back to article Is that a stiffy disk in your drive... or something else entirely?

It's that time again: Friday morning, and your weekly dose of On Call, where we gather round to share a laugh at someone else's expense. This week, we return to the saga of Bruce and Sheila, a tech support chap and a PA working in a petrochemical firm in South Africa. When we last saw them, Sheila had been struggling to put …

  1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

    OK, you win, that is a new, at least to me, totally unexpected one!

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Seconded. This Sheila is a true gem.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Paris Hilton


      Here I thought that the stuck stiffy would be only the first of many stuck in the slot. I figured there would be at least one more stiffy in the slot.

      Paris because Stiffy and Slot...

      1. the spectacularly refined chap

        Re: misdirection

        I've heard stories of people getting two or three disks into a drive before and like you assumed at first this was where it was headed.

        Well, actually the second thing I thought of, the first thing on hearing the user report was that the metal slide had come off inside the drive, but then I figured that wouldn't really be an On Call worthy incident since it was always a legitimate 'shit happens' incident.

        Personally I breathed a sigh of relief when disks with plastic slides came out. They were marketed as less abrasive and therefore reducing dust contamination but the real benefit was they always maintained an accurate shape tightly against the surface of the casing.

        1. Schultz Silver badge

          I've heard stories of people getting two or three disks into a drive...

          My kids (when they were pretty small) managed to stack the DVDs in the Player. Astonishingly, it would still play the lower one of a stack until they eventually overdid it and everything became truly stuck.

          Took me quite a while and a good number of screwdrivers to expose, and lift off the stack of disks. I still have all the leftover screws lying around somewhere. But I got it back into working order, unlike that mechanical clock back when....

    3. Nick Kew

      But did she clock it up to experience?

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        No, it was registered as Down time ;)

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        You have to hand it to her, a second mistake like that certainly ticks the boxes, assuming it wasn't just a wind-up.

        1. Nick Kew

          On the face of it, my pun should've been quite bad enough. I find it alarming that yours is worse.

          Someone'll be along any minute to denounce hour crimes.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            The dangers of using second hand magnetic media.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "OK, you win, that is a new, at least to me, totally unexpected one!"

      Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Although I think our hero resorted to the brute force method a bit early on in the game. Depending on the time period and therefore the value of the drive compared to the disk, I'd have took the drive apart before griping the disk with pliers pulling with all my might!

  2. John70

    Can't wait for part 3...

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Is that the one where she manages to cram an entire 5.25" full height hard disk into the 3.5" floppy drive completely crushing the floppy (stiffy) disk that's already in there?

      1. Nick Kew

        No, it's the one where she gets Bruce's stiffie stuck in [CENSORED]

        1. TRT Silver badge

          I'm waiting for when she gets a stiffie stuck in a Zip and ends up with Jazz everywhere.

          1. Sandtitz Silver badge
          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "I'm waiting for when she gets a stiffie stuck in a Zip and ends up with Jazz everywhere."

            PMSL, you've been watching far, far too much tech porn!

    2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      CD the wrong way up?

    3. NATTtrash Silver badge

      Ahhh, bless... Reminds me of one of the hospital secretaries in the 80s folding up an 8 inch floppy, jamming it in a 5¼ drive as good/ bad as possible, "getting" (diplomatic phrasing) it out again, and putting the crumpled thing into the hand of the person who requested it. I can see him staring at the folded disk, then at her, at the disk again, and then his eyes widening when she said that she could put it under a stack of books if the folds bothered him...

      1. Loatesy

        I had similar when the move from the proper floppies to the smaller stiffies took place; at least one Civil Servant I knew of tried to fold a floppy to get it to fit into into a stiffie drive.

  3. Dave K Silver badge

    Only problem with the "stiffy disk" approach is when someone joins another company, asks local IT for a stiffy disk, then gets offended when the IT technician starts sniggering...

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime

      Only problem is when someone joins the company, then the IT technician starts sniggering...

      FTFY - for when a PFY is in residence...

  4. Terry 6 Silver badge

    "Stiffy" Really.

    Back in the good old days, when new machines with these new fangled discs arrived we just carried on calling 'em floppies. Everyone did. The people who introduced them made a great play on how much tougher the new floppy discs were. And that was it.

    Nothing to see here. Just move on.

    1. whitepines Silver badge

      Sounds like you need to get out more..."stiffy" is traditional in South Africa, not Blighty.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        As actually written in the article...

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

      Stiffy is (was) common usage in Australia as well

      1. Myvekk

        Maybe in a few places, but it wasn't at all common.

        I've never heard the term before now, & was using them when you had to boot from your 5 1/4". But 8" was a little before my time.

    3. BigSLitleP
    4. MrBanana

      Yes, really

      Even in the UK I was aware of the term at the time of their introduction. So yes, "Stiffy", really. Perhaps you only have one kind of stiffy permanently on your mind - maybe you should get out more.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes, really

        So yes, "Stiffy", really. Perhaps you only have one kind of stiffy permanently on your mind - maybe you should get out more.

        Or at least get the stiffy out more...

        1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

          Re: Yes, really

          Not at work, sir.

    5. NorthIowan
      Big Brother

      how much tougher the new floppy discs were

      But you still have to store them in a good environment.

      I had a job of recovering data off of some Mac 3.5" disks. The person wanted to restart a writing project that was backed up on the Mac disks. The Mac hard drive had been converted to a PC D: drive so was unusable.

      So I found software to read Apple floppies on a Linux box I had, I then had to find a old drive to install in it. Floppies haven't been standard equipment for some time.

      So then I could read the disks. Well I should have been able to. Turned out they had been in a box in his garage for years and we have hot and humid summers here.

      I ended up having to wash mold or something off of the disk surfaces before they were readable.

  5. pavel.petrman


    Somehow the story reminds me of this scene from Monty Python's Meaning of Life..

  6. bpfh Silver badge

    That’s a new one!

    Worst I had with the 3.5 inch disks was when the aluminium flap spring broke and jammed in the drive , but a good tug was all that was needed...

    I have had a CD jam closed due to a cd being slightly off centre and needing the drive to be removed and stripped down, and other than someone inserting a cheap usb micro mouse with the usb cable the wrong way up into a brand new dell and Buggering the connectors in the usb 3 port causing phantom power problems and someone else inserting Ethernet in the air vents of their laptop, I don’t remember really any other major gobsmacking idiocy with users and their I/O devices off the top of my head.

    1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

      Re: That’s a new one!

      You beat me to posting about the slide!

      Here's some CD stupidity for you: had an office where the security officer decreed that ALL media shall be labelled according to it's sensitivity. Fair enough ... The team wrote classification levels on their CDs with sharpie markers. NOT GOOD ENOUGH thundered the security officers, "Thou shalt use media stickers!". So everyone dutifully put stickers on the CDs... And bustification ensued.

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: That’s a new one!

      Oh yes... those springs and flaps were a PITA when they went pop. Thankfully that wasn't often.

  7. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

    Back when I was younger lad making do with my little 3.5in stiffies, I worked for some rather frugal people who would scour the Earth looking for bulk quantities of cheap media.

    I remember multiple lots of generic beige discs where the little sheet metal piece that covers the read/write aperture (stiffie's foreskin?) would break off inside the drive. We became quite adept at opening the drives to clean out the debris. It got to the point where my PS/2 had no screws installed, I could whip that bad boy out of my chassis in a flash.

    What the staff never understood is how the firm thought it was saving money when so much labor went into fixing drives, and the stiffies themselves generally suffered from amnesia.

    1. chuBb. Bronze badge

      Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

      Did we work at the same place???

      Had a summer job with my dads frugal/cheap/tight [del as applicable] friend, which involved uprating 720kb 3.5" disks to full fat 1.44mb disks by drilling the blanked hole out of the left hand (i think its been while) side of disk case, kinda the inverse of repurposing readonly disks, which i also spent a few days doing as well

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

      Managements never seem to apply obvious time and motion study to white collar jobs.

      That's one reason they buy vastly expensive centralised photocopier/printers to save a fraction of a penny per printed page rather than giving everybody a small laser/scanner - they have never stopped to work out the time wasted going to and from the central machine, separating jobs, going back and forth when the print needs adjusting - or the lack of productivity when the thing goes down.

      I recall one company where consultants tended to come in late to prepare materials for the next day, but IT support clocked off at 5:30. If you ran a factory where there were no maintenance staff on the night shift, people would laugh at you.

      1. paulf Silver badge

        Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

        @AC "Centralised printers"

        Good grief - a hundred times this. We used to have 2-3 printers on each floor of the current paulf & co offices. My nearest was about 10 paces away, with 3 more fairly close by. Then we switched to leased machines with a maintenance contract but only one machine per floor. Now it's several minutes round trip via the access controlled doors to the nearest machine (unless you're C-suite, natch) to find out the print job didn't send, back to your desk send again, find the settings were wrong, send a third time and finally get the sodding printout. The only positive is the maintained machines actually have some kind of up time which the antiquated in house ones didn't as no one took responsiblity for replenishing toner/paper. Some were dead with an error message for a week or more sometimes - with a queue of pending jobs (that their senders clearly didn't care about) blocked behind the error

        1. MarthaFarqhar

          Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

          Have the same thing here. The problem we now have is that they don't send engineers over, they leave it to a "print champion". Namely the muggins that used to have to do the jobs, but were allocated different tasks to make up for the loss of maintaining the printers.

          All mails from the outsourced print team are now correctly routed to /dev/null

      2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Bronze badge

        Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

        You don't need to invoke conspiracy theories to explain purchasing decisions. Separate printers per desk are far more expensive in terms of support and lost productivity, quite apart from the higher quality of proper printers compared to cheap ones.

        1. Lilolefrostback

          Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

          It wouldn't be too bad, having printers on lots of desks except that, inevitably, there'd be a boatload of different makes and models, all needing different drivers and requiring different configurations. A couple of our departments have just that. There is no need to have different makes and models of printers. But the purchasing guys have to buy what's cheapest when directed to buy, so the printers are always different.

        2. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

          I don't think anyone is particularly advocating one printer per desk, not these days anyway, but there does come a point where inconvenience outweighs any savings. At my own place of employment they tried to install one single printer for the entire place. Admittedly there are not many people working here, but the printer was in the main office meaning that those of us in one office had to climb a flight of stairs to collect printouts, and those in another office had about a 100 yard walk through two sets of maglock doors.

          They relented with the latter lot (and this also means that when one printer breaks down, there's another available), but the former lot (which includes me) still has to do the stair climb.

          On the positive side it probably means I do slightly less printing than I used to.

          IT also tried to shame us by putting a "pop-up" into the printing system which crudely calculated the cost of your print at something like 4p per page side. Irritating and inaccurate (it assumed all prints were full colour unless you had chosen the "pure black and white" option), and worst of all, the pop-up didn't pop up for a few seconds, meaning I would often find myself clicking "print", "ok", locking the computer, climbing the stairs, logging into the printer, only to find the job hadn't arrived because (when I got back down) the pop-up was waiting to be "ok"d.



          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

            I worked for a printer manufacturer. Any desk without a printer on it, soon had one, frequently two.

    3. Steve Todd Silver badge

      Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

      I had the opposite problem. The idiot purchasing department at the company I was working at decided that it wold be a good idea to agree a fixed price deal on a box of floppies with their supplier. We were paying £40/box of 10 when everyone else was paying £10 as prices had fallen.

    4. Killfalcon

      Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

      When I was a kid, we could *barely* afford a Playstation, so we cut all available corners, including a cheap-ass third party memory card.

      Every few months it just wiped itself clean. The first time I was somewhat peeved, but set about unlocking all the tracks in Wip3out again. And again. And again.

      God the 90s were boring... but I got so good at that game it qualified as a meditative aide!

    5. juice Silver badge

      Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

      > Back when I was younger lad making do with my little 3.5in stiffies, I worked for some rather frugal people who would scour the Earth looking for bulk quantities of cheap media.

      I think I've mentioned this in a previous thread many moons ago, but hey.

      Back towards the end of the Amiga days, you used to get people at car boot sales flogging bin liners full of magazine cover disks - presumably from remaindered magazine stocks.

      Obviously, these were sold at a far cheaper price than a standard box, and while the contents generally weren't of much use [*], they were very useful for anyone who wanted to *ahem* copy their mates disks.

      However, the quality of these disks was usually fairly poor - after all, they'd originally been given away for free stuck to the front of a magazine, and then dumped into the bin liner, dropped into the back of a car and then driven around from one car boot sale to another.

      And one friend swears that on one occasion when he ejected the disk from his Miggy, something happened which caused it to rocket out like a SABOT tank round, shedding it's case as the magnetic disk sailed wild and free over his desk...

      Still, y'know. Cheap.

      [*] By this point, the games industry had learned from the mistakes made in the 8-bit era, when the demise of the C64 and Spectrum market was hastened by magazines gleefully bundling half a dozen free games with each issue. So Amiga and Atari ST magazines generally just dumped a handful of apps, single-level game demos and the odd PD/freeware title or two onto their disks...

      1. l8gravely

        Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

        God I remember the old Fred Fish disks for the Amiga... used to wait around for the latest collection to arrive via copies of a friend of downloaded fromt the BBS at 9600, or 28.8K if I was lucky! Those were the days...

        I always through that Commodore was fools for not giving away a C compiler with the base system. The old Lattice C compiler was so stupid expensive that you couldn't afford to use it. And gcc wasn't ported in those days to M68k processors.

        I still miss my A2500 with Mech Force, great PD top down mech fighting game. Friends and I spent hours and hours playing that and building mechs.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

          "And gcc wasn't ported in those days to M68k processors."

          Eh? gcc was first written on a 68020 and a vax ... granted, the '20 was a Sun not a Commodore. rms's first Beta release was announced on March 22, 1987, and available via FTP at (or you could order a tape from the FSF for $150) ... The A2000 (which your fondly remembered machine was based on) was first released in the same month and year.

    6. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

      We had massive printers at far, far walks from everyone, but they were also secure: it had to read your badge before you could collect your print job or run one or scan. It meant a lot fewer sensitive documents sitting on the printer, although some people would walk away before their job was done, leaving half of a client's financial report, for instance, sitting there for all to read. The policy was for the next person to shred it unseen.

      If every desk has its own printer, I suspect print jobs would be left there as 'filed' far too often.

    7. swm Silver badge

      Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

      AOL used to send out 3.5" disks to install AOL or something. I always formatted these disks for reuse. At a conference someone wanted one of my files so I put in a newly formatted AOL disk, copied the file, and handed it to him. He made some comment like, "Oh, that's what those disks are for."

  8. The humble print monkey

    SD cards

    Students wonder why I take time to explain to them that SD cards go in the little slot in the side of old 27”iMacs, and not the big inviting one.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: SD cards

      I've got one of those. The side of the machine is designed so you'll accidentally put the SD card in the CD slot.

      And the USB ports are on the back so you can barely see them when looking from the top.

      1. ActionBeard

        Re: SD cards

        We've had an iMac at home for the last 8 years or so, during which time there has been much swearing and gnashing of teeth at the USB ports round the back. However about a week ago I installed a RAM upgrade in it*. While working on the machine I noticed that our fancy apple keyboard (USB-connected with built-in numeric keypad) also features not one but two USB ports - one on the left and one on the right. This is great but if only I'd found them sooner - would have saved years of huffing and sweary words.

        *gone from 4GB to 12GB - it's so fast now, it's like night and day

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: SD cards

          Just don't try to connect something that needs high power USB... you'll get a notification from macOS telling you that the USB device (your keyboard) has been disabled because it is using an amount of power it is not expected to. Unplug, re-plug, hey presto, everything works again.

        2. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: SD cards

          I noticed that our fancy apple keyboard (USB-connected with built-in numeric keypad) also features not one but two USB ports

          Designed for the original wired Apple mouse which had a very short USB lead, about 12" from memory. My wife had such a mouse and keyboard on her Mac Mini. The second port was very handy for USB sticks, until you realised both the aforementioned power issue (not usually a problem with USB sticks) and the fact that the hub was USB1, not USB2. I hope they've upgraded in later keyboards, but I'm not holding my breath.

          The obvious thing to do - particularly if the Mac has USB3 or a later connector - is to buy a hub, connect that to the back of the computer just once, and then stick the hub to the desk in a convenient location.


          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: SD cards

            Designed for the original wired Apple mouse which had a very short USB lead

            And, of course, a continuation of Apple's practice since the early days - every Apple Desktop Bus keyboard had two connectors and you'd use one to plug in the curly lead connecting it to the computer and the other to connect the mouse.


      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: SD cards

        "And the USB ports are on the back so you can barely see them when looking from the top."

        That's because you're supposed to put your iMac™ on a designer table in the middle of a room so you have easy access to the back, and so that people can admire your iMac™ from every angle.

        Of course, in such a situation you shouldn't actually plug anything into the USB ports, because it'll just make it look untidy.

    2. royprime

      Re: SD cards

      Ah, the days when imacs had DVD drives. I spent hours often striping down imacs and macbook pros to remove the incredibly flimsy promo CD / DVD's you used to get with some papers & magazines, easy enough to insert, but the mechanism was never able to spit the bloody things out again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: SD cards

        Following the article's theme:

        ... so it would swallow but not spit?

        anon due to embarrasment

        1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

          Re: SD cards

          And quite rightly, Anon.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now, with the world moved along through optical drives to USB sticks, I shudder to imagine where Sheila jams those.

    "Removing USB stick from eSATA port" story coming up?

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge


      My wife's old vaio had a combined eSATA/USB port which worked better thab expected so probably quite plausible

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Depends..

        I think my old Vaio has that too.

    2. BigSLitleP

      I've seen people plug USB sticks / cables in to the NIC....

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        I have seen people plug a VGA cable in the wrong way round. Must have taken quite some force. They even screwed the thing in place (probably just to be sure of a good connection). I spent quite a while figuring out why the beamer didn't work, as putting the connector in the wrong way round was not on my list of plausible causes. I only found out when I tried to unplug the cable to replace it, suspecting it might be faulty. As it turned out, it was faulty by then, as quite a few pins had been bent or broken. Had to throw it out (after berating the user).

        1. MarthaFarqhar

          For that very reason, we used to put m-m or f-f connectors on any piece of kit in the general areas so that if they did force the cable in the port the wrong way, we'd spend 90p getting another changer rather than having to spend hours trying to repair the port.

          1. Stevie Silver badge


            Have an E-Beer for Good Thinking.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Had to throw it out (after berating the user).

          I first mis-read that as "beating the user". Which is what I figured you did with the damaged cable before throwing it out.

          1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

            I truly felt like beating the user, possible with a chair. The cable could have been handy for whipping the user, of course

        3. Martin

          I have seen people plug a VGA cable in the wrong way round.

          I'm embarrassed to admit I managed that, on my first PC. As it was my own personal computer, and it had cost me a lot of money, I spend a long time carefully straightening the pins with needle-nosed pliers. Plugged it back in, kept my fingers crossed - and it worked! I screwed it in firmly and never unplugged it again.

          (Well, I suppose I must have done eventually, as I no longer have it...)

        4. Strebortrebor

          I'm guilty of that myself. When VGA first came out I connected my first VGA monitor (monochrome) without paying too much attention. It didn't work.

          If I recall correctly, they were about to RMA the monitor (cable was permanently attached) before someone asked me to doublecheck the connector orientation.

          The pin pattern of the HD15 connector is perfectly symmetrical, so no pins were harmed. It had taken only a little additional force to reshape the metal shell of the male connector into its complementary D shape.

          1. jake Silver badge

            "The pin pattern of the HD15 connector is perfectly symmetrical"

            No, it is not.

      2. dl1

        i do that.

        it happens infrequently when reaching round the back of a computer without looking.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          it happens infrequently when reaching round the back of a computer without looking.

          Ah, so you give it a reach-around. Very thoughtful of you.

        2. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Ugh. I destroyed my TRS-80 Model I that way. It had a raw edge connector which was not electrically buffered or protected in any way. It went straight to the Z-80 I/O pins. Reaching around and feeling for the reset button next to it was a recipe for static electricity to play havoc.

          Fortunately it was still in the 90 day Radio Shack warranty period.

  10. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Was it just me or was 1.2M floppies actually more reliable than 1.44M stiffies?

    I can remember that I needed to take more than 3 sets of stiffies with when going to site, usually the stiffy will refuse to yield up its data at the remote site, and I had to use another (hopefully working) stiffy,,,

    1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

      1.2M or 1.44M?

      I cannot remember if the 1.2M were more reliable than the 1.44M, but I can definitely understand your experience.

      Right when I was trying to figure out what floppy to use, a weapon of mass distraction attack diverted my attention:

      The Iomega Zip drives entered my life. The 100MB were crap and the 250MB were crap getting imploded to critical mass. We then "upgraded" to the Iomega Jazz drives... and Iomega itself failed soon thereafter. Trusting data to Zip was like shooting yourself in the foot on full auto.

      1. Andrew Moore

        Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

        Ah yes, i still remember "Click Death"

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

          The number of hours I've spent trying to fix Zip disks. The click of death was sometimes only due to a combination of disk and drive, so I had 6 drives of differing vintage and design hooked up on a shelf in the office ready to copy anything the students were desperate to get from their now dying devices onto one of those new fangled USB things.

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

        Well, the Zip drives only were problematic when you didn't treat them carefully (like slipping them back in their case ASAP)... I had a Zip100 for *years* and it worked beautifully. I even upgraded to the 2GB Jaz drive because the 1GB ones were... well... so passé. I still have that Zip 100 somewhere... :-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

          Extraordinary claim that. I suppose it's possible that Iomega managed to make one or two drives that didn't self-destruct, or you hardly ever removed the disk from the drive.

          I had the infamous "Sparq" drive. Definitely WORLIL (Write-Once Read-Later-If-Lucky)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

        Up-vote although I never had a problem with my Zip drives on mi Amigas. As one of the librarians on the CompuServe Amiga Forums, I was keeping current and the next back version of the more important files just in case something went really, really south and need a re-upload.

        They were rather notorious though.

      4. WolfFan Silver badge

        Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

        Iomega Zip drives were bad. SyQuest drives were much worse. The place I was working at during the 1990s started out with a lot of 5.25" SyQuest drives, which quickly became a few SyQuest drives, despite dead drives being replaced on a regular basis. We called them SyPest drives and hated them. Zip and Jaz drives were much better behaved. When they arrived, we binned the SyPest drives as quickly as possible (we had to take data from outside which usually arrived on a SyPest disk; we introduced the other parties to Zip and Jaz drives, and lo! the number of SyPest disks fell to near zero inside of two-three months, that's how hated they were.

        I had a beige PowerMac G3 which shipped with an internal SCSI Zip drive at the office. The internal Zip worked very well until the Mac was replaced by a new one, which didn't have a Zip; I bought the old beige off the company at the depreciated value of near zero, and used it at home for years. The Zip drive lasted for years at home, well past the time that the office stopped using Zip drives because the newer, cheaper, more shoddily built (gee, I wonder if there was a connection between those last two items...) external Zips broke so easily. Even at their worst, though, they weren't up to SyPest standards of breakage. The beige G3 still works; Apple said that it could have a max of 192 MB (that's megabyte) of RAM, three 64 MB sticks. In reality it could have 768 MB, three 256 MB sticks. It could run OS X 10.2 fairly quickly and is still my go-to machine for running certain older software (that would be spelled 'games'). The Zip drive doesn't work any more; I yanked the old Zip drive and replaced it with an UltraSCSI drive attached to a PCI card, which speeded up the machine noticeably. But I haven't seen a Zip disk for a very long time.

        1. Weiss_von_Nichts

          Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

          IIRC it was the external (SCSI or parellel) drives that would be affectes by the Click of Death. I remember having one of each kind and I had the internal one fairly long while the newer, external drive gave up within a year.

      5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

        "Trusting data to Zip was like shooting yourself in the foot on full auto."

        I had a SCSI Zip 100 connected to my Amiga A1200. Never had any problems with the 30 or disks I had. I must have been lucky.

      6. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

        And then there was the LS120.

        A perfect demonstration in crap management/bean counter decision making.

        They really, really waned their device adopted. And they were really a great improvement on the floppy discs. But they came out when zipdrives were already well known and with a price tag that put them up there with jewellery and rare art works.

      7. Montreal Sean

        Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

        Zip drives were horrible!

        I much preferred my LS-120 drive.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

          I agree. But,as noted, the cost ( of the discs not the drives) was f***ing insane.

      8. EVP Bronze badge

        Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

        Your post reminded (thanks a lot!) me about abomination called Travan. I had an ATAPI Travan drive made by Quantum. It was so sloooow and I was never (well, maybe 1 or 2 times out of 10) able to read/verify a tape, not even right after writing it. Marketing brochures claim Travan to be reliable and stuff, so maybe it was just my weak mojo that couldn’t handle such a powerful piece of technical equipment.

        I wonder to which slot Sheila would have inserter a Travan cartridge, and how many of them?

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: 1.2M or 1.44M?

          This rings a distant bell. Big thick cassettes or something like that. I think I was peripherally connected to some work, or a network or something that backed up to one of these drives.

          And someone had to nursemaid it in some obscure way. And the word slow pops into my head, alongside unreliable. Don't know why.

  11. Conundrum1885

    Re. Zip disks

    Unfortunate really, the whole Zip fiasco was caused by removing a damping component from the R/W head assembly which some bean counters decreed were surplus. Cue much clickage of death and gnashing of teeth.

    1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

      Re: Re. Zip disks

      I remember that now! Typical beancounter behavior. ISTR there was a big class action lawsuit in the US, and the remedy was ... rebates on future Iomega purchases.

      Have another go? No thanks, I'm done.

    2. Chz

      Re: Re. Zip disks

      I remember that mainly because I had a Zip drive from the original run (external SCSI) and it was dead reliable. Couldn't for the life of me understand why everyone else's Zip drives had so many problems...

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Re. Zip disks

        That was my go-to machine to recover the data from dying disks.

      2. Alistair Silver badge

        Re: Re. Zip disks

        Am I dating myself in noting that I *still* have a SCSI G1 Zip drive?

        And about 25 zip disks?

        And a SCSI G2 PCI card?

        and fedora still recognizes that card.....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Re. Zip disks

          In secure storage here although I'd have to really dig to find the SCSI card.

      3. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: Re. Zip disks

        I had the portable parallel port version (100MB) for a few years and never had any problems either.

      4. MonkeyCee

        Re: Re. Zip disks

        Yeah, my experience of Zip was that it was extremely reliable. But that turns out to be because we bought all our hardware at once, and it was the good stuff. Worked OK for people who had gotten used to treating floppies and stiffies with a bit of care and love, so straight into case after use.

      5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Re. Zip disks

        "I remember that mainly because I had a Zip drive from the original run (external SCSI) and it was dead reliable. Couldn't for the life of me understand why everyone else's Zip drives had so many problems..."

        Ah, that's probably why the SCSI one on my Amiga 1200 was so reliable then!

        (and looking after it properly, ie not dropping the disks, keeping them in their cases etc.)

    3. Fortycoats

      Re: Re. Zip disks

      I never found out the real cause, thanks!

      Imagine working in Tech Support for Iomega at the height of this problem (1998), and being ordered to tell customers "no it's not a design issue, we'll replace it under warranty". And you had to keep a straight face doing so......

      The response was usually, "fine I'll buy a SyQuest". Then CD-Writers became affordable, followed by USB sticks.

      Crikey, that was over 20 years ago....... get off my lawn!

      1. MarthaFarqhar

        Re: Re. Zip disks

        We still have machines with SuperDrives in, as well as blank media. USB superdrive is hanging around somewhere as well

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: Re. Zip disks

          LS120 drives as used by myself (Salvaged one) & the Royal Marines.

          Also had a laptop dead drive where some Officer managed to jam in both a 3.5 & a LS120 disc at the same time & then proceeded to try & remove them by employing a technique similar to a samurai committing hari kari by using a dinner knife purloined from the NAAFI.

  12. PickledAardvark

    Disassemble before applying brute force

    Experience beginning with Shugart 5.25" drives taught me that you should always remove a drive and strip it down sufficiently to see what was stuck. On average, it was quicker than inserting needle nose pliers and yanking. I once found road grit intentionally pushed through the flap. For computers with auto-eject floppy drives (Macs, Unix boxes), pulling on stuck media would drag the heads out of the drive resulting in a £200 replacement bill (cf £30 for a quality manual-eject drive). Syquest and Bernoulli drives were too expensive and complicated for desktop disassembly. We took them back to the workshop and had two pairs of eyes on the job.

    1. Frank Bitterlich

      Re: Disassemble before applying brute force

      A long time ago a coworker managed to put a DAT cartridge backwards into the tape drive of our RS/6000 system (don't ask me how. But it wouldn't come out again.) Since these drives were painfully expensive at the time (although being just regular DAT drives, but apparently with custom firmware) I didn't dare the old "yank, then yank a little harder" technique and had to disassemble the drive. Took me hours, but saved us a four-digit amount and got me a case of beer from said coworker :)

      Plus, it gave me an opportunity to remove the solid block of dust that occupied all the free space inside the RS/6000 – at first I thought it was some kind of insulation. A miracle that the machine had not overheated (or spontaneously combusted.)

  13. Kez

    Can we have a rewrite by Dabbsy? A piece about tugging on stiffies seems right up his alley

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      'Tugging on stiffies', 'right up his alley'... Do you know something about Dabbsy and/or MMe Dabbs (could be that her name is, oh, Lola?) that we don't?

  14. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    I once had a customer - a residential customer - call me to say the inkjet printer I sold her was jammed. She said she'd called the manufacturer, and they tried talking her through it, but she didn't get anywhere. She described it as the 'print head', and that it was stopping the paper feeding through. She could move it, but only a little bit.

    In the end, I went round to her, with a new printer just in case. I took a look at the paper 'tray' and saw small plastic-looking thing, that looked like some kind of old-fashioned paper guide. I pulled at it gently, and it slid out. It was a drinks coaster! It had fallen in somehow, and the customer thought it was part of the printer.

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Bronze badge

      I worked somewhere the boss was a salesman. He had a thing about taking support calls from random idiots who found our support line on Google, and trying to sell them one off support. (Main business was outsourced support for large corporate contracts.)

      One Friday a bit before pub time, he came in and asked us all why we weren't doing much of his pet idea, and we all explained it wasn't worth the effort dealing with people who had self-selected as a special kind of idiot. He scoffed, just then a random called and he jumped to take the phone. Within a couple of minutes he was done - he was a good salesman, at least - and said "look how easy that was, she's just around the corner and her printer won't feed the paper; I told her twenty quid cash, and I'll be in the pub before you lot."

      Three pints later, he walks through the door of the pub carrying a printer and swearing. Couldn't work out why tf it was always picking up two sheets together and then mangling them. We emptied the paper tray to have a look at the feed, and having had a few pints I managed to knock the stack on the floor. I swore, but not as much as the boss when some of the pages fluttering to the floor unfolded, and he discovered the a4 tray had been filled with sheets of A3 which had been very neatly folded in half.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        the a4 tray had been filled with sheets of A3 which had been very neatly folded in half.

        Having worked the hell desk, I must both congratulate and condole you for a new and true hell desk story. I know it must be true as nobody with any sense whatsoever could think up something as stupid as this. On the other hand, I now have a fresh idea for an office prank.

  15. cam

    There's a pervert in charge of removable media naming.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      There's a pervert in charge of removable media naming.

      And that is news to you?

      And you forgot "stick".

      1. MonkeyCee



        1. NATTtrash Silver badge

          Re: Mount




          1. Ken Shabby
            Paris Hilton

            Re: Mount

            Penetration Testing...

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Mount

          gawk, grep, unzip, touch, strip, init, uncompress, finger, find, route, whereis, which, mount, fsck, nice, more, yes, umount, head, expand, renice, restore, touch, whereis, which, route, mount, more, yes, umount, ping, make clean, sleep

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        You have dirty minds. The only naughty thing about a stick is that it is the answer to the riddle "What's brown and sticky".

        When they bring out a Digital Interfaced Load/Download Oblong for you to play with, I'll concede you may have a point.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "Digital Interfaced Load/Download Oblong"

          Sounds like an iPhone with conveniently rounded corners and a vibrate function.

    2. Killfalcon

      What they learned from the VHS/Betamax thing: which industry drives adoption of media formats. ;)

    3. RedRichie

      Don't forget those seedy ROM's!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Even worse, they could contain PDFiles

    4. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

      A cluster could be fun, too.

    5. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Bronze badge

      His name is Seedy Ron.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back in the days

    When an operating system fitted on a CD rom, I was installing Windows 2000 on a machine when I noticed a small hairline crack in the disc. How much difference can it make, I thought. Well, the CD rom drive was something like 52x standard speed. It spun up, and got faster and faster and I wasn't sure how fast a 52x drive would go. There was a bang like a gun shot, the room filled with dust, and when I opened the cd rom drive, there was no disc. The cd rom drive never read anything else afterwards.

    1. Swarthy

      Re: Back in the days

      I remember something similar, but far more beautiful: a friend had loaded a dubious CD ROM into a failing CD drive, it spun up, and kept spinning up. When the hum became a whistle, said friend hit the eject button. The tray opened, disk still spinning; the disk proceeded to lift off and attempt to fly across the room, only to exceed the tensile strength of the medium mid-air.

      With the silveryness and shiny, it did look a bit like a firework going off.

      1. Nick Kew

        Re: Back in the days

        Could that be where the idea to hang shiny CDROMs to scare birds came from?

    2. Martin J Hooper

      Re: Back in the days

      Here's what most likely happened to your CD -

      Slo Mo high speed CD shattering...

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Back in the days

        Nice video, have a ---->

    3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Back in the days

      There was a bang like a gun shot, the room filled with dust, and when I opened the cd rom drive, there was no disc.

      Ditto, but the drive wouldn't open, I had to dismantle it.

    4. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Back in the days

      Hmm, and yet Mythbusters had to re-task an angle grinder with an overdrive gearbox to get that to happen at an rpm cd drives can only dream of achieving.

      I've spun up cracked discs in high-speed drives and had no effect other than a bad read and in one case a norrible grinding noise where the disc was not gripped properly by the hub.

      But it's Friday so I will not "disbelieve".

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Back in the days

        I've seen the remnants of a dis so destroyed in a drive, so I don't doubt that it *can* happen, but i suspect it was fairly rare, and required more than a hairline fracture (which may or may not be a visible defect)

      2. whitepines Silver badge

        Re: Back in the days

        Hmm, and yet Mythbusters had to re-task an angle grinder with an overdrive gearbox to get that to happen at an rpm cd drives can only dream of achieving.

        A 52x CDROM will hit 10,400 RPM in normal operation (CAV limits higher RPMs which would otherwise reach 26,000 RPM at 52x). With a standard CD-ROM's diameter, that's getting dangerously close to tensile strength limits for a lot of materials (and exceeding even some more brittle metals).

        The MythBusters driver probably just makes sure one *reliably* goes over the tensile strength of the CD-ROM, to save time when filming versus hoping you have defective media.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Back in the days

          Er ... the linked Youtube video clearly shows you have to crank the revs *WAY* higher than your cited speeds to make one fail. They used the motor off a Dyson vacuum cleaner.

          The *point* about the Mythbusters angle-grinder thing was that using a DVD drive they *couldn't* get the speed up high enough for a disc to fracture.

          And I already said I've spun up more than one cracked and biffed-up disc in my life with no "rooms full of dust" or flying saucers. I *did* once have one hop out of the tray when it was still spinning when the thing opened up, but no Odd Job moments were experienced.

  17. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Destroying CDs

    When I was doing some RF work, my team was bored and had access to a sizable 915MHz magnetron. Memory dims, but call it a 25kW source. Dangle CD in front of an open waveguide and ... The lights, sounds, and colors were most gratifying. And I DEFY you to recover any data off the remains.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Destroying CDs

      Works quite well in a microwave oven too - place the CD over a bowl (with a little water in the bottom) and after you've watched the pretty you end up with a totally useless CD-bowl. Useless because of the hole in the bottom.

      Just a shame that in those days, when I had a microwave oven I didn't mind risking, I didn't have a video camera to record the light show.

      A friend had a "thing" about AOL and Compuserve CDs, and we destroyed quite a lot of them in various entertaining ways...


      1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

        Re: Destroying CDs

        Nice! Will definitely have to give this a shot.

  18. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I was booked to a do a weekend roll-out at a remote site. After a long drive I pulled into the car park opposite the hotel, went to the ticket machine and inserted my bank card into the slot. Odd, the rollers haven't caught it, push it a bit further. My hind brain managed to catch up and stop me from pushing it all the way in as it screamed "ticket slot!!!!" Yes, the ticket dispensing slot was identical to the cank card insertion slot, made even worse the ticket slot being underneath the keypad and the bank card slot being off to the side.

    Luckily this was a work trip, so my toolbox was in the car, my needle-nose pliers just managed to grab enough of the card to pull it enough to get a proper grip and remove it.

    1. tinman

      It would appear you're not the only one. Here is an ATM next to a parking ticket machine at my workplace and the added sign asking users not to put tickets in the ATM suggests others have made a similar mistake to yourself

    2. jfm

      In South Africa, many parking payment machines accept your parking ticket for cancellation, and your debit/credit card for payment. They have one card slot. After 17 years here I'm just about over the brief panic every time I use one (how does it remember which card to rewrite? Especially since it takes both, processes them and then returns them, all through the same single slot).

  19. sgrier23


    So, why did Sheila not call you when she tried to copy the files to the clock for her boss, and then when she tried to eject it?

    This is a bit like the story of the HDD constantly failing on a tower PC because the user used FRIDGE MAGNETS to stick Post It notes to the side of the PC.

    Makes you laugh....

    Oh, IT Support. What users fail to remember is that IT guys are like elephants - We never forget...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I still don't get it

    Late post - How in hell would she insert a relatively giant analog desk clock into a such a small slot?

    Seriously asking here.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: I still don't get it

      I remember those promotional floppy-clocks from back in the day. Might still have a couple somewhere, possibly buried in one of my time capsules. They were analogue on the face only, the guts were electronic. They were just about the same thickness as a regular floppy. The hands, hour and minute only in the promo versions, were very thin and quite flush with the surface. There was no crystal. The "knobs on the back" for setting it were actually flush mounted rubberized buttons. I can see somebody being able to force one into a drive.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: I still don't get it

      Inserting an analog clock into a disk drive is very much like making love to a beautiful woman.....

  21. Montreal Sean

    It's Bruce's fault.

    Sheila obviously overheard some techs talking about overclocking and thought she'd give it a try.

  22. Dr Kerfuffle

    Staples through disks?

    When I used to work for GST software in Cambridge in the 80's, most of our products were supplied on the blue 3.5" Atari ST disks. I was constantly surprised when customers were advised, after reporting a faulty disk, to return it to us for testing, would post us the disk with a complement slip STAPLED to it to tell us what the fault was or what their return address was. How they managed to get a staple through the entire thickness of the disk often baffled me. They'd also do it with normal 51/4 inch floppies. Obviously completely wrecking them!

    I also remember a customer complaining that he could not get his 1st Word Plus document to print. The shortcut was just 'Ctrl-P', so I told the customer to do that. I heard his keyboard rattling and then he came back to me complaining that nothing was happening. I told him to try again, with the same result.

    So this time I asked him to tell me EXACTLY what he was doing. So he said 'ok, I am now going to the keyboard, I am now typing C, O, N, T, R, O, L and P.

    So after picking myself up off the floor, I had to patiently explain that there was a CTRL key that he was supposed to use!



    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Staples through disks?

      Did they also type things like S H I F T T W O shiftslash

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Staples through disks?

      I rather enjoyed knowing exactly where you could staple such disks in spots that did not ruin them. Plenty of space on a 5.25.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020