and IG Vehicle radiator grill applique armour.

    There's nowt scavengable o' that sort in a laser or inkjet's leavings.

  27. earl grey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Ah, the olden days

    I can still recall having to decollate 6 part paper...the piles left and the rolled up carbon paper mess.

    Bursting forms was another treat. I still have the scar on the back of one hand pulled into the machine.

    We later one one of those fancy pants IBM guillotine "bursters" that had to have a special card programmed for each form size. Seems i recall that machine died when someone spilled a coke down into its innards. Those were the days we had to do alpha-numeric sorts on 30-40 cases of cards since the "mainframe" couldn't handle that much data (and IBM sort sucked). Cards, as you will recall, were packaged 2000 to a box and 10,000 to a case. The IBM printers all used carriage tapes and i can't recall how many of those i made up over the years. The one place I was employed even had their own ribbon re-inking machine.

  28. bobajob12 Bronze badge

    Worst printer of all time

    I can't be the only person traumatized by the thermal printers that were sold with the Sinclair ZX81 and Spectrum. Look, cool silver paper! With tiny printouts on the width of a store receipt...and that fade in a day to nothing! Oh the joy.

    link if you need the nightmare refreshing.

    1. cutterman

      Re: Worst printer of all time

      Ah what joy! Still have one and a couple of precious rolls of silver paper. Worked when I tried it out for fun about ten years ago… The pong of ozone and the sparks! Even have a couple of printouts that are semi-readable.

      Eventually got some non-name RS-232 thermal printer that worked with fanfold. Fun writing a printer driver (not). Think I still have that too!

      Mac

  29. bobajob12 Bronze badge

    Dot matrix refuses to die

    Quite interesting that US airlines still love their dot matrix printers. There's one behind the counter at every airport gate I've ever seen. Somebody somewhere is still making a living selling Epson MX80 knockoffs and fanfold paper.

    1. Colabroad

      Re: Dot matrix refuses to die

      IIRC HBOS still use dot matrix printers for Passbooks.

      They don't make that model any more so they're reliant on a slowly dwindling supply of constantly refurbished machines.

      I guess the hope is that the stock, topped up by closing a bunch of branches, lasts until the last old fogey with a passbook pops their clogs.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Dot matrix refuses to die

      "Quite interesting that US airlines still love their dot matrix printers."

      Providing you don't tear it up at the folds one of the good things about fan-fold paper is that it keeps the entire document together. Can you imagine the cost of holding a flight while someone searches for a misplaced sheet from the passenger list?

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Dot matrix refuses to die

        I still use continuous paper for printing family trees.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Dot matrix refuses to die

          I find tractor-feed printouts useful for debugging, occasionally ... The long, continuous sheet allows me to spot patterns faster than anything else. YMMV.

  30. Shred

    Back in the late 80s or early 90s, a customer logged a fault with an Apple LaserWriter II printer (Canon LBP-SX engine).

    "Printer has a paper jam, but there's no paper stuck in it... and please bring a replacement cleaning brush"

    The printers came with a tiny little green plastic brush clipped inside for cleaning the corona wire. The brush had somehow passed through the hot fuser rollers and was now 20cm wide and about 0.1mm thick. It had concertinad up behind the little lever that detected a paper jam in the fuser exit area.

  31. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Apart from decollators there are also collators. Client had one. The decollator was apt to deposit the sheets in exactly the wrong order for binding up into books. Plus two-up stationary might need to have the left and right leaves inter-collated. The mechanical collator was there to sort all these things out but was always busy on another job when it was needed. I ended up doing one in S/W which rearranged the print images before they went to the printers. It grew an increasing number of options as they found more things for it to do.

  32. anthonyminchinton@yahoo.co.uk

    The Good Old Day’s - RIP

    ICl mainframe, bursters, decollaters, Perfory, Ruislip, Department of Industry, absolute formality, Civil Service that was anything but. The vogons in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy could easily be based upon the British Civil Service. The incompetence and inefficiency covered over by the Official Secrets Act. I am so glad the good old days are over. Sorry for the rant.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: The Good Old Day’s - RIP

      The vogons in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy are based upon the British Civil Service.

  33. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Happy

    Secret printer

    I was well over a year into a tech support job when I got a call to 'check accounting's greenbar printer'. After being puzzled by this (I didn't know what they were talking about), and wondering if it was truly at our facility, I became one of the initiates that was shown a closet labeled "Storage". Upon unlocking the door, I found a room that did contain some storage racks, but at the very back of a long narrow room, was a (silent) line printer plugged into power and a network jack, with a massive box of paper feeding it, and another massive box taking the output.

    It soon became apparent that the problem was a simple network issue, which I was able to quickly resolve, restoring the printer to life. It had a sound-deadening cabinet, but was still pretty loud in the room. With the door to "storage" shut though, the noise was barely noticeable. (I'd never noticed it before) And it was near a busy restroom, so those noises masked the remaining output. No one listens too hard near a restroom.

    I had several dealings with this beast over the next few years, and finally with a $2,500 estimate to repair it that no one wanted to cover, we pulled the plug on it. It apparently wasn't very essential as no one ever complained, and the last box of printout gathered dust on the shelf with its fellows for another couple of years after we'd recycled the printer, until another department commandeered the storage room for their own purposes.

  34. Gustavo Fring

    bursters

    Bursters decollators , yep even punched cards , still remember booting up the mainframe every day by by feeding it the punched cards, which needed renewing every so often using the hand operated 80 col hand punch. What about tape drives ? they were pretty big back then , set up 4 tapes for a spectacular tape sort, and you could go and do other things (insert preferred option here) for number of hours. dam those disk drives!

    1. BostonEddie

      Re: bursters

      "Hand operated card punch..."? Back when I was training on our brand new IBM 360 Mark1965, we were pretty advanced--we used an IBM 026 Duplicating Keypunch. Might even still have my Certificate in Competence. I do remember feeding in the punchcards to get the operating system going and if the cake pan shaped RAM wasn't in, seeing the printout, "Put in the disk, stupid."

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