back to article Remember the 1980s? Oversized shoulder pads, Metal Mickey and... sticky keyboards?

Welcome back to On Call, The Register's weekly womble into the sometimes sticky situations readers find themselves in when responding to a user's plea for help. This week's missive from the front line comes from "Walt" and dates back to when Back to the Future was gracing cinemas and the world was a simpler and considerably …

  1. Binraider666

    I lost my zx spectrum+ to a glass of lemonade. Went backwards to a sharp mz80, then tried a spectrum+2 not long after. The build quality on the +2 was beyond terrible. After taking two of them back dead out of the box, we stuck to the sharp a while longer.

    Eventually got a c64 and been a commodore nerd ever since!

    1. Splurg The Barbarian

      Lemonade would have been bliss compared to my childhood next door neighbour. They hadn't long got two cats when one of them pee'd all over his Spectrum +128.

      He didn't notice until he went to use it noticed the smell and they keys being "sticky"!

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge
        Joke

        Some cats know how to vent an opinion when you ignore them.

        1. TheFurryCircle

          I had a cat that I made the mistake of ignoring while on a phone call. She repaid me me taking a shit in the exact center of the bed. Absolute flawless positioning - had to admire it in a weird sort of way...

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            That is feline for "IGNORE THIS!!"

            My room mate's cat did the same thing when he felt he was being ignored.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I had a cat

          That decided to sleep on my record turntable, while I was playing an LP. The belt jumped off the belt drive, and was ok, but the stylus and the album did not fare so well. Naturally, the album was a favourite and long out of print. I embraced the new technology of CD players enthusiastically. The cat has demised (natural causes honest)

      2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        "Do not meddle in the affairs of cats; for they are subtle and will piss on your computer."

      3. jcitron

        Seen that before. Cats...

        I've had a cat destroy a musical instrument. Pissed inside on the soundboard because she could. She was plain dirty and found a new home sadly after the damage was done to this and to someone else's bed because she could.

        In general cats are more destructive than dogs I think because of this and chewing. Dogs chew too, but it's big obvious thing unlike a cat which can chomp a wire or two and drive us nuts as we go looking for the damage. I had a cat eat an expensive RS-422 cable clear through the grey vinyl outer wrapping to a point the wires inside were showing.

        Cats also sleep on warm things and can and will zap electronics. I recently lost a keyboard that way, and just before I warned a friend of mine, she lost her laptop due to the same reason.

        1. Luiz Abdala Bronze badge
          Flame

          Warm and toasty cats.

          My cat sleeps on top of my UPS, all warm and toasty (It´s a 1300VA 30lbs. behemoth, twice as large as her). If the grounding on that thing ever fails, she will be the first to know.

          Better than sleeping on missus notebook.

    2. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
      Windows

      I remember my Sharp MZ-700 with fondness. It was built like a tank and would have lasted forever.

      Alas, it too succumbed to the perils of the sticky brown liquids.

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Working on a showroom which was due to open the next day I was setting up the one PC that the store had. It was 7pm, I was the last person there this was the last job and fancied a hot drink. So I headed off to the kitchen in the staff area and made myself a hot chocolate (no caffeine that late). Sitting at the computer I put the top heavy mug onto a catalogue as a coaster and began to double check everything was working. The manager appeared at the door and I got up to let her in. When I sat down again I knocked the drink into the keyboard annoying to say the least. I drained, flushed it then taking it apart to dry on sone kitchen roll. However I didn't have a spare and it was needed for tomorrow morning. The manager was leaving and asked why the keyboard was in pieces. I explained and then I traipsed off to the local Curry's/ PC world on foot. in a really howling gale to buy a replacement. When I got back I installed the new one, collected the water damaged one and buggered off home. It was now almost 9pm.

    4. macjules Silver badge

      My favourite was a nameless member of the occasionally lamented Tony Blair's cabinet who had just bought a brand new PowerBook 3400c, at the time around £4000, took it out of the box, opened it, started it and then promptly spilled a glass of red wine over the keyboard. Not content with that he thought that white wine would counter the red, so he deliberately poured a glass of white over it as well.

      I told him to simply go back to where he bought it and fall upon their mercy.

  2. Admiral Grace Hopper

    It was something we used to do in the 80s

    Keyboards, corrosive fluids, we knew how to live back then. It's a tale told before, many times.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

      I worked at a chemical company. The funniest thing I saw was a computer making random errors. I went to investigate, it was in a shack outside the sulphuric acid store. The fumes at melted away a lot of the contacts on the motherboard!

      I told the user we'd have to replace it. He was happy. Until he asked me about copying the data over. I told him the hard drive was corroded as well and it was a good job company policy stated that all data had to be stored on the server... That was when he informed me that the Ethernet port had stopped working 6 months earlier (corrosion from the acid fumes) and he'd stored everything on the local drive. The housing was wafer thin and pitted! I'm amazed I managed to get anything off the drive.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

        I wonder what state the lungs of the user were in!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

          Absolutely terrible. He was a smoker.

          1. Stevie Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

            Norty man! Have an e-beer.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

        I worked at a nickel processing plant in the early 2000s and we had a similar problem . The front end of the plant used Hydrogen Sulphide and Sulphuric Acid. The computers in the control room for that area lasted one year at best before replacement was required. Even the copper tubing in the air conditioning units was destroyed after about 18 months.

        1. Terje

          Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

          Ahh Hydrogen suflide and the lovely smell of relative safety, if you can smell it and your eyes are not running you are probably mostly fine. If you can no longer smell it it's bad.

          1. Symon Silver badge
            Alert

            Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

            H₂S is also why you can't dump plasterboard in the general waste at the tip. Certain bacteria can convert the gypsum into hydrogen sulfide*. It's also why there are rules about sulfur content of recycled aggregates, like 803. It's very poisonous, up there with HCN.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gypsum_recycling#Why_should_gypsum_waste_be_recycled?

            *https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulfur#Spelling_and_etymology

            1. irrelevant

              Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

              I remember taking the lid off a misbehaving Dell 486 PC at a furniture manufacturer. Office was only one door away from the workshop. When I cut to look inside, there was no sign of the motherboard, just this gently undulating mat of sawdust..

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

                "When I cut to look inside, there was no sign of the motherboard, just this gently undulating mat of sawdust.."

                Likewise the heavy duty wide carriage dot matrix printer on the factory floor of a paper mill. There was a nice big channel "cut" through where the head moved, the rest was an almost solid lump of paper dust.

            2. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: Certain bacteria

              Bah and double bah!

              H2S is flammable and can be safely burned off to form sulphur dioxide and steam, which combine and rain out as suphurous acid once they hit the outside air. The heat produced can be used to do work or stave off the Dickensian winters in nearby households if you want, or can also be safely vented to the atmosphere if you can't be arsed to install heat exchangers.

              Honestly, I wonder what they are teaching kids today.

              Pfft!

              1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                And

                The acid rain keeps weeds down, too. And lawns, and ancient woodland, but you can't have everything.

                1. Symon Silver badge
                  Paris Hilton

                  Re: And

                  Before scrubbers on coal power stations, my farmer mate never needed to add sulphur fertiliser to his fields. Now he has to spread it. They get the fertiliser from scrubbers on coal power power stations, or at least they used to...

                  1. Binraider666

                    Re: And

                    Most industrial sulphur now comes as a by-product of refining natural gas before letting into the onshore network. Expensive process to scrub it out too.

                    Well worth it of course, the slightest hint of water plus sulphur inside a copper gas distribution pipe and you have corroding pipework from the inside. Interesting that the North West suffers from more corrosion of that type than other areas - partly because the Morecambe gas fields are particularly sulphurous.

                2. bombastic bob Silver badge
                  Boffin

                  Re: And

                  Acid Rain: it also puts sulfur into the soil, which helps to green it. what you don't want is EXCESSIVE acid rain, which would alter the pH of the soil [eventually] and kill vegetation. Small amounts of acid rain, however, are beneficial for putting sulfates and nitrates into it. Plants need those.

                  yeah what ARE they teaching kids these days? Doom/Gloom and FUD.

          2. Muscleguy Silver badge

            Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

            During my PhD in developmental biology we all decamped to the local agri research unit one fine summer day to process and fix sheep embryos and limbs whereof from the older ones.

            When back the lab the guy whose project it was had to dissect the results without use of a fume hood and lost his sense of smell for some months until the nerves grew back from inhaing the formaldehyde etc fumes.

            During my honours year they were revamping the EM lab and so we had to plastic embed our samples in a cupboard in essence, the chemicals leaving our lips numb.

            The amount of fixatives I've been exposed to I expect I would mummify quite nicely if I wasn't slated for the fire. I just hope the crematorium has a good scrubber.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

              One of my first jobs was preparing dissections - mostly rats for schools (they went into perspex boxes filled with formalin; the filling holes sealed with the littl plastic plugs from the ends of ballpoint pens). The formaldehyde tanned my hands. I'm sure that resulted in the dermatitis I suffered down the years.

            2. JimboSmith Silver badge

              Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

              I used to help out in the photo lab at university one day a week processing and developing black and white film. It was basically for brownie points with the photography lecturer I wasn't going to get any other credit for this. My hands however smelt of the developing and fixing chemicals for days afterwards unless I soaked them in aftershave every 6 hours. There was another student who would often be there on the same day for a while developing his own film.

              I didn't understand why but the chemicals seemed even worse smelling when he turned up. It was about five weeks after he'd started doing that I met him outside of the pitch blackness of the dark room. It was him that smelt so bad not the chemicals which was a horrific thought and odour. He claimed when asked that he only washed one day a week because of his religion. I'm not saying I don't believe him but it was very odd that he wouldn't name the religion. It wouldn't have had anything to do with the fact he was always drinking in the student Union and couldn't afford the hot water I'm sure.

              1. Bilious

                Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

                Could be enzyme induction by alcohol. You might wish to make a lookup on Cyp2E1.

              2. shedied

                Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

                Did he also fail to mention that said religion had a current population of 1 follower (the rest decided to lead ---er, leave, that is

            3. vir

              Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

              >>The amount of fixatives I've been exposed to I expect I would mummify quite nicely if I wasn't slated for the fire. I just hope the crematorium has a good scrubber.

              I remember one time one of the researchers with whom I shared a refrigerator warned me about a tube of osmium tetroxide she was putting in there; something along the lines of "if you open this outside of a fume hood you will die".

              1. Any other name

                Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

                I remember one time one of the researchers with whom I shared a refrigerator warned me about a tube of osmium tetroxide ...

                I do sincerely hope that was a chemical refrigerator, fitted with an exhaust (this is a requirement for OsO4 storage, straight from its MSDS). Osmium tetroxide has a remarkable capacity for penetrating through lightest openings; it would also corrode through many protective barriers at an eye-watering speed, chemically speaking. The MSDS gives 0.1mm/hour for neoprene, which is usually quite chemically robust.

        2. PM from Hell

          HSE fone mad !!

          I worked on a chemical plant which processed fluorine based compounds, the feedstock was chlorine broken from sea water and Phosphoric acid was one of the end products.

          We never had any problems with kit caused by chemicals. I thought he basic idea of working with this stuff was never to let it vent to air !!

          1. Trollslayer Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: HSE fone mad !!

            It may have affected your spelling.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: It was something we used to do in the 60s & 70s

        "The fumes at melted away a lot of the contacts on the motherboard!"

        We had a pretreatment for carbon-dating samples that involved a final wash with dilute HCl (I can't think why!) followed by drying in a large drying cabinet. The cabinet got progressively less effective. We eventually found the fan blades had been eaten away. The cabinet was just sitting in the open lab, no fume cupboard.

        We had another, small drying cabinet in a different lab. This was used to dry off benzene which was the final wash for pollen samples for microscopy so the amounts were small. One day SWMBO decides to make some meringues using ANalar sucrose (because it was available) and used the little cabinet as an oven.

        The things you could get away with before elfin safety.

        1. VonDutch

          Re: It was something we used to do in the 60s & 70s

          In a previous job when I was called in on a weekend I found a fray bentos pie being cooked in the glassware oven in the lab. (less than 5 years ago)

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: It was something we used to do in the 60s & 70s

            At Berkeley, I had a 8" cast iron skillet[0] that I used to do bacon, egg & sausage over a bunsen burner in the chem lab turned computer lab. I even rigged up a wire frame to do toast. Coffee in the percolator, also over a bunsen. Was my way of protesting 6AM labs ... One of the profs put a stop to the still after a small handful of test runs, alas ... I tried to convince him that I was just making cleaning fluid for the monitors, but he didn't buy it.

            [0] Lodge, of course. Yes, I still have it. Why do you ask?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: fray bentos pie

            Mmmm pie. Wait, Fray Bentos pie? Yach!

            1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
              FAIL

              Re: fray bentos pie

              My brother was a fireman on the East Coast Mail Line when they were running Britannias (70,000s). He used to heat his Fray Bentos on the shovel in the firebox while waiting for the shunters to make up the train, but one night, he was busy during that time and din't have time for the pie. He therefor had to put it on the shovel whilst on the move, and the firedraught took it off the shovel and into the fire. No pie that night. :-(

          3. Johndoe888

            Re: It was something we used to do in the 60s & 70s

            In a previous job when I was called in on a weekend I found a fray bentos pie being cooked in the glassware oven in the lab. (less than 5 years ago)

            Obviously an Explosion Containment Pie Dish was required by the lab.

        2. NATTtrash

          Re: It was something we used to do in the 60s & 70s

          Aaahhh, benzene. Yes! We used to clean our lab tables with it "because it smelled so nice and fresh"!

        3. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

          Re: It was something we used to do in the 60s & 70s

          I remember needing some nitromethane for an experiment I was doing in my post-grad year, but the lab chemical store only had a winchester of spectroscopic grade nitromethane. I questioned using this stuff since I only needed about half a litre of cooking grade nitromethane, but was told to take it because that was the only nitro they had.

          I ran the experiment and then found that the opened Winchester couldn't be returned.

          What a shame. Pity to waste the nitro, though, so it went back to my flat where I and my model flying chums used it as the essential ingredient in 'hot' glo-fuel (20% oil, 30% nitro, 50% methanol). Our engines ran very nicely indeed for the next few months.

        4. 2+2=5 Silver badge

          Re: It was something we used to do in the 60s & 70s

          > We had a pretreatment for carbon-dating samples that involved a final wash with dilute HCl (I can't think why!)

          The HCL wash removes inorganic carbon but leaves the organic carbon - which is usually what is being dated.

          A friend used the approach for his pollen sample dating but now I found this link I might have to wind him up that his results might be wrong. :-)

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: It was something we used to do in the 60s & 70s

            My approach to dating pollen samples was to brew up a large sample with NaOH to dissolve the humic acid matrix and sieve it, just like the first stages of a normal preparation for microscopy. The resulting brown liquid was then run through a continuous flow centrifuge at 10,000 RPM to get the fine particulate content back. That was checked with a microscope to ensure it was mostly pollen. It didn't need any other treatment except to char it (uncharred samples would gum up the dating system with tar). What I suspect was happening was that someone else was doing much the opposite - precipitating the humic acid with HCl and dating that. He was supposed to be doing a PhD on pretreatment methods; it did tell us something about the relative ages of various components but not in time for what I needed.

        5. jake Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: It was something we used to do in the 60s & 70s

          After a little trial and error, we figured out how to set a 40 foot multi-zone belt furnace (nominally used to cook hybrid circuitry) to make chocolate chip cookies. Including the mandatory cooling time ... when they came out the far end they were just warm to the touch, and ready for eating :-)

          Elfin safety can kiss my pasty white butt; I don't need protecting from myself. Hey, hold my beer & watch this! ::sweeps cookie crumbs off floor with liquid nitrogen::

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It was something we used to do in the 60s & 70s

            Reflow oven manufacturers used to do the cookie gag at trade shows. I never personally saw it in action, but apparently the smell of chocolate chip cookies wafting around the exhibit hall was effective engineer bait.

          2. tuppence

            Re: It was something we used to do in the 60s & 70s

            hybrid circuits - thick film circuits?

    2. Trollslayer Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

      Upvote for the user name!

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

        Amazing. You must be new here.

  3. big_D Silver badge

    I had a user drop a Klix Hot Chocolate into her Mac keyboard. Luckily she had the presence of mind to yank the cable. The engineer turned up and gave it a thorough cleaning and it worked again. Hardy, those original Mac keyboards on the Mac Plus.

    20 years ago? Baby steps. I'm coming up to 39 years in computing. 20 years ago, I was doing OLAP cubes for financial reporting and VB development for a car leasing website, developing the database (SQL Server) and middleware between the database, the IBM mainframe (with MQ Series taking care of the requests) and the ASP pages on the website. It was sold to the client as a 6 week project, I joined the project after 18 months, helping with the writing of the specs and doing coding!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You could run those keyboards through a dishwasher and they'd still work.

      1. Killfalcon Silver badge

        Most keyboards are fine with water, even hot soapy water. Sugar is death, mind: you can spill black tea on 'em and they'll dry out fine (from experience), but if you take it sweet, you need to rinse it out ASAP.

        That said, I once cleaned an ancient PC keyboard but taking all the keys off and leaving them to soak while I got the dust out of the worky bits: it went fine, until the warm water managed to warp the space bar.

        1. paulf Silver badge
          Go

          At paulf&co, I got a SUN USB keyboard with my Unix development machine about 11 years ago. I kept using it when we got shunted to Windows boxen and it survived until earlier this year when I managed to dribble some redbush tea on it (no milk or sugar). It wasn't clear if it was coincidence or caused by the tea but several keys promptly stopped working. More immediately there was much hilarious (!) shenanigans trying to unlock my Windows 7 machine as my password required one or more of the failed keys, and plugging in a new keyboard failed because the locked machine failed to accept anything being plugged in while locked (fair enough). Had to use the screen point and click keyboard to unlock in the end when no one was looking.

          Anyway, I took it home and dismantled to find one of the connection tracks on the flexible plastic sheets had apparently been corroded by the tea, causing the failure. In the end I bought a track repair pen to fix the corroded track, cleaned it up and it's as good as new!

          1. Killfalcon Silver badge

            On-screen keyboards can be very handy if your keyboard goes wonky, particularly if you've got the sort that lights up which modifier keys are pressed. Knowing that your left-side control key is flickering is really handy for explaining intermittent issues with, say, copy-paste.

            1. big_D Silver badge

              I have to look after some VMs at our subsidiary in America. The VMWare player and Windows don't like the mix of German keyboard on the client and American settings on the host, no matter whether you type the password using German layout of US layout, it won't accept the password, the only way is to use the onscreen keyboard.

              1. NATTtrash

                Oh yes, I know exactly what you mean. Not in the same setting like you describe, but I can usnderstand the PITA.

                Ever worked on an international department with limited terminals (yes, this was back then when computers were issued per group or room in stead of per person) and the person before you was that Japanese gentleman who changed the keyboard settings continuously?

    2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

      Not just a keyboard, but a whole macbook ...

      Colleague was carrying his macbook in a small backpack, when he fell into the harbour in Amsterdam. Whole thing pickled in brine. Once he'd got himself out, he meticulously cleaned and dried the macbook, whereupon it worked!

      1. jake Silver badge
        Pint

        Whole thing pickled in brine?

        Even the friend? Or was he pickled in something else when he fell in?

        There's almost always a back story ... Inquiring minds and all that!

    3. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change
      Coffee/keyboard

      Luxury!

      "DGTs – dumb green terminals"

      Luxury!

      We just 'ad a terminal you'd sit at, type into, and the 'puter's response would get spooled out in faint print on continuous-feed perforated paper. Eventually. Often with more line noise than signal!

      And we 'ad to wear a tie, but were careful with it!

      [edit] Whoops, posted in wrong place. This was meant to be a new thread. Time for a cuppa to clear the head.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Luxury!

        Perforated paper!

        We had bog rolls of yellow newsprint and were glad of it!

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Luxury!

          You 'ad paper?

          We used to 'ave poorly-cured vellum med from the 'ide of any animal too slow to escape chief operator's stonebow an flensin' knife.

          Stink were sumthin' chronic I can tell yer, and false floor voids were awash wi' the blud.

        2. G.Y.

          Re: Luxury!

          When faxes were new, we asked a supplier "do we need specially beautified paper for it?". He said "you can use bog paper!". We went to the toilet to check this out.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Luxury!

        We toggled switches and read Blinkenlights ... and we liked it!

        1. OssianScotland Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Luxury!

          Lights? LIGHTS? You were posh! All we had were the sounds the valves made...

          1. Stuart Castle

            Re: Luxury!

            Valves? How posh. All we had were the bare elements of the socket. We’d ‘ave to touch one with each hand and if we got a shock, that would be a one and if we didnt, that wound be a zero.

            1. wjake

              Re: Luxury!

              You had electricity? In my day we had to set the wheels and crank the `ol Babbage by hand...

              1. spold Bronze badge

                Re: Luxury!

                ...vicar

              2. Snapper

                Re: Luxury!

                You youngsters today an' yer online porn, WE 'ad it hard!

                NOTE: I haven't heard it called 'crank the 'ol Babbage' since 1892!

  4. OzBob

    My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

    I write a lot of bash scripts to automate my job and one of the common commands is to validate 4 digit years in files. I generally do a "grep '^20' [file]" , partly because I am too lazy to put the [01] in the second character and partly because it is kind of reassuring to know that in 81 years from I won't give a sh!t who this affects.

    1. Solarflare

      Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

      "I'm a nob but it won't affect me lol"

    2. Dabooka Silver badge

      Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

      Ha ha ha!

      You're a proper legend you are. Well done you.

    3. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

      The high point of professionalism is for someone whose grandparents probably haven't yet been born to see your code still running in 81 years' time, against all rational expectation, and marvel that the author was far-sighted enough to ensure that they wouldn't be creating problems for their successors even when half a century in the grave.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

        Spoken like someone who writes their own compilers and interpreters.

        I look forward to your reaction when perl hits the y2k32 inflection.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

          "I look forward to your reaction when perl hits the y2k32 inflection."

          Mine will be roughly the same as when Y2K proper happened. That is to say no reaction at all, because I'll be fully prepared for it. It's not as if I have had no warning ...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

          What's this 2k32 thing? Some short form for 2032? You know, replacing the 0 with a k?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

            I assumed[0] he was talking about Unix's signed 32-bit integer time rollover in 2038, sometimes called Y2k38 after the so-called Y2k problem. Easy typoe/brain-fart to make.

            [0] Y,y,y, I know. So shoot me.

            1. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

              Yeah, that's the one. Was on a ServiceNow CAB call when I type(oe)d that.

              I only mention it because I already slammed into it. We use perl scripts in our tape library infrastructure, and it turns out that there is no way to flag a tape as having infinite expiration, so the tape librarians just tell them to be kept for 30 years and ...

              Took ages to track the problem down, too.

              It will all be great fun for the hatchlings.

            2. Ted Treen
              Alert

              Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

              Bang! Bang! (Shot twice - 1 for backup.) Happy now?

          2. Olivier2553 Silver badge

            Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

            This sort of stupidity is not uncommon, alas!

      2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

        Creating ‘opportunities’ for their successors.....

      3. Bill Gray

        Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

        I revised some code a few months back to handle years beyond the range of +/-231 years. It should now be good for about 1016 years, safely after all red dwarfs have cooled, though not long enough to work after proton decay and black hole evaporation dismantles the universe.

        (I'd like to claim that this was to set a record in planning ahead, but it's not. The code in question is used for astronomy, and the universe is more than 231 years old and will be around for much more than another 231 years. The "usual" date libraries that either don't work before the years 1582 (Gregorian switchover), 1 (no zero/negative years), or -4712 (start of the Julian Day system), and/or fail after 2099 or 2999 or 9999, are not suitable for the purpose.)

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. shedied

          Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

          So somewhere out there, in a very distant future, a long ignored support line on an otherwise dead planet etc. etc. the phone rings. Reminds you of a tree falling in a forest with no one around

        3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

          Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

          You may live to regret this, in the year 10,200 when your essence is restored into the Astronomy AI, and you're asked very nicely if you can perhaps fix some code if afterwards they place you in a paradise simulation for subjective 1,000 years.

      4. jake Silver badge

        Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

        "someone whose grandparents probably haven't yet been born"

        Now THAT would be a neat trick!

        With that said, my Great Grandfather dug a well in 1869, documenting it in his diary/journal "for whomever comes after" (sic). 130 years later in 1999, I used the info he left behind to rebuild his handywork. The info was invaluable. I expect my iteration of the well to last at least another 130 years ... and I likewise documented my work for future generations. ElReg write-up of my efforts here.

    4. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

      Well, get this. A whole bunch of my scripts and code is not Y10k compliant. That's right, I've made the shocking assumption that a year should be 4 digits. I've also assumed that it won't be in use any more by that stage - if it is, I want some royalty payments!

      Feel free to burn me for it.

      1. Mephistro Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

        Thumbs up for your nickname!

        1. AndyD 8-)₹

          Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

          " Unix's signed 32-bit integer time rollover in 2038, sometimes called Y2k38" -

          everyone, including Google, seems to have forgotten the IBM 360 date rollover - either Y2K or Y2K28 depending how crafty you were. When bytes were rarer than hens' teeth, IBM Assembler code used 16 bit date fields - 7 bits yy and 9 bits ddd (1900 start assumed).

          I didn't make that up , honest.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

            Remember the rollover for 1401 code that happened in April of 1983, when months since 1900 reached 1000? Overpunching was your friend for awhile ... except some of the record layouts ran out of places to overpunch ... Back in the day bits had value. Kids these days, throwing away megs at a time and calling it "text", they don't know how good they have it ...

    5. OzBob

      Re: My scripts are not Y2.1K compliant

      I see from the quality of comments that we have a lot of pretentious and humourless knobs populating the forums. So, stop chewing the crayons and pay attention for a sec,...

      All computer programs operate on assumptions or constraints, otherwise they would be over-engineered to the n-th degree and never be fully completed. One of my assumptions in this case is that there will be replacement for my scripts in the next 81 years, give the short lifetime of platforms and solutions. Now if I only made my function work for ten or twenty years (grep "^20[12]" ) then it would be reasonable to lambast my quality of work, but 80 years what I consider a reasonable assumption to make. And if I was publishing a function to be re-used in a wider forum then I would engineer it to handle these sort of things.

      Do you write your date checks to handle leap years? of course. Do you write them to handle century leaps? Maybe, maybe not. Do you write the 400 year check? No, don't be silly.

      Lastly, grow some humour, you all sound terribly teutonic.

  5. GlenP Silver badge

    Been there...

    Back in the mid-late eighties when keyboards cost about as much as a PC does now (£130 IIRC for a DEC keyboard, equivalent to over £340 now) we ended up dismantling one keyboard that had Fanta spilled on it. A good soak then a thorough scrub of the PCB under the tap got it working again. Now keyboards are just another consumable item.

    Equally I can recall coffee (fortunately without sugar) being spilt into a monitor. Left overnight to dry out and it worked perfectly the next day.

    More recently though we had a Dell laptop wrecked by spilt Coke. Had the user admitted it immediately I may have been able to do something but of course he didn't, it was only a few days later when the screen stopped working that I found out what had happened. It just wasn't worth the cost of a replacement motherboard and possibly other components to resurrect it.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Been there...

      It's actually reprehensible how shitty current keyboards are and Apple's are particularly susceptible and basically not repairable even after a minor spill: lost my last one to tea after a sudden sneeze.

      At some point I may go back to the venerable Model M I have. The only reason for not using this at the moment is the US keyboard layout.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Been there...

        "The only reason for not using this at the moment is the US keyboard layout."

        So re-map it. It's not exactly rocket surgery, you know.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Been there...

          Agreed. I regularly use weird language keyboards that I remap. I can touch type though (the weird and nerdy "I've been typing for 30 years, I don't care about the home keys" method, not the official "I took a night class and now have RSI" method)...so that helps.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Been there...

            You can still buy appropriately marked replacement key-caps for the Model M, if you're the hunt&peck type or otherwise require a visual cue.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Been there...

            I'm in a similar boat Re: the touch typing. Switching to DVORAK was a painful re-learning process that took months of perseverance. Worth it though, give it a try

            1. VonDutch

              Re: Been there...

              Love DVORAK and it confuses the hell out of anyone if they try and do something on my computer.

              Only drawback is it takes me a while to get back in to touch typing on QWERTY if I need use that instead.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Been there...

                I used a Dvorak for a while, just to be different. I quite honestly saw absolutely no benefit to using it (none of the supposed speed increase, etc.), but it was a right pain in the butt when using keyboards connected to anybody else's equipment. So I went back to a standard layout for pragmatic reasons.

                1. defiler Silver badge

                  Re: Been there...

                  I still use a Dvorak keyboard at home (switchable to QWERTY for WSAD), which I got when my hands were cramping up with typing.

                  I don't know if it was the (allegedly more efficient) layout, the fact that it forced my typing to slow right down for a while, or the fact that I bought myself a Kinesys Contour for work, but my hands were fine rapidly afterwards.

                  I can flip between QWERTY and Dvorak on a whim now.

                  1. rototype

                    Re: Been there...

                    Nearly as bad as those blasted ergonomic things (that the keytops always wear off in no time) - unfortunately my company insists on buying them for anyone who wants one on 'H&S' grounds.

                    Personally I just stick with a decent quality normal keyboard and have done with it.

                2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

                  Re: Been there...

                  I use Dvorak full time. There probably isn't a noticeable speed increase, but the proven benefit was always reduced key travel.

                  Back when I used OS/2, and before I bought a hardwired Dvorak keyboard, I was too lazy to re-configure WinOS/2, so Windows 3.1 apps were QWERTY, and OS/2/DOS apps were Dvorak. That definitely noodles the mind a little, same with remote control products that ignore the set keyboard mapping.

                  Mine's the one without the RSI indicators in the pocket.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Been there...

                Yes, I've tried DVORAK. Can't say I benefitted from it though. Typing speed was eventually about the same. I'm already quite fast though (91wpm on a good day).

          3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: Been there...

            That's one of the reasons I don't like touch screens. I learned to touch-type when I was 8 with a great hulking steel machine (an International from memory), and I *need* tactile feedback. Plus the annoying number of applications that give no feedback until it's thought for some while so there's no way to know if you've not actually "typed" properly or the damn thing isn't responding, so you press again and again and again with no feedback to tell you if or what is happening. This sort of human interface design has been thrashed into people for centuries, how come people are ***STILL**** not doing it properly? React to the action, ***THEN**** think about it, not the other way around.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Been there...

              I hate touch screens. I've spent nearly half a century keeping the greasy mitts of the luser-base off my nice clean monitor ... and then the bean counters just HAD to bring out fondle-thingies, didn't they? I hates 'em. Hates 'em, I does.

              1. ADRM
                Stop

                I hate touch screens.

                ^ This absolutely agree. No one touches my screens.

        2. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Been there...

          US keyboards have a different physical layout of buttons to other keyboards. The differences are around the enter key and the left shift, and they have one fewer key overall than other keyboards.

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Been there...

            So left pondians are 1 key short of a keyboard? Makes sense.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Been there...

              The other way of looking at it is that you lot need one more to type the same language. Probably a form of training wheels.

        3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Been there...

          Of course, it's not rocket science, but I'm not a touch typist and I do switch between languages and OSes, so I do spend often resort to staring at the keys. I could get replacement keycaps but, let's face it, the Model M is damn noisy and I also personally prefer keys with less travel.

          After the most recent disaster I was fortunate that one of my neighbours had just replaced his Apple keyboard with a Logitech…

        4. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Been there...

          So re-map it. It's not exactly rocket surgery, you know.

          That works to an extent, but you do know the keys and locations are different on US vs UK keyboards, right? US has a large left shift key, UK has a small one with an extra key for "\" between it and "z". US has a small single row "enter", with "\" above it, UK has a large 2 row "enter" with an extra key for "#" on the bottom row of it.

          Eg, you can't remap a US keyboard to get a UK keyboard. UK keyboard has one extra key, and some keys are different shapes and in different positions. You can get close, but never right.

          (edit, damnit katrinab, too quick :)

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Been there...

            Always enjoyed the fact that the US "#" (pounds, or octothorpe if you're a purist)) key translated to the UK "Sterling" key on some keyboard or other.

            Would make more sense if it replaced the "$" key, but something else was there.

            Never did figure out what to call the Scandinavian "small o with 4 horns" character.

            // Did the international keyboards for Data General's D200 DGT

            // currently using an IBM Model M

            1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              Re: Been there...

              Never did figure out what to call the Scandinavian "small o with 4 horns"

              You mean "ö" or "ø" for Danish and Norwegian? Prepared to be disappointed because it's just an "oer" or "uh" from combining the o and e sounds. Same in this case as German.

            2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              Re: Been there...

              I think the "small o with 4 horns" is the "generic currency character", this if it's come out right: ¤

            3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Been there...

              "Always enjoyed the fact that the US "#" (pounds, or octothorpe if you're a purist)) key translated to the UK "Sterling" key on some keyboard or other.

              Would make more sense if it replaced the "$" key, but something else was there."

              It's still the $ key. As the # is still needed it means the UK keyboard needs an extra key.

              On the subject of # and £ keys has anyone sorted out how to get the £ working properly on Devuan on the RPi? It results in displaying a # and (apparently) a CR on bash. Ksh displays £ and then on the next line a complaint about ?B?#: not found and in vi it inserts \xc2\xa3.

              Both its parents,f Raspbian and Devuan on Intel have no problems with this. And, yes, I've tried various combinations of locale and keyboard map without finding one that works. Fortunately it only affects CLI usage (including ssh sessions).

              1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                Re: Been there...

                in vi it inserts \xc2\xa3.

                That sounds like a unicode/UTF8 mixup, maybe check the various LC_ variables?

              2. jake Silver badge

                Re: Been there...

                I'd start with the scancodes and work my way up to display. xev is your friend.

              3. Andy A
                Happy

                Re: Been there...

                IBM used the same EDCDIC byte value for £ in the UK and $ in the states. That let them keep the same instructions to format currency values.

                The code used to print the US cent symbol was re-allocated in the UK to print the dollar sign.

                My first employer was a bureau using weird combinations of equipment, and I ended up writing all sorts of translations.

                The absolute peak was a big data prep job for a brewery. The data was keyed on Data 100 key-to-disk kit (EBCDIC, with UK keyboards), then written to an 9-track, IBM format tape. That was taken from the punch room to the main computer room, where it was read by one of my programs on the ICL 2904 (6-bit characters). JCL was added and the result sent down the line to Birmingham, where it was processed on the ICL 2960 to produce a 7-track mag tape on the last 7-track drive our company had. That tape was carried to the brewery site to be read by a Honeywell mainframe, where it was read in as a "non-standard" tape, in the same way as tapes from their own, ancient, data prep kit. In the test runs, ALL the symbols came out correctly. The customer was very surprised - their own keyboards didn't have a UK Pound symbol !

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Been there...

                  "IBM used the same EDCDIC byte value for £ in the UK and $ in the states. That let them keep the same instructions to format currency values."

                  Is that why when they converted prices from $ to £ they just changed the symbol?

            4. katrinab Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: Been there...

              "#" is known as "hash". Sharp is acceptable when talking about music or a particular programming language, though "sharp" more correctly describes the similar looking "♯" symbol.

              Any other description of that symbol is wrong.

              In any case, I'm pretty Amber Rudd isn't the only person who talks about #hashtags?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Been there...

                Number sign or pound (weight) sign. As in "Use a #2 pencil" or "Go get a 5# box of nails." Also hex, octothorpe, and a lot more; see Wikipedia for a more comprehensive list (30+). You may not LIKE other descriptions, but that doesn't make them wrong.

              2. jake Silver badge

                Re: Been there...

                "Any other description of that symbol is wrong."

                No, it's an octothorpe. Or so they said at Bell Labs in '68, when they needed a name for the character on the first touch-tone telephone. From there, it quite logically passed on to the computer keybr0ad. Seems to me that the inventor is allowed to name it.

                1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                  Re: Been there...

                  Wikipedia's article on "Number sign" says that # dates from at least 1850 representing pounds weight e.g. 12#, and also represents number (enumeration I suppose) since the year #1880.

              3. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge
                Facepalm

                Re: Been there...

                Given that it's always pronounced "pound" whenever dealing with a telephone number(in the US), your quixotic crusade was over before it even began.

              4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Been there...

                "I'm pretty Amber Rudd"

                Are you? :-)

                (Don't you hate it when your fingers can't keep up with your thoughts and entire words go AWOL)

          2. jake Silver badge

            Re: Been there...

            Presumably you and katrinab are rarely without a suitable UK keybr0ad, right? So what's the problem, exactly? As for Charlie, hanging on to a keyboard he doesn't like and refuses to use ... well, there's a word for that.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Been there...

            The Mac US keyboard (with its lovely big left shift key, and lovely big return key) works perfectly for UK use, you just need to use option+3 instead when you want to type a £ sign (oh, I just did).

            In addition, I think the positions of the symbols on the US keyboard make much more sense than they do on the UK keyboard, especially for programming, etc (but I always get downvoted to hell whenever I say this)...

            1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              Re: Been there...

              No, the sensible positions for symbols for programming is 1! 2" 3# 4$ 5% 6& 7' 8( 9) 0 -= ^~ \| along with ;+ :*

        5. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

          Re: Been there...

          That depends, I took it to imply that an ANSI keyboard layout is preferred over the ISO layout (different sized return keys being the most striking and other oddities to boot).

      2. ArrZarr Silver badge

        Re: Been there...

        In defense of today's keyboards, their relative value compared to a half-decent computer has remained relatively stable. If your IBM-5152 costs £10k, then it's entirely justified to build a keyboard for £1k. The Model F was the cheap and tacky version of the beamspring with the Model M being the cheap and tacky version of the F.

        I use a Unicomp M at home, and even with all the cost saving measures introduced to the keyboard over the last 20 years, it has more heft and solidity than most modern laptops.

        Not so great for the office though, what with the deafening clack...

        Edit: ISO modern Model Ms can be found here -> https://www.pckeyboard.com/

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Been there...

          "the Model M being the cheap and tacky version of the F"

          My cheap and tacky Ms have outlasted my Fs by a couple decades.

          1. ArrZarr Silver badge

            Re: Been there...

            I'm not suggesting that they wouldn't. Compared to anything from this decade (or last), they are still fantastic. It's just that they were the cheaper replacement for the older version.

      3. katrinab Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Been there...

        Apple's new butterfly keyboards are not repairable if you as much as breathe on them on the wrong way, and that is not an exaggeration.

      4. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: Been there...

        "At some point I may go back to the venerable Model M I have."

        Like all tools, quality really lasts.

        There are plenty of modern versions of the model M, pretty much anything built with Cherry keys is good. The knock offs aren't bad either, and you can usually replace WASD and any other high use keys with the genuine article.

        Plus having a mechanical is the best way to get yourself a private space in the office,. since no-one wants to listen to you hammer away all day :D

      5. rototype
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Been there...

        Seems strange, they must've gone backwards on the design phase then (that or the beancounters have vitoed it on cost grounds or something).

        I remember a LOT of laptop keyboards not that long ago were built with a sealed plastic tray under them and drain holes going through the laptop to the bottom. My Lenovo Wireless desktop keyboard has drain holes as well - didn't help it that much when I knocked a glass of red over it - still had to give it a good scrub but at least it's still working (it's what I'm typing this with).

        (and why's no-one used the keyboard icon yet...)

    2. JJKing Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Been there...

      I thought this was worth watching and surprisingly refreshing..........for the machine.

      Waterboarding a laptop

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Pint

    two strikes twice

    Have 2 users who have spilled red wine twice on their laptop while working at home in the evening! One never shows their face in the office, another is in regularly and we joke about it!

    1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

      Re: two strikes twice

      Perhaps your users should resort to the Splurg defence (one of the first comments at the top).

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: two strikes twice

      Is the second one single? Are you? Sounds like s/he might be trying to flirt with you ... it might no longer be politically correct do do so at work, but human nature knows jack shit about politically correct.

  7. jake Silver badge
    Pint

    In lieu of YetAnotherDrinkSpilledIntoHardware story ...

    Many moons ago, I used to take dead keyboards home, take 'em apart, and run them through the dishwasher. A quick blow-dry (on low!) & reassembly and they were usually as good as new.

    These days I still do the same thing, with similar results. But only with keyboards manufactured many moons ago. The Model M is dead! Long live the Model M!

    Beer, because ... well, I'll leave it to your imagination.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: In lieu of YetAnotherDrinkSpilledIntoHardware story ...

      That works ok on modern keyboards...as long as you take them out before the dishwasher goes into it's drying cycle.

      Unless you like your keyboards looking like something out of a Dali painting.

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: In lieu of YetAnotherDrinkSpilledIntoHardware story ...

      Beer was the problem with a desk calculator (in the 70s, when that was a meaty brute with Nixie tubes) returned from certain Wolverhampton brewery. Not sure if they were encouraged to sample the products in the office, but the calculator was never productive again.

  8. Oengus Silver badge
    Pint

    Opposite...

    In the early 80's I worked in the Data centre of a major bank. We upgraded the mainframe systems from IBM System 370/145 with teletype consoles to IBM 4341s with dedicated 3270 green screen terminals as consoles. The keyboards attached to these screens were impressively built and massively heavy with a solid aluminium frame. Each system had a main and backup console that were used by the senior operators to schedule jobs and monitor the systems. There was a strict no drinking on the raised floor rule.

    On weekend shifts we would relax the rules a little. One weekend another operator had a can of Fanta next to then main console of the production system running the banks ATM network. Somehow the can of Fanta was knocked over and spilled into the main console running the system. We expected the system to crash but it kept running. We went to the backup console and entered the commands to switch the console to the backup. We then inverted the original console and drained out the sticky orange liquid and let it sit. After a couple of hours we turned the keyboard back upright and wiped it down with a damp cloth. The keyboard was none the worse for wear (except for an occasional key being a little slow to react).

    When I transferred out of that area a couple of years later the same keyboard was still in operation. You couldn't kill it with a stick.

    (Beer Icon because on afternoon shifts on weekends the three people on shift often split a carton of beer while monitoring the systems.)

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Opposite...

      A friend of mine was a heavy smoker. He had a Siemens keyboard. It got so full of ash and the keycaps nearly black from greasy fingers, that he would chuck it in the dishwasher every 3 - 4 months. He did that for nearly a decade, before the keyboard stopped working.

  9. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    20 years ago,...

    .... why, we were all hoping our Y2K preps were solid, weren't we? I ended up being on call for Y2K, as I'd got bitten by some manky ginger tom cat ejecting it from my house, which got infected. So as I was on anti-biotics and couldn't drink, took the on call. Nothing bad happened of course, because we'd spent a year planning for nothing bad to happen. Apart from that, I did a migration from Lotus Notes to MS Exchange, and a few other projects for the local ISP. Simple days, I could see my boss, his boss, and the MD from my desk. Then we got bought, then we got outsourced, and instead of a commute to the next city, and occasional branch office, it was regular trips to London and the home counties, with some colleagues spending time in Bangalore.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: 20 years ago,...

      We were finished with our Y2K preparation in 1992.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: 20 years ago,...

        What took you?

    2. DJV Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: 20 years ago,...

      "I'd got bitten by some manky ginger tom cat ejecting it from my house, which got infected"

      Yep, nothing worse than an infected house!

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: 20 years ago,...

        Ha, my bad,.... I meant the bite, but preceding direct object and all that : -)

        Although, the infection did spread quite a bit, just not to the whole house. Being a bloke I kinda ignored it, until I could see track lines up my finger and hand, and it started to swell up, so I eventually found a locum who would see me, as my GP was on hols, and the locum asked me 'When did you last have a Tetanus jab?' "Four" I replied. 'Four Years!' She said 'That's a long time given you have pets.' . "No", I replied, "I was four". She gave me that look then stuck a bunch of needles in me.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: 20 years ago,...

          When that happens in "Doctor Who", you're basically going to die, unless you -are- Doctor Who.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tobacco smoke

    Back in the '90s , I was working for a small consultancy that had a large UK Tobacco company as a client. This being the 90s. the tobacco company gave staff free cigarettes, and had absolutely no problem with staff smoking at their desks.

    One day, I had to go on-site to deal with problems. The whole place stank of nicotine; and when I found the misbehaving PC and opened it up, there was half an inch of fag ash all over the boards, which explained the overheating and behaiour.

    I suspect every PC in the building was like that.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Tobacco smoke

      BAT HQ?

      I once had the misfortune of visiting BAT HQ by Temple Tube, in London, back in the day. Us, them, and a few other businesses were part of a Microsoft SIG for MetaDirectory, and took turns hosting meetings. We assembled in the meeting room, and one delegate quipped 'where's the contraband' at which point one of our hosts went to a cupboard, got a carton of 200, opened it and threw the packs in the middle of a table, and said 'help yourself'. At that point I wondered how many schools he drove past on the way home.

      1. smudge Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Tobacco smoke

        BAT HQ?

        I once had the misfortune of visiting BAT HQ by Temple Tube, in London, back in the day.

        Been there, done that, had to have my suit cleaned after every visit.

        Would love to have seen how their staff sickness figures - especially serious and long-term illnesses - compared to the average.

        1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change
          Flame

          Re: Tobacco smoke

          That would be an average affected by smokers and other nasties (see some of the posts above about chemical & manufacturing industries) being altogether more prevalent in life-in-general than today.

          And now we've got the rise of those foul woodburners bringing something far worse than mere fag ash into our homes.

          1. LewisRage

            Re: Tobacco smoke

            whats the issue with woodburners?

            1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

              Re: Tobacco smoke

              You'd know if you had a neighbour, especially up-prevailing-wind, with one.

              Found a study by some boffins from Durham university that found levels of carcinogens about 350 times higher than tobacco smoke.

              1. Amentheist
                Trollface

                Re: Tobacco smoke

                Well this was when the "nanny state" was in it's infancy so I'm sure everyone was in excellent health.

              2. jake Silver badge

                Re: Tobacco smoke

                I've got a dozen chickens in the small smokehouse. My downwind neighbor came over for lunch!

            2. Trollslayer Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: Tobacco smoke

              They emit a lot of soot/smoke particles, there is one at the end of the road that stinks.

              It can also settle in the lungs if there is enough of it.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Tobacco smoke

                "there is one at the end of the road that stinks."

                Our neighbour across the road has one. Maybe it depends on the wood but I find it quite pleasant.

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: Tobacco smoke

                  "Maybe it depends on the wood but I find it quite pleasant."

                  It does. But some people who may be hard of thinking, seem to think they can just burn anything in them without realising they are breaking the law,

            3. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

              Re: Tobacco smoke

              @LewisRage; "whats the issue with woodburners?"

              Dunno, I have a little Firefox CB5 in the dining room, and a Stovax Stockton 7 in the front room, both are multi fuel (wood and coal) and approved for use within the City 'smokeless zone' (as long as I also use smokeless coal). The dryer the wood the better, of course.

              1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
                Flame

                Re: Tobacco smoke

                Mine (25 yrs old Vermont Castings Winter Warm) has a catalytic converter.

                // USAian

              2. Carma

                Re: Tobacco smoke

                We have a 'Frontier' wood burner for our bell tent - works well overnight with peat blocks (known as 'turf' in Ireland) once it's up to temperature it burns cleanly, no soot inside or on the outside of the tent and no complaints from other campers - if there are any! The peat is Bord na Móna certified so should keep the greenies happy.

                1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: Tobacco smoke

                  "The peat is Bord na Móna certified so should keep the greenies happy."

                  Not too sure about that. The thought now is that far too much carbon captured in peat has been released and bog growth should be encouraged to start capturing more. I have to admit, however, that we've burned a good few of those BnM briquettes in our time.

        2. Charlie van Becelaere
          Facepalm

          Re: Tobacco smoke

          "BAT HQ?

          I once had the misfortune of visiting BAT HQ by Temple Tube, in London, back in the day."

          I hope I was not the only one expecting a tale of cleaning bat guano from a keyboard.

          One shudders to imagine, yet cannot help but do so.

          1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

            What

            not Michael Keaton looming out of the shadows broken keyboard in hand?

          2. OssianScotland Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Tobacco smoke

            That would be Colonel Bat Guano to you (or Keenan Wynn if you know him socially)

            Obvious icon....

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Tobacco smoke

      The Computer History Museum in Mountainview has one of the old SAGE early-warning consoles. Built into the operator's panel, beside the keyboard, is an ashtray.

      1. paulf Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Tobacco smoke

        Apologies as a little off thread. When I find myself doing my weekend thing of playing trains (UK) it's interesting to note the older locos* having an ashtray built into the desk next to the driver's seat. Usually the hinged flip upside down to empty type. I can't help speculating that if not included already they were mandated by the union!

        *Diesel locos of course. Steam locos have their ash pan tray under the firebox!

      2. defiler Silver badge

        Re: Tobacco smoke

        A few weeks ago I got a shot on a Sega Daytona USA arcade machine. Two-player sit-down version. Had ash trays for each player so you could put your ciggie down for the race.

    3. dcline1701

      Re: Tobacco smoke

      Bought a computer from my neighbor on disability. He basically sat and smoked in front of it all day. I pulled all the keys off the keyboard and soaked them in dish soap for hours. When I came back the water was piss yellow. I dumped it on the lawn and then soaked them again (this time being quite generous with the dish soap). I took the monitor outside and sprayed it with Windex which, at the time, was slightly blue. What come running off was (again) piss yellow. The tower I just used an abrasive cleaner on. It's the only thing that came out looking remotely white.

      On the plus side, he'd bought Visual Basic 3 for a project. I'm still writing vbscript at work today.

    4. MAF

      Re: Tobacco smoke

      Working in the era of DecMates word-processing system used by our typing pool (That description is akin to carbon-dating). Yes, they smoked and drank at the keyboard and yes, their keyboards would stop working.

      Would swap them for working keyboard and work on duff one. Shake it upside down to remove paper-clips, biscuit crumbs and staples (and once tinsel fragments!).

      Most major mistake was to do a thorough job by infusing keyboard with Isoprop alcohol and watching in horror at the disgusting resultant yellow/orange nicotine solution draining out of the accursed device

  11. ralphh

    IBM Model F keyboards

    Once upon three and a half decades ago I was installing and repairing personal computers.

    Servicing IBM Model F[?] keyboards we'd usually just remove the keycaps, give them a soapy bath and reattach them the next day.

    Occasionally a keyboard would be in such a state we'd disassemble it past unscrewing the plastics and by straightening the metal tabs within further disassemble it. We'd then hose it down with a Freon product and reassemble it.

    They'd reassemble, look and work a treat but we probably didn't do the ozone layer any favours.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: IBM Model F keyboards

      If the keyboard had screws and not plastic rivets, then it would be an F rather than an M.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: IBM Model F keyboards

        The Fs had metal tabs, not screws. The Ms had rivets that were easily drilled out and replaced with screws.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: IBM Model F keyboards

      There was a brand of keyboard that used magnetic flux change as a key press indicator and the electronics under the keyboard was protected by a plastic cover to prevent problems of liquid incursion. ISTR they were almost liquid proof and the only thing that stopped them was a caramel hot chocolate which glued the keys down once it cooled. The magnets in the keys gave them a certain weight which as an ex manual keyboard user I quite liked. CF most early keyboards.

  12. Olivier2553 Silver badge

    A can of Coke zeroed on a keyboard

    Despite trying to enforce a strict no food or drink in the lab, we have one professor who has to have his can of Coke with him all the time to keep his throat hydrated. And one day, that can had to be knocked down on the keyboard of the machine his was using during his class.

    He had to fess it up, because there were twenty or so students who witnessed it.

    I didn't mind too much, just replace the old crappy keyboard by one that was older and crappier (I have a stock available for that purpose).

    This is not "Who Me" so I will not mention what I managed to do myself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: A can of Coke zeroed on a keyboard

      This is not "Who Me" so I will not mention what I managed to do myself.

      You know you want to!

      1. MiguelC Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: A can of Coke zeroed on a keyboard

        How were you able to use an icon while posting as AC?

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Holmes

          Re: A can of Coke zeroed on a keyboard

          I selected it from the "Add an icon" menu. Next question?

          1. MiguelC Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: A can of Coke zeroed on a keyboard

            Well, I get a "Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon" message... it seems some have special privileges

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Boffin

              Re: A can of Coke zeroed on a keyboard

              Well of course, we all do. To unlock it, you need to perform the second Cathartian Rite, while turning thrice widdershins.

  13. OssianScotland Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    PEBBAP

    Early 1980s, working at a small retailer which had a mini-computer (a Wang MVP 2200, for those interested), there was a single line printer - very fast, very noisy and, because it sat in the main admin office, under a soundproofed hood.

    Monthly sales reports, and one of the bosses (snappy suit, polyester tie, cup of coffee) was waiting for his sales report. Obviously he couldn't wait the 10 minutes or so it took to complete, so he opened the hood, started looking at the figures running past, and gradually leaned over until.....

    …. the tie flopped into the printer, jerked the jerk further forward, the coffee went everywhere and (fortunately for him) everything ground to a screeching halt before he could be throttled. The printer was out of action for about 2 weeks, and I don't think he ever got his report.

    Title: Problem Exists Between Boss and Printer

    Icon: coffee, although no printer

    1. Oengus Silver badge

      Re: PEBBAP

      In the late 70's (before I got into IT or EDP as it was back then) I worked in the Chief managers department of a major bank. A couple of years earlier the bank had liberated males from the mandatory tie policy but It was still a strict policy of the chief managers department that all males wore a tie on the mezzanine floor where the chief manager resided. I was the only staff member exempted; my normal work place was the 4th floor but I had regular trips to the mezzanine floor. The reason for the exemption was the printing press that I operated.

      The area I worked was always staffed by one male (offset printer operator) and one female (photocopier operator). The area we worked was called ... "The Reproduction Centre"...

      1. Precordial thump
        Coat

        Re: PEBBAP

        Xerox and Wurlitzer contemplated a merger at one stage ... they wanted to market a reproductive organ.

    2. Terje

      Re: PEBBAP

      I hope that you took notes from this lesson and make sure to water/coffee/tea proofe any relevant electronics to avoid such a misfortune in the future!

      1. OssianScotland Silver badge

        Re: PEBBAP

        To be fair, the soundproof hood should have been enough, but you can't cure stupid.

    3. D@v3

      Re: ties

      Which is exactly why, very early on, before my 'career' had even started, a wise old fool told me, 'if you are ever required to wear a tie for a job, make sure its a clip on'

      1. Charlie van Becelaere

        Re: ties

        I had a coworker get his tie caught in the document shredder, but he managed to kill the power before it went full Fargo on him.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: ties

          This is why ties were fair game for anyone with a pair of scissors in most of the early Silly Con Valley. Ties are, quite simply, dangerous ... especially around prototype hardware. Not even IBM's Field Service folks wore ties.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: ties

            "This is why ties were fair game for anyone with a pair of scissors in most of the early Silly Con Valley. Ties are, quite simply, dangerous ... especially around prototype hardware. Not even IBM's Field Service folks wore ties."

            That's why I complained about our new lanyard style ID badges. I even played the H&S card, since we also fix printers, but still got told they were the only option. So bought my own clip-on badge holder. No one has said anything in three years.

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: ties

              Good job hard drives are in sealed units. Last thing you want is a winchester knot.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: ties

                I take it you never worked with disk packs ... And of course Winchester knots were used to tie down 3348s so they wouldn't get speed wobbles.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ties

            Doesn't anyone who objects to ties on elfin safety grounds ever think of a bow tie?

    4. JJKing Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: PEBBAP

      single line printer - very fast, very noisy

      Wasn't an Oki was it as I remember the 9 pin dot matrix ones being oh so noisy.

      My brother worked in a place that had a line printer. I was told if the "catching tray" was removed, the paper shot up 12 feet into the air. 12 may have been an exaggeration but even 3 or 4 feet would have been impressive. 1200 lines a minute was the print rate if my memory serves me correctly (but I have doubts these days.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: PEBBAP

        My IBM 1403 does about 23 pages (~1400 lines) of 11X14 (132 columns) per minute. Can crank up to over 6 feet per second if the printout contains a lot of blank lines. It can empty a box of fan-fold faster than you can kill the print process. (The print buffer is only 140 characters (of core), so killing the process, if you can, stops the printer pretty quickly.)

        1. Oengus Silver badge

          Re: PEBBAP

          Goes even faster if you send the "Skip to Next Page" control signal and the carriage control tape breaks... in which case (from memory) the only way to stop it was to go to the printer and hit the "Carriage Stop" button.

        2. Hopalong

          Re: PEBBAP

          Ahh, the IBM 1403 (n3's in my case), remember them well, I suspect due to 5 years operating them, I now have to wear a pair of hearing aids.

  14. Richard_Sideways

    Seedy...

    A keyboard presented as 'Broken' which was so full of sesame seeds that the keys couldn't actually go down, accreated over months of seeded bap lunches. They'd been compressed down into a strata layer which contained a rich source of sesame oil. Upside was, once cleaned out, that keyboard was the quietest, smoothest operating keyboard we had.

  15. Mr Dogshit
    Headmaster

    I don't think "to custody" is a verb.

    1. MJB7 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: to custody

      It is now...

    2. D@v3

      Custardy

      To cover something in custard (i need to custardy my blackberry crumble)

      or is it cuss today, as in, what i will do if i have to deal with any more idiot users.

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: Custardy

        As in,

        ”Half-way through our divorce hearing, my ex-wife threw a trifle at me.”

        “Did you get custody?”

        ”Very.”

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Custardy

          Was her name Sherry?

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Custardy

            She certainly wasn't to be trifled with.

            Well, somebody had to.

          2. OssianScotland Silver badge

            Re: Custardy

            Cherie?

  16. chrishansenhome
    FAIL

    Keyboard woes

    Back in the mid 1980's I worked for a tab house in New York City. As all the directors were chain-smokers, puffing was allowed at the desks of all employees.

    One employee in particular was a real nicotine fiend--he couldn't work without a fag in his mouth. However, he continually reported that his keyboard was bad. We would swap it out for a new one every few months, and it would work fine, until it didn't.

    I decided to disassemble one of his keyboards to see if there was anything he was doing that affected the keyboards. When I had it partway disassembled I turned it upside down, and a fine grey mist floated down onto the workbench. Our colleague had been exhaling at the keyboard constantly during work hours, and the grey mist was cigarette ash that had been filtered in his lungs before settling into the keyboard. Smoking at workstations was banned and all then cleared itself up.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Keyboard woes

      A guy I lived with had passed most of his student years playing World of Warcraft, and smoking.

      As his computer was on the desk next to him, it's insides were gradually coated by a thick layer of tar. Eventually, the little fan on his graphics card could spin no more, when it stuck, the motor burnt through, and the fan fell off with a little *pop*.

      He smokes less now, but the inside of his computer still looks like the arse-end of a chemical disposal plant.

      1. sandman

        Re: Keyboard woes

        Ah, yes, I had to maintain our company's computers back in the old smoking days. the tar would happily build up on the cooling fans, mingling with the usual dust and crud to make an effective caulking agent. It was a bit of a competition to see which fan would stop working first. The site of lines of tar running down the inside of the casing really put me off smoking.

      2. Precordial thump

        Cognitive dissonance - test of candidate's smoking status

        MCQ 1.

        The insides of a smoker's lungs look

        a) better

        b) worse

        than the insides of their computer.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Cognitive dissonance - test of candidate's smoking status

          To be honest, probably better. The respiratory tract does have a mechanism, mucous and coughing, to protect itself against airborne pollution and the computer doesn't. OTOH it's not evolved to the extent that it can deal with pollution so directly introduced into it.

  17. Trilkhai

    About 20 years ago, I had a nice SVGA CRT that could be cranked to a refresh rate of over 130Hz if I didn't mind the extra heat it'd give off. One warm summer evening, I momentarily placed a mostly-full large (maybe 12oz) glass of Sprite on the hutch above it, forgetting that we had hyperactive kittens in the house until one of them knocked the glass face-down onto the top grate of the monitor. It made a very interesting sizzling zap sound with a fwoosh of what seemed like steam, I unplugged the whole thing in panic and flipped the monitor upside down as well as I could to drain onto paper towels.

    I checked it the next day, and there was not only no sign the paper towels had even gotten damp, the inside of the monitor seemed perfectly clean and dry as well. I cautiously plugged it back in, and while it couldn't go over 121Hz anymore, it still worked just fine. I can only guess that running with such a high refresh rate heated the components to the point that it vaporized the soda on contact.

  18. x 7

    A few years back we were working through all the GP surgeries in Cumbria, upgrading them to Windows 7. At the same time we were migrating them all to the Cumbria CCG domain. We had five teams, spread across the county.

    All went well, until after around four weeks we hit a snag: the domain admin account we were all using kept getting locked. This went on for two weeks, with one day the lock happening thirty times. As you can imagine, it caused chaos - the domain admin account was knocked out for the whole of the County

    Eventually I tracked it down to one faulty keyboard - the J and M keys were connected with a piece of plastic flash so if you pressed one you got both.......

    Needless to say, the team working on that site got some ribald comments.

    Never liked using HP keyboards after that

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I was on the same contract at the other end of the country, and am now repeating the whole process upgrading the identical sites to Win10. :)

    2. OssianScotland Silver badge

      I have to ask - why were you all using the same domain admin account?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        From memory, and a quick look at my old notes, the new machines was all pre-imaged with identical images, so had admin user=(redacted)Admin pass=(redacted). Once you'd done the admin stuff to the machine you configured it with the name of the machine CCG(serialnum) or something, then got the user to log in and ran a pull-in-this-user script.

  19. pavel.petrman Bronze badge

    PFY

    I take delight in the fact that no one ever asks what PFY means. Sheds very positive light on Reg readership!

    1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change
      Thumb Up

      Re: PFY

      Yeah, but how many of us Old Cynics read the reference in the story and though Walt must've been its PFY?

      Seriously though, I'm sure I first heard PFY sometime last century. Like Dilbert or xkcd, it's the language of our trade!

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: sometime last century

        Obviously, around the time of the first BOFH episodes where it was explained :)

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: sometime last century

          It existed long before the BOFH got to Usenet.

  20. PickledAardvark

    It's not just the users telling porkies

    During a large scale Windows deployment, a technician called me over to look at a PC that "wasn't booting". A quick viewing told me that the PC was booting into WinPE -- very, very slowly. Leave it a week or so and it would have been up.

    Me: Have you changed anything?

    Technician: No.

    Me, discretely nudging loose case screws and a memory shipping box: Are you sure that nothing has changed?

    Technician: No, it is a standard system.

    Me: So the mismatched DIMMs fitted themselves?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not soda but...

    It wasn't a good day for a Project Manager I worked with in c.2005.

    We were worked on site and staying in hotels. PM left the hotel one day and filled his car with petrol...which wasn't great as he had a diesel car.

    When he got to work he managed to spill a whole small bottle of orange juice onto his laptop keyboard. it was very neatly spilled - there wasn't a drop that wasn't in the laptop.

    Due to the daft rules around fixing laptops the cost to repair was c.£4000 apparently.

    1. ma1010 Silver badge

      Re: Not soda but...

      So, sounds like a pretty typical mangler, then, adding value as they do so well.

    2. jcitron

      Re: Not soda but...

      I got a panic call from the CEO of an old company I worked for. I could hear roaring sounds in the background. He explained that was driving with his wide open DELL laptop out the window because he spilled coffee into it and wanted to dry it out!

      When he arrived shortly afterwards, the laptop was intact. I had expected him to drop it on the way in somewhere on the turnpike. We powered it up and believe it or not, the machine worked fine afterwards - he didn't use any sugar in his coffee.

      The poor old soul of a machine ran for years afterwards. We replaced many machines, but he didn't want to part with this one.

    3. jcitron

      Re: Not soda but...

      A user I supported lost his laptop to a bottle of wine. He was flying from Denver to Boston and the plane hit turbulence. The flight attendant stumbled and managed to flood his laptop. It was trashed and the company didn't have any accident insurance on their equipment. We pulled out the useful parts like the DIMMs and the hard disc and tossed the rest.

  22. simple soul

    Oversized Graphics terminal

    Late 90's installed a shiny new Unix system in a small office. Lovely Wyse green screens etc. and obscenely large graphics terminal which cost the equivalent of a small Africans countries GDP. Support was provided remotely, the office in question was about a 10 minutes drive away.

    Had a call from one of the users onsite who stated that said shiny object was making strange sparking noises and the keyboard wasn't working. Drove over to take a look, first thing we spot is a shelf directly above which wasn't there when the terminal was installed, neither was the impressive plant.

    Keyboard was making a great impression of being a paddling pool, the nice user community were merrily watering the plant which overflowed into the terminal and keyboard and couldn't seem to grasp the concept of electronics and water not being a good mix.

    They had an attitude adjusting conversation, removed the plant and let them fund the replacement terminal, didn't have the heart to tell them we took it back to the office, dried it out and when I left 2 year later it was still going strong.

  23. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Finest keyboard I ever used was in the venerable ISC 3651 desktop computer, a heady 8088 powered mechine with a whole 16k RAM.

    Said keyboard had nicely spring, full height keys, each with a teensey magnet underneath, working a corresponding hermetically sealed reed switch on the PCB underneath. Lovely and I've never found better.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I've seen those keyboards. Data General used them in their ancient 6012 boxy terminals. I salvaged reed switches from one for a project.

  24. defiler Silver badge

    Irn Bru

    I spilled my wife's can of Irn Bru into her keyboard the first time I met her.

    Most expensive keyboard I've ever had to replace...

    1. PickledAardvark

      Re: Irn Bru

      ... and her most expensive Irn Bru.

  25. LewisRage

    It's possibly not entirely true...

    ...as I head it n+1 hand but I heard the following.

    Techie on the service desk get a call from a panicking user "I've just poured coffee into my bosses keyboard, he's going to go mental", ah ha no problem they think "It's OK, just take the keyboard and run it under some tap water for 5 minutes, making sure you get the water in every corner. It'll wash the coffee out and as long as you don't plug it in until you are sure it's dry it'll be fine!".

    They are thanked by the clumsy user and everyone is happy.

    Until that is someone picks up the phone to the enraged boss who goes on to ask "Which one of you fucking idiots told my secretary to run my laptop under the tap"

  26. THMONSTER
    Pint

    LAN party amusement

    I did a lot of LAN parties in the Leicester area years ago.

    Many a time there would be beer soaked keyboards being washed out.

    One incident that stuck in my mind was someone losing a laptop to a pint of beer.

    Even though it was washed out straight away, that one never recovered.

    A pint of vodka and orange dropping into the top case fan of my case didn't manage to kill my PC either.

    I guess I just got lucky with that one though.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: I did a lot of LAN parties

      Were you always in the kitchen... as a server?

  27. Jonathan Knight

    I once had to make a call to Sun Microsystems to report a keyboard that had stopped working on one of our maintained workstations.

    The Rep asked what had happened and I reported that one of our researchers had spilt orange juice into the keyboard.

    His reply was: "Was that third party orange juice sir?"

    I admitted that it was but we were still covered on the support contract so a new keyboard was dispatched.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      ISO standard orange juice?

      1. dfsmith

        I know your comment was flippant, but ISO 3631...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm

    “A flood of clear liquid gushed out”

    Where am I, Literotica?

  29. Zarno
    Pint

    I squeaked by...

    I've squeaked by so far, only dousing my mouse in tea once.

    It made the trackpoint a little limp till I dried it all out, and I had to replace a year later.

    The one that makes me wonder, is how a relative got their phone INSIDE a pint of beer...

  30. Blackjack

    Hey, Remember The Y2K?

    1999 was an interesting year. I remember wanting to have a Sega Dreamcast, playing Playstation games, Windows 98 SE being a thing and Internet being so slow downloading a half hour video could take a whole day and half of another.

    And COBOL programers making it like bandits. Everyone using INTERNET EXPLORER and... a guy I knew making a bundle selling typewriters in case computers no longer worked in the year 2000.

  31. 0laf Silver badge

    Coke (and other cola drinks heavy with citric acid) were well known keyboard and mobile phone killers. I know thta if I was asked about recovering a mobile phone with coke spilled on it I always told the owner that it was almost certainly a dead loss. the acid and the sugar was always a good combination to destroy electronics.

    I used to work in car dealerships doing their IT in the early 00's. It took a touch machine to last more than a year in a garage workshop. They weren't the toughened deviecs seen now just basic PCs with 21" trinitron monitors to display repair manuals.

    1. jcitron

      Yeah that caustic soda eats through everything.

      I've seen the damage from soda drinks myself. It's pretty bad.

      The place I used to get my car repaired had "tough" computers with a vinyl cover over the keyboards. I suppose the cover worked well if the users were touch typists because it was so grimy and greasy that the keycaps were invisible.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I prefer to forget the 80s thanks as it was a time of terrible fashion and terrible music that was largely erased by the 1990s.

  33. slimshady76
    Coffee/keyboard

    I lost a T470 to a cup of latte six months ago

    As the title says, I tried to walk with my T470, a cup of latte on top of it on my right hand and a plate of croissants on my left hand from the kitchen to my home office, only to trip three steps away from my desk.

    Turns out those little draining holes at the bottom of the keyboard are no match for a hot cup of freshly ground, freshly brewed, whole milk latte.

    Not my brightest day I reckon.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I lost a T470 to a cup of latte six months ago

      "Turns out those little draining holes at the bottom of the keyboard are no match for a hot cup of freshly ground, freshly brewed, whole milk latte."

      No, but they are a nice idea and do help with more minor spills. They also help retain the evidence when a user reports the keyboard or the entire laptop not working and outwardly it looks all nice and clean because they did such a good job at cleaning the externals up. Now, if they'd come clean right at the start, they'd have got a new keyboard or a new laptop as required, but noooooo....now there's an out of warranty repair or scrapping of the laptop AND the cost of the service engineer call out who removed the keyboard, sucked air through his/her teeth and said "that'll cost ya". (said service engineer call out being part of the warranty ONLY if it's a warranty fault, which on site support would normally triage properly so as not to incur those costs)

  34. TXITMAN

    Coke Cleans

    About 35 years ago we used coca cola to clean a keyboard and computer. It was a Tektronix and the coke was a good abrasive that with the real sugar grinding the dirt off. Think about what that does to your insides.

    1. swm Bronze badge

      Re: Coke Cleans

      NO - coke is for cleaning white-walled tires.

      1. VerySlowData
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Coke Cleans

        Actually, long ago when I was a Tech College student, The Workshop Technology teacher used coca-cola as a cleaning agent for for the copper side of blank FR4 pcb material, a solid rinse in clean water and over dry prior to coating with resist. Worked like a charm!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Coke Cleans

          I use coca cola and a light-duty "non-scratch" scotch-brite pad to clean chrome. Works a treat ... Only use I know of for the vile liquid. (Don't use the heavy duty 3M pads, not even the green kitchen ones; they will scratch the shit out of your parts!)

  35. Keith Langmead

    Sugary coffee + keyboard membrane

    Mid-90’s while at College I did work experience doing 1st line support for a large company that had a mix of PC’s, mini’s and a mainframe. The terminals had seriously robust, but stupidly expensive keyboards costing a few hundred quid each.

    One day I had a call, user had spilt coffee on the keyboard. Went to their desk, collected the keyboard, and after consulting with the onsite engineers gave it a good wash, dried it out and returned it… all good, something new learned.

    Couple of weeks later I get another call on a Monday morning, keyboard (same type) not working, coffee spillage. Great, I know what to do! Collect it, and repeat the cleaning process. Return it and discover it still doesn’t work. Find out from the user that they spilt the coffee on Friday, but it still worked so they didn’t bother calling us. Chat with the engineers and discover (I had no idea about this stuff at 17!) that coffee + sugar will eat through the membrane if left for long enough. The keyboard was replaced, and the user informed that their manager would be getting a hefty bill (internal billing) for the replacement!

    1. jcitron

      Re: Sugary coffee + keyboard membrane

      Very familiar... I worked for a video terminal manufacturer - probably the one that made the terminals you were using. (kidding!) The terminals had very expensive keyboards with them that would periodically be sent back for repairs.

      We would take them apart, put the circuit boards into a tank filled with DESOL which is used for degreasing circuit boards before wave soldering (safe stuff --- yeah right!), put the key caps into an ultrasonic cleaner, and when everything was clean, we would reassemble them. They were as good as new and ready for the customers again.

      Then one day I got a box of keyboards from a customer. These must've sat in their tech's office for a year at least. They were nicely tagged with "Don't work", "Broke", and "Dead". Oh how helpful. When I opened the box, there was a faint odor of Lipton's Cup A Soup, but I didn't pay attention until I discovered that one of the keyboards was stuck. I mean stuck to a point where nothing moved, and if it did, the keys stayed down.

      I opened up that keyboard and found the source of my Lipton's Soup smell. The innards were completely filled up with chicken noodle soup. The yellow bullion stuff had enfused everything. After the DESOL bath and new keycaps, even that keyboard was brought back to life.

  36. Bruce Ordway

    Those were the days.

    >> keep everything running

    >>develop software

    >> run jobs

    >> take backups

    >> even put connectors on cables

    >>an app to turn DGTs into 3270 displays... random characters on the command line.

    and maintain phone systems, run cables, etc...

    Yes, those were the days.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same here

    Covering a Doctor's surgery - got a call that a computer was typing funny characters.

    Got a spare keyboard and drove over. Tested PC and she was right; some keys worked, others produced random letters.

    Unplugged USB keyboard and put on the chair upside-down whilst i plugged new one in

    For some reason, it done the same. Whilst i was pondering, i moved the old keyboard and noticed that her chair was now wet. A liquid was dripping out of the keyboard.

    'Did you happen to spill anything on the keyboard?'

    'Oh yes, i tipped my can of coke into it. Do you think that's caused it?'

    Bit my tongue, and rebooted the PC which resolved the random letters (never did completely understand how a new keyboard manifested the same errors until a reboot though).

    Left the Nurse with a working PC and a wet chair.

    1. OssianScotland Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Same here

      Ooh, Matron!

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Same here

      (never did completely understand how a new keyboard manifested the same errors until a reboot though).

      Certain accidentally typed key combinations can do odd things to keyboards. I've never quite worked out whether it's an OS thing or a keyboard internal controller thing. At least one seems to be the keyboard itself where you get a sort of inverse shift-lock. Disconnecting/reconnecting the keyboard fixes that one as does a reboot.

      1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

        Re: Same here

        Seconded.

        I think it's a Windows thing though, as I've never experienced it on Linux.

        1. jcitron

          Re: Same here

          Yup it's a Windows thing.

          I too never saw it anywhere else.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mr. Sparky Handyman the 3rd.

    On a Language school.

    Students spilled sugary tea on 1 out of 2 keyboards in the lab. I call the handyman/sparky/janitor, that promptly pries all keys off the keyboard, washes it with dish soap and LITERALLY hangs it to dry under the sun, on the back of the school, where he lived in a shed.

    He would even scrub each key until they were white again, for good measure. He would also change lightbulbs / hook printers up to the network / replace toner cartridges on the photocopier, with the same.. what's the word... aplomb.

    He told me he did the keyboards almost every week, because kids would spill their drinks on them, in equal measure.

    Both worked perfectly fine, the whole time I did my course there.

  39. billdehaan

    IBM AT Keyboard for the win

    I still have a couple of my IBM AT era keyboards from 1986. I actually used to have an 1981 IBM PC Model 5150, but the 5 pin DIN to the 6 pin mini-DIN converter didn't work with the 6 pin mini-DIN to USB convertor very well, so I donated those keyboards.

    The IBM AT keyboards from before 2000 were tanks. Some of them weighed as much as a modern laptop. I've have successfully run one through a dishwasher to clean it (placing the key caps int the closed cutlery container), and in the years before I had a dishwasher, the bathtub did the job. Remove key caps, fill tub to about six inches of water, and insert keyboard. For stubborn stains, use the shower head blast them off. Dishwashing soap with warm water and a soft sponge (no abrasive copper or steel pads, please) can restore even the most aged and grotty looking keyboard to like-new condition.

    1. jcitron

      Re: IBM AT Keyboard for the win

      A friend of mine used to do this with his Sun keyboards as well.

      If we do that today to our keyboards, the key caps won't have any printing on them. In the old days, the manufacturer used solvent based inks that "bite" into the plastic surface. This kept the ink on the keys even when cleaned.

      Today the key caps are cheaply pad-printed using acrylic based inks that don't bite into the plastic and come off very easily. My cat scratched some of the letters on one keyboard once, and I ended up wearing some of the letters off of a keyboard just by typing on it. Being a touch typist, this didn't bother me, but it sure confuses some people.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: IBM AT Keyboard for the win

        The rather expensive Microsoft ergonomic keys are... expensive and cheap. Within a few weeks lots of the keys no longer have the printing left on them. Compare with a £10 standard keyboard which still has printing on the keys after a good few years of use...

  40. ovation1357
    FAIL

    The Pepsi Max Timewarp

    I know it's terribly pedantic but the image of retro drinks cans used in this article includes a Pepsi Max which didn't exist until well into the 90's

    I checked on Google just to be sure: "Pepsi MAX, our great tasting no sugar cola, originally launched in 1993." - Britvic PLC

    What I want to see there is 'Hubba Bubba' bubblegum soda :-)

  41. el_oscuro
    Pint

    Never had a soda incident, but did commit alcohol abuse by spilling a beer on my rather nice Microsoft keyboard, which I replaced with an IBM model M.

  42. The IT Ghost

    In about...1995 or so, I was working for a value-added reseller. One client was also a supplier, and every tech would delay picking up a supply order from that client/supplier until late afternoon Friday. Each Friday at 5 o'clock, everyone in the other building, whether employee or visitor, got beers all-round. Periodically, we'd get a box of inebriated keyboards to clean and (attempt to) revive. Within a few minutes, the tech area had a distinct "Day after a keg party" scent. This was somewhat after the time when paying for keyboard repairs was more expensive than just replacing them, so we always assumed they got a rate cut on tech services somewhere in the Gordian knot of exchanged services.

  43. Robert Sneddon

    Olivetti?

    My daily-driver keyboard (the one I'm typing this on right now in fact) is a PS/2 device branded "Olivetti". If I recall correctly it was rescued from an office refit back in the mid-1980s when the original XT-class PC clones made by Olivetti were being replaced by something else. I've been using it for decades, never spilled anything in it but it's still working with no problems after literally hundreds of millions of key presses. The key caps are double-injected so the lettering is perfect, no wear evident. I know Olivetti (like IBM) made typewriters so maybe there's something that carried over when they rolled out their own computer gear.

    The worst keyboard abuse I ever saw was in a hospital -- the typists who transcribed the voice reports from the medics all used hand sanitiser goop from the wall-mounted dispensers and it resulted in the keycaps being melted by the chemicals rendering them illegible and disturbingly distorted. They were all 100wpm touch-typists, as long as the key switches worked they were golden but for us hunt-and-peck techie types it was a problem if we needed to do anything on their machines. We resorted to carrying around compact USB keyboards just in case we ran into one of these Lovecraftian keyboards.

    1. David Haig

      Re: Olivetti?

      I can vouch for the quality of Olivetti keyboards, one Saturday morning walked in to the office and found a user with a keyboard in a washing up bowl of soapy lukewarm water whilst still plugged in to the computer. Apparently 'someone' had spilt a beer over it the night before and 'it was sticky'. Keyboard kept working both during and after its bath....

      My other beer meets keyboard story was in a previous life as a lighting engineer. Halfway through a show one night my full pint slipped and flooded the Galaxy lighting board. Board never missed a beat even when we opened it up to try and soak up the beer....

  44. src

    CSB

    I spilt a glass of Carlsberg Special Brew on an IBM Model M keyboard. It never recovered.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: CSB

      The keyborad? Or the special brew?

  45. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Soaking..

    Some years back, one of our users brought me his laptop, which was completely dead. He wouldn't initially say what had happened to it. Upon examination I found everything coated with a fine crusty white deposit, inside and out, and anything ferric had splotches of rust on it. When I confronted him about it, he sheepishly said he was "soaking my feet in Epsom salts and knocked the laptop off the TV tray into the bucket" No amount of rinsing would fix it, and even the hard drive was destroyed. I think I saved one memory module from it. The rest was junk. I had no idea Epsom salts were so corrosive..

  46. 404 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    ok just 15 years ago...

    I was working at a local computer shop, mostly out on the road taking care of different clients, but sometimes a client would bring in a workstation to fix.

    This one particular day an old Dell workstation came in, client said it wouldn't boot anymore. Well, later I had some time between calls so I plugged it in and in doing so, was getting this brown sticky stuff on my hands/arms, didn't think about it much until I popped the cover off - it was coated in that brown stuff and was actually oozing from different components. Then the *smell*..

    It wasn't until I started shaking that I realized what the 'brown sticky stuff' was...

    It was damn near pure nicotine and I was reacting to it - made me sick & twitchy af!

    I bagged that damn thing in a hazardous material bag and gave it back to the client as a total loss. Turns out she was a chain smoker and after 10 years of smoking in front of her computer, this was the end result.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ok just 15 years ago...

      A friend was a chain smoker. She always used the PC by an open window overlooking a dusty country road. She also had several hairy dogs that moulted. The cigarette tar bound all that together inside the PC.

      1. 0laf Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: ok just 15 years ago...

        Yep, I've told the story here before. When I did home visits for cash I had one guys comuter that was overheating and shutting down. When I opened the case it was half filled with cigar ash. He was in habit of tapping his cigar on the front air intake and the ash was was drawn inside. It took along time before the smell of it went from my mind.

        I can't actually remember what happened in the end (this is 20+yr ago). I think I hoovered it out and it worked fine after that.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sticky hairy balls

    A teenage friend complained that his PC cursor would only go up and down - not sideways. He had often used the mouse mat as a place to stand his soft drink cans - so an amount of sticky residue had formed. Added to which his dogs moulted small hairs. The combination had put a tyre-like ring of felt round the mouse ball in the forward/backward direction. So the ball would still roll nicely in that direction - but could not roll sideways.

  48. earl grey Silver badge
    Meh

    many years ago

    I worked at a place that had one of those fancy IBM guillotine forms cutters that used a special (of course it was special) card to be programmed for the length of form & etc. You lined up the forms, started it up and it sliced them apart at the perfs. perfect for multiple part forms that got burst in sets. I heard some time after i left that place that someone had spilt a Coke into it and killed the machine. I can't imagine (well, I can; it was IBM) how much that honker cost.

    Back in those days the consoles on the 360s were IBM Selectric typewriters and even the console printer on our 7080 was a prior generation electric typewriter. Loved that 7080 as you could program directly into memory from the console.

  49. spold Bronze badge
    Paris Hilton

    Sticky?

    I thought sticky keyboards had been outlawed by the UK censorship Act?

    I know touch screens are extra,

  50. I Am Spartacus
    Pint

    But can I get F1 on my BT account

    My son managed to poor a can of Fosters in to his X-Box. Of course, it didn't work at all after that and naturally he was devastated.

    So, we looked through you tube, and carefully disassembled the drunk gaming console, cleaned the boards and connectors with de-ionised water using Q-Tips. Dried it out overnight, reassembled it and lo --- The damn thing actually came back to life.

    Icon, obviously

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    my first Y3K bug.

    that last missive about introducing fudges hit home last week my front end thingy couldn't understand NULL dates so I did this in the SQL back end - I'm a bad, bad person but should be long dead by the time its discovered:

    ,CASE WHEN s.[Decomission Date] IS NULL THEN '3000-01-01' ELSE s.[Decomission Date] END AS ddate

    Felt dirty doing it, but I feel absolved by posting it here... Coward time - I think so....

    1. TSM
      Childcatcher

      Re: my first Y3K bug.

      Eh, you're not alone. I have to feed date criteria into a system that is only designed for numbers and strings, so they go into strings in YYYY-MM-DD form. There's always a start date, but open-ended rules get defaulted to 2999-12-31 for the max value.

      I started with this company working on replacing a precursor to this system, in 2002. We replaced it again in 2006 and then we replaced that again in 2014. So I'm not too worried about what happens if we get to Y3K and this is still in use. (But if we did, it's fairly easy to change.) There are other end date type things in this system that will cause us much more rework much more often.

  52. jcitron

    The batch password reset is really familiar.

    Back in the early 1990s, I worked for an investment firm that used software on their PCs to emulate 3270 terminals connected to a remote IBM data center. For the IBM system, I was responsible for updating and uploading new user and password reset lists in the JCL batch language. It was a total pain in the backside too because the text had to line up exactly.

  53. Sam Therapy
    Facepalm

    I worked for British Coal's IT dept in Sheffield, many years ago. One of the staff - who was always having computer related problems of some kind - called me to say her keyboard had stopped working. This particular person would always, without fail, turn every minor problem into a huge drama with crying, swearing, threats and, on several occasions, throwing stuff. How she stayed employed is beyond me.

    Went to her desk with replacement, found the keyboard cable her - keyboard, that is - dangling off the desk, unplugged.

    Plugged it back in, showed her everything was working fine. Explained the keyboard was unplugged. Got a huffy "How the fuck was I supposed to know?"

    Another time, same person, same problem. This time the keyboard was full of staples, paper clips and those annoying bits of paper out of hole punches. Turned out she and her mate thought it was a great idea to throw stuff at each other across the desks.

    I don't believe in any sort of deity or karma or whatnot but shortly after that, her car was nicked from outside work.

  54. M. Poolman

    Wait till Fat Freddy puts on his steereo headphones

    One for the old freaks and pheezers out in commentard land

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