back to article Mushroom farm PC left in the dark and fed … you know the rest

Welcome again to On-Call, our Friday frolic through readers memories of odd jobs in odd spots. This week, reader “Gerald” wrote with the story of his time at a “one-man-and-a-dog computer dealer, selling mainly early PCs with accounts software.” If you can remember the likes of Wang and TABS, you'll understand the kind of kit …

  1. RIBrsiq

    “one-man-and-a-dog computer dealer"

    So, which was Gerald...?

    1. frank ly

      Re: “one-man-and-a-dog computer dealer"

      "So Gerald and his boss ..."

      That may answer your question.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: “one-man-and-a-dog computer dealer"

        So, more a one-man-and-his-bitch operation then?

      2. bob, mon!

        Re: “one-man-and-a-dog computer dealer"

        >"So Gerald and his boss ..."

        >That may answer your question.

        Maybe, maybe not. Was the boss an SOB?

    2. Francis Boyle

      Re: “one-man-and-a-dog computer dealer"

      Wasn't he the gorilla?

    3. Mrs_Doyle

      Re: “one-man-and-a-dog computer dealer"

      Gerald was the dealer and the dog was Jake

      think they had a cat too

  2. x 7

    don't eat the fungi in the photo unless you're a reindeer or a witch.

    They're fly agaric mushrooms, and they'll send your head flying, possibly terminally

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      A better choice compared to flying with Ryanair.

    2. itzman

      Fly agaric..

      I dont think anyone has died from Amanita Muscaria ever. By all accounts lots of vomiting, strange visions and ecstatic vistas eventually, but no death.

      Amanita Pantherina(same but brown instead of red) is a lot worse. More vomit, not many visions.

      But the two to really watch out for are Amanita Phalloides (Death Cap: HGreeny Brrown without spots) and Amanita Virosa (Destroying Angel :All white even the gills). Less than a mushroom will have you ill for a day, then better, then rapid death due to liver failure. There's a blog online from someone who didn't quite die after eating one.

      If you ever go picking wild mushrooms, don't learn what's safe to eat, learn what is deadly and learn it well. There are only about half a dozen species that look and taste good enough to eat that will kill you.

      Most of the rest simply taste revolting.

      Probably a well known mediaeval alternative to a general election for getting rid of useless rulers.

      Now, about that referendum ;)

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Fly agaric..

        And beware the common inkcap if you are not teetotal.

        It is edible, pleasant tasting and often described as edible & not poisonous.

        However, common ink cap breakdown products can block the enzyme that breaks down acetaldehyde.


        Just so happens that acetaldehyde is one of the intermediates in the breakdown of alcohol, some of the nasty hangover feeling is due to residual acetaldehyde.

        Thus, the more alcohol in your body the more acetaldehyde will be produced - and can have quite severe consequences

        A mushroom best eaten sober (and impaired enzyme action takes a while to return to normal after eating so best to abstain for a day or 2 after eating to be safe)

        Any people thinking it might be a good prank to fool a mate into thinking you have given them a killer fungus, please don't - there's a low but significant risk of heart damage as a side effect of elevated acetaldehyde.

        1. x 7

          Re: Fly agaric..

          "However, common ink cap breakdown products can block the enzyme that breaks down acetaldehyde."

          its more or less the same chemistry as occurs in the drug Antabuse/Disulfiram which is given to extreme alcoholics. The antibiotic, Metronidazole has a similar effect. The full list of products to stay away from is quite high.....deodorants, aftershave, vinegar, pickled herrings/onions/cabbage...........

      2. paulf

        Re: Fly agaric..

        @ itzman

        "If you ever go picking wild mushrooms, don't."


        If you want to know that a mushroom is safe to eat - pick it from the shelf in the supermarket.

        Some mushrooms=tasty, some=near certain (and probably very painful+lingering) death and there isn't much wiggle room between the two extremes. If, like me, you're not much of a gambling man those aren't appealing odds for a game of mushroom Russian roulette unless you're really fucking certain you know which chamber holds the live bullet.

        1. Dadmin

          Re: Fly agaric..

          Just about every fall there is a news item about some family all getting seriously ill or dying because they found some awesome mushrooms and made a dish featuring it. Even when you know what you're looking at, and know how to identify it completely, like with spore samples etc, you are eating a wild thing crawling with aphids and worms and all sorts of weird, tiny creatures. There are just so many varieties of mushrooms available in the supermarkets, why would you risk serious illness by picking from the forest? Darwin is gonna get you!

      3. x 7

        Re: Fly agaric..

        "I dont think anyone has died from Amanita Muscaria ever."

        I'm not so sure that's correct. The story that fly agaric is fatally toxic is so ingrained in British tradition that I'm sure it must have been a known occurrence, but where, and how long ago is anyone's guess.

        For me, and my primary school colleagues (I'm in my late 50's) fly agaric toxicity was just another part of the country folklore handed down over the generations. Like using docks to relieve nettle stings, or not eating watercress from ponds, or not eating hemlock or nightshade. Or learning how to kill rabbits. Or that it was safe to eat dandelions, or wood sorrel.

        I'm convinced that in our pre-industrial days when most of this lore was formed, people DID die from Amanita muscaria toxicity, but with industrialisation, better education and less reliance on foraging for foodstuffs the incidence declined. Possibly the decline came before proper records were kept, hence the "anecdotal" feel to the tales of death

        However, I agree totally with you over its relative toxicity compared with some of the other Amanitas. The "Destroying Angel" alone should be enough to stop anyone unknowing from fungi foraging.

      4. harmjschoonhoven

        Re: Fly agaric..

        Sven Moeschlin's, Klinik und Therapie der Vergiftungen states that deadly poisoning by Amanita Muscaria is exceptional (2% according to Habersaat).

        However consumption of reheated leftovers of edable mushrooms, even if stored in a refrigidator can be very dangerous. Prepared mushroom dishes contain enough protein to be a good breeding ground for bacteria.

        Before modern times people had a very limited knowledge of foodpoisoning. Many cases, like the death of Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI) in 1503, which were attributed to deliberate poisoning, were probably a case of foodpoisoning.

    3. David Pollard

      ... and don't you eat that yellow snow!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fast Typing is a MUST.

    I used to work for Cosworth many years ago, they had customised BBC Micros controlling the mould injection system, and the things were located right next to the molten aluminium furnaces.

    If you stood still too long, even though the floor was deep poured concrete, the soles of you shoes would melt.

    I learnt the hard way.

    1. Spiracle

      Re: Fast Typing is a MUST.

      the soles of you shoes would melt.

      Another problem that can be fixed by a simple re-boot.

    2. joshimitsu

      Re: Fast Typing is a MUST.

      You have to tap dance in rhythm to your typing then.

    3. glen waverley

      Re: Fast Typing is a MUST.

      "controlling the mould injection system"

      So I'm reading an article about an automtaed mushroom farm when the above appears. Than I wonder about the mention of molten aluminium.

      Took me a couple of re-reads to realise the comment is not about the sort of mould that is related to fungus.

    4. Stoneshop

      Re: Fast Typing is a MUST.

      If you stood still too long, even though the floor was deep poured concrete, the soles of you shoes would melt.

      Workers at blast furnaces used to wear wooden clogs because of that. They needed frequent replacing, but they did the job.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fast Typing is a MUST.

        "Workers at blast furnaces used to wear wooden clogs because of that. They needed frequent replacing, but they did the job."

        Those poor workers, how long did they last?

  4. M7S

    Software and mushrooms

    A magical combination?

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Software and mushrooms

      A plumber named Mario comes to mind...

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Software and mushrooms

        He was certainly a fun guy

  5. Andy Non Silver badge

    Cabinet too tight for the computer?

    I bet there wasn't mush room.

    1. Aqua Marina

      Re: Cabinet too tight for the computer?

      I'm lichen the puns

      (Probably only works in the US)

      1. AbelSoul

        Re: I'm lichen the puns

        because you're a fun guy?

  6. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Payment in mushrooms

    I've not had that pleasure, but for most of my career I've been working for peanuts

  7. Captain Hogwash
    Thumb Up

    stranger than fungus?

    Good name for a band.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "open the Dutch box"


  9. AJ MacLeod

    Not paid in, but...

    I've had several authors give me signed copies of their latest works after I've dug them out of various IT related holes (rescuing vanished manuscripts representing weeks or months of work does tend to bring out the gratitude in people!) to the point where I've a section of my bookshelves reserved for them.

    One of the authors being a New York Times best seller many times over these can be a welcome way to relax a bit after the stress of the job... (strangely I always feel the need to correct my grammar when I'm speaking to authors despite knowing they couldn't care less so long as their problem is solved!)

    1. Spiracle

      Re: Not paid in, but...

      "One of the authors being a New York Times best seller many times over"

      Somewhere in the Library of Babel there's a shelf reserved for all of the masterpieces that disappeared into bad sectors.

      1. Afernie

        Re: Not paid in, but...

        "Somewhere in the Library of Babel there's a shelf reserved for all of the masterpieces that disappeared into bad sectors."

        If Thursday Next is to be believed this realm is known as the Well of Lost Plots.

    2. Alistair

      Re: Not paid in, but...

      We ended up with a rather nice living room painting after recovering about 120 or so lithographic image stencils from a laptop that had met the underside of a car tire one evening. The lady in question isn't in any museums, but does a rather nice business in watercolours. She also makes *really good* espresso. According to SWMBO I didn't stop talking for two days.

  10. Versace

    Let them eat cake

    A bakery used to give me cakes after on-site call-outs. They seemed to think that a £1 cake would somehow discourage me from sending a £100 invoice (it was a while ago).

  11. storner


    The company I worked for did some custom applications development for a company based in Greenland, who - amongst other things - exported a lot of shrimp which all ended up in a warehouse in Copenhagen. A new release had to be installed right around beer'o'clock on a Friday, and of course it didn't work. Debugging and fixing other peoples code has to be done right there and then, but I got it working. On the way out, the customer thanked me for getting things working and sent me home with 2 kg (about 4 lbs) of frozen shrimps "so I had something for dinner".

    Pretty good shrimp, though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shrimps

      Ask for cash - it's more portable, and usable for purchasing other things. Unlike shrimp!

      Barter exchange should only be used between friends and family - they have to be made to 'pay' something, otherwise they take this piss and consider your services valueless, but that something doesn't have to be cash. I've always found beer to be acceptable.

  12. Nick Woodruffe

    I helped a small shop with a problem with their POS and wifi link. Got paid in several truckles of cheese

  13. Mike 16

    My first paid programming task

    (if you can call it that) was paid in "hemp based herbal smoking supplies", which my roomate consumed before I got around to it. That was an "unofficial sub-contract" to a major financial firm. As in "programmer assigned to do it could not be arsed, but I (student) thought it was an interesting problem." Wrote and gave him the code. He handed me a baggie.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: My first paid programming task

      Did you write hash code?

  14. Stoneshop

    I was expecting

    the computer failing to restart because of mould everywhere.

  15. A Ghost

    Used to work at a pneumatics company

    Pneumatics, hydraulics, kind of stuff.

    Sold filters, regulators, lubricators, piping, pumps, hoses, that kind of thing.

    Oh, and fascinatingly, logic gates - basically AND and NOT and OR logic gates powered by air.

    One such system was put into a sewerage farm, where it was constantly covered in muck and constantly stopped working, well every six months or so anyway. That particular unit reached infamous proportions pretty quickly, being lableled 'The Shit Machine' to anyone that had ever worked on it, or just smelt it. It was rank.

    People would take days off work rather than deal with this thing. It was a real hot potato.

    I don't think it was even the smell of the thing (which was about a couple of foot square iirc), well, it WAS the smell of the thing, but worse, it had to be opened up and all the parts replaced and taken out by hand. It was a special kind of shit. The kind of shit that only The Shit Machine could produce. It would linger on your hands for hours after washing with swarfega or wtf it was we used back then. I got the short straw in the early days, just transporting the thing. That was enough for me to develop the level of respect for it that others quickly attained in similar circumstances.

    Happy memories.

    I remember skiving off work and spending whole afternoons wiring up and plugging in all the different logic units, trying to get them to trigger cylinders that would push things over in a kind of 'Mouse Trap' manner, where all the 'dominoes' fell in a kind of sequential but interesting way.

    Basically a very crude air powered computer thingy. But that 'thing', that 'beast', was something else entirely. It Was The Shit MACHINE! - a fine single malt distillation of the worst of the worst of everybody's poop and god knows what else. You could make a film about it, but the central message would be lost without Smellivision. And if Smellivision ever came into existence, then no one would dare make a film about it.

    IT enough?

  16. vincent himpe

    dead plasma etcher pc

    Early 90's. Semiconductor factory. Industrial pc goes wonky. We are talking ISA cards here , and a motherboard that, itself, is a plug-in card made with a 386. Runs some weird OS. Nightshift. Production is down.... what to do ? The bosses desktop computer ( one of the few PC's in the company, the rest is VAX, Apollo workstations, and Macs ) has enough isa slots ... so we mcgyvered that machine on to it using , literally , a stepstool and ducttape.... transplanted the harddisk and got the thing up and running.... took 2 months to get the industrial computer replaced. Manufacturer claimed it was custom built and there was no was we could have used a generic machine to do the work.

    Other instance : an ion implanter running iRMX on a 286 throws an error : bad memory at adress 0xsomething. machine keeps running fine. on next scheduled maintenance we pop the hood ... drams all in sockets... 4116's... hundreds of them ! This machine used an intel aboveboard as memory extender. we could not get a hold of one so we swapped banks of chips around until we found the address moved. turned out one chip had a bent pin... had worked all those years fine. straightened the pin. has worked for years afterwards.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to work with a very open minded company. Quite a few of our customers were escorts. It used to be quite common to get offers of freebies for helping them solve their computer and webcam issues. I must say as a young lad it was interesting work.

    Unfortunately with a new job now the only supplement to pay is occasional huge blocks of very ripe cheeses from an old cheese merchant.

    1. x 7

      " It used to be quite common to get offers of freebies for helping them solve their computer and webcam issues"

      I had something similar recently when I rebuilt a laptop for a Thai girl in Blackpool. Naturally the offer was accepted. I just have to work out how to put it on my tax return.........

  18. MrDamage Silver badge

    Boobs n booze

    I had a couple of pubs that used to call upon me for IT support back in the 90's.

    One needed urgent help on a Friday evening after their POS system shat itself. I happened to be in there at the time, and kokinglt offered to fix it for some free drinks. Reboot of the server anda bit of "arcane finger wiggling" (checked a few settings) in a CLI, and I never paid for a drink in that pub again.

    Another pub I got sent to by my boss was a nudie bar. Updated their old network from coax to UTP, and was rewarded with free lap dances, as well as free entry (giggity) to their Xmas, NYE, and Melbourne Cup functions.

  19. Jon Massey
    Thumb Up

    UPS in the box

    Is a *very* smart idea on farm. We rapidly discovered that the big ol' spike caused by the vacuum pumps kicking in on the milking machine was not at all healthy for our cow imaging systems

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