Reply to post: Re: @Prst. V.Jeltz

Engineer named Jason told to re-write the calendar

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: @Prst. V.Jeltz

Duly authorised to jump in the car and spend an hour driving across London

Not confined to computers of course. I had a similar one when working at a radio station. Back in the day, IRN (Independent Radio News) sent headlines over a satellite serial link direct to a dot-matrix in the newsroom, fed with a huge box of fanfold.

The serial link was a little temperamental (particularly if the printer had gone offline for any reason and the buffer was full), but it usually "just worked".

One Saturday morning I was bleeped out of my bed by the pager and rang in to find a panic-ridden reporter, the first in the newsroom that morning at maybe 5am, who needed to create news and sports headlines and bulletins but was looking at a printer that hadn't printed anything since about 6pm the night before.

"Yes, the paper is in straight and hasn't jammed"

"Yes, the power is on"

"Yes, the 'on-line' light is on"

"Yes, I have tried pressing the 'on-line' button"

"No, there isn't a red warning light"

"No, the light isn't flashing on the serial extender box"

So I crawled out of bed and drove the 20 minutes into town (60 at rush hour), reasoning that for whatever reason, the serial link had gone to sleep again and just needed a gentle reboot. It was locked away in the racks room, to which nobody had access except us engineers - I was one of two.

Nope, serial link seems ok.

Trudge upstairs.

Press "on line".

Twelve feet of overnight news somehow magically appeared at my feet.

Gave the hack a dirty look and returned to bed.

Wasn't the first time I'd met this sort of thing, and it sure wasn't the last. (Some) people just panic in these situations and can't think straight. Computers just seem to make them even more prone to panic and cluelessness.

Had a call on another Saturday when I was at the top of a local mountain, walking the dog. In the days of the printer problem above I had no mobile phone (the company wouldn't stump up for one and they were too expensive for me) so I had to stay within a couple of minutes of a landline. By now I had a mobile.

I diagnosed the problem very quickly - one of the channels on the on-air desk was dead or dying - and suggested that if the presenter needed that piece of equipment (a reel-to-reel) urgently he could simply plug it into a different (spare) channel, and I'd fix the thing properly on Monday. This involved swivelling his chair 90 degrees, identifying the leads in the connection panel (they were marked) and moving them one slot to the right (or left or something).

He flat out refused to do this and insisted I come in, which I did, bringing the dog as well, who proceeded to snuffle around the studio, under all the furniture, trying to make friends with the presenter, while I spent five seconds moving a couple of plugs and another ten seconds checking that the tape played properly in the new channel.

One step worse was the on-air "talent" who called me at 11pm one evening to complain that "half the mixer isn't working". I discovered that the bloke on air before him had been celebrating his last live show with the station and tipped half a bottle of cider in the desk. Fortunately, that desk had a separate electronics pod (and a drainage hole right above the presenter's crotch) and all he'd managed to do was drown a few faders in sticky sugary drink. But he hadn't owned up and had handed over to the next guy who had then "soldiered on" with (IIRC) just one working microphone, one working CD player and some cart machines for maybe an hour before calling me.

The obvious solution was to move him to the spare studio, a procedure which required pushing a couple of buttons to "offer" and "accept" the handover. It was quite literally next door, but he refused to move because it would mean packing up his bits and moving them too.

Instead I dismantled the desk while he continued to present his show and washed half a dozen conductive plastic Penny & Giles faders under the kitchen tap. I think I saved all the resistance elements and just replaced a couple of the wipers.

Sorry, must be the season for recounting ancient history.

M.

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