back to article BOFH: My diary is MINE and mine alone, you petty HR gimps

"Wow, that's like the Matrix!" the Director's PA gasps. "Yes, it's what we call a terminal session," the PFY chips back drily. "It's so... green." "Yes," I sagely nod. "It's a monochrome terminal session, green on black." "I don't know what that means." "Back in the day - when IT required more skills than it took to use …

  1. fearnothing
    Thumb Up

    "It's the same old story. They try to ambush you into an HR intervention by slapping a meeting in your diary with an ambiguous title - only, knowing this was coming, I've booked back-to-back meetings for the next three weeks, made them all private so that no-one but me knows what they are and set my calendar to reject meeting proposals that clash."

    Slick operator right there. Good one Simon, and right on time too!

  2. BenBell


    You've just made my SysAdmin day you brilliant Arsehole! I've been waiting for something like this to brighten what would have otherwise been a day of backups and paperwork

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You b*&%d

    > and set my calendar to reject meeting proposals that clash

    You b£%&&d tease!! How do I do that? Is that some Outlook feature that I've failed to notice before?

    1. JetSetJim

      Re: You b*&%d

      Well, you can have a rule that runs a script if it receives a meeting invite, so it's not inconceivable that a script could rummage in the calendar, detect a clash, and trigger/send a reject. I assume the script is in VBA, so probably not that traumatic to cobble together... not sure how to get it onto the server to run, rather than only on the local machine, but that's a leap into BOFH land

    2. Dan Wilkie

      Re: You b*&%d

      File | Options | Calendar

      Down the bottom you'll see Auto Accept/Decline, and you have an option to Automatically Decline meeting requests that conflict with an existing appointment or meeting.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: You b*&%d

        Better if the "Decline" action triggered an "Error: not possible to add meeting request". That would leave any person wondering what«s going on without suspecting anything wrong doing on our side:).

  5. unitron

    The Silkwood shoutout was a nice touch.

  6. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    reminds me of the time...

    "It wouldn't surprise me if Wi-Fi for a couple of building radii around us has been overwhelmed with oddball interference..."

    Broadcast radio, too, if done right. WAY back in the day, the drone in the next cube had an AM radio set to mind-numbingly stupid Country music. Late one evening, I took the back off her CGA monitor and scraped out as much of the graphite spray-on "shielding" as I could manage - on the sides not facing MY cube, of course. Next day, she was quite unable to get any AM stations without horrific noise. Her being too cheap/broke to buy an FM radio, then "problem sorted!"

    1. cybersaur

      Re: reminds me of the time...

      Once had a secretary just outside my office that liked to stream country music a bit too loud for my tastes (read: audible at all). I put three buttons on my taskbar: volume up, down and mute that used PSExec on her PC to control her volume.

      1. Anonymous Custard

        Re: reminds me of the time...

        @cybersaur - can that be modified to work on my kids? ;)

    2. Adrian Jones

      Re: reminds me of the time...

      When LCDs started being included with new computers in the office, one colleague (who was a bit of a hypochondriac) started making noises about the radiation from her CRT making her feel ill.

      So the lady who sat opposite her very kindly swapped a nice new LCD for the old CRT.

      I offered to explain that the back of the monitor emitted more radiation than the screen, and it was now pointed towards her...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CRT Monitors...

    I nearly broke my back lugging one of those around. And one of the PFY almost broke one when he tried to carry it with the screen away from him. The screen is always heavier, so it tends to flip away from your arms if you carry it from the back.

    And both events happened just trying to put them on a trolley.

    1. Tom 7

      Re: CRT Monitors...

      I've got a 21" crt that I can barely carry - must be nearly 20 years old but still works after a 10 minute warmup. It'll stay there till it dies.

      1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        Re: CRT Monitors...

        The more modern ones appear to be slightly lighter, perhaps. I have two 21" CRTs, and whilst they're not exactly light by any means, they're lighter than even older monitors.

        However, I can lift a TFT monitor with one hand..

      2. DiViDeD

        Re: CRT Monitors...


        Huh! I thought I was the dogs bollocks with my 28" Trinitron monitor.

        Until it took 3 of us to get it down the steps to the skip. My suggestion we put it on a coaster board, wheel it to the top of the steps, let go and hope for the best was met with rather less enthusiasm than I'd hoped.

        Bog knows how they got it there in the first place. I suspect they just trucked it in and built the place around it.

    2. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: CRT Monitors...

      We could buy the then newly released IBM AT on a Volume Workstation Agreement and quickly issued them to about 100 of our users. The standard distribution procedure was to unpack them in the office, check them and load up the necessary software before taking them to the user. To save time we carried them. You unplugged the mains cable, put the keyboard on top of the CRT monitor and lifted the computer to waist height with the glass of the screen against your chest, this allowed you to stop the keyboard falling off by trapping it between the top off the screen and your chin. I would only carry them up 2 floors of an 8 floor building, if it was more than that you hoped that someone would be there waiting to open the lift doors and then let you out at the correct floor.

      A few years ago I met a government employee in the car park, I had to wait until he had unloaded a trolley from the boot of his car, unfold it and then place his lightweight Toshiba notepad on it before wheeling it across the car park to to the office where I was installing a server. I asked him why he did this, as the weight of the trolley was more than the notepad - If he was going to be injured it was more likely to happen when he lifted the trolley out of the boot and put it on the floor - 'Health and Safety' he said 'The regulations state that all computers have to be moved on a trolley.'

      Yes, now I am retired, I do have a bad back...

      1. R Callan

        Re: CRT Monitors...

        ATs, you had ATs? Even the head of IT only had an XT. The rest of us serfs only had slightly upgraded PCs, you know 640k, Hercules graphics and enough ports for dot matrix, pen plotter. Those 5.25 discs had huge capacity as well.

        1. Tim99 Silver badge

          Re: CRT Monitors...

          "ATs, you had ATs? Even the head of IT only had an XT."

          Yes they were for scientists and engineers. Other people usually got a single floppy or diskless XT that booted off a Novell 2 Server, as we did not ned to load them up, they were delivered directly to the user.

          1. Number6

            Re: CRT Monitors...

            I discovered that my Amstrad PC1640, by the time I'd talked the boss into letting me buy an NEC V30 CPU for it, and a long session reworking the disk interleave, outperformed the IBM AT used by the higher-ups. The V30 microcode seemed to be as efficient as the 80286, and far superior to the 8086, and the AT was running at 6MHz (I think) compared to 8MHz for the V30.

      2. TAJW

        Re: CRT Monitors...

        Tim99, I had a similar problem. I was at a facility that was moving offices, and had contracted with a moving company to do so. During the move, I opened my center drawer and took a few items that I owned personally, along with pictures from the top of the desk. I put them in a small (very small, about big enough to carry your lunch in) and walked down the hall to my new office. Halfway there one of the workmen stopped me and asked me just what in the hell I thought I was doing. Seems I was violating some contractual thing, and there were Union people on the job. I had to take my box back to my old office, where he put it on a two wheeler and smugly rolled it down to my new office.

        Guess he showed me.

    3. DJSpuddyLizard

      Re: CRT Monitors...

      Right - back in 2002, I remember someone asking me how big my monitor was at home, so I responded "about 75 lbs"

    4. Mark 85

      Re: CRT Monitors...

      We had some 21" monitors stacked in a warehouse area for long time after swapping out for LCDs.... on a rough day, whoever felt the need would go to the warehouse and "nudge".... they make a nice crashing sound that seems to cleanse the soul....

  8. Sykobee

    The world was a better place when it was amber-on-black text displays.

    Green-on-darker-green wasn't so great.

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      The best CRT I've had was the 14" B/W VGA that came with my first PC. I don't think I've seen anything that crisp until the advent of the Kindle.

      But Amber on Black is nice, too... :-)

    2. Tom 7

      Tektronics 4002 storage scopes

      Very bright green on dark green fading to reasonable green on dark green. I used to design chips on these things. A long days work and it was 10 pints before you couldn’t see little transistors being formed in space in front of you.

      1. naive

        Re: Tektronics 4002 storage scopes

        Great story, and reminder of the terminal/CRT days: ADM3A, tektronix 4014 coupled to IBM/370, Sperry svt1220, UTS 20 Uniscope, to mention a few i have used. Those where the days. Several of these had this phosphoric after glow after screen updates.

  9. anothercynic Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Ohhhhh Simon, yer warmin' the cockles of me heart...

    ... CRT monitors without shielding. I hope the Boss glows in the dark for a while now ;-)

    1. Dave 32

      Re: Ohhhhh Simon, yer warmin' the cockles of me heart...

      Should have taken that Leaded glass faceplate off, you know, the one that blocks most of the x-rays that are being produced, in the interests of, umm, readability. Oh, and, while you're at it, crank the high voltage up from 27 KV up to about 50 KV or so, in the interests of brightness. Just hope that the nuclear power plant that's 10 miles down the road doesn't have too many of their radiation sensors start going off when that monitor is fired up.


      P.S. My, oh, my, is that a new tan that you're sporting. It almost looks like it goes all the way through your body.

      1. Mpeler

        Re: Ohhhhh Simon, yer warmin' the cockles of me heart...

        Ohhhh, so THAT'S why they call it a flyback transformer......snark, snark, snark.....

      2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        Re: Ohhhhh Simon, yer warmin' the cockles of me heart...

        You should try a CRT projector - particularly high voltage in the HV card, needs about 600W of power, and I've heard you have to be careful of component selection so it doesn't emit x-rays..

        When servicing mine I didn't put one of the cards in properly. This let to arcing that completely burnt out the pins on one side of the card. That's ok, though, as it has another set for redundancy on the opposite side.

        It's still running happily like that to this day.. Only 8" tubes, though, couldn't afford 9" at the time, and that was second hand.

    2. stewwy

      Re: Ohhhhh Simon, yer warmin' the cockles of me heart...

      Ah proper Overhead projectors

      Spent quite a few evenings aligning tubes, hanging from rafters with the top casing off, twidling screws to align the seperate RG&B tubes with a little insulated tool thing trying to avoid falling in to all the humming HV bits. of course next day I'd have to take it all down and move to the next venue :-(

      That was when I still had a spine :-).

  10. Mindfart

    Forgot a tag somewhere maybe? This one isn't listed under :)

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Whoops. The two section tags are next to each other - should be fixed in a few moments.

  11. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    It was the terminal equivalent of the iPhone upgrade experience.

    So true…

    Have another one of these, you deserve it!

  12. Rick Giles

    Lunch time meetings

    We have folks scattered in different time zones and it always seems like they ones that are an hour ahead of me want to schedule meetings right after their lunch time and the ones and hour behind me want to schedule just before their lunch time.

    I got sick of telling them that the reason I rejected their meeting time proposal was because you are fucking up my lunch time. I put a perpetual appointment in my calendars call Linux Users Networking / Computer Help and that stopped all but some of the diehards from trying to schedule that time.

    Now I just need to find that Auto Decline feature in Outlook 2010...

  13. Gronk

    At my previous job I had people that would schedule meetings with me and then get upset when I rejected the invite. They would assume that since I didn't have a meeting scheduled I was obviously available for whatever (usually pointless) meeting they wanted to hold. After several complaints I just added a recurring private meeting Monday through Friday starting at 6A and ending at 6P.

    After that people would start contacting me to see when I might be free for their meeting. That gave me much more control, although there were a few people that thought it was unreasonable that I didn't show any availability. I'm sure wasn't a coincidence that these were the same people that liked to schedule meetings when I would be eating lunch.

    1. nsld

      meeting rejection

      Its in the same place in 2010, go to file > Options > calendar, scroll to the bottom and click on "resource scheduling"

      Once you check the boxes you can set the groups it impacts.

      Be aware if you have global offices and random early morning/late night requests coming in, if so you need to make sure you dont end up accepting meetings at 2am!

  14. Shane McCarrick

    You gave me a knowing laugh.......

    I got 30" dual monitors like this- when they were upgrading our local X-Ray Department. They were 'High-Definition' wowsers- my mobile has a definition of at least a magnitude of 4 what they had. And, yes- I had to 'liberate' some reinforced furniture that was capable of not collapsing under the weight of the damn things. This meant some custom tables from a company who supply equipment to aquariums. I specified the dimensions of the table- and stated it had to be rated to at least 2000lbs. Looked pretty nice- reinforced steel- with a beach laminate, and cabling for all the aquarium accoutrements......... It really was a nice bit of kit. When I managed to put the budget together for LCD panels (many many moons later)- I even bought a fish tank in honor of the table.........

    I gave away the monitors on Freecycle- 3 guys with a flatbed picked them up. No idea what they did with them- but I know my gas bill doubled in the months after the monitors were rehomed. The heat output from them was phenomenal.

  15. Tufty Squirrel

    When I worked for "a well known airline"

    we installed some "largeish" monitors in order to display the engineers' schedule. Specced at 42", because apparently that's too big to for the thieving pikey engineer bastards to nick. It took 4 people to lift the bastarding things.

    They got nicked.

  16. Dunhill

    glow in the dark

    Those nice graphics glowing from your Hercules card ...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: glow in the dark

      "Those nice graphics glowing from your Hercules card ..."

      I remember thinking that brand spanking new 286 based beast would be fun to try playing Elite on, except it only had a Hercules card in it. A quick trip around some BBSs turned up herc2cga which emulated CGA gfx at a low enough level that Elite would play. It looked like it was working very well except for the waaaay too long persistence of the green phosphor :-(

  17. Keven E.

    Orange you glad

    Mid 80's we had the amber on black models from KFC, which, of course were affectionately known as Kentucky Fried Computers.

  18. Borg.King

    Balanced lunch of lager sandwiches?

    Would that be lager on the top, lager on the bottom and a lager in the middle?

  19. Herby

    CRTs (large)

    I got a 32 inch TV back in 1987 or so. That sucker was HEAVY. I could barely lift it by myself, but it did have wonderful pictures.

    Of course back in ancient history, CRT terminals were a luxury. I knew a couple of people who built them from scratch, using TVs from Goodwill that were obtained at low cost. It helps to know RS170 and a little bit of logic. Me? I built up one using a 6844 CRT controller. Plugged it into my 6800 computer. Memories from afar.

    Oh, I celebrated my first program that I wrote around 50 years ago. Wonderful trip.

  20. Frumious Bandersnatch

    Is that ...

    the smell of superheated dust wafting all the way to mission control?

  21. heyrick Silver badge

    The description of the monitors reminds me of a bloke I used to work for

    A bit of a poser, liked to brag about his abilities, wanted to have better hardware, didn't have a clue. I'm sure you've ALL met that sort.

    So he starts off with 640x480 to one of those dreadful IBM 14" monitors that had inches of black around the edges of the tube, like it just wasn't able to fill the screen properly.

    Then he got himself a proper 15" monitor.

    And a little while after, as it just wasn't impressive enough, he upgraded to a 21" (or was it 23"? I think Iilyama or something like that?) monster that made the lights flicker when it was turned on.

    All the while, with a 640x480 resolution from the computer - icons big enough that the dead could see them. With my glasses off, I could see every pixel. As for a higher output resolution, he never asked and I never volunteered.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The description of the monitors reminds me of a bloke I used to work for

      "As for a higher output resolution..."

      Ah, them were the days when not all CRTs were equal even if they claimed the same size and resolution capabilities. Some had an abysmal dot pitch well hidden in the specs so if you cranked up the resolution to the rated max it was all blurry. Most obvious on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

  22. Mike Lewis

    CRTs and Backups

    Fun times were had when a team of software engineers kept getting corrupted backups on a Sony DAT (remember those?) so off to the repair shop it went. The shop couldn't find anything wrong but the team's backups were still being corrupted so the DAT, cable and controller card were bundled up and sent off. No errors detected. Then they asked me to have a look at it and I spotted the problem right away. They had laid the cable connecting the controller card to the DAT across the top of a 21" CRT. Cable moved, problem solved.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nokia CRT Monitors

    Anyone remember them? With the loud distinctive noise it made when it was switched on caused by the degauss circuit?

    Had a sales droid ring up once with a problem with a monitor - big red splodge in top corner. Explained about CRT's susceptible to magnetic fields and deguasing.

    "Oh, must be that loudspeaker I put on top then"!

    "Yeah, that will mess it up....."

    1. dc_m

      Re: Nokia CRT Monitors

      My favourite was always a 21" (ish, might have been bigger) Dell with a Nokia tube.

      Totally flat screen, but took two people to get it up the stairs, the picture was phenomenal though.

  24. Jay 2

    I have (not so fond) memories of carting round the HUGE 21" HP CRTs (boxed or not) that came with the (relatively svelte) HP 712 workstatons.

    When unboxed the trick was to have the screen against your chest, wrap your arms round the back of the tube and then stagger where you had to go using momentum. I could just about get one off a desk, into the lift, up a floor or two and then onto another desk all in one go.

  25. ukgnome

    It the dark distant past a Director after hearing the names we slung at each other if we had a name for him. Aww bless, he wanted to be one of us. The look on his face when one of the Data Control lads called him a cnut is a picture that lives with me.

  26. MVS

    Free tan

    I remember later on in the game getting a NEC 3D in December. In the first week of using it, had a nice tan on the face.

    Has it occurred to any of you that you have the disease?

  27. Rick Giles

    I love this line...

    "Back in the day - when IT required more skills than it took to use crayons - everything was done in command lines or terminal windows. Or CRT terminals."

    So true. These damn kids don't know how spoon fed they are..

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