back to article A real head-scratcher: Tech support called in because emails 'aren't showing timestamps'

All hail On Call, the beacon of light at the end of the long week's tunnel. Here, readers share their tech support triumphs and woes, from the infuriating to the fascinating, for your reading pleasure. This time, we meet "Nico", who was faced with something of a PIBKAC situation when email was a slightly newer innovation, in …

  1. Alister

    There is of course the well know, although possibly apocryphal tale of the Boss who "didn't do email" but instead his secretary used to intercept incoming emails, print them out, and then take them in to him. Should a reply be required, the Boss would dictate it to the secretary, who would then send it from the Boss's account.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      That one isn't apocryphal but completely real, see here and here.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Used to be quite common, I think. I saw it in a number of schools and offices I visited in those early(ish) days. (Education will possibly have been worse affected due to the combination of hierarchy with absolutely no training for anyone, ever.)

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Education will possibly have been worse affected due to the combination of hierarchy with absolutely no training for anyone, ever.

          And completely untrained idiots lording it over IT folk, demanding the impossible.

          At one meeting in one school, the idiot in charge made one of her pronouncements "And you will do it because I say do and you're the IT people" - at which point we all looked at each other, packed up our stuff, got up and left as one, pointing out that whilst there was a government science agency coordinating the meeting, the "IT folk" attending were reps of most of the local IT businesses doing so on an unpaid donation of effort basis with the lack of respect being noted (In the end the government agency people walked away too)

          Another school had the idiot in charge get a nicely (snake) oiled sales presentation by an out of town outfit resulting in a "complete network installation" being done over summer holidays behind the backs of everyone who'd been discussing how to do it properly - at 5 times the retail price of the hardware plus an eyewatering labour cost, (all hubs) mixing staff & student networking together. My reward for writing a warning about the risks and stating that if they were lucky the student who hacked them would only change their grades was to be kicked off the coordinating committee by said idiot. About a year later the inevitable happened - and when their liability insurers found out they'd been warned of the risks deemed that coverage was invalid. The cost of fixing the networking was nothing compared to the legal expenses of the massive privacy breaches. The idiot in charge still works there and still blames everyone except herself for costing the school a couple of million dollars.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            To blame?

            " The idiot in charge still works there and still blames everyone except herself for costing the school a couple of million dollars."

            Of cause. If you had not written it in warning, they would have gotten away with it being an "unknown/unavoidable/someoneelsesproblem". ;)

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Since you say "dollars" I'll assume USA, as no country mentioned.

            In the UK a few years ago school funding that was controlled by the authorities was "delegated" to schools as "local management". This meant that a) in many places the local authority IT support was lost, and schools had to source their own (or fail to) and b) some school bosses got very hoity toity with the IT support that was provided/sold under LSA and would run a parallel process, picking and choosing what advice to follow.

            Either way it had lead to massive waste. Schools investing in I-thingies for kids to use, (because it made good PR in snobbier schools) but not having appropriate software. Or buying laptops that weren't nearly robust enough or buying at insanely high prices from a salesman. And so on. In telecoms, btw, it was even worse. With schools being conned into buying expensive and complex phone systems.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              > Since you say "dollars" I'll assume USA, as no country mentioned.

              That kind of thing happens in Australia too.

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                And other places. I'm not saying that only an American would quote Dollars but not give a country reference, but.......

    2. A K Stiles

      Except that isn't apocryphal.

      I used to work in a place where that was exactly the process involved. High level exec only reads things on paper and wouldn't touch a keyboard himself - that's what his secretary was for.

      1. NoNBNforMe

        I worked with a Construction Manager that had his PA print 3 copies of each received email.

        Copy one was for him to handwrite notes and replies on,

        copy two was for the PA to write notes on and

        copy three was filed, just in case we need it later.

        Spent hours explaining that his mailbox was backed up daily and there was no risk of losing data but he insisted of following this procedure.

        He claimed that it was worthwhile near the end of the project when the company lawyers needed to go through all project correspondence to see what was discoverable for an upcoming mediation hearing but the lawyers preferred my solution of a box of DLT tapes with all data rather than 5 filing cabinets of paper.

        1. SolidSquid

          When even lawyers are advising against paper copies you *know* you've gone off the deep end

          1. sketharaman

            I saw so many paper printouts in the SUITS legal drama TV series that, when it came to a lawyer playing a video, I was bracing myself for someone to roll out a projector and white screen. Thankfully, he used an iPad.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "the lawyers preferred my solution of a box of DLT tapes with all data rather than 5 filing cabinets of paper."

          They might have thought the tapes would be easier to edit.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            I still see this as an excuse.

            Me? I fire up photoshop, edit it out and timestamp, then print it off.

            "You gave me the holiday allowance for this week. You authorised it last year. I've even got a photocopy of your approval. What, you never kept your copy?"

          2. sketharaman

            Anecdotally, 70% of Fortune 500 companies have ERPs but over 90% of them submit reports to their board of directors in Excel. When he heard this, an ex-boss of mine who used to report to the Board quipped, “Makes sense. No other software lets you make so many last minute changes"!

        3. Pen-y-gors

          Spent hours explaining that his mailbox was backed up daily and there was no risk of losing data but he insisted of following this procedure.

          "no risk of losing data" - for a given value of "no risk". There have been enough recorded instances of mail boxes going bye-bye. Paranoia can be your friend.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Proper backups ...

            ... are an adequate level of paranoia. For large enough values of "proper" and adequate levels of "adequate'.

          2. whitepines

            "no risk of losing data" - for a given value of "no risk". There have been enough recorded instances of mail boxes going bye-bye. Paranoia can be your friend.

            Playing devils advocate...paper is not infallable either. From mold to cheap stock breaking down over time to flood and fire plus the high latency / seek time, paper can easily be the worse choice for an archival system.

            When the computer media reaches the same retention targets as paper it's generally safer / easier to use the computer media, provided proper backups (schedule, data format, media) are performed. DLT tape being mentioned for instance indicates at least proper media was selected, therefore paper being safer may not be a given here.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              "Playing devils advocate...paper is not infallable either. From mold to cheap stock breaking down over time to flood and fire plus the high latency / seek time, paper can easily be the worse choice for an archival system."

              Paper is expensive to search - making the £400 limit on FOI requests a trivial threshold.

              One can (and should) argue this is constructive obstruction.

            2. JeffyPoooh

              The ONLY fully secure back-up system...

              Here's the only method of securing data that is absolutely 100% reliable, guaranteed to survive anything short of a planet-smashing asteroid.

              Download some good pR0n videos. Then, using digital steganography (a sort-of digital watermarking), embed your precious data into a nice compilation pR0n video that you assemble. Upload your new creation to any one pR0n server; it doesn't matter which. This process can obviously be fully automated.

              Within minutes, your video creation, including your precious embedded data, will be hosted on hundreds of pR0n servers distributed around the world. Furthermore, it'll be almost immediately downloaded to millions of individual devices around the world.

              Your data is in the cloud, always available, and secured on a distributed network forever. All at essentially zero cost to you.

              Some claim that all this is impossible. Others say it's already happened; which would better explain a few things.

              "And this, boss, is why I'm seemingly surfing pR0n at work. I'm merely trying to retrieve a back-up..."

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: The ONLY fully secure back-up system...

                > Within minutes, your video creation, including your precious embedded data, will be hosted on hundreds of pR0n servers distributed around the world.

                For all of (say) 10 minutes, sure.

                After that though, better not count on it.

            3. Jelder

              Not to mention thermal prints...

              I Remember opening a file to find some *very important* faxes from 18 months earlier. A file that was now full of curly, but blank paper.

              Because, unlike diamonds, cheap thermal prints are not forever...

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "There have been enough recorded instances of mail boxes going bye-bye. "

            Funnily enough, that's what backup tapes are for - and you should see smug faces fall through the floor when a lawyer asks for them.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          That's nothing !

          Like, in this Dilbert dude way :)

          Use to work for an international company, sites everywhere. There was this old dude, VP of whatever (anonymized, here) who use to literaly, live in planes, going from one meeting here, travel and sleep in the next plan, rinse and repeat. Needless to say, he died quite young.

          We were migrating the mail system, and were warned of the high risk he would represent, should his special process be broken.

          Here goes:

          - email would come to his mailbox

          - his local site PA (the location he was, that day) would pick it up, print it and have him read it

          - he would write notes and response to the print out

          - he would then fax it (yes, fax it, even though it was mid-2000) to his central PA

          - the central PA would turn the annotated print out to a proper email response

          This was one of the most insane thing I've ever seen.

          1. Peter X

            Re: That's nothing !

            Needless to say, he died quite young.

            Fuckin'ell... so you killed him?!!

            (/me re-reads the "special process").....

            Okay, I can see that. But still, maybe not wise to admit it here! ;-)

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

              Re: That's nothing !

              I'm more curious as to how he was an old dude that died quite young... Is there some kind of time-travel involved in this story?!

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: That's nothing !

                It's a perspective thing. The Millenials tell me I'm old, and the GenZers think I'm positively ancient ... but if I were to die today (I'm 60ish) I would be considered to have died young.

                Here in Sonoma, people are saying that 60 is the new 40, and 50 is the new 30.

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: That's nothing !

                  "Here in Sonoma, people are saying that 60 is the new 40, and 50 is the new 30."

                  And 25 is the new entitled teenager who has tantrums

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: That's nothing !


                Original AC, here.

                He was 60ish, therefore the "old dude" term. And he died before reaching 70, which why I said he died quite young. YMMV.

                And no, I didn't kill him, the permanent travels did, if you ask me.

          2. jake Silver badge

            Re: That's nothing !

            My FIL, a(lawyer and retired (elected) Judge scrawls notes on paper with a pencil and FAXes them to my Wife and I (and other people who still have a connected FAX machine for one reason or another). He sent his first email a couple months ago, and hates the entire concept.

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: That's nothing !

            Whether it's insane or not depends on the date. Could the exec lug around a computer with him and could he expect to find a connection. These day Wi-Fi is everywhere and getting access to the Net is not a problem. A couple of decades ago, a fax machine was easier to access and Wi-Fi on a plane was unheard of.

            Things have changed rapidly, but people's workflows don't as much. When you get older, you tend to stick with things you know work. I'll expect that the PA was taking the scribbled notes and turning them into a proper business communication. I've know plenty of execs that couldn't craft a paragraph to save their paychecks. Their secretaries were the ones that turned their hand waving into comprehensible prose.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: That's nothing !

              35+ years ago, I carried a Panasonic Sr. Partner around the world a few times. If you had the need for a portable computer, they were available. For a price. 38 pounds of luggable (including case, manuals & floppies). At least it had a built-in printer. I still have it. You get attached to the daftest things after a quarter million air-miles together.

              Mine has an MFM controller in the expansion slot, a 20 meg hard drive in one of the floppy bays, and an aftermarket hack that upped the stock 256K of RAM to a more usable768K. I used an external modem. Yes, it still works. Came with Panasonic-labeled MS-DOS 2.2, but it currently boots MS-DOS 3.3 ... It might be hard for some of the younger readers to believe, but a LOT of RealWorld[tm] work was done with such primitive devices.

              1. jonathan keith

                Re: That's nothing !

                Reminds me of an old joke:

                (Emphasis on *old*)

                At Heathrow, our man - returning from a trip to the Far East and lugging two obviously heavy suitcases - is stopped at customs. "Anything to declare?" asks the customs official.

                "Only this watch" replies the gent, indicating the shiny new digital timepiece on his wrist. "It cost over a thousand pounds!"

                "A thousand quid for a digital watch?" asks the unimpressed customs bod. "What's it do?"

                "Oh, plenty!" says our chap. "It can show the time in three timezones simultaneously, and read aloud the top five news stories from major capital cities there. Plus it can automatically reserve you a taxi to take you to your hotel whenever you arrive at an airport. You can dictate a message and it will then send that by fax for you, it reminds you in advance of your anniversary, your wife's birthday, your secretary's birthday and your boss's birthday, and it connects to a remote control thingumajig which makes you a cup of tea when you simply press a button."

                Despite himself, the customs officer is mildly impressed. "Not bad at all" he admits. "But tell me," he asks, indicating the two large, heavy suitcases "what's in those?"

                "Oh, them?" replies our man, "They're the batteries."

                1. Kiwi

                  Re: That's nothing !

                  "Oh, plenty!" says our chap. "It can show the time in three timezones simultaneously, and read aloud the top five news stories from major capital cities there. Plus it can automatically reserve you a taxi to take you to your hotel whenever you arrive at an airport. You can dictate a message and it will then send that by fax for you, it reminds you in advance of your anniversary, your wife's birthday, your secretary's birthday and your boss's birthday, and it connects to a remote control thingumajig which makes you a cup of tea when you simply press a button."

                  Amazing how jokes can become tech with enough time - though not sure you'd find something that stops after only 5 stories (and modern watches can show you the news channels). Actually not sure smart watches can do faxes.. Emails sure - then again you may be able to find an email-fax gateway, or the software to create your own (got me a nice external fax/voice/modem should any one want to convince me to part with it :) )

                  1. jonathan keith

                    Re: That's nothing !

                    Still waiting for the tea though :o)

                    1. Arion

                      Re: That's nothing !

                      I believe later iterations of the HTSPSP spec support Tea. I'm not sure if there's a Tea implementation though.

                      1. Swarthy Silver badge

                        Re: That's nothing !

                        HTTP Response: 418 I am a teapot.

            2. Alan W. Rateliff, II

              Re: That's nothing !

              To a large degree this arrangement with an intermediate interpreter (secretary) would be preferred to a C-level banging out some Great New Idea into an incomprehensible missive in an Ambien-induced flash of brilliance, or off-the-cuff responses in a fully-awake fit of rage.

              Exec: To: so-and-so, message: $!&^% YOU!

              Secretary: "We appreciate your letter dated last Monday and, for the following reasons, politely disagree with your assertion."

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Not least because the filing cabinets didn't come with a search button.

          1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

            Filed everything under 'A'.

            A contract. A memo. A lawsuit .....

        6. Kurgan

          Lawyers not wanting paper?

          I can't believe lawyers wanted tapes and not paper. Probably they got the tapes, then printed their own 3-copies set of every email and document. Lawyers are responsible for deforestation, I know it for sure, having seen how they insist on printing everything, in more than one copy.

          This is because they like to use their Mont Blanc pens, and you cannot use it to write on a pc screen.

          1. Stu_The_Jock

            Re: Lawyers not wanting paper?

            Lawyers in my experience DO NOT print 3 copies of stuff. The secretaries print one copy, then load the entire stack into the feeder on the copier (making sure to not stack it neatly, or adjust the side guides to hold it straight)

            They then make a copy, and hand the original to their boss.

            The copy is then roughly piled on the document feeder and copied.

            Copy 1 handed off to someone else and copy 2 loaded onto feeder and copy 3 made....


            Cue call to copier supplier to complain that the copies are becoming poor quality, and not printing straight on the paper.

        7. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

          "to see what was discoverable"

          By opposing counsel? Better to give them cartons full of hard copies than admit that there is a searchable, sortable electronic copy somewhere.

        8. TomG

          Interesting reply until I got to the part that said "explaining that his mailbox was backed up daily and there was no risk of losing data" . Then I lost confidence in your narrative. After working with computers for in excess of 35 years I am well aware of the possibility of losing data.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Of course, typing anything yourself would have diminished your position. You would dictate or write something with a (expensive) fountain pen, and then leave the PA do the menial work involving a keyboard.

        Anyway, Vodafone ex-CEO Vittorio Colao was hacked through a fake support email (when it was at RCS, an editorial group) - so maybe the old system had some advantages...

        1. Dal90

          >so maybe the old system had some advantages...

          The old system had many advantages.

          At a certain level (which is probably much lower than folks might think initially), you're better off having a secretary who is intercepting communication, answering the easy stuff, organizing the rest so it can be presented a decision maker in an actionable context. The boss can whip off a quick outline of a reply and let the assistant take the time to proofread and fix/improve grammar.

          I was at the tail end of having a lot more support staff, including one company that still had an English major on staff just to edit documents for the executives, and things like online calendars and email shifted an awful lot of work from lower-paid to higher-paid employees.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Still, there's a difference between having a PA taking care of most of the "simpler" stuff, filtering out whatever they can handle themselves - and having a PA print everything and re-typing it.

            One overlooked function of Outlook/Exchange, is exactly the fact you can delegate people to access your mailbox/calendar/etc. and perform some tasks. It allows exactly to achieve in an "easy" way exactly what you wrote - still each with their own user accounts, and proper audit trail.

            Maybe more mail systems should have been designed with such features in mind since the beginning - it is clear they were mostly designed by people without a PA....

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "I was at the tail end of having a lot more support staff"

            Interestingly enough we're looking at needing _MORE_ support staff, because new hires have fewer basic computer skills than older ones and actually require spoon feeding most of the time.

            No, a computer isn't a magic black box you can load up with anytthing/everything and no you can't send 5GB attachments by email.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              >and no you can't send 5GB attachments by email.

              Err you can...

              However, don't expect them to be transferred via SMTP. In all cases the attachment is replaced by a URL to some attachment repository on a webserver somewhere.

              For Outlook there are a number of third-party add-ons that will handle 'large' attachments without the user being aware of them (unless they fail to access the attachment before the link expires! ). I was impressed that Apple, a few releases of iOS back implemented the same functionality in the iOS mail client - now my partner and colleagues can attach large numbers of photos without worrying about whether they will get sent/received.

            2. FishCounter

              Huge Attachments

              You can actually send 30GB attachments by e-mail, to everyone in the organization and with Single Instance Storage no longer available within Exchange it puts a nice chokehold on your e-mail system. I always expected a DoS attack to come from the outside...

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            Only 15 years ago, worked for a small IT company. Less than 12 of us, including the MD. We literally installed networked computer systems for other businesses, but he never had one in his office. Any letters, he'd get one of us to write and print out for his approval (then revise and repeat..)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "WTF do you think you're doing?"

      One place I worked at, a programmer was stilling at the shared PC* typing in some code when the MD came over.

      "WTF do you think you're doing? There is a secretary over there to do the typing". A real pity he wasn't joking :-(

      *Yes, when I started there was one PC to be used by three developers. That got fixed very shortly after I joined!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

        Depends how you worked. I started at a place where we wrote on coding sheets (it was assembler) so it would have been sensible to get a fast typist to bang it in after you'd written it.

        Enabled home working before the internet, don't knock it!

        1. muddysteve

          Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

          "Depends how you worked. I started at a place where we wrote on coding sheets (it was assembler) so it would have been sensible to get a fast typist to bang it in after you'd written it."

          I started COBOL programming on coding sheets, which then went to the data prep girls to be typed up and a card deck produced.

          You tell that to youngsters today and they won't believe you.

          1. Rich 11

            Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

            I started COBOL programming on coding sheets

            I remember writing my very first COBOL program like that. Entirely by accident I missed the full stop off the end of the first line. Three days later I went to pick up the results: 500 compilation errors. I fixed the full stop and resubmittted it. One day later: two compilation errors.

            Fucking hated COBOL. Never touched it since college.

            1. Stevie

              Re: Bad workman blames his tools.

              remember writing my very first C program like that. Entirely by accident I missed one equals sign off the first test. Three days later I went to pick up the results: no compilation errors.

              Years later the stupid error I made and didn't properly desk check was demonstrated to have buggered up the general ledger and caused the company collapse with loss of all jobs when an audit was done.


            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

              "Fucking hated COBOL. Never touched it since college."

              You're missing out, then. The recruiters might love the new shiny (until the next new shiny, lather rinse repeat) ... but Fortran and COBAL pay the bills. If you can code well in one or the other or both (including fixing the cockups of those who can't!), you can pretty much write your own check (cheque to you FrenchBrits).

              1. James Anderson

                Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

                Not anymore. COBOL coding has been outsourced to Asia. Where nieve but ambitious youngsters fix problems by posting questions on StackOverflow hoping the oldsters whose jobs they replaced will provide a solution.

          2. NorthIowan

            Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

            Punched cards were neat. I used them at university.

            I folded and glued some old ones together to make a night stand for my room. Hexagonal post with a hexagonal top and bottom. Also had a drawer in the top part for for my glasses.

          3. swm Silver badge

            Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

            When I was writing the Phase II Dartmouth Time Sharing executive in 1967 I keypunched all of the code. They offered to get me a typist but I refused because the act of keypunching was my final examination of the code.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

              You trust yourself to proofread yourself?

              Not I ... I'll happily introduce a second (third, ...) set of eyeballs whenever possible. Gawd/ess knows I'm far from perfect.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

                "You trust yourself to proofread yourself?"

                What makes you think a typist is a proofreader? _ESPECIALLY_ for code.

                What's on paper is what gets typed.

                1. jmch Silver badge

                  Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

                  "What's on paper is what gets typed"


                2. jake Silver badge

                  Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

                  "What makes you think a typist is a proofreader? _ESPECIALLY_ for code."

                  Simples. I hired the typist.

                  "What's on paper is what gets typed."

                  Keep telling yourself that, Sunshine.

                3. Roland6 Silver badge

                  Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

                  >What's on paper is what gets typed.

                  Agree, however it isn't necessarily what gets keyed which in turn may impact what the computer makes of the deck of punched cards.

                  Moral of the story: always (proof) read the program listing generated by the computer...

                  A lesson I learnt back in 1975.

                  1. AndyD 8-)₹

                    Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

                    >What's on paper is what gets typed.

                    Indeed it was - cos' the punched dech and coding sheets were passed to a second data entry operator who punch-verified it!

                    At IBM London in the 60's the card punches didn't have printers - if you wanted to read the code on the cards you had to learn how to 'program' a wire patch panel for the printer/interpreter.

          4. Inspector71

            Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"


            I got my very first IT "job" through my aunt one summer in the local council computer dept. She was in charge of the "punch room" where a gang of very lively women punched all the data on to cards and I got to load them on and off the I/O card reader in the computer room.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

              "... where a gang of very lively women punched all the data on to cards and I got to load them on and off the I/O card reader in the computer room."

              Just for the avoidance of doubt, the pronoun "them" refers to the "very lively women" and not the punched cards, yes?

          5. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

          I started in FORTRAN with coding sheets. When it came to making changes the most convenient way was to come in in the evenings when the data-prep teams had gone home and users could use the card punches. Eventually some card punches were made available for users during the day.

          1. MrBanana Silver badge

            Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

            Me too, while at school, with the FORTRAN coding sheets. But we didn't have someone there to type for us, we didn't even have a computer. It was posted to the local technical college, processed, then the result (invariably a syntax error) posted back. About a one week turnaround.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

              With us it was a stack of cards and a special pencil.

      2. Cessquill

        Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

        Yep. In 2005 I went for a Web Developer job interview at a small company. They told me that staff do not get internet access. And then fired a series of questions asking me to justify why a web developer needs the internet.

        Didn't get the job.

        Admittedly, the first site I built was in Notepad, and the MD dialled up on his 14.4 modem to publish it for me, but c'mon...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Yes, when I started there was one PC to be used by three developers."

        When I got into software they still had terminals. But the same 1 per 3-4 programmers.

        I did keep a straight face and kept quiet in the job interview when the one manager was explaining the nice software engineering tool they had developed. That you had to write things out then input stuff later when a terminal was free.

        Luckily they got more terminals latter. They even got the smarter ones run by a Z80 processor. Then eventually went to PC's with terminal emulators after windows was working better (WfWg 3.11) ;-)

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: "Yes, when I started there was one PC to be used by three developers."

          Some of us still have terminals. This laptop +dock has the built-in display, a larger second display (portrait), and a so-called "dumb terminal" plugged into a serial port (these days you might use a USB port). It's kind of nice to have a friendly login prompt when you are testing new code and send the GUI into never-never land. It's also a good place to send stderr or other logs when debugging. And lots of other useful things, like NetHack.

      4. SImon Hobson

        Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

        when I started there was one PC to be used by three developers

        Ha, back in we 80s there were six of us sharing one Intel MDS writing code for a project we were working on - multiple modules, each with it's own 8031 microcontroller, talking over a shared serial link. We got 3 hours each of keyboard & ICE time/day, the rest of the time we had to doodle on our latest printout in preparation for our next turn. It made quite a difference when we were able to rent an additional MDS for a while !

      5. David Woodhead

        Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

        When I began my Computation degree at UMIST in 1974 we newbies were shown their little computing museum which included, among other things, an 80 column hand card punch. We were all suitably impressed: gosh, how far things have move forward etc. etc.

        Three years later, when I started my junior programmer job at ICL in Reading, the first thing I was given was ... my very own hand punch and a much photocopied document showing the finger shapes for each character. Apart from being seriously underwhelmed by the level of technology, I also remember being vaguely revolted by the decomposing rubber keytops which had absorbed the grimy sweat from many years of finger prodding by coding oiks.

        Ah, those were the days. At least I never had to sellotape a chad back in to avoid repunching a card.

        1. AndyD 8-)₹

          Re: "WTF do you think you're doing?"

          >At least I never had to sellotape a chad back in to avoid repunching a card.

          ... no need for selotape - you just pushed the chad into the hole and levelled it with your thumb nail - could last for up to half a dozen reads.

    4. Andrew Moore

      Last place I worked had a guy that would print every single email he received (yes, including spam); read the printouts; and then shred them.

      1. Groaning Ninny

        At least is avoids following dodgy links. Perhaps we should insist on this for the more clueless users?

        1. Andrew Moore

          Funnily enough, that didn't stop him. Would get a regular ping from our AV when it blocked him from some dodgy URL.

    5. Warm Braw Silver badge

      A long time ago, I worked at the head office of an organisation that was supposedly at the forefront of networking technology of the time. The volume of e-mails was relatively low compared to paper correspondence and the office manager insisted that they were printed off and included in the daily correspondence log for future reference along with copies of the incoming post. I once had to look something up in the archive and found it was way larger than might be expected as it contained a large number of PostScript attachments that had been dutifully printed out despite the fact that the office owned printers were only capable of PCL 3.

    6. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      Not apocryphal at all

      There is the famous case of Donald E. Knuth who has had enough of email after 15 years (the 15 years during which he did use email spanned 1975 to 1990, mind you). Don't you dare ridicule him before (re-)reading TAOCP and making sure you understand everything!

    7. tip pc Silver badge

      you make me feel old :(


      the fact that the true reflection on how people transitioned to email is now taken as myth makes me feel very very old. I'm sure it wasn't that long ago that people had footnotes in their signatures asking the receiver not to print that email.

      I'm sure you can research how long that sites been about for.

      in my first job from ~ 2001 i remember finding reams of internal messages sent (by human internal messengers) between departments and found it interesting seeing how they transitioned to email as they where included in the reams too. The info pertained to site surveys and infrastructure and put much needed context to the large (A1 i think) site diagrams i had printed on the large

      HP plotter inkjet in the office.

      So no, the story is not apocryphal (yes i had to look that up), but was absolutely real.

      1. Mr Humbug

        > I'm sure it wasn't that long ago that people had footnotes in their signatures asking the receiver not to print that email.

        It's still there in lots of signatures, but you don't notice it because it's buried in the bit that says you shouldn't have read the message if it wasn't for you.

        1. jake Silver badge

          And/or the bit that says you have to return all copies to the sender if it wasn't for you.

          And/or the bit that says you will be sued if you read it if it wasn't for you.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Which is, of course, the last thing part of the email that you'll read because it's at the end.

            It's just occurred to me that there might be a link to top-posting here. Do top-posters expect their emails to be read from the bottom upwards so that the reader will have got the context before reaching their pearls of wisdom?

            1. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

              Re: top-posting

              Not quite bottom-to-top, mind you. No, sirree... You get forwarded a long thread of emails and a request for your opinion (my normal use case). What you are expected to do in such a situation is very simple indeed. First you need to find that place not far from the bottom, but not quite at the bottom, and read in the normal fashion to the bottom. Then you need to find that special place a bit higher than the one you started reading from, and read in the normal fashion until you reach the place you originally started from. Still with me? Fine... Then you need to find yet another special place a few dozen lines higher than the second place you started reading from and read normally until you reach the second place you started reading from (assuming you still remember where it was). Et caetera...

              There are cultures on this planet who read left-to-right, right-to-left, and top-to-bottom. I don't think there is one that reads bottom-to-top. The procedure required by top-posting is not bottom-to-top. I wish it were. Instead, it is so bloody ridiculous that it defies all reason.

              Not that it has ever stopped anyone. From time to time some Outlook-brainwashed (l)user scorns me for using normal contextual quoting because it is "weird and incomprehensible".

              1. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: top-posting

                I very much agree with you, but there can be problems with some types of contextual quoters as well. My favorite (in the sense of least favorite) are those who drop their comments into the original email train but don't bother to delete the unnecessary portions. In many cases, it would be more helpful for them to quote the relevant portion of the message in their reply, rather than making me search through someone else's email to find the things they wrote. The competition for the most annoying way to do this is currently tied between messages where I've already seen the older ones so I cannot possibly get any benefit from the old text in which their reply is placed, and ones that were not formerly connected to me and contain information I don't need to read, like this example:

                ---Original message---

                From: Not the person whose name is on the message I'm reading

                To: The person who forwarded this

                CC: A bunch of people I don't care about

                Subject: Normal subject

                Dear [not me],

                [Bunches of meaningless pleasantries that do not matter to me because they're not relevant to the situation.]

                [Information about a situation that is not the one I'm supposed to deal with.]

                > And, on another topic, the related [my project] project, [summary of my project which I already know], may be able to provide some useful functionality to our project if we can integrate things. Could you link them to us and see if they're interested in teaming up?

                [Here's where the sender has placed information I need, like the summary of their project and ways for me to learn about it so I can actually decide this question]

                [More information about something not related to me]


                I would much prefer that they just tell me this in one unified message. They could get it across by saying "I'm on a project and we think your project has some useful components that could help us out. [Summary and link to their project]". If they really want, they can forward the original message along with this, but I will read those only if they've asked me to or it is clear that there is information in them I need, not in the hopes of finding more things they wanted to say to me.

              2. SImon Hobson

                Re: top-posting

                and read in the normal fashion to the bottom

                Ah, no. You don't read to the bottom. Between the bit you need to read and the bottom are a gazzillion signatures/footers/disclaimers that build up as each top-poster quotes the whole darn thread - oblivious to the size of the message.

                Mind you, if they are using MS's email service then even a short plaintext message is expanded to something like 4k in headers !

            2. jake Silver badge

              Top posters ...

              ... should be taken out behind the barn and horsewhipped.

              Right next to the massive over-quoters and the "me too!"ers and the "reply to all"ers.

            3. Terry 6 Silver badge

              No we expect them to read the subject line and then if they can't remember the issue to scroll the page down to it.

              Rather than receiving an email that starts with what you just wrote to them and having to scroll down to find a new bit.

          2. JLV

            You forgot the part where the contents are held to be that particular employee’s views and opinions and do not engage their employer’s responsibility.

    8. joewilliamsebs

      Been there, seen that

      This boss followed the standard routine of getting his PA to print emails so he could scribble a response and have her type it back in, but also had to have the "best looking" PC stuck in his office so he could brag to clients about how high-tech there were.

      Six months after the first components were stripped from it to fix other, more-used machines, he finally noticed that it wouldn't turn on.

      1. Nick Kew

        Re: Been there, seen that

        I'm sure I've seen that in a Dilbert ...

    9. Nick Porter

      Re: If not doing something because it was "inconvenient" was the ciriteria for Brexit..

      Not remotely apocryphal and still common practice in many solicitor's offices. Secretaries print out emails at the beginning of the morning and afternoon and the solicitor dictates a response which is then typed up and sent. The idea of a partner being expected to do their own typing would be seen as laughable.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        In defense of the solicitors

        It would probably be a lot more damaging to have a partner send out an email by himself only to discover after the fact that he had made a mistake or included a detail he shouldn't have.

        There is one advantage to dictating a response : you have another pair of eyeballs reviewing your text and thus a better chance of spotting goofs and correcting them before sending.

        For solicitors, I'm guessing that that is important.

        1. xeroks

          Re: In defense of the solicitors

          I guess so, especially as we're probably not talking about a dumb typist here, we're talking about an experienced legal secretary.

          1. Mr Sceptical

            Re: In defense of the solicitors

            There's the added benefit (to the client) the PA is almost certainy a faster typist than a lawyer, "where's that £ key gone again?!?" so you'd be billed less.

            Or maybe not.

            Lawyers: We always win (£££)TM ->>

          2. MrBanana Silver badge

            Dumb solicitor vs legal secretary

            I know someone who did some temp work as a legal secretary, she didn't last long as she kept correcting the poor grammar and spelling of the solicitor she was typing up letters for. How very dare she correct her superior? I have zero trust in the supposed infallibility of solicitors since the mess that the last one made of processing my father's probate. They couldn't even spell his name correctly, how difficult is that when you have the death certificate, literally in your hand.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: Dumb solicitor vs legal secretary

              How very dare she correct her superior?

              Very similar thing happened to my brother, who was laying out a promotional leaflet for some organisation-or-other in both English and Welsh (he's fluent in both). There was a minor grammar error in the Welsh, which he corrected without thinking about it but the reaction from the client nearly lost my brother his job, and he was forced to grovel with chocolates and flowers.

              He set up on his own shortly after than and has done very well since, though he's heading towards retirement now.


            2. Rich 11

              Re: Dumb solicitor vs legal secretary

              They couldn't even spell his name correctly


            3. eldel

              Re: Dumb solicitor vs legal secretary

              Don't get me started on solicitors and probate. When my mother died a couple of years ago the 'family solicitor' started rubbing his hands at the thought of probate. After all, it's clearly impossible for me (living in the US) to deal with a UK probate myself. In fact would I like to fly back (3 times IIRC) to sign papers or should they retain representation in the US for the purpose (which would cost more than the freaking flights).

              A quick call to the probate office in Leeds and the nice lady there said "no problem - just download the docs, fill them in, add supporting docs, have your signature notarized and send them to us." She even apologized for me having to send them physically.

              I took a certain amount of pleasure responding to the solicitor's email (probably sent by his secretary as it was grammatically correct) when he reminded me some months later that the matter needed attention.

    10. jake Silver badge

      I still run across this one occasionally, Alister. Sad, but true.

    11. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      SV CTO

      I worked at a successiful Silicon Valley startup from 1990 to 1995 where the CTO had his PA do exactly that. He wrote "emails" or "replies" longhand on yellow pads for the PA to type into his account and send. Incoming emails were printed. By "successful" I mean our 1993 IPO went quite well. That PHB was CTO until 2002. Not sure he ever did his own email.

    12. Amos1

      Witnessed it personally as well. The boss was a Ph.D chemist and absolutely brilliant (seriously) and was head of the company's large Research Center. He developed numerous well-selling chemical products still in use today in the polymers industry. But he just did not understand computers at the time (early 2000's). His AA printed out all emails and put them on his desk, he hand-wrote the replies and she then sent them.

      Once he was at a remote plant and needed to use remote access to pick up emails because his AA was in another state and that location's fax machine was out of service. I was given the call when it came in of "can't connect". He was a great fellow so I liked working with him. This was a dial-up connection using a Windows 95 PC with a third-party dialer.

      We started from scratch with me saying "Click on the Start button" followed by several seconds of silence followed by "Where is that again? As you know I don't use this thing very much."

      I eventually got him connected and he thanked me for my patience. He then asked when I could spare some time to stop by the Research Center and give him some PC lessons. He said "I suppose these things are not going to go away." We laughed and I gave him the lessons.

      A few years ago he sent me a message via LinkedIn from the university where he now leads the polymers science center and said "Hey, remember back when I couldn't find the Start button? I think I've got this thing figured out." followed by a smiley face.

      I had not heard from him in years and I thanked him for the best laugh I'd had in a long time. And it was.

      1. jake Silver badge

        And that, Amos1 ...

        ... is probably why I still try to help people with these sometimes infuriating contraptions. Every now and then, you can actually help one of 'em in spite of themselves.

        Have a beer. You've earned it :-)

    13. Timo

      Came here to say just that

      This was mid-90's and one of the managers at our customer site would do something similar. He was a paper based person and would have his secretary print the emails, to which then he would spend time studying and filing them. I don't remember if he was capable of responding to them all by himself or not. He was a simple man in a bewildering world.

      His predecessor was much more advanced in terms of technology - that guy would queue up a bunch of documents with the secretary to be faxed at certain intervals during the day, and then he'd be off to the golf course.

    14. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "There is of course the well know, although possibly apocryphal tale of the Boss who "didn't do email""

      I can confirm that this behavior was standard in on London-based property development company for senior managers until 2004 at least.

      Numerous fixes were tried:

      - passwords were an issue so we used hardware tokens for logons

      - larger screens were purchased to make it easier to see what was written/typed

      - training, gentle hints, Blackberries all failed to change the behavior for more than a few days at a time

      I'm unsure if the issue was ever addressed or if retirement was the only permanent fix for the issue.

    15. a cynic writes...

      I knew an old lawyer many years ago who worked in just that way. His practice had been to deal with paperwork in batches morning and afternoon writing on the letter/memo for his secretary to reply.

      When email came in he just had them printed and added to the batch. The only real difference was that we didn't have to add his signature to the replies at the end of the day.

    16. a_yank_lurker

      I had a boss like that, did not use a computer at all.

    17. AustinTX

      Sometimes, a business would prefer to ship boxes and boxes of documents that can't be quickly sorted and searched electronically. When in some sort of legal trouble, they might even force the prosecution to rent a copier and hire staff to copy the defendant's files the hard way. I have a friend who arranged for this to happen.

    18. macjules

      And that was not that long ago either. Until around 2013 many bank staff were not permitted to send emails to customers or even to access the web outside of the bank's intranet. Emails had to be typed up and "posted" using "stamps" via something called "Royal Mail" (God only knows what that is).

    19. jaydoubleyou

      OK this was 1997/98 but I used to work for the Ministry of Agriculture (as was) and the admin assistant for one of the senior vets used to have to print his emails out every morning.

    20. IHateWearingATie

      Also so this first hand - old school sales exec in 1998, his secretary printed all emails for him that he annotated for secretary to then reply to. Emails stored in filing cabinet in his office.

      To be fair he was probably a couple of years off retirement so wanted to work in the same way he always had, and was senior enough to make it happen

    21. RancidRodent

      Not apocryphal.

      Back in the mid to late 80s the head of Data Operations (IT) in the company I worked for used to get his secretary to print his emails to be placed in his in-tray, if a response was required he would dictate it to her for her to copytype and send - it was not uncommon for him to sit his secretary on his knee! (yes really!) all sent and received emails were then dutifully filed and a rotadex (sp?) updated for cross-referencing. He was in his late fifties then - it's not surprising that people born in the 1930s were not exactly IT literate - and typing of any form was seen as "girls' work".

    22. Colintd

      Printing out email and dictating replies used to be 100% real in the time that you has physical circ folders for printed documents.

      But then so did shared email accounts, where we did a daily download, via a modem, of email for our group, with was printed and circed, with batched sending of replies which had been prepared in text editors and transferred on crispy discs (crispies being the 3.5" followup to the 5.25" and 8" floppy)...

      We also had "SneakerNet" for our first laserprinter, which meant you copied you file onto a disc, walked over to the machine with the printer attached, inserted the disc, and then did a local print.

    23. Noodle

      Sadly not at all apocryphal

      In the mid 2000s a boss at my place of work had his PA print every email sent to him and read them out (he never turned on his own computer). He would then dictate a reply to the PA who then typed it up and sent it on his behalf.

    24. steviebuk Silver badge

      Not all apocryphal

      At a place I used to work the PA to the CEO would be in charge of readings his emails and replying as him. You never knew what he'd actually read or if the replies were his or her's.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Not all apocryphal

        Always assumed that this would be the case, unless there was a whole department for that job of course. Like those celebs who have an autograph signer.

    25. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I confess to having been involved as a volunteer in the mid 90s on one of the UK's many heritage railways. On this particular railway emails were printed out, and handed to the guard of the next passing steam train, to deliver to their ultimate recipient at the next station.

  2. big_D Silver badge


    I knew where that was going after the first sentence. Been there, seen that.

  3. chivo243 Silver badge

    Had me going...

    Here I thought it was going to be something like the time stamp column was hidden, and as I read the printing scheme, I wondered about landscape vs portrait. But not to send the message and just print it? Chalk this one up to human ingenuity! or the opposite?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Had me going...

      My "teach how to use computers" go to now consists of anticipating this.

      "How do I print, my printer is not working on the Computer. It says "error" or something, what's wrong!!!"

      And I ask "Do you have a printer", I'm 99% certain the answer is "No, I plan to get one next week, but can you help with the print error I'm getting now!?"

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Manglement doing what Manglement does the best.

    1. Daedalus

      Even worse: media droid manglers. Time to schedule a re-viewing of "Comfort and Joy". Come to think of it that was set in Glasgow too.

  5. OGShakes

    CC the printer

    I had a similar incident early in my working life, a customer who printed emails and posted them as well as sending normally 'just in case' the email got lost on its way...

    1. Loyal Commenter

      Re: CC the printer

      At a place where I used to work, one of the account managers used to print out her outbound emails and fax them to the client for exactly the same "reason".

    2. BebopWeBop

      Re: CC the printer

      Well I must admit I have both emailed and posted important documents (such as bills :-) to some clients......

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: CC the printer

        There are also in some places legal reasons to do that.

        I worked at a company that sent out the invoices to some of its customers electronically, but the documents were only legally binding if they were received in paper form (or fax). So if they didn't pay, a paper copy was sent as a follow up, for some customers, who were regularly bad payers, both went out at the same time.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Monthly sales report

    We had the "pleasure" of the server being sat in the corner of our two-man office (for no reason other than that was were it was). It had a wide carriage, high speed dot-matrix printer attached that was only used to print out a monthly sales report.

    We hated working in there on the first Monday of the month as this thing would clatter away for half a day emptying the box of continuous feed paper into an output tray. No one ever collected the report and we would send it for recycling about the time the next one was due to be printed.

    This went on for years (we did ask why it wasn't stopped) until one Monday there was a loud "BANG! CRASH!" from where the printer used to be.

    It had been sat on a metal stand with the input and output boxes underneath it. The continual, rapid movement of the print heads back-and-forward made the whole printer move slightly from side-to-side, which this had caused metal fatigue to develop in the legs and the whole lot had crashed to the floor, destroying the printer.

    Needless to say, no one ever noticed...

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "we would send it for recycling about the time the next one was due to be printed"

      Why didn't you recycled it as the next one? Mondays would have been quieter...

      Or the savings on paper consumption would have given it away?

    2. muddysteve

      Re: Monthly sales report

      If no-one ever read the report, why was the paper replenished?

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Monthly sales report

      After the first month, I'd have simply hit the Offline button and waited for someone to come into the office asking where their printout was...

      Although it would probably have been some admin after a couple of months, coming to see why the print queue for that printer had chewed through the whole system drive...

      1. Daedalus

        Re: Monthly sales report

        So you glue up a paper loop. Paper never runs out! Printer dies unexpectedly. Everyone wins!

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Monthly sales report

        They probably wouldn't have asked where their printout was, but instead asked "Why is it so quiet in here today?".

      3. paulf

        Re: Monthly sales report

        I do something very similar when I go to pick up a print out and find the printer has been stopped for some time due to a lack of paper/toner, with a pile of jobs backed up in its queue waiting to be printed. I usually conclude the owners of those jobs either weren't really interested in having them printed, or they're just hoping someone else will get some fresh paper/toner/etc. In that case I sort new toner/paper and helpfully save paulf&co some money by deleting all those unwanted jobs first. Bonus is I get my print out faster by not having to wait for the other jobs.

  7. sandman

    It doesn't end

    Yes, I also worked for an organisation where one of the directors insisted their PA print out all emails so they could read them and then dictated the answers. Fast forward a few years and management changed. This lot would only look at bulleted PowerPoint slides. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It doesn't end

      Printed in single sided full colour no doubt.

    2. David Neil

      Re: It doesn't end

      Ah Powerpoint briefing slides - used regularly at a former employer as the only way that management would accept an annual performance review, monthly departmental scorecards, the lot.

      If it couldn't fit on the slide in 10 pt text it was ignored

  8. jake Silver badge

    Concepts. We've heard of them. Hopefully.

    Thirty-odd years ago I was doing a server upgrade at a small company in Palo Alto. After bringing the system back up and telling the users they could get on with it, a friend of mine and I had a late-morning snack at her desk while I monitored the system for errors. The print queue spiked almost instantly, and the Boss's secretary started typing again. After about 10 minutes, the secretary went and claimed her print job. She put the pile of paper on the desk, hit "print" again, and then again furiously started typing (she could maintain 140 WPM, I think it was ... she was FAST). When done typing that document, she went and got coffee, and waited for the job at the printer to be finished ... again, it took about ten minutes. When done, she hit "print" again ...

    About ten minutes later, she had a third pile of paper. Keep in mind that this was the era of ~25 pages per minute ... As I watched, she pealed the top sheet or three off the top of each pile, and dumped the rest into the "recycle" bin[1].

    I looked at my friend & said "WTF?!?!" (or something similar) ... She just smiled sadly & shrugged. The secretary proof-read the documents, and then wandered into the Boss's office with them. I snuck over and eyeballed the secretary's computer ... and discovered that she had every document she had ever created in that office (about a month's worth) saved as a single, large file! I couldn't believe what I was seeing ... She was printing the entire thing each time!

    I wandered back to my friend's desk, and again said something like "WTF?!?!?!?" She suggested that I get paid, and cash the check before bringing it up to the Boss.

    I took the advice, cashed the check, and then called the Boss, suggesting a "free" follow up to my upgrade work in the following week. He readily agreed (freebies are good). My friend & I conspired to get me in when she knew that the secretary would be doing a lot of printing.

    The followup showed the network was working fine. Then I brought up the "unusual" behavior of the secretary. The Boss got very red, and yelled at me, allowing as to how the secretary had impeccable references, and if she was doing it that way, that was the way it was done in the industry. I was escorted from the building by a security guard ... but not before I got in an over-the-shoulder "I suggest you look into your recycle bin, and see what kind of company business is being exposed to the world ... and how much paper is being wasted" ...

    The secretary lasted another week. The other folks in the office bought me dinner the evening after the day she was fired ... It seems the Boss stayed late one night and discovered she had wasted a couple cases of paper in about a week ... When confronted, she flat refused to learn how to conserve paper. I have no idea what happened to her after that, but the Boss never hired me for a job again.

    [1] Yes, recycling 30-odd years ago. This was Palo Alto, after all :-)

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Concepts. We've heard of them. Hopefully.

      I had that the other way around.

      A user was writing a document, saved the file, printed it, wrote the next document, saved the file, printed it, about half a dozen times. Then screamed and called me to her desk, the first document had disappeared! And she couldn't find the second or third either.

      She had diligently saved the file after each document, then deleted the contents of the document and typed the new one! Saving it in the same file each time, just: Print->Save->Select all->Delete->Type new document.

      At least she had printed them off first!

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        Re: Concepts. We've heard of them. Hopefully.

        How we laff! But think for a moment about a paper-trained secretary faced for the first time with the "desktop metaphor" for computers. The secretary was well familiar with the terms "document", and "file". The first was one or more pieces of paper, and the second was a box, folder or cabinet containing many documents, each with a file reference.

        At this point it becomes clear: the "Save to file [file-name]" instruction no longer means the same thing to the secretary as to the designer who is comfortable with the computer-based meaning of the word "file", which to all intents and purposes is now cognate with "document". So, yes, it's about concepts. We forget paradigm shifts at our peril!

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          You are very right, but still, it should not be terribly difficult to understand that, if you take a piece of paper, write stuff on it, put it in a box, then take the same piece of paper, erase everything and write something else, you no longer have the first version.

          I'm guessing she just needed someone to point out the equivalence of what she was doing.

        2. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Concepts. We've heard of them. Hopefully.

          Not a trained secretary, just a new computer user (in 2013). She had never used a computer in her life until that point.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Concepts. We've heard of them. Hopefully.

            I'm genuinely finding it really hard to believe that anyone (in a non-third-world country) in 2013 cannot ever have used a computer before starting their first job.

            In 2000, I could still believe that could be true, but in the intervening decade, life and schools changed *a lot*.

            1. big_D Silver badge

              Re: Concepts. We've heard of them. Hopefully.

              Not her first job, but the first time she needed to use a computer.

              She worked in an kitchen supplying meals for a group of nursing homes. She wanted to her Meisterbrief (Master Craftsman Diploma) and a requirement was that she used a computer for the coursework.

              Until that point, she had never had a job that required the use of a computer.

              I also worked for a company supplying software to the food industry, especially slaughter houses. I would say around 30% of them had absolutely no automation or computer equipment for the process or back-office, before we installed the software. Another 40% had terminal based software dating back to the 1980s. The rest had a mixture of Windows PCs, ranging from 95 to XP.

              It was only when the law changed to require them to provide electronic, unalterable records of the processes that many switched from manual paper work to actually using a computer and in the 30% who were getting their first systems, most of the workers had never used a computer, even at home.

              I found it hard to believe, but it is the case that a lot of people, even today, have little or no computer experience. If you have been working for a company since the 1970s that never computerized, where are you going to get your computer experience from?

      2. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: Concepts. We've heard of them. Hopefully.

        My Dads secretary did that. Lovely lady, I remember her using an old manual typewriter and her glee at getting an electric one, then an electronic one, even saving templates on it. word processing was a little struggle and she never got the concept of save as even after I locked the file forcing her to change its name all subsequent files had the same name. She did print every letter, invoice etc.

        Sadly long gone, my sister is keeping her traditions alive by doing exactly the same and even refusing working from home (even when home could be abroad and work could be just 2 hours a day).

        Oddly my mum and dad are far more clued up on these things.

  9. The Nameless Mist

    4 of 400

    We had one department who ran an iSeries report of 400+ pages every morning; then went through it and extracted about 4 sheets and discarded the rest.

    When we pointed out that there was a print as PDF option; some of the users; who had been using the iSeries for years professed complete ignorance of the option.

    Needless to say the paper utilization in the department went right down after that.

  10. ColinPa Silver badge

    Manager who wanted to do email.

    20 years ago I worked at a large multi national IT company which was going through a rough patch, as a result we got a new CEO. I heard the conversation the first day went

    New CEO: Where's my computer to do emails?

    Suave PA (in a nice suit): Yes sir, that's ok sir, we print them off for you, filter them and bring in the ones you need to read.

    CEO: I want to do emails. Get me a computer.

    PA: Yes sir

    After lunch PA comes in with a big folder of printed emails.

    PA: Yes sir, Here we are sir, (big grin) here is your mail

    CEO: Where's my computer?

    PA: Yes sir, I'll organise it later

    CEO: Your fired. Tell your replacement to get me a computer.

    One hour later the new PA brought in a computer.

    How did the previous CEO manage to work like this! This attitude explains why the company was going down the tubes.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Manager who wanted to do email.

      It's a very useful way to make sure that the CEO doesn't know what's going on, customer complaints etc.

      Keep them isolated from reality until the receivers come through the door.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Manager who wanted to do email.

        It sounds like the 'Yes, Minister' approach to company management. Only give the minister the mail he can be blamed for.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Manager who wanted to do email.

      Friend of mine graduated in 1990, got a job in sub-national government. He'd been a touch-typist since early teens, useful as by university he was starting to get early-onset arthritis which meant he couldn't write.

      First day on the job:

      Where's my computer?

      You don't need one, your secretary will type up everything.


      I had a similar experience ten years later, yes, in local government.

      Where's the computer(s) so that I can write things?

      Just give what you need typed to the secretary.

      Ok, but where is the computer so that I can write the things you want me to give to the secretary?

  11. Mystic Megabyte

    Bulk mail

    I occasionally work in various UK locations. This usually involves two flights each way and a hire car on arrival. This is all arranged for me and sent by email. When printed out it's about 12 pages of colour images and waffle. All I want are the flight times, boarding passes and the name of the car hire firm. I think that could be done on three pages. It is a real pain when I'm at a check-in desk and having to find the correct info. I might have to revert to copy scissors and pasting with *real* paste!

    Even more baffling is the "Do you need need to print this?" saving paper messages and then having colour logos etc. plastered everywhere.

    1. big_D Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Bulk mail

      Why do you print it out?

      I usually do the online pre-boarding and get a QR-Code, which I can display on my smartphone when I get to the gate.

      Likewise, scroll to the section with the name of the rental agency... :-S

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Take care

        Some countries don't always* accept something on a smartphone as a return ticket and you may be refused entry!

        *It depends on the mood of the person on the desk.

      2. nil0

        Re: Bulk mail

        I've never had the battery go flat on a piece of paper.

        1. juice

          Re: Bulk mail

          > I've never had the battery go flat on a piece of paper.

          This. And as someone else noted, some airports don't accept e-tickets. And pieces of paper are far less likely to fall prey to being lost or stolen.

          I recently had cause to ponder this as my new and slightly bigger phone decided to jump out of my pocket in my friends car when he gave me a lift to the train station.

          Fortunately, I had paper tickets and my friend turned up at the other end on time, but it was an interesting flash back to the days of dead-reckoning, back before we all ended up with a magic box in our pockets which lets us talk to anyone in the world and whistle up virtually any information we need in milliseconds.

          Equally, paper is still sometimes needed. Wizz Airlines are good (bad?) for this; they tell you that some airports don't accept e-tickets but its virtually impossible to find out which ones fall into this category - the link they provided in the message just led to a page which reiterated this. I spent a bit of time clicking around but didn't manage to find out where this was the case. Which is annoying, as their "print at the airport" service carries a hefty cost - their business model is basically a clone of Ryanair with all the soft and frilly bits trimmed off.

          (As part of this, and for more fun, if you opt for the basic ticket, you can't check in any earlier than 3 days before the flight. Which means on a long weekend, you have to check in after you've arrived. Fortunately, their Android app works well enough, once you've waded through all the adverts and upsell "offers". And it turns out that Budapest does accept e-tickets, which saved me having to hunt down a cybercafe...)

        2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

          Re: Bulk mail

          "I've never had the battery go flat on a piece of paper."

          Had the Qantas app dump my boarding pass while i was in the queue to board, because it wasnt happy about being in flight mode...

          Also the app boarding passes expire at scheduled departure time, so if your flight is delayed it will dump it and you need to check in again - which most travelers wont be aware of, creating a massive rush to the service desk.

          These days I screenshot my boarding pass as soon as I check in.

          Which doesnt help if you are nursing along an old Note 4 with a dodgy battery, which was a major reason I had to let it go.

          1. wjake

            Re: Bulk mail

            Bad App! The whole point of the app is to keep you updated to delays, etc. I've never had an electronic boarding pass expire on me. A flight delay just changes the reported departure time.

      3. FlossyThePig

        Re: Bulk mail

        I've got a Windows phone so no effing apps for me, hurrah!

      4. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

        Re: Bulk mail

        Why do you print it out?

        For several reasons, actually.

        1. I found out that when I am passing through security or through the boarding gate, with a trolley and a computer bag, an overcoat that I'll need at my destination but can't wear at the airport of departure because it's too hot, and the passport at the very least, I really want my phone inside my bag (especially for security!) and not in my hand where I also need to unlock the screen at just the right moment. Paper can be rather securely inserted between the passport's pages and is generally much more convenient to hold.

        2. I also found out that when not travelling alone usually it is just one person who does the check-in. My better half is much better at performing the check-in procedure on a small-screen device, and on a couple of occasions she took a screenshot of my boarding pass and WhatsApped the image to me. Guess what: WhatsApp apparently compresses the images sent to reduce the size, and the QR codes do not work on the gate-side readers. I suppose they should be sent over email, but then you need to explicitly download the attachment while you still have WiFi and if there is a futile IT endeavour it is searching for a downloaded file on a smartphone. Usually simple to just forward the mail to the hotel reception for them to hit the print button.

        3. I would hate not having paper backup if my phone decides to lose charge or stops working for some other reason or decides to require a password reset 30 seconds before I need to show my boarding pass. Never happened to me yet, but I have enormous respect for that Murphy guy we all know.

    2. Andy A

      Re: Bulk mail

      But without all the crap around the important bit, how would they make any money? They depend on the advertising, you know.

    3. Trixr

      Re: Bulk mail

      There's a middle ground between these two approaches.

      Use an app like Trip-It or the airline's app to store your flight details (Trip-It works by you sending it emails of your itinerary which it parses out into a nice standard form - works for travel and accommodation).

      At the airport, go to the check-in kiosk, enter your flight reference information from the app and print off the paper copy of the boarding pass. I generally do this because I don't fly with a single airline, and I'm not going to install a bazillion airline apps on my phone (and I use Trip-It).

  12. Diogenes

    Still frustrates the #$@~!% out of me

    As a teacher it is not email that gets printed. We have a system that records all manner of interesting things about our classes and students, includes rolls, attendance, a markbook & academic reporting function (that is the reports that are sent to parents), academic warnings, letters home etc. Our teaching (not executable) programs are created as google or word docs. My students submit their assessment tasks to me electronically & I use the trusty surface pen, dictated or typed comments to give feedback, and returned to them in electronic format.

    Yet every term the printers get hammered as we print things out into folders for head teachers to check, killing many trees and wasting hours of our time. I have suggested that we use a onenote that we can share with anybody that wants it, and set one up like the binder and written a script to screenscrape and populate the appropriate page with extracts from the system , but noooooo everything must be on paper as this our equivalent of Ofsted's requirement

    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: Still frustrates the #$@~!% out of me

      > a onenote that we can share with anybody that wants it

      Shouldn't that be 'a Onenote that we can share with anybody that we want to share it with, and definitely no-one else'?

    2. The Real Tony Smith

      Re: Still frustrates the #$@~!% out of me

      'Our teaching (not executable) programs'

      I think you mean 'programmes'

      1. Stevie

        Re: Still frustrates the #$@~!% out of me

        Nope. With Brexit looming the need to placate the French by spelling English words their way is nugatorifiedinated.

        I'm looking forward to the pogroms against people who insert Frenchisms into their speech too.

        "Will you stop that infernal biro-clicking?"


        (Sounds of person being beaten to death with their own lunch baguette)

        Also the Great Patriotic Renaming of Au Bon Pain to Where The Good Bread Is, and Pret a Manger to Ready to Eat.

        1. Adrian Midgley 1

          Re: Still frustrates the #$@~!% out of me

          It was actually to annoy the Merkins after they revolted.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Still frustrates the #$@~!% out of me

            And here I thought it was the French who were revolting?

            1. Mr Humbug

              The French do have a habit of revolting: 1792, 1848, 1870, 1946 and 1958. Although after the first time they do seem to have made it less traumatic.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Still frustrates the #$@~!% out of me

          I was excited to come across an exotic sounding word and was eager to find out what it meant. I googled 'nugatorifiedinated' and all I found was your post. Let's all raise a glass to recursive searches. Iechyd da

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Still frustrates the #$@~!% out of me

            Nugatory means of little or no value.

            -fied and -ted are both the same thing, meaning fairly clear.

            So, presumably...

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    He pointed out that typing and them printing them in anticipation of sending them at a later date would create "all kinds of problems" – not least that none of them would have a sent date.

    I'd have thought that not having a sent date on unsent emails really would have been the least of the problems.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      "I'd have thought that not having a sent date on unsent emails really would have been the least of the problems."

      It's a bit of a snag if falsifying their transmission is the aim.

  14. Chairman of the Bored

    Justifiable tree homicide

    Use case: if you work for a sociopath who is building his/her career by taking credit for others' accomplishments and contriving means to fire them and destroy their credibility... small piece of armor is to print and have witnesses sign critical emails, product disclosures, and contract actions. And take your hard copy backup in a lab or other hidey hole that is secure. Do not take home, that's just leaving the hangman's rope lying around. Emails have a very strange habit of disappearing off of servers. Especially when your problem adult is banging one of the system administrators. And the CIO. Or so I've heard.

    Each piece of paper may be small, but sometimes you need enough to cover your entire ass.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Another solution

      Save the trees, get the hell out of there.

      1. Stevie

        Re: Another solution

        Stinkin' tree-lover!

      2. Chairman of the Bored

        Re: Another solution

        No worries, was a government job. My boss quickly got promoted and became a staff infection somewhere in the Pentagon.

        Sometimes you can just make yourself the hardest target around and hunker down.

        Would've quit but it was a tough job market, two kids in college, etc.

    2. Kubla Cant

      Re: Justifiable tree homicide

      Not disagreeing with your post, but I have to take exception to "tree homicide"*.

      Paper is made from trees that are grown as a crop. When we use less paper, the result is fewer trees, not more. Nobody suggests we should save wheat plants by eating less bread (though in my case that might be a good idea).

      * That should probably be "arboricide".

      1. cpm86

        Re: Justifiable tree homicide

        Maybe Silvicide for many trees?

      2. Steve Aubrey

        Re: Justifiable tree homicide

        Think of them as cattle, not pets. Kubernetes for trees.

      3. Chairman of the Bored

        Re: Justifiable tree homicide

        @Kubla Can't-

        Upvoted for making a very good point. I'm hoping the tree system is now closed loop. When I was younger I remember old growth forest being cut for paper and being replaced with stands of fast growing pine. I understand the economic reasons but was always saddened at the loss of the oaks and their kin.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Justifiable tree homicide

          "I'm hoping the tree system is now closed loop."

          Not really. Growing and pulping trees, processing into paper, shipping it to the customer, collecting the waste for recycling and turning that back into low grade paper involves trucks, energy, chemicals etc. Using less paper may result in fewer trees, but it's not CO2 neutral, even if you claim to offset by planting more trees than you cut down (they generally plant extra "crop" trees in this case, ie fir trees which don't sequester as much as deciduous trees because they can still sell on those tree quickly when they mature)

      4. saxicola

        Re: Justifiable tree homicide

        In Wales, many of the trees that are now being cut down to make paper were originally planted and grown to provide pit props for the coal mining industry. It's pure luck that pit props are no longer needed and these trees are now mature enough to turn into pulp.

        1. Stork Silver badge

          Re: Justifiable tree homicide

          In Denmark there is a fair number of mature oaks ready for shipbuilding. After the Napoleonic wars the country had no navy and no trees, so a planting programme was started

  15. fnusnu

    Business Process Re-engineering project in a large financial institution some time ago. All reports accounted for apart from one. Decision finally made - switch it off and see who complains.

    Monday morning: (indignant voice) Where's my report?

    Project team: Where are you? We'll be right over!

    Project team arrives.

    Project team: What do you do with this report?

    Owner of indignant voice (still indignant): I take it off the printer and throw it in the bin!

    Project team: Ah....

    1. Alien8n

      Not quite the same, but my first engineering role involved producing the daily "how much money have we wasted today" report (or its actual name "variance to budget"). Basically the report was a record of how much we were losing compared to budget as a result of devices failing at test. We'd then investigate why they were failing and then bill the head office for the difference. The factory manager would take it as a personal offence that I would be smiling when delivering the report, not connecting the fact that enjoying your job and delivering bad news aren't always mutually exclusive.

      Well, one day (on a weekend I was moonlighting as a regular, only way to get paid overtime) I ended up having to shut down the production line as 90% of the devices started failing. Root cause was found to be that the wafer fab hadn't been testing the wafers properly, allowing devices that are supposed to be rated at 5V to pass with a rating of 7V. Pointing out that if they actually tightened up the test at their end you could throw away 20p per device instead of £20 once it was encapsulated. Their response? It wasn't their problem as they didn't fail testing in the wafer fab. They simply couldn't get it into their head that we were the same company (just situated on different continents) and that by doing their jobs properly they'd be saving the company millions. Instead we had to retest everything as it came in the door and scrap entire wafers that didn't meet the required spec. Despite the fact we were saving the company money they still complained that we hadn't just accepted them and then thrown them away once they failed test.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No, I don't think you understand. You were wasting their money, as in their department's.

        At my last place, in a British Luxury car manufacturer, we had change requests being sent over from Germany, since the company was owned by a German company, sent in German. We had a single translator in our department to translate the change requests, but he would also go beyond his duty and ensure there wasn't anything silly in there. Although this made him take longer to finish his work, it would effectively save the company more money, because as it went through many hands, each one would spend time figuring it out and will then be asking the same questions. Although he argued for some help, the manglement weren't very happy because that would cost them money, he was told he just "needed to be more efficient in his work".

        You see, each department was considered as a separate silo with its own budget. It was good in theory, but you had a lot of bad competition and blame getting thrown about between departments. Each department wanted to keep their headcount and reduce their own costs, even if it went against the company's goals.

        I think the same is applied in many other businesses.

        1. Lilolefrostback

          Yep. I once worked for a division of a very large computer manufacturer. Our division focused on defence industry. Another division focused on desktop PCs. We were required to use only our brand of PCs. Not unreasonable. However, what was unreasonable was that it was cheaper for us to buy our own brand of PCs from the local university than from our sister division. That was 30 years ago and it still leaves me shaking my head.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "However, what was unreasonable was that it was cheaper for us to buy our own brand of PCs"

            I can buy our company products using staff discount. It's still cheaper to buy them on Ebay or Amazon though. Every now and then we get full colour brochure-style adverts from are sales/marketing people extolling the wonders of the latest staff offers. I can still find equivalents online for less.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              I came across this once or twice or so in my youth (late 70s) in various places I'd been working. The staff discount was often derisory and was based on the largely fictitious ( because no one paid it in the real world) price.

              A similar thing were the "special deals" that my union (NUT) offered a few years later, for all sorts of things, including, travel, loans and insurance, that were far more expensive than buying the stuff retail. I guess that's what they meant by special.

              1. Alien8n

                Our staff discount is 60%. Not 60% of the RRP, 60% of the promotional price. So if the RRP is £15 but has a promotional price of £10 then the staff price is £4.

                We also do staff sales where everything is £1 to clear out old stock. All money raised from the £1 sales goes to charity.

              2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                I once worked at a place where we didn't know what our stock or prices were unless we bought that month's computer magazine with the company advert in it.

                Somewhere inside the M25...

                ...but not in London....

      2. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

        Wastage saved by redeployment

        When I was an apprentice, one of my postings was to Autolite, Enfield. I was in the Quality Control department. There was a problem with a 33% wastage on a component, which was produced on three identical machines. We tested each of the machines and found no errors, but next day, 33% scrap rate again. One day, one of the operators called in sick, and a different operator was put on her machine. That day, less than 1% scrap rate, so when she returned the next week, she was moved to a different part of the assembly process, and the scrap rate remained at <1%.

        We also had a problem with calibration on the speedometers occasionally. One morning i was sent down to find out how the calibrating machine was itself calibrated, and was told by the very indignant foreman that it was set every morning by reference to the mains electricity supply. I went in early the next morning to witness this happening, and took along a frequency meter. Just as they were setting the speedometer calibrator, the spark plug forging machine was started, and the frequency as shown on my meter dropped to about 49.5 Hz. After that, they made sure that the forging machine was not running when they calibrated, and the problem went away.

        1. Alien8n

          Re: Wastage saved by redeployment

          We had one like that, one machine operator would cover up any mistakes by encapsulating blanks. Once ended up with a batch of 24,000 blanks going through the line until they all failed at test. Tried to insist the batch must have been mixed with another one in the ovens. Often I'd get a batch at test that all failed. The failure analysis always included splitting on device in a vice to determine the die size. I then had a database of every product we made on a Psion which I would then use to compare the die size and electrical characteristics to determine which batch it should have been. Every single time that batch would then start failing. Until you take the 2 batches and swap the paperwork over (which is pretty much what happened to about 10% of the batches going through the ovens)

    2. Daedalus

      A straight line is the shortest distance between the printer and the circular file.

      I was once at a facility that had an industrial-grade line-printer next to an equally formidable shredder. Oh the temptation.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Like Niko Bellic from GTA IV?

    (Obviously anon ...)

  17. Kubla Cant

    Attachment to producing hard copies

    One of the departments in the company where I worked many years ago used to copy all their spreadsheets on to floppy disks which they would then lock in a filing cabinet. The data they were copying was stored on a VMS file server which was subject to a rigorous nightly backup. The backup tapes were kept in the sort of fire safe that would probably survive a nuclear strike, and copies for long-term archiving were stored off-site.

    But it's so comforting to know you have a floppy disk in a tin drawer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "But it's so comforting to know you have a floppy disk in a tin drawer."

      Depends on what a restore procedure implies... some system administrators are not exactly friendly if you request to recover a lost file... the lazy ones think "Oh no, my god, now I have to perform some real work I'm paid for!!!" and look for ways to delay or refuse it....

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Attachment to producing hard copies

      Thing is, when stuff goes pear shaped it's nice to know that your first port of call is a simple floppy in a box, within panicking distance,.saves a lot of stress.

  18. andy 103

    Some of these stories are so weird it makes you question whether they're genuine.

    1. Daedalus

      "We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct." - Niels Bohr

    2. Rich 11

      Some of these stories are so weird

      I respectfully recommend that you get out more often and meet more people. You'll find people are weird. Weird people do weird things. I bet you occasionally do weird things; I know I do.

      1. jake Silver badge

        IT has weirded the entire ecosystem surrounding it.

        1. Steve Aubrey

          Verbing weirds nouns - Calvin

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            The Fremen use the Weirding Way to great effect.

    3. MadDrFrank

      As Science undergraduates, my friends and I were required to sit a Liberal Studies course to make us more "rounded" people.

      During the unit on "Social Psychology of Industry" we looked at each other and said "They can't really be that crazy in Industry".

      Of course, when we entered employment we found we were quite right -- they were much crazier.

    4. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Andy, you must be very young.

  19. Spanners Silver badge


    About 25 years ago, I was visiting a customers office and an managerial person told me of his cunning plan.

    At that time, they had just rolled out Outlook Express and he was unhappy with the loss in status that this implied for him.

    He asked, could I set up OE to automatically print out every email as it arrived. I managed to get out of this because I didn't think OE was that good at automatic things. In retrospect, it probably was possible and certainly its' big sister Outlook could probably. do stuff like that

  20. Mild Discomfort

    Not even limited to yesteryear. 2015 I was in the head office for a national company and made a joke about paperless offices to one of the contact centre girls. She laughed and told me to watch her manager when she came in. The contact centre girls started at 08:00, their manager usually turned up about 10:00. When the manager did arrive she printed off her unread e-mails, read them and, any she thought important, she scanned and e-mail to herself.

  21. tim 13

    Related, but not IT. My kid's school gives them lined exercise books for their work, which comes as printed sheets which have to be cut to size and stuck in...

  22. Floydian Slip

    Print and save

    I once worked with a chap who would print off his emails, pop them in a drawer and delete. He had four drawers and each month he would empty the bottom drawer in to a secure shredder and move everything else down one, inserting the now empty drawer at the top. He simply figured that 99% of emails were a waste of time and he only acted when one was actually followed up.

    He loved being shown how to make folders in Outlook so that the drawer empting became a mouse click rather than physical action

  23. sosipiuk

    Top-posting makes sense unless you're reading your emails weirdly

    No. Top-posters reasonably expect you'll have already read the previous emails, and will want new content displayed immediately, at the top, without needing to scroll to find it.

    The quoted material below that is a backup in case the email gets read outside that normal context, e.g. by a new person joining the chain, or from an archive much later.

    Top-posting increases reading convenience in the most-common, intended use-case while decreasing it for the unusual, edge use-cases. That makes it the reasonable choice.


    A top-poster who doesn't want to scroll past shit I've already read ten minutes ago to find new content.

    1. Kurgan

      Re: Top-posting makes sense unless you're reading your emails weirdly

      No, it does not. You have to be able to quote, that is, delete most part of the original message and reply to single sentences. Like people did when only tech-savvy people had the privilege to use email (or fidonet, or whatever messaging system existed at that time).

      Top quoting is DISGUSTING.

      1. Stevie

        Re: Top-posting makes sense unless you're reading your emails weirdly

        "You have to be able to quote, that is, delete most part of the original message and reply to single sentences."

        Nobody does this. Nobody needs to because of the advanced GUI presentation clients and cut'n'paste mechanisms available it today's computers, and real-world e-mail chains must preserve the entire text of the preceding messages as chain-of-evidence for post mortem purposes.

        Your model might, just might, be appropriate for the sorts of messages people now simply text one another. If whatever it is warrants a full email response, the full context must be preserved for the next person and after a few goes-round no-one will want to scroll down to add their two cents to the bogroll.

        Bottom quoting adds work for no real-world net gain.

        In short, it is an outmoded model for command-line mailx respondents who refuse to enter the 21st century.

        1. Adrian Midgley 1

          Re: Top-posting makes sense unless you're reading your emails weirdly

          Have you ever written a letter in reply to a letter?

          I know it is old technology.

          1. Stevie

            Re: Have you ever written a letter in reply to a letter? (4 Adrian Midgley 1)

            Yes, I have.

            I did not start writing it under the signature on the original, nor did I cut out lines I wished to address from it and glue them in my reply.

            So I'm not quite sure what the relevance of your question is.

            I've also sent telegrams and telexes if you want to quiz me some more on archaic irrelevant modes of inter-departmental business communication.

        2. TheMeerkat

          Re: Top-posting makes sense unless you're reading your emails weirdly

          This only works if you were included in the first messages in the chain.

      2. TrumpSlurp the Troll

        Re: Top-posting makes sense unless you're reading your emails weirdly

        Of course, as in Usenet (re member that?) you can selectively quote, leaving out words, part sentences, even whole paragraphs and thus have a quote which means something completely different from the original text.

        Which you then smugly destroy by ruthlessly mocking in the most belittling terms possible.

        However there is an annoying trait to generate a new email by replying to a completely unrelated email from your intended recipient without changing the subject line.

        Such as "re Meeting Thursday 1st" with the content "Urgent; my printer is broken and must be fixed immediately!"

        Followed by complaints about slow response to an emergency and endless trouble trying to track back through the emails.

        1. Stevie

          Re: Top-posting makes sense unless you're reading your emails weirdly

          <Ticks "obligatory USENET reference made" box>

      3. TheMeerkat

        Re: Top-posting makes sense unless you're reading your emails weirdly

        A use case: some product managers etc were talking between themselves, then with wrong people and later figured out and ask a specific question this time including you.

        Do you really want to read all these?

    2. Lilolefrostback

      Re: Top-posting makes sense unless you're reading your emails weirdly

      Don't know where you work. Where I work, the vast majority of top-posted email I receive is the end node in a chain of emails (i.e. I have NOT been involved in the email chain until long down the chain). And I do have to do the stupid reading process from scratch to really understand what I'm being asked.

      What I really want is an email system that can dynamically reconfigure a received email from top-posted to bottom-posted and from bottom-posted to top-posted (I throw in the latter for the sick, twisted preverts who like top-posting).

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Top-posting makes sense unless you're reading your emails weirdly

        I think you've described it well. Top posting is great when you've read the older emails, because you see the only thing you need to read, and have the old material below if you need to refer to something. Bottom posting is great when you need to read all of the material, because the order makes sense.

        I would still prefer that, instead of forwarding me a chain or at least in addition, the sender succinctly describes why I'm getting it and the information that is the most relevant. Often, when I'm forwarded a message chain of more than three messages, at least two of them will be developing a misunderstanding and then clarifying the real situation, which doesn't help me at all.

        1. Stevie

          Re: Top-posting makes sense unless you're reading your emails weirdly

          Top quoting works perfectly well for anyone not insisting on reading emails in a window with no scrolling capability. I get emails from people adding me in at the last minute and 45th installment all the time. I can start with the newest stuff and walk back only as far as I need to.

          The other way I have to scroll all the way to the bottom, read my email, scroll up past the content I just read to the previous mail, read that until I'm reading what I read before, scroll back through that text (that I've already read) - and repeat that as many times as needed.

          If I wrote a program that read disc that way I doubt a person here would sing my praises, yet some feel that doing this manually is somehow better than not doing it. Apparently this somehow prevents people who do not read previous emails from making mistakes, but I can't see how. If they are lazy, they are lazy no matter how you invert the stuff they need to read.

          As for deleting most of someone's email in order to quote it in a response, if you insist on reading your email with EMACS in a command line console then you have to deal with the problems that kicks up.

          Good luck insisting that those who use 21st century GUI tools for the job have to step into the dark basement of your world.

  24. Kurgan

    I have a customer that prints all email

    I have a customer that, TODAY, in 2019, prints ALL email, sent and received. The boss insists on printing EVERYTHING. The secretary secretly deletes spam without printing it, otherwise spam would be printed and archived, too.

    This is a REAL customer of mine. A small mechanical manufacturing firm. I repeat, this is REAL, not "my cousin told me..." kind of story.

  25. Stevie


    At my first real job there was a guy in the spares department who had a cube surrounded to the top of the partitions with 14 inch greenbar reports on all sides, in and out. He was the guy who "knows what's going on before the computer" (because he had arranged to have all reports funnel through him; a depressingly common state of affairs in manufacturing plants across the UK in the early 80s and one specifically warned about in Ollie White's seminal MRP video course).

    When he retired two things happened.

    Firstly, people started getting their reports two days quicker than in the previous Azathoth alone knows how many years. They were amazed at how fast that could get their work done now that Mr Knowsitall had gone.

    Secondly, when they had thrown out all those old stacked reports it turned out there was no cubicle at all. Mr Knowsitall had built it wholesale out of computer reports. He was the oldest in the spares department, and everyone else had moved on after a couple of years, so no-one currently working there was aware he'd done this, though it must've taken ages.

  26. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Printing is still a good backup

    It all depends on what you are backing up. A note confirming that a projector will be available at a meeting doesn't need a printed backup. An agreement on the terms of a contract might.

    When I had a manufacturing company, printed session reports were made daily and month/quarter/annual reports were printed and archived. It saved my bacon a few times. This was back in the 90's.

    Anything that needs signatures is also something that's good to have as a physical copy. Lawsuits can hinge on whether a comma is present or not and digital documents can be too easy to fudge something minor like that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Printing is still a good backup

      > An agreement on the terms of a contract might.

      PDF/A is your friend

  27. ricardian

    My very first OU course in 1977 was "Computing & Computers". The real-life company that was used as a case study ("Koch-Light chemicals") utilised the very latest "visible record computer" but I can't remember which model. Part of the course involved writing out BASIC code on squared paper and posting it (Royal Mail) to the OU who typed it up and ran it through their computer. This worked well as I was living in Brora (Sutherland) with no access other than a 75 baud time-share printer link at Thurso tech, a long drive away. The OU staff ran my first job through and annotated it showing where I'd gone wrong; after that they ran the job and returned the results, warts & all, without comment. The latter part of the course involved storing some data on the OU computer and then using that data in subsequent modules. After submitting one job that needed data which had been stored I received a note from the OU computer people asking (in rather stronger terms) "where is your data!". It took some time to discover that the OU had two separate computer sites at Milton Keynes & (I think) Sunderland, my jobs would be sent to either site, depending on the relative workloads. Alas, the data storage for the two computer sites was not shared thus causing the anguished cry of "where is your data!"

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Text too small when printed out

    Doctors couldn't see the text on printed-out versions of documents but they looked fine on the screen. Because he had set the font size to smallest and the screen on the monitor was set to maximum zoom. At least that is what was relayed to me through his secretary, as he didn't talk directly to the service people. It's difficult enough trying to do a support call without it having to be relayed through a third party.

  29. FishCounter

    Routing Slips

    My wife used to work for a financial firm and her boss preferred e-mails be printed out, so they could attach routing slips and hand deliver the e-mails. The really frightening thing is that this was in the mid 90s.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Routing Slips

      >The really frightening thing is that this was in the mid 90s.

      Not really, remember imaging and workflow was only rerally starting to take off in the mid-90's.

      At the PC/entry level end of the market there was Delrina Fromflow (early 90's) and Outlook (on Exchange) formflow/basic workflow capabilities.

      In fact, I suggest the really frightening thing is that here we are rapidly approaching 2020 and the majority of organisations are still only using basic email as their workflow and collaboration tool...

      1. FishCounter

        Re: Routing Slips

        Workflow is one thing, but most people were actually "distributing" messages via e-mail (arguably its whole purpose) in the 90s, not printing the message, attaching a routing slip and walking the message from person to person for their signature acknowledging they'd read the message they'd already received via e-mail.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Routing Slips

          attaching a routing slip and walking the message from person to person for their signature acknowledging they'd read the message

          Email read receipts aren't worth the 'paper' they are printed on, even today, now getting someone to actually sign a piece of paper saying they have read something...

          The same applies to transactions, a successfully completed TCP/IP connection does not provide any evidence that the backend DB was updated and an account debited.

  30. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    It's like the problem I keep getting when users have a new computer.

    Why isn't there anything in my Recently Opened Files list?*

    Because you haven't yet recently opened any files yet. Once you have opened a file, then you will have recently opened a file, until you have opened a file, you haven't yet recently opened any files.

    *Actually, they rarely proffer the problem that way. It's usually: I can't find my files! Well, where did you save them? I don't know, they used to just turn up when I wanted them.

    1. Daedalus

      Actually, they rarely proffer the problem that way. It's usually: I can't find my files! Well, where did you save them? I don't know, they used to just turn up when I wanted them.

      IMHO that's the way things should work. The whole point of a PA for a busy exec is to cut through the processes and present the boss with what the boss needs to see. Switching to PC's where you have to login, select this, click that, twiddle thumbs (preferably clockwise), and then worry about the knothole effect*, leads only to frustration and confusion.

      Unfortunately, sales droids and marketeers can't sell simplicity. They have to sell features, which usually means complexity. Hence the failure to produce machines that show you what you need to see, without any fandango.

      * Knothole effect: the feeling that, however large your screen, in comparison to leafing through paper in your hand it seems that using a PC is like watching a ball game through a hole in the fence.

  31. Lotaresco

    The good old civil service

    I did a civil service contract at the turn of the millennium, and one thing that puzzled me for weeks was that any email sent to the Head of Department was incredibly slow, the fastest reply would take three days. Often we were in need of urgent replies since the HoD micromanaged everything, no movement unless the issue was cleared with him first. Contacting him by phone was frowned upon and usually that was diverted to his PA who would take a note, ask him then phone back 24 hours later. But of course the answer would be useless because the PA didn't understand the question. Knocking on his door was a hanging offence and there would usually be all of the HoDs huddling together somewhere avoiding the workers.

    I thought I'd have a crack at solving the email delays - but the server logs just showed delivered, then opened about 16:30 then responded to about 17:00 two days later, so just a problem with boss not reading mail until late in the day and taking ages to reply.

    I visited the PA to ask if they could push the boss to answering faster. Then she explained the system. Although HoD had a computer and a mail account he thought touching a computer was for lesser mortals. So he had given his log on details to his PA and permitted her to access his mail when he left the office about 16:00. The PA printed copies of all mail and then put the pages into a leather book with glassine paper separators and left that book on his desk. He would then annotate each email the next day using a fountain pen and leave the book on his desk when he left. PA then took the book after printing off new emails, stripped out the pages, copied them and filed the originals, re-inserted the new mails and went home because it was after 17:00. The next day the PA would take the previous day's annotated copies into the HoD's office and type the replies and send them. At the end of the day of course because HoD didn't like being disturbed.

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