back to article Fixing a printer ended with a dozen fire engines in the car park

Welcome once again to On-Call, The Register’s continuing column recounting readers’ tech support traumas. This week, meet “Rob” who told us about “a late night visit to British Coal to replace a hot-roll fuser on a massive laser printer.’ And not just any massive laser printer but the IBM 3800 printer – one of the first laser …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

    This was a holiday, not work, and I was having a lovely week at the Intercontinental. At the time, I had a Platinum Royal Ambassador card with that group (thanks to copious business travel), meaning upgrade from cheapest room to a suite, club access and complimentary mini bar....

    Anyway, fast forward to first breakfast... Shoved a couple of rounds of bread in the toaster, in the rather posh club lounge, and forgot about it. Turns out it wasn't one of those modern toasters that pop the toast out automatically, leading to some smoke, a fire alarm, men with pointy hats and hosepipes and a red faced me! Proper Victor Meldrew moment!

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

      Ahhh toast...

      Way back in the mid 90's I changed jobs. My first day on the new job and I was a bit surprised to learn that the company had a proper kitchen area where people could prepare their own food for breakfast and lunch.

      One of the elder ladies there (she was past the official age of retirement even then) had made some toast and done the same thing, forgetting about it.

      As the fire alarms went off and we were walking out, my new boss was saying to her "the fire brigade will come out you know" but she was having none of it, thinking he was just winding her up.

      Then they duly did arrive. No fines or anything ensued as they had the burnt evidence of why it'd happened.

      Quite a memorable way to start a new job :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        SWIM burnt the toast once.

        In a galley.

        On a submarine.

        At Faslane.

        SWIM found out that the alarms work well and the local emergency response is very impressive in both scale and rapidity. Especially when they think a Vanguard class boat might be on fire.

        SWIM has never, ever, burnt any toast again, even at home.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          I used to be in a band with some-one (who at least claimed) that his job was to go onboard the submarines in Faslane and DELIBERATELY set fires, pull banks of fuses, etc to simulate scenarios on board so that the people on board got trained on what to do in that eventuality.

          Apparently the "only" place they could find a bed for him on those boats was on the racks holding torpedoes...

      2. Oengus Silver badge

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        Ahhh toast...

        One site I worked at had regular evacuations due to someone in an adjoining company burning the toast. It was a standing joke when I joined the company. I found out within 2 weeks that the jokes were real. We never had to do a Fire Drill mock evacuation because of the regular occurrence of the alarms being set off.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          Had that here at work too, the microwave one.

          We had a supply company install a vending machine for frozen microwave meals (which to be fair were actually almost edible) and alongside it a couple of microwaves for the heating-up thereof. These things were catering grade microwaves, somewhere in the region of 3000W or so.

          But despite various notices etc of the fact, people also tended to use them for their brought-in stuff and just stick the times in that the packet said, regardless of the fact that those were for an 800W or so home microwave.

          Cue regular and repeated fire alarms as various items were nuked and ended up blackened and smoking, or in one memorable case literally molten and on fire.

          Needless to say neither the vending machine or the microwaves are here any more.

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            Didn't set anything on fire, but, when I worked at Burger King, we used to put slices of gherkin in the microwaves and get them to spark. Fun times.

            1. ChrisC

              Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

              "we used to put slices of gherkin in the microwaves and get them to spark"

              Speaking as a fully paid up member of the Gherkin-less Burger Appreciation Society, I applaud your efforts in helping to rid the world of those vile green slices of pure culinary evil!

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

                "a fully paid up member of the Gherkin-less Burger Appreciation Society"

                I'll take your gherkins and add them to my pizza. Thanks.

            2. elkster88

              Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

              Also worked at Burger King. Can advise that laying down a ring of mustard approximately 100cm diameter on the side of a burger wrapper and popping it in the microwave, produced an entertaining display of sparks. Apparently mustard, or what passed for it at BK, is sufficiently conductive to function as a loop antenna.

              1. Jonathan Richards 1
                Thumb Up

                Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

                > laying down a ring of mustard approximately 100cm diameter on the side of a burger wrapper

                Cripes! I know BK is the Home of the Wopper, or whatever, but a wrapper a metre across!

              2. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ
            Mushroom

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            a vending machine for frozen microwave meals (which to be fair were actually almost edible)

            Which bit was edible? the plastic packaging?

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            "We had a supply company install a vending machine for frozen microwave meals [...]"

            Back in the 1960s the night shift mainframe operators had free meals in the factory's staff canteen. In the fridge were plates and dishes - each with a preset arrangement from the day's menu left-overs.

            The microwave ovens had a timing system operated by tokens that were plastic strips of various lengths with a row of teeth along the sides. You pushed one into the oven's timer slot and it slowly consumed it by some rack and pinion mechanism. Thus the length determined the cooking time.

            The different lengths were colour coded and it took practice to select the one for the apparently random selection/quantity of food on your plate or dish. The result was usually just about edible.

          4. J. Cook Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            "Cue regular and repeated fire alarms as various items were nuked and ended up blackened and smoking, or in one memorable case literally molten and on fire.

            Needless to say neither the vending machine or the microwaves are here any more."

            And that is why we can never have anything nice.

          5. SuperGeek

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            "These things were catering grade microwaves, somewhere in the region of 3000W or so."

            Most domestic microwaves are up to 4kW anyway on full power, even the cheapo £30 ones from ASDA. I know, I repair them! They have been for years.

            1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
              Meh

              Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

              "Most domestic microwaves are up to 4kW anyway on full power, even the cheapo £30 ones from ASDA

              I believe you're incorrect, sir. Wattage is an absolute power measurement. So if you're cooking with 4KW, you must also be drawing 4000W from the mains. Which would be a little over 18A at 220V, exceeding a standard UK circuit, and nearly double that in the USA at 120V. If plugged into a USA 220V circuit, such as commonly used for a clothes dryer, range, or large A/C unit, it could be feasible, but no one except restaurants and other commercial applications have a microwave running on 220V in the USA. Most are 1500-1800W. The cheapo ones are typically under 1000W.

        2. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          One site I worked at had regular evacuations due to someone in an adjoining company burning the toast. It was a standing joke when I joined the company. I found out within 2 weeks that the jokes were real. We never had to do a Fire Drill mock evacuation because of the regular occurrence of the alarms being set off.

          My university was always trying to do things on the cheap so my course had no lectures on Mondays. Suited us students because we had another day to recover from the weekend (or continue to party). Staff were employed as part timers as a result - but this hadn't been thought through. Cue one Monday where there was a false fire alarm activation. Both the fire marshal and deputy for one part of the building were not working that day. They were both teaching my course and therefore absent. The joke was then that the university couldn't "afford" to have a fire on a Monday. The health and safety officer was not impressed as he hadn't known about "Mondays". They ended up making sure someone was working every day as a result.

          1. Korev Silver badge

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            The joke was then that the university couldn't "afford" to have a fire on a Monday.

            Up until very recently the Swiss Airforce only operated in office hours! They had to ask the French and Italians nicely to escort a potentially hijacked aircraft...

            1. Midnight
    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

      A recent fire at a university halls of residence was caused by a broken toaster. The (drunk) student wanted toast, so he pushed the lever down and it popped back up. A few more times of this and he decided to 'fix' it, by pushing it down and placing a heavy book on top of the toaster to force the bread down. Went back to his room, forgot about it, passed out, and was woken up by alarms and sirens.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        Ah student halls and fire alarms...

        When I was in my final year of university I lived in a 1960's tower block (that has subsequently been demolished). The hall is catered, so there are only limited cooking facilities (microwave and fridge in shared kitchenettes), and very strict rules as to what can be plugged in owing to the age of the building and fire regulations. Late one evening the fire alarm goes off, triggering the inevitable crowd of students outside in their dressing gowns, and quartet of fire engines.

        10 minutes after the firemen go in the warden storms out dangling a blackened rice cooker and demanding who is responsible. As I glance around I notice one particular student hiding behind a wall and peeking out every now and again...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          There’s a lot of Chinese students at my uni who ship over their own rice cookers with their belongings, the rice cookers are explicitly banned across campus and private accommodation because of the dubious quality, I think one caused a fire years ago or something like that.

          They don’t listen of course.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            Chinese students at my uni who ship over their own rice cookers... dubious quality

            It can be difficult for non-Brits, who haven't grown up with our obsessively well-engineered electrical system, to understand why we get all het up about non-approved or at least non-inspected equipment. Had a Chinese group here who wanted to bring firecrackers to their New Year celebrations which we were hosting. Obviously no actual pyrotechnics allowed in the building, so they brought "electric" firecrackers.

            They would probably have been dangerous even in China, but instead of bringing them to my colleague to give a once-over they bodged them into a UK socket and running at 250V rather than 100V (yes, our mains is 250V - we're about 30 yards from a transformer on minimum tap and are obviously not loading it enough) they soon provided quite a good impression of proper firecrackers.

            M.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

              "They would probably have been dangerous even in China, [...]"

              IIRC one of the famous Japanese electronics companies started just after the war as one man making rice cookers. He took the normal cooking vessel and added mains wires inside as a heater.

              Not much different from early UK washing machines - a tub with a 240v open motor below it.

              1. JulieM Silver badge

                Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

                Actually, for a long time, the defining feature of a British-built washing machine was, it had the motor up at the top where there was no possibility for water to leak into it.

              2. Nigel Titley
                Mushroom

                Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

                Or the baby bottle warmer which we inherited from my parents. It had two bare mains contacts in the base and a bakelite ring that you put the bottle on. You put a couple of teaspoons of water into the base, put in the bottle and plugged it in. Mains shorting through the water brought it to the boil and it warmed the bottle. Once enough water had boiled off the mains contacts were no longer shorted and it stopped heating.

                We used it a couple of times, more to appreciate the full horror than anything else...

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

              "running at 250V rather than 100V "

              China's mains is (officially) 220-230V 50Hz.

              About the only place in the world using 100V is Japan

              I'll see your 250V and raise you 253 on a good day, 256 otherwise. It's a good stress test for electronics and eats incandescents like Oreos.

        2. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          triggering the inevitable crowd of students outside in their dressing gowns

          Recalling a late-night chip pan fire created by a hungry drunken idiot from my student days, I remember the crowd outside consisted of students in each others dressing gowns.

        3. WraithCadmus
          Pint

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          When I was in my final year of university I lived in a 1960's tower block (that has subsequently been demolished). The hall is catered, so there are only limited cooking facilities (microwave and fridge in shared kitchenettes)

          Sounds like York when I was there ('02), except the catering had long since shut down, leaving you with a Baby Belling between 7.

          Icon: York Brewey, Toft Green.

          1. Kevin Fairhurst

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            Goodricke College, would have been spring ‘95 I think, some twat deliberately put a wet tea towel on a baby belling and turned it on, wondering how long it would take for the fire alarms to go off...

            (I was just about going off with a young lady of my acquaintance at the time, the bastards)

          2. Anomalous Cowturd
            Pint

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            Re : York Brewery, Toft Green.

            Bastards stole my umbrella!

            (Actually, I got rat arsed, and left it behind.)

          3. ButlerInstitute

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            Sound to me like Southampton - South Stoneham.

            I was at Montefiore, just across the road. Though I was there in the mid-80s.

            Last time I visited, South Stoneham was cordoned off and looking very empty, so I assume it's since been demolished.

        4. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge
          Unhappy

          student halls and fire alarms...

          Late 1974, the oil crisis and inflation had sent the Bursar into skimping on the heating mode, and our bedrooms were pretty cold by the early hours of the morning.

          Some rats would regularly come back late from drinking session somewhere and decide to have a water fight with a firehose. Activating a firehose naturally set off the fire alarms, which woke everyone up, and they didn't get turned off until a very grumpy caretaker dragged himself out of bed.

          It was bloody agony trying to get back to sleep when you were frozen stiff and had a bad case of the flu.

          The only saving grace was that the firehose-happy bunch were in another block

          so we didn' t have to evacuate the place.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: student halls and fire alarms...

            My aunt was waiting in the BBC Manchester canteen whilst her group of youths (myself included) was in the audience for a live Saturday morning kids show. She was having great difficulty with bread sticking in the conveyor toaster until some helpful chap sorted it out, unjammed the toaster and made toast for her. She later saw on the studio monitor that it was Sting.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        " [...] he decided to 'fix' it, by pushing it down and placing a heavy book on top of the toaster to force the bread down."

        Victorian railways had a few exploding boiler incidents after an annoying safety valve was tied down.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re:Victorian railways had a few exploding boiler incidents

          after an annoying safety valve was tied down.

          Citations please. Couldn't verify this.

          Upright boiler explosions were not unusual, but I can't substantiate the meddling with the safety valve in most of the ones I've found.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Re:Victorian railways had a few exploding boiler incidents

            "Citations please. "

            See Wikipedia railway accidents before 1880.

            Out of the many train boiler explosions mentioned - these below are the ones that specifically give the cause - all blaming safety valve tampering.

            1818, February 28 – United Kingdom – The driver is killed on the Middleton Railway in Hunslet, Leeds, West Yorkshire when Salamanca's boiler explodes, as a result of the force of the explosion, he was "carried, with great violence, into an adjoining field the distance of one hundred yards." This was the result of the driver tampering with the safety valves.

            June 17, 1831 – United States – After the pressure safety valve is tied down by the train's fireman, the locomotive Best Friend of Charleston suffers a boiler explosion at Charleston, South Carolina, killing him, scalding the engineer, and injuring three others.

            March 26, 1850 – United Kingdom – The boiler of a London and North Western Railway locomotive explodes at Wolverton, Buckinghamshire due to tampering of the safety valves.

            1. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: "Citations please. "

              Ta. Looks like I have some more reading to do.

              Much obliged.

          2. JimC Silver badge

            Re: Re:Victorian railways had a few exploding boiler incidents

            Its more often told as screwing down the safety valve to increase boiler pressure and therefore power.

            I do know that tamper-proof safety valves were being commonly fitted by the end of the 19thC.

            Here's an accident report which blames the driver for tampering with the safety valves.

            http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/BoT_Bray1872.pdf

            1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

              Re: Re:Victorian railways had a few exploding boiler incidents

              ..early steamboats in the USA also had the bad habit of exploding:

              Lucy Walker Disaster

              1. ricardian

                Re: Re:Victorian railways had a few exploding boiler incidents

                And more recently as in the case of the SS France in 2003.

                "Boiler No. 23, located on the starboard side of the boiler room, had ruptured. The boiler contained about 20 tons of water operating at a temperature of about 528º F under a pressure of about 60 bar (870 pounds per square inch [psi]). In the normal atmospheric pressure of the aft boiler room (14.7 psi), the pressurized hot water rapidly expanded in volume about 1,260 times into steam"

                https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/MAB0703.pdf

          3. Lord Kipper III

            Re: Re:Victorian railways had a few exploding boiler incidents

            As a young boiler maintenance engineer at Didcot Power Station in the early 1990s,the coal fired boilers had several safety relief valves dotted around the boiler operating at various pressures. Sometimes the valves would just begin to pass steam at normal operating pressure and make a noise which would put us in breach of our noise limits so we would have to drop load. Less MW generated meant less £ so especially in the winter we were encouraged to fit a device called a gag that would force the valve stem down onto the seat to stop the valve passing. This of course meant that the valve could no longer serve its intended function but as we had sufficient other valves and a repair would be immediately scheduled. One evening I was asked to install the gag on one especially noisy simmering valve but having applied the recommended force to the gag the valve was still passing steam noisily. I phoned the Charge Engineer (shift manager) reporting failure and that I was giving up and going home for my tea to be told to try a little more force as this evening, MW were really quite expensive and the suits in HQ would be quite disappointed that load would have to be reduced. I tried a little harder, still no success and was joined by a colleague offering a large spanner to apply more force to the gag. At this point I concluded that I did not wish my life to end in a sudden bang and steam whiteout due to the safety valve body splitting apart due to the use of unreasonable force, invented some Engineering Directive (a bit like Space Corps Directives but less funny) about the use of gags and went home.

          4. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Re:Victorian railways had a few exploding boiler incidents

            "I can't substantiate the meddling with the safety valve in most of the ones I've found."

            It was definitely mentioned in a few early incidents. Look between 1780 and 1820 (more Georgian than Victorian)

          5. Ochib

            Re: Re:Victorian railways had a few exploding boiler incidents

            http://www.watlingtonnorfolk.co.uk/boiler-explosion-1867.html

            "

            On Tuesday morning, an agricultural engine, employed in thrashing wheat at Watlington, in a field adjoining the Magdalen road, and about 200 yards from the railway station, exploded with a terrific report, killing five men and boys on the spot, and so severely injuring seven more that two of them died a few hours afterwards and others were not expected to survive. The cause of the explosion is clearly ascertained to have been the monstrous, but, it is to be feared, very prevalent practice of tying down the safety valve, in order to get more work out of the engine than it was other wise capable of performing. The poor man who, no doubt was responsible for the act has paid with his life the penalty of his folly, and is therefore beyond the reach of blame; but it may be hoped the moral of his fate and that of his unfortunate companions will not be lost upon the members of that large class of men who have such engines, or steam engines of any kind under their charge."

          6. Extreme Aged Parent

            Re: Re:Victorian railways had a few exploding boiler incidents

            This tale comes from one of H. M. Dockyards, long since closed, there were steam powered and driven cranes which ran on railway tracks, which could also be used similarly to a modern JCB.

            At lunch time one particular crew used to bank up the boiler, tie down the safety valve then head off the the nearest canteen. Sadly this time the boiler blew up, no casualties!

            Another story was when one crew (two men) went off on their annual holiday they hid / parked the crane somewhere in the maze of railway tracks that served the 'yard. They didn't bother to inform their charge-hand where the crane was...When the two men reappeared after their weeks holiday, so did the crane!

            I was an apprentice then...Ah happy days

          7. ricardian

            Re: Re:Victorian railways had a few exploding boiler incidents

            https://www.bressingham.co.uk/blog/posts/2017/locomotive-boiler-explosions-and-how-to-avoid-them.aspx

        2. G.Y.

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          Some reactor in Chernobyl also had the safety devices disabled during an "unauthorized experiment" ...

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            Ah the humble toaster. Source of so many burny evacuations. What it needs is some sort of AI added that will determine drunkeness, oversized bread objects caught in the mechanism, etc etc.And people respond better to spoken warnings than a series of meaningless beeps and whistles. So it needs a voice. It could be hooked into the alarm clock, so it can prepare hot bread comestibles just in time for the morning repast.

            It could even ask you bread related philosophical questions in order to stimulate the individual over breakfast. It's a great idea. I'll make a fortune. All I need now is a name for it...

            1. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

              It could even ask you bread related philosophical questions in order to stimulate the individual over breakfast. It's a great idea. I'll make a fortune. All I need now is a name for it...

              Well, Bob is already taken by some old software. How about Tony the Toaster or for the up scale market Anthony the Toaster?

            2. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

              Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

              Perhaps name it after a seaside town known for hotels? Torquay,for example.

            3. john bertelsen

              Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

              +1 for the Red Dwarf reference!

            4. rskurat

              Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

              "Open the Bagel Bay doors, please, HAL"

              "I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave"

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            > Some reactor in Chernobyl also had the safety devices disabled during an "unauthorized experiment" ...

            And to add to the coincidences, what happened as a result of the disabling was the operators were able to get reactor output down to dangerously low levels and neutron poisoning blocked being able to turn it back up, but they kept trying to turn up the wick anyway, resulting in it punching through the poisoning and going from "almost nothing" output to "prompt critical" (which is full power plus a few thousand percent), causing most of the water in in the core to boil almost instantly, generating a massive steam explosion, which blew the top off the reactor and then the top off the building.

            It was only after then that things got really messy and caught fire. Perhaps an extra safety valve might have helped.

            (To put prompt criticality in context - in the SL-1 accident, the 400kW (thermal) reactor with a design maximum of 3MW (4.5MW in tests) was estimated to have reached 20GW output in a few milliseconds and stayed there for a few seconds.

            Just about every civil (and most military) nuclear accident has been caused by or been exacerbated by water being in close proximity to the glowy stuff. It worked for the Nautilus as a proof of concept but Alvin Weinberg was extremely worried about his prototype design being unsafe when scaled up to civil power generation sizes and spent the 1950s-1960s developing something much safer (molten salt systems) only for Nixon to kill it off in 1972 for political reasons.

            You won't be setting off any fire or radiation leakage alarms with a MSR design

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        Went back to his room, forgot about it, passed out, and was woken up by alarms and sirens.

        Back in university I was sitting in my room one day when my nostrils were sensing the unmistakable whiff of a well-done[0] tosti[1]. So I figured I'd better go to the kitchen and see if someone had forgotten about their tosti in progress.

        Well, indeed it was so. The toasting device was one of those iron two-part forms with long handles that you put the sandwich in, then put on the gas hob. So, no timer or sensing element apart from one's own nose. Which was clearly out of order, as the perpetrator was sitting on the couch just a few meters away reading a newspaper, just as shrouded in blue smoke as the rest of the kitchen was. Note that the door to the kitchen was closed and my room was not directly adjacent to the kitchen either, so that whiff had a few hurdles to overcome on the way from the source to my room.

        [0] at a previous habitat, one of my fellow 'cooks' kept insisting that 'well-done' was the right description for a piece of bacon reduced to a near-pure chunk of carbon.

        [1] probably known to you as croque-monsieur, a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.

    3. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

      I was part of a small team of IT folks that had gone with my boss to some posh meeting about something or other (I've intentionally blanked the marketing bullshit from my mind in self defense). We're in the hotel, meet up with the boss for the morning meeting, & there's a rather nice buffet for breakfast. Boss leads us through the line & grabs something that's wrapped in a pretty metal foil thing. The rest of us grab things not so froofy & head for the banks of toaster ovens, coffee urns, etc. Boss decides hee wants to heat up his prize, stuffs it in the microwave, & punches the buttons. We all hit the deck ("Duck & Cover!") when the microwave exploded. Remember that *metal foil wrapper*? Yeah. Boss was both the laughingstock & whipping boy of the meeting after the fire department finished dousing the burning bits & flame charred shrapnel.

      We didn't stay much longer, the boss had us packing & headed out the door before lunch. The only good that came of the whole thing? There was a (probably metal foil) wrapped chocolate on the pillow of my room!

      Bosses. Gotta love 'em. Can't live with 'em, can't buy enough quicklime & rolls of carpet to dispose of 'em all...

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

      There is an infamous story about Capital Radio back in the days when they were at the Euston Tower. One morning someone on the staff creamated their toast in the canteen at breakfast. The smoke was so bad that it set off the smoke detectors and triggered an alarm. So that meant evacuating the radio company and waiting for the Fire Brigade to arrive. Obviously the fire alarms were connected throughout the building as is standard. So when they had to leave so did the rest of the tower, everyone was evacuated. This included BT who had most of the tower for their use. It also included MI5 who had a communications base on a floor near the top and I doubt were pleased. Red face for some toast loving media employee.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        "So when they had to leave so did the rest of the tower"

        At least they left.

        one radio station I worked at had the morning studio staff arrive(*) to a building full of smoke, open a few doors to clear it out and start their breakfast shift after putting a screwdriver through the alarm sounders. Management wasn't terribly happy.

        (*) Overnight was nationally syndicated and the alarm wasn't linked to the brigade

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          Overnight was nationally syndicated and the alarm wasn't linked to the brigade

          In the days before syndication, overnight at the radio station I worked was used for "tryouts". Unfortunately these poor souls were often just left to get on with it. We ran an AM and an FM station so at least there were usually two people in the building.

          On more than one occasion I had a call-out to fix something and got chatting only to discover that while someone had pointed out that the blue strobe meant someone was calling on the "red line", they hadn't pointed out that the red strobe next to it meant "FIRE!" (or that the orange strobe was the obit. alarm, nor what to do when it went off).

          I also had almost to physically remove jocks from their studios when we had tests. They couldn't bear the thought of putting the precompiled CD on and missing a few links.

          Then there was Piccadilly, which had its base in the Arndale centre when the IRA took a pop. Someone had to get special permission to go back into the building after an hour and rewind the DAT (or whatever it was). Then they put a fader up and dialled-in from another station.

          Our first-take disaster plan (such as it was) was to leave a fader up to one of the local sports grounds (these were the days of EPS85 analogue circuits), get the "roadshow" truck out of storage at the boatyard and plug it into the microphone socket somehow. If the studio had burned to the ground we would grovel to NTL to get one of the transmitter sites opened up and run cables directly into the kit from the truck.

          On the cheap? Of course! In the case of a power cut, we had a two cylinder 10kVA Diesel generator that had to be wheeled out into the car park, plugged into the main busbar, we had to throw one big switch to isolate everything except essential loads, and throw another to disconnect the mains and connect the genny. The starter battery on the generator was always flat, so it had to be hand cranked, a job that was impossible on your own - it needed someone to keep the cocks open while you got it up to speed, and close them at the appropriate moment.

          In many ways, I miss that job :-)

          M.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: 261 Piccadilly, Stereo 97!

            Ah. that brings back memories. Timmy Mallet and all that jazz. Everyone listened to Piccadilly Radio. When I knew it, it was based in the large tower above the gardens and the bus interchange. Bar underneath... Brahms and Liszt. Chinese buffet on the other corner. I did silver service work up in the corporate hospitality suite to earn some dosh between college and uni.

        2. Nick Kew Silver badge

          @Alan Brown

          one radio station I worked at had the morning studio staff arrive(*) to a building full of smoke, open a few doors to clear it out and start their breakfast shift after putting a screwdriver through the alarm sounders.

          That reminds me of chemistry lessons in my 'teens.

          I'm sure that was the norm for mine and earlier generations.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

      Not as exotic as Malta, in fact Reading.

      I was on a course at Winnersh and staying in Reading; cheap hotel and drinks on the rest of expenses. The last day was Thursday and was a late finish so I travelled home to Newcastle on the Friday. Wanting an early start before the M25 got silly I settled up on the Thursday night and arranged to leave at 5:30am.

      On the Friday morning I arrived at reception at 5:30 and rang for the night porter to let me out. Nothing. After about 5 minutes ringing the night bell I got frustrated and sat in the bar for a cigarette. It was then that I discovered the fire alarms had a different setting at night and the alarm went off. The ciggy was hastily stubbed out in a plant pot and I was at reception just as the night porter ran up in boxer shorts and string vest. He stopped and looked at me in a puzzled way as I told him I was expecting to leave 10 minutes earlier. He opened the doors moaning about people using kettles in the mornings and I left.

      I had a twinge of guilt as I pulled out of the car park onto Oxford Road as the residents of the hotel started to congregate in the car park in their nightwear. I then passed 4 fire engines going towards the hotel as I headed away from Reading.

      To anyone in that hotel that day, it was all down to the night porter oversleeping!

    6. phuzz Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

      Some friends of mine who live in Glasgow came home from a night out and decided they wanted a pizza. So they popped one in the oven and went and sat on the couch in the lounge to wait for it to cook.

      Some time later they were woken up by a fireman who explained that they should probably have been watching the pizza.

      Fortunately for them a neighbour had noticed the smoke quickly and called the fire brigade. Even more fortunately they'd failed to lock their front door, so the fire brigade didn't even have to kick the door in.

      While we're on the subject of hotel toast, why did none of those hotels have that most hallowed of toasting inventions, the conveyor belt toaster? I've always wanted one of those things, and I assume it's a lot harder to leave bread in it to burn.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        One friend of mine was so drunk he went to sleep with pizza in the oven, but had only turned the oven light on this avoiding the smoke and fury from the local brigade...

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          One friend of mine was so drunk he went to sleep with pizza in the oven, but had only turned the oven light on this avoiding the smoke and fury from the local brigade...

          Pizza in the oven is fine, it just goes extra extra crispy. My record was 14 hours, it was quite crunchy by that point and I didn't have enough dip.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

            "Pizza in the oven is fine, it just goes extra extra crispy."

            Many years ago - rolling in at 01:30 after a very long day at the office. Put my last frozen pizza in the oven. When it was cooked there was a peculiar smell - I had not noticed the polystyrene stiffener on the bottom of it. I was so tired and hungry I just scraped the base - and ate the rest of the pizza.

      2. Stratman

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        Conveyor belt toaster. Absolute rubbish.

        No matter what settings are used, one trip through just about imperceptibly changes the colour of the bread, two trips has everyone heading to the car park. There is no in between.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          "Conveyor belt toaster. Absolute rubbish."

          You did not take the 'Training course' to use one !!!

          1. Don't be the 1st one to use it ....... it will be too cold.

          2. Allow people to jump the queue in front of you until someone gets 'Bread nuked to ash' due to repeat toasting of bread slice. :)

          3. Gently waft the smoke out of the way and place your bread slices on the conveyor.

          4. Perfectly toasted bread slices.

          5. Depart quickly before toast is cold ....... and before next person in queue gets 'Bread nuked to ash'.

          Simples :) ;)

      3. bpfh Bronze badge
        Flame

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        About a month ago at the Travelodge Royal Scot, about 10 minutes walk from King's Cross / Saint Pancr(e)as. Worst full English ever, but I digress.

        Some of the inmates came down to breakfast, grabbed a croissant and dropped it in the conveyor belt toaster.

        It jammed at the back rather than being scooted out of the front, prompting a "ehhhh, excuse me, my Croissant's stuck", followed by the cook/attendant/cleaner/washerupper/handyman trying to prise a quickly blackening croissant out the back of the toaster with 2 wooden spoons, then scooted off to find cook/attendant/cleaner/washerupper/handman #2 to come to lend a hand.

        Croissant starts to ignite.

        Whilst c/a/c/w/h #1 looks into the toaster at the black, smoking lump at the back, #2 drops off the mugs and plates and walks back 2 minutes later to help #1 pry the now well flaming remains of a burnt offering whose smell pleased $DEITEY, with wooden spoons and bacon tongs* from the toaster.

        The whole room is now watching this unfold, starting to pack up laptops and get jackets on before the flre alarms go off, amid a pale blue, sugar and margarine scented haze.

        Croissant removed, dropped into bucket. No-one thought of turning the toaster off or pulling the plug (even before they started furkling around with metal bacon tongs). No-one suggested it either, probably waiting for a big blue spark and a 50hz buzzzzert. Nothing in the end, not even a beep from the smoke detector.

        So, no, maybe the conveyor belt toaster is not the way to go.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          "It jammed at the back rather than being scooted out of the front, [...]"

          The communal restaurant had a conveyor dish washer. After a meal people loaded their dirty dishes into one of the circulating baskets. My job was as a plongeur with a scrubbing pad to remove recalcitrant food before sending things round for a second wash.

          One day there were some workmen on site who followed the procedure by observing what other people were doing. Except they didn't grasp that you had to put each plate/dish vertically into an appropriate sized slot in a basket. They just built a small mountain of crockery in the nearest basket.

          First I knew was the crash as the top of a pile was sliced off by the entrance to the dish washer tunnel. Followed by me running round to the customer side yelling "No! No! No!"*** as I saw the following piles heading for the same fate.

          ***"no", "yes", "please", and "thank you" were about the sum total of my vocabulary in the local language at that time.

        2. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          @bpfh, at any reasonably good hotel on the continent, the conveyor belt toaster has a notice: "FOR BREAD ONLY" - i.e. no croissants, no other funny stuff, just slices of bread. They'll do you your croissant in the kitchen. You'll still get an idiot or two trying though.

        3. Lilolefrostback

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          Y'all must have a different type of conveyor belt toaster in England than are found in North America. I've travelled widely in North America and have used lots of conveyor belt toasters. Never had the slightest problem. Two runs through the machine usually gets me nice dark brown toast.

          Maybe your idiots are better (worse?) than ours.

        4. Unicornpiss Silver badge
          Flame

          Conveyor toaster

          I worked on POS systems for a restaurant chain that used these counter top conveyor toasters. They were incredibly robust, all stainless steel everywhere, and pretty much indestructible. They were a bit larger than the ones you might see used for toasting slices of bread at a diner, for example, as they were used for numerous items, but a bit smaller than ones you might see used for pizzas.

          They would sometimes put bread sticks and other oil-brushed items in these, and when in a hurry, overload them, so they would get jumbled up and jam on the conveyor. Many times I have seen a crew member frantically trying to extricate stuck items while thick smoke poured from the oven as customers looked on in bemusement, no doubt hoping that wasn't their dinner. A few times I've seen flames; once I saw flames alarmingly a couple of feet high spewing from both sides of the oven from a severely neglected situation. The oven was never worse for wear from these incidents.

          Oh, and one afternoon I arrived at a restaurant and noticed smoke coming from both inside the oven and BEHIND the oven--there was apparently a poor connection and the plug had heated up enough to cause a minor electrical fire behind the oven, while the item being toasted was also starting to burn.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        "the conveyor belt toaster? "

        IIRC a department store in Hong Kong had a device which made pancakes automatically and served them on a conveyor system. I nearly bought one of the devices to take home.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Go

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          When you say pancakes, do you refer to the crepe definitive article or the Merkin mini-frisbees?

          I have a very large crepe frying pan, my pancakes are larger than the actual plates & great with:

          Maple syrup & sugar.

          Strawberry Jam

          Lemon & sugar.

          Ice-cream.

        2. Anomalous Cowturd

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          On a school trip to Boulogne in the early 70s, we discovered a machine that dispensed freshly cooked frites. It had a little window where you could watch them cook. Massively impressive to an eleven year old. :o)

          Didn't have fancy microcontrollers in those days. Presumably it had something resembling a washing machine mechanical programmer inside, or a very small and hot Frenchman?

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

            Re: or a very small and hot Frenchman?

            Early 1970ies?

            Nicolas Sarkozy's first summer job between school and uni.

      5. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: conveyor belt toaster?

        A waste of metal and electricity. During the 80s and 90s every sandwich joint in NY had one of these. They have one in the sandwich joint downstairs as I type. All these machines have one common feature - they don't toast the bread.

        One pass through and you have lukewarm bread. Two passes through and you have hot, slightly crisp bread and you are late for something.

        Sometimes you get a duff one that breaks down several times a year too. I look forward to that because then the place will often lob the bread on the hotplate they make the eggs on and toast the stuff in nothing flat.

        But a conveyor toaster? You can keep them. Unfit for purpose.

      6. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        " conveyor belt toaster?"

        Dunno about one of those, but I've always wanted a Sunbeam T20 toaster.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxkbjovrDd0

        These were made between ~1955 and 1997

        1. Sherrie Ludwig
          Thumb Up

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          "Dunno about one of those, but I've always wanted a Sunbeam T20 toaster.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxkbjovrDd0

          These were made between ~1955 and 1997"

          We had a hand me down from my in laws when first married. Lasted for the first fifteen of our marriage, had been working at in laws for twenty before that.....

      7. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        I used to do a two pass on the conveyor belt toaster at Glaxo.

        I'm in two minds which I prefer that or the normal toaster.....

        I'll get me toast.

      8. Herby Silver badge

        Yes, conveyor belt toasters...

        They work just fine on sliced bread, but at one hotel I stayed at had one of these devices, and they found out that unfortunately thick bagel slices just don't work too well. Well, they get jammed up in the works, and stall the conveyor. Then the heating element gets in contact with said bagel, and after a short while the organic material decides to turn itself into global warming gasses and other combustion products. Usually this isn't bad, but the smoke detector was positioned right above said toaster.

        No, the alarm didn't sound while I was there, but there was a hurried scramble to release the burning bagel of shame.

      9. ~chrisw

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        Back in my school days, I worked part-time in a supermarket whose canteen had a commercial belt toaster. It was efficient at toasting, exceedingly so. This resulted in people fairly often putting bread in, walking off to the far side of the (large) canteen, then wondering why smoke was emanating from the toaster several minutes later.

        It wasn't helped by people unnecessarily cranking the heat dial to 7 or 8 due to impatience, instead of adjusting the belt speed.

        Several times, I had to improvise to eject multiple pieces of toast that were literally on fire inside the toaster - and somehow extinguish them before setting off the supermarket's fire alarms. I'm amazed it didn't cause a more serious fire.

      10. meadowlark

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        Conveyor belt toasters - harder to burn the bead ? Eh, no it's not. I had a queue of people behind me for the three conveyor toasters, so as mine was too under done, I thought it was okay to put it through again. Wrong decision ! It was only a third of the way through again before black smoke started billowing everywhere.

        Trying to look nonchalant while people around me were coughing and gasping for breath, the bread finally appeared as a flaming piece of charcoal. One of the kitchen assistants suddenly arrived and put it out with an extinguisher as all the fire alarms were going off.

        I didn't go down for breakfast after that !.

      11. ricardian

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        There was one of those large toasters with a vertical conveyer belt in the airmen's mess at RAF Driffield (1961 or so). Apart from the arguments about whose slice it was that had just dropped into the collection tray there was the excitement of a piece of bread that became trapped in the mechanism and proceded to cremate itself. Huge quantities of smoke tended to put you off your breakfast but the cooks just took as normal behaviour and carried on as usual. We often wondered what would happen if there was a real fire in the mess!

    7. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

      A young fresh faced kid at school, aged 14. Me and a mate were standing by the fire alarm, one of those "break grass" jobbies. I was tapping it, stupidly I know now, and saying it was never going to break. However being young and stupid I didn't realise that glass weakens with age and it duly broke, 950 kids poured out of the school into the huge playground while I tried to fight my way through the crowds of bored kids to find the Deputy Head. I profusely apologised for my utter stupidity, he thought it was hilarious! He marched me to the caretaker's room, I had to help the caretaker fix the alarm and then spend the next 3 days during lunch break doing chores for the caretaker as punishment. Give the DH credit though, he never told my parents how stupid I'd been, cheers Mr Slade wherever you are now!

      1. david 12 Bronze badge

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        > one of those "break grass" jobbies. <

        What I hadn't realized was that it was unnecessary to break the glass: the button is carefully made fail-safe by designing it to contact when it goes IN, or OUT, and it is held in exactly the OFF position only by the glass.

        As a young engineering student, I was taking one apart to examine it, while we waited for the invariably late tutor... but was fortunate enough that I was called up as the most responsible person present (!), which gave me the chance to own up and apologise before I was suspended or expelled for interfering with the alarm system :)

    8. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

      Wot fun toasters are! My mate was a diy/repairer enthusiast and when the toaster spring weakened to the point the toaster handle had to be flicked up to get at the toast decided to "beef it up". After ten minutes of testing with various helical things from his large jar of helical things a pair of springs were loaded into the toaster and, with some pressure, the pair of half cooked but completely dried out doorsteps were lowered into the now beast. After a minute or two curls of smoke rose out of the machine rapidly followed by two blackened objects one of which went vertically up to the ceiling and shattered while the other performed a graceful arc onto the top of the wardrobe,

      As hinted earlier my friend was a fiddler. He had decided that the wardrobe should have ventilation so clothes dont get damp and had replaced the top with a lattice of little planks and the toast dropped straight through a gap and within the time it took to stop laughing at the collection of smoking crumbs all over the room had torched his clothes into a mild inferno which took a whole CO2 gas bottle 'borrowed' a couple of nights earlier from the pub.

      Boy does that stuff make you hyperventilate!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        "[...] followed by two blackened objects one of which went vertically up to the ceiling and shattered while the other performed a graceful arc onto the top of the wardrobe,"

        Shades of Wallace and Gromit.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Gimp

          Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

          I had visions of that working it's way into a episode of The IT Crowd.

          We need a Moss icon.

    9. J27 Bronze badge

      Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

      Wow, I genuinely didn't know they ever made non-automatic slot toasters. I would have totally done that.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

        Wow, I genuinely didn't know they ever made non-automatic slot toasters.

        They all sooner or later change from automatic to non-auto. And it depends on the tinkeritude of the owner whether they stay that way or not. Or even, as described above, get converted into an ICBBTM[0] launcher.

        A friend of mine one day observed toast that had achieved a dull red glow by prolonged toaster exposure. He had just put the toast in when his then-GF called from across the road that they had coffee. The toast was duly abandoned, but the toaster not disarmed. Fortyfive minutes later one of them noticed a stream of blue smoke coming out the room where the toaster was[1]. A dash across the street and up the stairs, and the toast was manually ejected out the window. It broke into a few pieces on hitting the pavement.

        [0] Intercontinental Burned Toast Missile.

        [1] At the front of the house, thus visible from across the street. Had it been at the kitchen, it may well have toasted on for the rest of the evening, reaching a yellowish-orange.

    10. Cpt Blue Bear

      Ah, toast!

      I have a mate who is a fire inspector and tells the wonderful story of the a building fire caused by such a toaster. Morning crew are well settled into their 12 hour shift and have reached the tea / coffee and toast stage when their alarm goes off. They all leap up, grab their gear and race off leaving one of those old fashioned hinged sided toasters with two pieces of bread on. Cue fire that guts their rec room and causes serious structural damage to the building.

      The punch line: they were a fire crew and they burnt down their band new fire station. Oh how we laughed.

  2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    One of HPs experimental high speed inkjet printers (never got into production as I saw it) was rechristened 'SteamJet' - and it did.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Oh and that *would* go on fire if the paper jammed.

      1. Ochib

        The good old lp0 on fire error

      2. bpfh Bronze badge

        IBM 4019

        Almost had one of those catch fire on me. Paper sensor through the hot roll failed, and somehow the fuzer lamp stayed on with half a dozen sheets jammed in the hot rolls. We got the support ticket about a paper jam through just as I had lined up a couple of priority desktop support requests in the same area and thought I would give it a look as I was visiting an office next door rather than sending the PSD guys to get them out of the support office and drinking our coffee, and was surprised to see smoke coming out of the air vents. Probably there just in time to stop the 1200 people at IBM Sainte Marie site from being evacuated...

        1. Hopalong
          Pint

          Re: IBM 4019

          Had basically the same thing happen to me one night shift in the early '80s. In this case it was an 3800 (we had the fanfold paper version). There was a paper jam under the hot fuser and the cut off did not work.

          It started to smoke so I quickly powered it off and switched off the power to it.

          Then rang IBM for a CE.

          Me, "we have a problem with our 3800 printer, serial 'what ever the serial number was'

          IBM ' OK, any error codes'

          Me ' No, just smoking well, I have cut the power to it'

          brief pause...

          IBM ' OK, CE on the way'

          A couple of jobs later I working in a office building which was the headquarters for a Brewery.

          We had a spat of false fire alarms, the building had a automatic alarm to the local firestation, so within about 5 minutes a couple of engines would turn up. Now if there are too many false alarms we would be charged, so the facilities manager would nip into the staff shop and grab a few trays of beer and slip them to the firemen.

          The next time the alarm went off, 4 engines from two stations turned up.....

          1. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

            Re: IBM 4019

            Large format LED (they don't generally use lasers any more because the beam emitter has to be too far away from the drum and lenses are expensive) printers and all toner based copiers are boring now. At least 2 thermal cutouts (wax expansion / replacement required) and several thermistors, the good ones have expensive non contact ones the crap ones contact the belt or rollers increasing wear.

            At least they don't catch on fire though ;)

            Also damp paper is the leading cause of our service calls (next to user failure)... excessive paper curl / jams. I have seen fuser exits convered in condensation and one rusted to destruction after 6 months use.

            We all also had one call where a user was adamant that the copier had flooded their office with water ? One Courtesy call later to inspect the machine we decided that the office dog was more likely to be at fault.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: IBM 4019

              The only time I've seen a printer on fire was when someone tried to stick a sheet of nitrocellulose transparency through it. Thought they'd helpfully use up the old stock of transparencies they found in a cupboard, not knowing that it was stuff we stocked for use every now and again for certain Western blots.

              1. rskurat

                Re: IBM 4019

                That's a big western - 2D gels?

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: IBM 4019

              "excessive paper curl / jams"

              Have you noticed that paper reams no longer come with an an arrow indicating the direction of curl on them?

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: IBM 4019

              LeahroyNake,

              Very clever dog !!!

              Must be a Collie or Border Collie !!! :) ;)

              re: 'rusted to destruction'

              Why make the Fuser out of materials that rust ???

              IBM must know that people will use paper that is damp or not be told the paper is damp or live in countries that are damp a lot !!!!

              I know that I have had paper delivered that 'felt' damp but unless you have invested in equipment to measure the humidity of your paper it is your word against the supplier !!!

              I know that BIG companies that use very large amounts of paper DO test the paper but they are less likely to get the supply from the 'Damp' corner of the warehouse :)

  3. John H Woods Silver badge

    Don't wear high vis

    Although on the wrong side of 50, I don't have any "grown up" outdoor coats: I find high vis safety wear to be cheap, warm, waterproof, has loads of useful pockets and the added bonus of making it harder for people to run you over if you are on the roads with horses, dogs etc.

    However, I no longer wear it to the office. I'm quite happy to brave the ridicule, but when the fire alarm goes off on a client site or your own office you really don't want to be wearing high vis --- everybody thinks you should know what to do. In the end I had to abandon it and get soaked in the rain in the car park whilst people solicitously enquired about why I hadn't got a coat.

    Also learned not to wear it to collect offspring from concerts: although it helped them find me, everybody else also found me and asked me everything before coming to the conclusion that I am the dumbest steward ever.

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Don't wear high vis

      How many times did you face a fire alarm? Does it often happen around you? Does it, Vulture forbid, even have to do with you?

      An inquiring mind wants to know...

    2. Joe Harrison Silver badge

      Re: Don't wear high vis

      Anyone remember when UK Morrisons used to be Safeway? The employee uniform jacket was a red fleece. I also had a red fleece and got collared sometimes by customers.

      If they were nice I used to explain apologetically that I didn't work there, or sometimes just tell them where the pickles were if I knew. If they were snotty with me though I found it was entertaining to make stuff up, we don't stock that anymore sir after all the werewolf problems etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't wear high vis

        I had similar problems of mistaken identity when I used to fly with EasyJet a lot (working for a customer on a tight budget) and wore an orange fleece. There was one occasion where there were loads of us waiting around the gate for a badly delayed flight, people getting twitchy about wanting to know what was going on as large groups of people waiting at airports are wont to do.

        At one point I got up to go to the loo, and after walking a few dozen yards realised I had a trail of people folllowing me like I knew something about the flight that they didn't.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Don't wear high vis

          Reminds me of an oddly ironic sight I once saw at the Solstice services near Stonehenge - a bunch of army squaddies in their usual full cammo fatigues, plus each with a high-vis vest (they were at the gas station topping up their landies).

          Always struck me as a rather bizarre combination, and creased my missus up when I pointed it out to her.

          1. phuzz Silver badge
            Black Helicopters

            Re: Don't wear high vis

            People think it's health and safety gone mad, but it's actually a sinister cabal of high-vis manufacturers who will stop at nothing to make us all buy high-vis clothing.

            WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!!11!

          2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

            Re: Don't wear high vis

            "a bunch of army squaddies in their usual full cammo fatigues, plus each with a high-vis vest"

            Ah, I take it you've not served then? This is a typical example of where you have two sets of orders, and objectives, that are in conflict and you have to make the best call at each stage.

            This is important because it teaches you important skills and mindset to deal with the realities of combat.

            So in general a soldiers combat uniform (cammies) are designed to make the wearer hard to see through a variety of methods. This is very good when you're being shot at.

            However, much of a modern soldiers life, even a spear carrying REMF eating Rambo type, is spent not in combat. Being deployed to a FOB is the closest to being in constant contact, and even if you spend your whole rotation on one, you're still back on base a bunch of the time.

            The danger on base (or on friendly territory) is generally not from being attacked, but from the moving of dangerous objects and operating heavy vehicles. Thus a uniform that makes you hard to see actually causes more accidents.

            So while it seems silly wearing high vis over cammies, it's only daft if you're doing it a combat zone. Doing it when on friendly territory is sensible.

            If you are in a CZ and a warfighter (spear carrier, soldier ant, PBI etc) you can pretty much guarantee that when you are in a safe area then you'll get bollocked by some REMF Rupert for not wearing a reflector or high vis.

          3. Dog11

            Re: Don't wear high vis

            army squaddies in their usual full cammo fatigues, plus each with a high-vis vest

            Somewhere in my closet I have a (US Army) safety vest. The entire thing is dark olive drab, but if you shine a light on it red reflective bands will shine back. I liked the incongruity. I guess the idea was that the enemy would be silently creeping in the dark, not driving vehicles with headlights on.

      2. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

        Re: Don't wear high vis

        "Anyone remember when UK Morrisons used to be Safeway? The employee uniform jacket was a red fleece. I also had a red fleece and got collared sometimes by customers."

        Don't wear polo-style shirts in red to Target or blue to WalMart for the exact same reasons. What's really funny (and sad) is that even after telling some people I don't work there, but am just wearing a shirt of that color, they still insist I tell them where a certain item can be found. I even had one older gentleman, after telling him I didn't know a few times, tell me I should be fired for my incompetence. I told him I would quit that day, and that seemed to make him happy. I told the manager about that one on the way out of the store - I didn't want him trying to figure out who the rude employee was if the gentleman complained about me.

        1. juice Bronze badge

          Re: Don't wear high vis

          Up to a few years ago, Alton Towers had an annual winter "pirate" weekend at their water park/hotel complex; it basically worked out at 20 quid per person for an day in the water park and an overnight stay.

          Since this coincided with a friend's birthday, a bunch of us headed to this.

          Meanwhile, in the main bar (which has a pirate ship in the middle - we ended up doing a conga line around it), some of the staff/entertainers were also dressed as pirates.

          And while a few of us made the effort to go the full cosplay hog, I just opted for a smiffys hat and a t-shirt with a "pirate shirt" print on it.

          And I *still* got asked for directions etc from other attendees...

      3. Jay 2

        Re: Don't wear high vis

        I've had that too many times! Namely trying on a suit is MossBross, wearing a green Classic Team Lotus fleece in some DIY place, wearing an UMBRO top in some sports store and the worst of all being wearing a yellow Classic Team Lotus polo shirt in Ikea (where I was collared about 3 times).

        1. Colabroad

          Re: Don't wear high vis

          Back when I was working at Comet to make ends meet I was sent to a training day at the flagship store in Hell. My supervisor and I rock up and are asked to wait at the customer service desk.

          A lady comes up to us and asks where something is to which the super replies "Sorry love we don't work here."

          On seeing the look of confusion spread across her face it dawns on him that whilst he is speaking the truth we were wearing glorious golden orange be-logo'd shirts and corporate ties.

          1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

            Don't drive hi-vis either.

            I live in the US and have had a couple of cars that were ex-police vehicles when I was younger. These did not have the strobes on the top, but had the side spotlights and still had the siren mounted under the hood, though I never bothered to hook them up. Now it's fairly common to see the public driving around in these and ignore them, but 20 years ago, not so much. They were fun cars, as they usually had heavy-duty everything, and one of them had the same engine that was in Corvettes at the time, making it a lot more spirited.

            I have been speeding and had police wave at me while going the other way, and when I was pulled over one time, once I explained the provenance of the car I was driving after being asked, the police were very friendly and let me go with a warning. It's also somewhat common in the US for cops to get free coffee and food at some restaurants. I did nothing to encourage this, but a couple of times, going through a fast-food drive through, was puzzled when they just stared at me when normally I would be asked to pay. When inquiring as to "how much?", was told "It's free." "Why??" "Because you're a cop." "Um, no, I'm not!" "Well I've already rung it up, so just take it!"

            1. rskurat

              Re: Don't drive hi-vis either.

              When I was a teenager my Dad had a Crown Vic, no spotlights or anything, but it was hilarious watching the cars in front of me scatter like mice when they saw the distinctive profile in their rear-view.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't wear high vis

      /r/shittylifeprotips

    4. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge

      Re: Don't wear high vis

      Dad, is that you?

      I thought my old man was the only bloke in Britain who wore hi-vis coats all year round instead of getting himself a decent outdoor coat. He swears by them in the wind and rain but he said that people automatically assume you're working on something wherever you happen to be standing, especially when he's messing about in the depths of the local Wickes buying wood for his latest DIY project.

      1. Sherrie Ludwig

        Re: Don't wear high vis

        My dh wears one I call the radioactive canary, because he bicycles between train station and office in a busy area near Chicago. Even then, he got knocked arse over teakettle by an SUV, fortunately only bruising him but crushing the bike. Strobe lights and a brass band have since been suggested.

    5. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Don't wear high vis

      Ah, yes. The curse of a bright jacket. I used to wear a bright yellow plastic jacket (not a high-viz, just yellow) on days when it was raining and I took a load of cans and stuff just down the road to the recycling station. Cue a large number of people completely ignoring the big "I don't work here" message stuck to my jacket and asking where does this go? Where does that go? Can I recycle this?

      The first? A bloke holding an old rusty metal thing and me standing next to a big crate with a sign saying "metal goes here".

      It's as if a bright jacket is an invitation for people to completely switch their brains off.

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    One ex-manager thought it was a good idea to, when requiring IT assistance, phone IT and inform me that something is smoking.

    Which caused me to drop everything I'm currently working on and rush to his location.

    First two times it worked. Thereafter it was taken with a "oh, you again" and a pinch of salt. Pissed me off seriously.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      smoke, try flames

      I was once in the ops room when a call was received from a user at a remote site reporting that her monitor was on fire. we assumed that it was really just smoking and it was was suggested that she unplugged it from the wall. We realised the error of out ways when she actually asked if she had to push her hands through the flames to unplug it. That resulted in a quick change in tactics asking her to hit the fire alarm and us calling 999 on her behalf.

      1. StewartWhite

        Re: smoke, try flames

        Late 80s at Cambridge University I had somebody come round to report that the printer was only printing "little black squares" rather than the correct text and it was a really important document that had to be printed immediately. When I got there I found that the reason for the little black squares was that the printer was on fire at the back with smoke billowing out of it. After hitting the fire alarm and evacuating the building I asked the person in question about the smoke and they said "Oh, I wondered if that's was what was causing the problem".

        1. rskurat

          Re: smoke, try flames

          so the true meaing of the word Boffin is Idiot?

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: smoke, try flames

        Seems that a lot of us have potential Darwin Nominees for users. <sigh> I seriously wonder how they ever made it to adulthood.

        1. Lilolefrostback

          Re: smoke, try flames

          "Seems that a lot of us have potential Darwin Nominees for users. <sigh> I seriously wonder how they ever made it to adulthood."

          Well, here in Canada, about half the population has a below-average IQ. Personally, I blame the government.

          1. rskurat

            Re: smoke, try flames

            I think I've found my new Twitter tag line

      3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: smoke, try flames

        Someone once caused a near panic in my house by screaming my monitor was on fire.

        Once my cardiac arrest was averted - I explained what a screensaver was & a request to choose their words with greater care & accuracy in future.

  5. Oengus Silver badge

    Burglar alarm

    One company I worked with had printers in the various offices connected back to the central computer system. Each night, at the end of the days processing, the reports were printed on the branch printers ready for the staff when they arrived the next morning.

    At one time we upgraded the printers from line printers to brand new laser printers. Shortly after the company reported that they were getting false alarms on their Burglar alarms at one site. The manager would be called out each time the alarm triggered but could find nothing that could be causing the alarm. The alarms didn't occur at the same time and could trigger multiple times in a night. Eventually we worked out that the alarms were triggering at the same time the print jobs were being sent to the printer. We were perplexed because the Laser printer was in the same location as the original printer so it couldn't be the paper movement causing the triggering of the alarms.

    Several weeks of investigation eventually worked out that it was the heat from the paper coming out of the Laser printer that was triggering the IR sensor in the alarm.

    We placed a sheet of cardboard on the Laser printer to shield the IR sensor from the warm paper and the alarms fell silent.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Burglar alarm

      I had to set the burglar alarms off more than once when working* late at a college I used to work at. You only had to stay till about 18:00 to discover everyone gone and caretaker had locked up!

      *Playing Quake2 (AQ2)

  6. Excused Boots
    Headmaster

    Engage pedant mode.....

    "Which meant he’d seen steam, not smoke."

    Water vapour, steam is an invisible gas

    Sorry couldn't resist - tried very hard though

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: He'd seen steam

      Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye

    2. John Arthur
      FAIL

      Re: Engage pedant mode.....

      Sorry, water vapour is the invisible one. Steam is condensed water vapour and can be seen.

      1. Shez

        Re: Engage pedant mode.....

        Water Vapour and Steam are both usually invisible.

        Steam is a gaseous form of water (i.e. no air present). Water vapour describes molecules of water in the air, the water in the vapour can be small droplets of liquid water (multiple molecules joined together) or a gaseous form of water (individual molecules).

        Steam can be released into the air where it will mix with the air and form a water vapour. The visible plumes which are often referred to as steam is the condensation of water vapour within the air to form droplets of a visible size - note this is still a water vapour because it is water in air.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Engage pedant mode.....

          "Steam is a gaseous form of water (i.e. no air present)."

          so when is anyone going to see that?

          1. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
            WTF?

            Re: Engage pedant mode.....

            'Steam is a gaseous form of water (i.e. no air present)."

            so when is anyone going to see that?'

            Looking through a telescope?

          2. Jonathan Richards 1
            FAIL

            Seeing steam...

            Long ago, as but a callow youth, I worked a summer at a dairy/creamery which had a milk pasteurising plant. For a couple of weeks there were complaints of milk spoiling in the bottles (see, I told you it was long ago...) but it was impossible to take the time to break down the entire rig (pasteuriser, holding tanks, bottling machine, and all the pipes and valves that join them together) in order to work out where the nightly cleaning-in-place process was failing. The solution was, after cleaning was done, to use live steam to bring all that shiny stainless steel up to 100C to kill the bugs. The steam source was a heavy-duty hose (designed to deliver hot water, actually, by mixing steam and cold water at the taps on the wall). Muggins took the heavy-duty hose, and pushed the business end into the empty milk holding tank. Returning to the wall, I left the water off, and turned the steam full on. This was a Bad Move - the high-pressure steam couldn't drive the water out of the hose fast enough, subjecting the hose coupling to full pressure and blowing it apart. In the split second it took me to turn and run, I could see REAL steam: a perfectly transparent stream of it in the clouds of "steam" that enveloped the tank room. We had to shut down the steam generating plant, and wait half an hour until there was a cool enough breathable atmosphere in the tank room to get back in with a nice strong jubilee clip. I was lucky not to have been scalded, of course.

            Sorry, no IT angle here, move along...

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: Seeing steam...

              milk spoiling in the bottles (see, I told you it was long ago...)

              I'll have you know that we've been receiving our milk in glass bottles since, well, forever. Three houses in the last seventeen years, three different milkmen, all delivering bottles.

              The current one gets his directly from the farm in Hereford: Bartonsham Farm

              M.

      2. SonofRojBlake
        Coat

        Re: Engage chemical engineer mode.....

        Steam is water in its gaseous state. It's invisible.

        Dry saturated steam is water in its gaseous state at its boiling point at the prevailing pressure. It's invisible.

        Superheated steam is water in its gaseous state ABOVE its boiling point at the prevailing pressure. It's invisible.

        Water vapour is water in its gaseous state, by convention BELOW its boiling point at the prevailing pressure. It's invisible.

        Water is visible only in the solid state (ice) or the liquid state. If you can see it, it's liquid. If it's finely dispersed as an aerosol, that's still droplets of LIQUID water suspended in air.

        My Goretex coat lets water vapour out, but doesn't let liquid water in.

    3. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

      Re: Engage pedant mode.....

      "Water vapour, steam is an invisible gas"

      Yes, but calling someone a "Water vapouring pile of poop" is not nearly as satisfying.

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Engage pedant mode.....

      Picky, picky, picky. It's Friday and beer o'clock.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Engage pedant mode.....

        Revist time again

        Training weekend down south in Orange County & tale of a high pressure steam leakage on a submarine was told to me by one of the attendees (quite a few ex-navy attendees actually).

        When a pin prick leak occurs in a high pressure steam pipe, it's visible as a "cloud" in the general vicinity, when that's spotted all in the immediate area freeze & slowly look about for something within arms reach to use as a guide like a spanner or wrench as the North Americans have it, then move it in the general area of the cloud to find where it intersects with the leak, the results are pretty obvious once it does so.

        A newbie submariner, forgot all his training on his trip out, spotted the leak & immediately went to point it out to his shipmates inadvertently using his arm as the detection device.

        His forearm connected with the high pressure steam jet & a Anakin Skywalker type injury occurred, as the jet sliced through the flesh & bone severing without hope of re-attachment (Both sides of the wound cauterized instantly).

  7. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Well the insurance company probably would pay for this...

    ... after all it's very bad to train people to not report anything unless they are sure it's smoke. Any delay on an actual fire would cost far more than that situation.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We had a printer fire a couple of weeks ago. The ped of drawers it was sitting on was relatively unharmed but the printer was just an unrecognisable puddle of plastic. The asset tag wasnt as durable as the vendor made out either.

    We think it was a Brother 5150

  9. Evil Auditor Silver badge
    Flame

    The false alarm didn't mess me around. Rather, I messed my colleagues around.

    My office was facing south and had no aircon. During a hot summer period, one evening being the last one in the office calling it a day, I left the window wide open. The idea was, of course, that the during the night the office would cool down a bit.

    Arriving next morning I stumbled into a bit of a turmoi - fire brigades just leaving, colleagues standing around chatting. It turned out that early morning, before anyone was in the office, there were some roadworks going on with pouring tarmac right underneath my office window. And the fumes from the tarmac entering my office triggered the fire alarm. Oh well, the company had to pay the equivalent of around 5'000 quid for a false alarm.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Several years ago we had regular false alarms due to small flies triggering the alarms. It was a useful time to catch-up on technical topics with colleagues from whom we were usually isolated in office secure silos.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Working as a consultant in one organisation

        I was in their datacentre when the alarm went off. The operators all started running in circles shouting "were all gonna die" and variants, only for the IT director and fire officer to walk in to assess the test to this scene of theatrical terror...

        I wished them all good luck...

        1. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Working as a consultant in one organisation

          We once had a fire drill in my office and the fire warden we'd chosen for our floor ( ground floor mark you ) had taken the job the day before. Fire drill kicks off , we all stand up and suddenly our new fire warden runs to the fire exit...and keeps running out the fecking building!! We're all stunned that he's not checked the kharzi or the kitchen and just run out the building, we then start pissing ourselves laughing as he comes running back after been shouted at by the chief fire warden for leaving us lot to potentially burn had it been real!

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Do people really RUN when a fire alarm goes off?

            I don't think I've ever seen this, and certainly haven't done it myself. If I saw smoke/flames then I'd be real quick in exiting, but just hearing an alarm I'll look around, and start slowly walking towards the exit if I see others doing so. If most people aren't, then I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and hope someone with the power to silence the alarm comes around.

            I've probably heard fire alarms go off 100 times since I was a kid, and only once was a "real" fire (in college our toaster oven starting smoking thick black smoke when the crumbs in the bottom no one cleaned out caught fire) That many tests/false alarms, and it is difficult to get too worried when you hear it. So of like hearing storm sirens around here - if we took cover every time the sirens go off or our area is under some sort of severe warning (warning not watch, meaning there is real severe weather bearing down on us) you'd never get anything done.

  10. Paul Cooper
    Black Helicopters

    I, for one, welcome our insectile overlords...

    For several years, the fire alarm where I worked went off regularly during the summer months. Nothing to do with fire or smoke - the things were sensitive to thrips (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrips), and as we were located near fields of wheat, they were plentiful! After a few summers of this, the fire alarm system was changed, as every alarm resulted in the building (with 400 employees) being evacuated, and the fire brigade turning up with blues and twos!

    The helicopter icon is the nearest I can get to a Thrip!

    1. lybad

      Re: I, for one, welcome our insectile overlords...

      Never had them setting off alarms, but a colleague and I used to find text on our monitors moving occasionally, as we had a couple of them inside the LCD panel.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I, for one, welcome our insectile overlords...

        I'm sure we've all been troubled by the odd bug inside our computer at one time or another

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          Re: I, for one, welcome our insectile overlords...

          Anthill inside

          #gnuterrypratchett

        2. Spanners Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: I, for one, welcome our insectile overlords...

          I seem to remember reading that the late great Grace Hopper pinned a couple of bugs into her notebook when explaining some problems with her computer.

          That's not a helicopter. It's a big bug...

          1. Korev Silver badge

            Re: I, for one, welcome our insectile overlords...

            There's an urban myth(?) about her punchcards getting insects in them which screwed everything up; hence the term bugs

            1. Jamesit

              Re: I, for one, welcome our insectile overlords...

              I heard it was a moth in one of the mark 1's relays.

            2. Solo Owl
              Black Helicopters

              Re: I, for one, welcome our insectile overlords...

              @Korev, et al.: It was a moth, and Adm Hopper taped into her notebook. See for yourself:

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper#Anecdotes

    2. Stratman
      Coat

      Re: I, for one, welcome our insectile overlords...

      "What's that noise?"

      "The fire alarm's thripped again"

    3. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: I, for one, welcome our insectile overlords...

      That Wikipedia page is riddled with inaccuracies.

      Everybody knows the plural of "Moose" is "Miice"

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: I, for one, welcome our insectile overlords...

      I have a friend where at one place he worked it was ants. Somehow a power supply shorted and went up in smoke and there were dead ants inside the PC. He started telling folks the cause was

      "Fire Ants".

  11. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Once some colleague put a 'tater in a microwave, wandered off and forgot about it.

    Lovely pong of burnt potato all over the office, and the microwave got tossed.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    falsies

    We literally had a full-building evac as I was reading this.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: falsies

      "We literally had a full-building evac as I was reading this."

      Sounds like a two-loo-roll Vindaloo...

  13. Matthew 3

    Laserjets and double-voltage don't mix

    Back in the early '00s I was working on a US Army base in Germany and needed to print something. There was a handy Laserjet 4 nearby but no power cable.

    Being an inventive type I borrowed a power lead from a spare monitor and plugged it in. All seemed well at first, until the smoke started.I realised, as the alarms went off that the little box next to the printer - that I'd ignored - was a 120v to 240v transformer...

    I pulled the power and followed everyone out whistling as nonchalantly as I could manage.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Laserjets and double-voltage don't mix

      In the 1970s a mainframe computer was installed on a Scottish customer's site by the manufacturer's engineers. As it was an imported US model they had jury rigged the accompanying step-down transformer.

      Overnight the customer's electricians installed the transformer into its permanent position. At power up the next morning it was quickly discovered that the electricians had connected it the wrong way round. Some smoke seems a likely result.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Laserjets and double-voltage don't mix

      As we had the steam pedantry earlier, I feel compelled to point out that this would have been a 240V to 120V transformer. (Well, 220V as it was Germany) Else the fire would have been even bigger if you'd plugged it in the way you describe as the 220V was nicely upped to 400V plus. Briefly before the transformer itself burnt out.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Briefly before the transformer itself burnt out.

        Nonsense! Tesla Coilers frequently make use of reverse-connected "pole pig" transformers to get great amounts of Magic Juice to start the process (throw the third switch, Igor) of getting a corona discharge AHAHAHAHAHA just before the contacts on the rotor catch fire (unless they are nitrogen quenched, in which event the rotor just melts) and the neighbors call the police. Sometimes science goes ARGH-ARGH-ARGH-SWITCHITOFF!

        Transformers are usually tough beasties, but if you keep enough air moving over them they shouldn't burst just because you are powering the secondary (which in your case has fewer, thicker turns). For real fun arrange for the new secondary to stand above the new primary with air coupling instead of iron cores and start increasing the frequency of the feed voltage (give the rotor power variac one turn, Igor) until the magic of Resonant Rise takes place AHAHAHAHA. Wear loose-fitting trousers in case the effect is catching, and site the equipment far from any grounded stuff you care about because sometimes science goes CRACK!-ARGH-ARGH-ARGH-IT-HIT-THE-GARAGE-CIRCUIT-BREAKER-BOX! And that is an expensive repair job my precious.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Briefly before the transformer itself burnt out.

          "getting a corona discharge AHAHAHAHAHA just before the contacts on the rotor catch fire"

          Only until the radio inspectors catch up with you. (FCC, or Ofcom or whatever country you happen to be in)

          Those arc discharges are excellent at wiping out most bands for a few miles around (and anything below 30MHz for a few tens of miles), so complaints tend to be plentiful and fines $LARGE.

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Only until the radio inspectors catch up with you.

            Aha(hahahaha)! But all the technoyupps around my secret high-energy physics garage laboratory have ditched landlines for spiffy cellphones, and no-one can get any bars while the magic is happening, so calls to the Bow Street Runners are not a problem.

  14. Serg
    Trollface

    Better safe than sorry?

    A bit like almost two months ago, when someone left a microwave out on the pavement in the City, causing lockdowns, Police cordons, and a bomb disposal robot to blow it up. I imagine someone got quite a b*ll*cking for that... It's OK, I was forced to sit in a cafe (some distance away, just in case) and have breakfast, thanks for the concern.

    https://www.rt.com/uk/422136-gherkin-suspicious-package-microwave/

    1. Colabroad

      Re: Better safe than sorry?

      So it was a microwave in the Gherkin rather than a gherkin in the microwave?

  15. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Fire Safety Training

    We were instructed not to fight fires, but to use the fire extinguisher only if required to clear a path to an exit to facilitate our escape. So of course I had to put up my hand to ask the obvious question...

    "Does that mean that if I am on fire, that I need to stand blocking an exit so that somebody would extinguish me?"

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: Fire Safety Training

      According to a firefighter that came around to Our Office, most extinguishers were only used to draw a line from where it was stored to where the fire started.

      From a investigative viewpoint it's Nice to know where the fire started or was first observed, but for firefighting it was kind of useless.

      (Lots of People grab the extinguisher, pull the safety and squeeze the trigger BEFORE moving towards the fire. )

      He also told us that we might as well replace any powder-based ones with foam. Sure, they're less effective, but they doesn't damage everything the fire doesn't destroy, either.

      As for only using it to secure a way out. Yeah. 'A building can be rebuilt,' is the usual answer. They'll also admit to not particularly enjoying searching for unconscious people or finding dead ones afterwards.

      Get out and do a headcount, and the firefighters will love you.

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Fire Safety Training

        A few years ago in the last(?) Fire Fighter strike I was working in a lab in Cambridge. We were informed that if there was a fire then we really ought to get ourselves out as the soldiers on cover wouldn't enter the building...

        Interestingly, the old LMB next door had specially trained some of their staff to go in with the Fire Brigade as the building was such a maze that they'd never be able to find their way around.

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Fire Safety Training

        Offshore fire-fighting course at Montrose about 30 years back.

        Wearing full BA kit etc we all trampled over one of the victims on the way into the simulated disaster to look for victims & trampled on him again while on the way out.

  16. Sequin

    A colleague caused the evacuation of a 17 storey office block when her toast got jammed. Luckily it was a sunny day and it was nice to stand out in the car park for an hour.

    The toaster was immediately removed and a ban was imposed on these and similar appliances.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Burnt Toast, try Burnt Croissant

    Some fool who clearly had never eaten a warmed croissant in his life decided he would be his flaky pastry delight in the microwave - for 5 mins.

    Cue Fire Alarm, Building Evacuation, no flames sadly, plenty of smoke though.

    Needless to say the poor fellow was educated that 10 seconds is normally fine, 15 at a push.

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Burnt Toast, try Burnt Croissant

      5 minutes? Had he never used a microwave before, either?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We were instructed not to fight fires, but to use the fire extinguisher only if required to clear a path to an exit to facilitate our escape."

    Our fire training was to use a fire extinguisher immediately - as long as there was no discernible risk to ourselves. All our extinguishers were "electrical" pure C02 - no powder or water.

    I applied that to a waste paper bin fire one day - and the result was merely black smuts on our desks from the burnt plastic cups. Didn't even need to trigger the fire alarm - which would have closed down the interactive service mainframe in the next room.

    Leaving the fire unattended would probably have resulted in our compilation and system dump listings also catching fire.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "I applied that to a waste paper bin fire one day "

      Covering the bin would have been as effective and less messy

      Just because you have a hammer (extinguisher) doesn't mean every fire is a nail. A blanket is usually best if they're small.

  19. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    Smoke/steam microwaves, fire alarms and power isolation equipment.

    At one point the crew in the operations command centre wrangled permission to import a mini fridge, microwave and an electric kettle to the actual room. Since the room was built to sustain computers, monitors, a couple of printers and not much more I was somewhat surprised. One weekend evening, just as someone was preparing their mid shift snack of Orville Redenbacher's puffed plastic in the microwave, the local electrical feeds suffered a minor hiccup, and the isolation switch between our A-B feed controller failed. The surge/dead combo resulted in most of weekend of panic work for rather a lot of us, but the poor young lass that was making popcorn was left with the impression that a microwave burning popcorn can take out a data centre electric feed.

    For the record, the mini kitchen was removed shortly thereafter more for the fact that 'offensive odours' were generated than for 'electrical issues'. And I don't know about anyone else, but burnt microwave popcorn is one of the most offensive odours *I* have to suffer. The youngest still manages to periodically overdo the popcorn on the weekends.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smoke/steam microwaves, fire alarms and power isolation equipment.

      Not sure about burned popcorn smell...

      Back in my youth when Microwaves were just becoming a "thing" my dad tried to refresh some stake Quaker Oat Crunchies in the Microwave rather then the conventional oven...

      The lack of experience and a rotary rather than digital timer resulted the the bowl emitting a satisfyingly thick and impenetrable cloud of grey/white smoke that would rival an Army smoke grenade.

      I will always remember the throat tickling fog that filled the entire downstairs of our house for the morning. It was like my old school staffroom where all the smoking led to a nice soft out-of-focus look to everything in the room without obvious smoky wafts...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smoke/steam microwaves, fire alarms and power isolation equipment.

      "but the poor young lass that was making popcorn was left with the impression that a microwave burning popcorn can take out a data centre electric feed."

      Repaired our tv one day. As I plugged it back into the mains socket by the window - there was a rumble and I saw a cloud of smoke clearing the roof tops opposite. A transformer in the 132kv distribution yard in the next street had failed.

      My mother - who had a fear of things electrical - took some convincing that it wasn't my fault.

      1. 404 Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Smoke/steam microwaves, fire alarms and power isolation equipment.

        When I was 13, my dad let me drive his new 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo down the driveway. Didn't move 20 feet when a fan belt broke and for whatever reason, he blamed me. Never got to drive another car/truck owned by my dad... I'm 54 and he's 80 now...

        404 - Breaker of Fan Belts.

  20. Valerion

    Shut down production in a clean room

    Many years ago I worked for a defence contractor in a building that was partly converted into a clean-room, for a different part of the business. They had a production line in there making something fairly hush-hush (radar equipment, I think).

    Anyway we had a couple of Ducati's delivered to work, so that we could fit some electronics onto them that we were developing for the customer. Naturally, we had them outside, by one of the clean-room air outlets, and were revving the bollocks out of them, as you do (especially when you are 25 years old).

    A couple of minutes later a man in a white lab coat covered in clean-room garb came out and asked us very nicely if we would mind doing that elsewhere, as that was actually their air intake and we'd tripped all their alarms with our exhaust gas, shut down production and triggered an evacuation of the room.

    He really was very nice about it all. We decided our boss didn't need to know.

  21. Annihilator
    Pint

    Non IT related

    But when on a massive project celebration, i sensibly booked a hotel room knowing I would be rather inebriated.

    Having successfully returned to the room in the wee hours and collapsed half dressed onto the bed, i was woken a mere hour later by a fire alarm. While the klaxon was traumatic enough in my delicate state, it turned out I was in a disability-friendly room which also had a rather bright flashing red light. So my quiet darkened room quickly turned into a room from hell.

    I was rather bewildered.

  22. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
    FAIL

    Water boiler that doesn't switch off...

    Me: Let's get rid of this.

    Them: Nothing bad will happen, we are not stupid[TM].

    The fire (nope, that secondary overheating fuse doesn't stop that) was about one meter high when it was extinguished by a very very panicking person (that caused the fire). The charred spot left was quite impressive.

    Since then I destroy such water boilers on the spot when I learn they don't switch off (so far: twice after the described incident).

  23. dermots

    I was one of just 3 pupils in the first ever Computer Science A Level course at my school and our teacher wangled a very memorable visit for us to IBM in Chiswick. There we had the opportunity to see this imposing beast of a laser printer in action - with the continuous paper feed as single sheet handling just wasn't up to the job at the time. Our guide said they had issues selling it to many customers because most of the existing install base of computers didn't have data processing that could keep up with the printer, leaving it mostly idle. At the time only the major banks were happy to shell out for new printing *and* computers.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing special

    This isn't all that unusual. Plenty of laser printers (usually the cheap+compact ones) produce steam from even dry paper

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cooking the books

    One place I worked, a technician needed to check the accuracy of a lab oven's temperature control. So, he powered it up, set the temperature (couple hundred °C), and came back a couple hours later after it had gotten to operating temperature. He opened up the nice, tight-fitting door in order to put in his standard temperature probe - only to see the equipment logbook sitting in the middle of the oven start to smoke. He slammed the door shut and powered it off. Apparently the door closed tightly enough to prevent the oxygen flow needed for proper ignition. The book was slightly singed on the outside, and pages were crisp, but perfectly readable. Thereafter he was known for "cooking the books"!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cooking the books

      My clay sculpture had a slight crack across the waist after the first (biscuit) firing. So our tutor stood it upright in the kiln to allow gravity to close the gap when the clay reached its fusing temperature at over 1000C in the final firing.

      To stop it falling over he put a house brick against it. When he opened the kiln the next day the brick had melted - glueing my figure to the floor. Several people's bowls now contained a solid vitreous filling.

      Somewhere there was a gap in his knowledge that there are construction "fire-proof" bricks for a good reason.

  26. Is It Me

    Teachers

    I have seen this quite a few times in my last job supporting schools, where after a cold Easter or after Christmas when the school opens up the paper in the printers have absorbed a lot of water.

    But the panic of the teachers was always fun to see (even if they had the same happen a few months before).

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Terminaly stupid

    My story comes from the terminally stupid, bosses son. He would do things like toss popcorn in the microwave and not take the wrapper off. Once he took a bowl of loose unpopped popcorn popped it a bowl, add crap load of butter and stuck it in the microwave. He created a nasty greasy fire by sticking frozen bread chicken patty in the toaster. No one was shocked. now what did shocked us is that he took piece of toast and slathered jelly on it and toasted it, this was after he coating a toast with butter and popping it in the toast.

  28. ColinGrey2

    Microwaves

    One Christmas my mother in-law microwaved the custard for 20 minutes instead of 2 minutes. The smell of melting plastic wafting from the kitchen gave it away. We took the microwave outside, but the smell persisted, so we had pudding with the windows wide open, wearing thick coats and woolley hats.

    The silver lining was she got new microwave which was very simple to operate, instead of a complex one that did everything.

  29. Giles C

    More toaster trouble

    This one belonged by my grandparents way before I was born.

    They had a toaster which didn’t catch fire, instead it took out the electrics for the entire road they lived on, after it happening a couple of times the electricity board forcibly removed it and destroyed it.

  30. M7S

    Twenty thousand lines a minute? Really?

    I'm in awe if it is as that's over three lines hundred a second which (if on A4, and I appreciate it is not) is nearly ten sheets at any reasonable font.

    Per second.

    I'd be considering this as defensive weaponry for the BOFH and PFY to install facing the door to accounts, as at the speed the little rollers would be required to spin, you could probably get thicker, non continuous paper to go some distance, inflicting some very nasty paper cuts.....

  31. c c c p

    Flaming bacon sandwiches

    A few years back I worked in a largish lab/ office environment with about 12 other engineers. We all enjoyed our food and had taken to ordering delicious bacon / sausage etc sandwiches to be delivered on Friday mornings. One Friday, the usual vendor wasn't delivering and so an alternative was used. Unbeknown to us this vendor wrapped their sandwiches in foil placed inside the brown paper bag. Several of my colleagues liked their sandwiches hot rather than warm and the office microwave was used to achieve this.

    One of said colleagues place his brown bag into the microwave without inspecting the contents, set the microwave off and walked away. A few tens of seconds later smoke billowed forth from the microwave and yellow/orange flickering glow could be seen inside. Cue panicked calls of "turn it off", "get it outside" followed by several of our number standing on desks and benches to hold wastepaper bins over the smoke detectors in the office lest we trigger a false alarm evacuating all 300 workers from the building. HR would have taken a dim view and probably banned microwaves, kettles and the delivery of bacon sandwiches...

    Needless to say we all learned to inspect our sandwiches more closely after that!

  32. John Tserkezis

    Photocopiers and isopropyl alcohol don't mix well.

    Some years back a photocopier tech, we'll call him John (*) had a technique to diagnose squeeks by dribbling isopropyl into the bearing and see if it stopped. The idea being he would know which bearing was squeeky so it can be dismantled, cleaned and re-lubed without doing the entire machine.

    Let's just say, that wasn't what actually happened.

    He had used so much alcohol, that it dribbled down the machine, along a floor pan and then dribbled onto the main power supply. After the fireies had put the fire out, all that was left salvagable was the copier glass.

    I never did find out if he managed to keep his job.

    (*) Never mind the fact that my name is Johh, and a fellow employee who told me about it was also named Johh, but neither of us were that John. No, really.

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: Photocopiers and isopropyl alcohol don't mix well.

      ... And here I always worry when I'm wiping figerprints off the 3d printer's bed while it's getting up to temp with isopropyl. (haven't had a fire yet, but the thing only gets up to 40-50 degrees, and I apply the alcohol to a towel, then wipe the bed with it.)

  33. Old Used Programmer

    That brings back memories...

    ...though not of fires or even false alarms.

    A company I worked for installed the first IBM 3800 printer in San Francisco. Our machine room was on the 14th floor of 1 Embarcadero Center.

    Paper moved through the 3800 at 31.8 inches per second, so the "lines per minute" or "pages per minute" depended on font size (which could be set over a fairly larger range) and the size of the pages. We used 12" wide by 8.5" high, which trimmed to the US standard 8.5" x 11" when routed though the (optional) "trimmer, burster, stacker" section of the 3800. We had an effective print rate of about 225 pages per minute. Which is why I am less than impressed with any modern laser printer than claims to be "fast".

    Another feature was the ability to have a photnegative form that went in a holder and slid in next to the imaging drum. The printer could be told to flash the forms image for each page, giving you a per-designed overlay.

  34. hititzombisi

    Breaking doors, earning friends

    When I used to WFH a couple of years ago, in the middle of a frustrating bit of work I noticed a beep beep sound. Went around the place, nothing.

    Then I realized it was my young neighbours' fire alarm. I duly knocked on their door, had no answer, looked through the letterbox, saw smoke, and then rushed back in to my place to call 999.

    Fire brigade arrived incredibly quickly, after I explained the situation, they promptly broke the door into bits, walked in to the kitchen and saw neighbours' dinner burning into a crisp.

    As they were explaining the situation, Lad & Ladette drive in, look at the ongoing circus and ask "WTF is going on?" They had popped out for a quick shopping while the food was cooking, returning to their door being a bunch of splinters.

    I was very embarrassed but still I think I've done the right thing.

  35. Nifty

    It was in the 80s where I worked that someone, as a prank, placed on a colleages desk a shoebox with a large ticking alarm clock in it and lots of bright red curly wires sticking out.

    The building was evacuated of a couple of hundred people and management was not impressed.

    1. tfc

      When I was an apprentice fitter in the 60s I worked for the REME we had a job road testing a minivan that had 'Bomb Disposal' written on the outside.

      So we went shopping in Nottingham, we had trouble finding a parking place, but when we got back there was plenty of parking to be had around the minivan, it was during an IRA bombing campaign.

    2. Trixr Bronze badge

      I worked with a moderately psycho telephone engineer who thought it was a great laugh to include a similar mass of wires, relays and the like in my luggage when I was stupid enough to leave it unattended in our office before flying overseas that evening.

      I got all the way from the UK to NZ without it raising any flags (that I know of), and you will just to have to imagine the air turning blue, with thunderbolts, when I finally opened my luggage and discovered his "present".

      This was in 2002, when everyone was still feeling very delicate about 9/11, security at Heathrow was obtrusive and paranoid, and they took those questions about "did you pack your own luggage" etc very seriously.

      He's fortunate I didn't take out an HR complaint on him, but I got a job while I was in NZ and only returned for as long as it took me to wind up my old job.

      This was not long after he'd had a spitting screaming rant at us sysadmins for having the termerity to have two pints one lunchtime around the holidays. So it wasn't just "harmless fun" - he was a nut bag, but not stupid, and had to have realised his "present" could have caused me a fair amount of trouble during my travels.

  36. A____B

    Response times

    At a previous employer, some years ago now, the building we were in generated false alarms (and a few genuine ones - the wiring was pretty old).

    The thing I remember most was the sight of us standing in the car park and watching an ice-cream van come tearing round the corner. It regularly beat the fire brigade by minutes - even though the fire station was only a mile or so away.

    Full credit to the guy's entrepreneurial spirit ("there's a bunch of people standing around without much to do, it's a warm day, Bingo!").

    Sad to say there wasn't a burger or kebab van appearing in winter :(

    Nowadays with encrypted radio I don't suppose the opportunities are there.

  37. Simon Wright

    Finally! I have a story...

    About 25 years back, (ex-pat) living in Staten Island, client in Orange, NJ. They made wooden shims (quite ingeniously at that time) and I had developed a custom small business application for them (Mac fans, I used 4D). Had regular "enhancements" for them and one on occasion in January was there in their tiny, dust filled office installing said update. Office doubled as snack room, conference room, server room, business office, the works. I looked up after initiating the file copies and saw, much to my puzzlement and alarm, several 1 inch holes drilled into the glass door of the microwave oven.

    Checking that the oven was not actually running, I asked the owners (two brothers) about the holes. The inventor-creative brother (the other was the "business" guy) admitted about seeing if it would help warm up the office a bit. Well, it WAS January in NJ. During subsequent visits, I'd always observe from a great distance before entering the "warmed" area to see if the microwave oven was in use. True story.

  38. swm Bronze badge

    When I was working for Xerox I noticed smoke apparently coming from a chemical store room. I was thinking of pulling the fire alarm until a coworker wanted to do it. So I let him.

    This set off the fire alarm and evacuated the building. The response team couldn't find the source of the smoke that was rapidly dispersing. They looked in the chemical store room (they had all the keys) but found nothing. Finally someone took apart the exit sign that was just outside the door and discovered that the ballast had caught fire.

    No one got in trouble for this as it seemed a legitimate emergency.

  39. dakra

    IBM 3800 maxed out at 12,423 lines per minute, not 20,000

    The 3800 printed at 20 inches per second. It could print pages sideways, where the paper was landscape mode, and so was the type, so it looked like portrait mode, after the continuous paper was burst into separate sheets, and trimmed of its sprocket holes into 8.5 by 11 inch sheets. That 12,423 line per minute number comes from

    (11 inches of print lines per page )

    * (8 lines per inch)

    * (60 seconds per minute)

    * (20 inches per second)

    / (8.5 inches per page)

    = 12423.5 lines per minute.

    A major reduction on throughput was how long it took the operator to change a box of paper. It could print a box in about 15 minutes, but took another 5 to replace it. The solution was to use a non-IBM paper handler. It held a very large roll of paper outside the printer, with rollers to pass the paper into the printer and twist it around to feed correctly.

    1. Alterhase

      Re: IBM 3800 maxed out at 12,423 lines per minute, not 20,000

      As someone old enough to have actually worked on the development team for the IBM 3800 printer, I can confirm that the original model was rated at 12,000 lines per minute.

      One my memories was that we used laundry bins to catch the output from early versions, before the burster-trimmer-stacker (BTS) was developed. The continuous paper would fly in an arc for several feet before landing in the basket.

  40. Niall Mac Caughey
    Paris Hilton

    Smouldering

    My favourite smoke-but-not-too-many-flames story comes from the time, many years ago, when I was working in a third-level college.

    One day a couple of students approached me, rather embarrassed. It seemed that she and he were sharing a flat and decided on a quiet night in. To make the atmosphere a little more romantic they stuck a candle on top of the portable telly. This worked so well that they were obliged to retire to adjoining bedroom to take matters further. In the morning they awoke to a surprisingly intact flat, but with a TV that looked very strange indeed. The question was, could I fix it?

    My first reaction was to laugh them out of my lab as the misshapen pile of plastic looked irreparable, but they were so upset and shame-faced that I thawed. It was not an easy job, but after about 2 hours or replacing components and re-wiring missing traces I got video; unfortunately try as I might, I couldn't get the audio working. This was very frustrating, but I finally admitted failure and returned the set , promising to search my box of junk for a decrepit radio that could receive UHF TV audio.

    To my astonishment they returned the next day bearing a box of chocolates and effusive thanks for the effective repair as the set was working perfectly! I still don't know how it happened, but it made a pleasant change from other occasions when the opposite was the case.

    Paris because, well, that sort of distraction can be fatal!

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