back to article IT protip: Never try to be too helpful lest someone puts your contact details next to unruly boxen

Welcome to On Call, The Register's weekly cautionary tale for those who believe a good deed can ever go unpunished. Today's adventure from 1990s Chicago is a reminder of what can happen if you are feeling just a little too helpful. A reader, who we shall call "Alf" (for that is not his name), was handling second-line support …

  1. A.P. Veening Silver badge


    "I would get calls during the day about random Auspex problems ", Alf explained. "Then I started getting off-hours calls... even when I was not on-call."

    "After a few midnight calls and weekend calls direct to me instead of the actual on-call personnel," Alf had had enough, and asked the night-ops person why he and his wife were being woken rather than whoever was being paid to sit by the phone.

    "Turns out, after my recovery of the Auspex box, someone decided I was now the expert on those machines and posted my name and direct phone number on the wall right next to them."

    The correct answer would have been to claim overtime with a minimum of two hours for every call, 150% after hours, 200% on Saturday and 300% between 21:00 and 07:00 and on Sunday.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On-call???

      I made a request to a service provider for a engineer to be made available by phone, for all of the periods that I was not in the office, nights, weekend, public and private holidays.

      The cost was staggering.. It was almost the cost of a full time employee. I presented this quotation to the PHB at the time. Afte the look oh shock horror he blurted out that the service provider was a con artist and that the quotation was completely unreasonable...

      My next step : I said that I would do the task for only 20% of the service provider, the PHB agreed immediately, believing that he had saved the company a substantional amount, whihc he would take credit for.

      For the next few years I honed procedures to a point where I now recieve only about 3 calls per year. 2 months salary for 3 calls, I am fine with that...

      My personal solution was to ask for 2 full months salary.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: On-call???

        " cost was staggering.. It was almost the cost of a full time employee."

        If the assumption is that your salary is for an 8-hour day (I'm sure you work longer but that's what it's supposed to pay for) then you're asking for permanently-assigned cover for twice your hours.

        If the ISP can, by intentionally overbooking their engineer, do that for the cost of only one salary and still presumably make a profit, then that would appear to be a half-price bargain.

    2. PerlyKing Silver badge

      Re: Overtime

      Charging appropriately is definitely a step in the right direction.

      The last time I was a permanent employee I came across something in my file (or payslips, or something - it was a long time ago) which described me as an "exempt employee". Curious, I asked my manager, who asked Personnel (I told you it was a long time ago!), from whom the reply came that I was exempt from being paid overtime!

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

        Re: Overtime

        Being exempt from being paid overtime also means that you're exempt from having to do anything out-of-hours.

        I would've highlighted that quite explicitly. At around 16:45 on a Friday when a server is in the process of falling over (or being pushed)

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Overtime

          "... you're exempt from having to do anything out-of-hours."

          Not in the USofA, it doesn't. Here, "exempt" means "exempt from wage and hour reporting".

          A salaried professional, in other words. People are salaried for all kinds of reasons, some have to do with the job title and responsibilities, and some, because if they were hourly, the costs would be staggering. There are rules about which jobs can be salaried and which can't. Generally, a salaried employee is either management or has some sort of professional qualifications (like a college degree), and hourly workers are either unskilled or semiskilled.

          So, if you're "exempt" in the US, it means you work how ever many hours it takes to get the job done, and for that, you get an annual salary. The footnote here, is that your duties are negotiated, and habitual weekend work is usually compensated by "recovery time" or additional days off -- at least in the kind of companies for which I would choose to work. In general, salaried employees aren't expected to put in more than "regular" 8-10 hrs/day and 5 days a week.

          1. Stevie

            Re: Overtime

            I'm a salaried employee in the USA and I get paid overtime. Has to be approved using Vogon Firelighter Protocols, but I get it.

            *Managers* don't.

          2. cream wobbly

            Re: Overtime

            I fill in a weekly time card, which is all about accurate charging. It doesn't allow me to put in more than 40 hours per week. It also complains profusely if I put in less.

            A colleague at my first IT job opined that timesheets are a work of fiction.

            1. TomPhan

              Re: Overtime

              One of the two time reporting systems we have to use goes from Sunday to Saturday, but has to be completed by Friday morning. So Friday and Saturdays hours are known to be fictitious.

            2. The Boojum

              Re: Overtime

              A few years ago I was in dispute with an Accountant about the 25% uplift to the bill for completing a (procedurally very simple) tax return that I lacked the professional knowledge to complete, at least until I'd reverse-engineered his work. His main defence was to inform me that the uplifted amount was what he had booked on his time sheet and therefore had to be correct. I took great pleasure in informing him that I was well aware of the very tenuous link between the hours worked and the hours recorded and could he please answer the following specific and detailed questions about the drivers for the price increase against the original estimate. The firm's business manager then replied to say that the cost of the Principal's time in answering those questions was greater than the value of the uplift and they were going to write off the increase.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Overtime

              My last role had a budget and the time sheet entries had to match the budget. Every month an email was sent all the oiks with fingers on the keyboard analysising requirements, creating bugs and supporting them in production with what they were budgeted for. Around the 17th of the month the full month's timesheets had to be submitted, even for the weeks that had yet to begin. Woe be tide anyone who accurately recorded their efforts and failed to meet the definition of their workload as per the budget.

              I raised this with the chaps in charge, didn't get an answer, left a few months later.

              Anon, I still know people there and they know me, including the chaps in charge.

            4. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: Overtime

              I have filled in a timesheet with 'researching timesheet regulations' which got quite recursive as it involved a long argument about whether it was fair for me to risk being fired filling in a timesheet incorrectly due to improper training or whether the company wanted to risk a lawsuit for trying it - given they hadn't bothered with timesheets before they thought about downsizing and assumed no-one would spot that. Got a few people redundancy the company were desperate to avoid but as the company was in trouble due to shit management downsizing the staff didnt help in the long run.

            5. el_oscuro

              Re: Overtime

              On a former contract, I worked as 1099 and got paid the hours I worked. In every real way, my timesheet was a legal document and any inaccuracies could get you canned. I had already seen it happen to more than one coworker.

              So when our shitty subcontractor decided that we needed to complete our timesheets a day early - before the work had actually been performed. Included on the document was a legal statement, something to the effect that: "I certify that this timesheet is accurate to the best of my knowledge and reflects all hours actually worked."

              After a dust up with the PHB of the subcontractor, I complied with the new policy. But I changed the legal statement to say something like:

              "I certify that this timesheet is a best estimate of the future hours I will work this week, and may require adjustment in the event that hours actually worked differ from the estimate."

              I submitted timesheets with that statement for 2 years afterwards with that legalese. No one ever complained.

              1. mr_souter_Working

                Re: Overtime

                "I submitted timesheets with that statement for 2 years afterwards with that legalese. No one ever complained"

                I submitted timesheets with that statement for 2 years afterwards with that legalese. No one ever read it.

                There - fixed that for you :P

              2. Killfalcon

                Re: Overtime

                My favourite timesheet story is one I heard from a BA at a major financial institution in the 90s. One department's process was that, when your timesheet was done, you put a circle in the top corner of your timesheet and handed it in.

                The BA was baffled by this, and rather than just shrugging it off, went digging in old memos and such and eventually found an explanation.

                It was the number of air-raid sirens they'd had that day.

              3. WanderingHaggis

                Re: Overtime

                I had a similar experience when I was signing on after graduating. I was working part time but had to declare how many hours I worked the week before and then how many the week after. Due to the fact I was last one in I was covering when people didn't turn up and didn't have a regular shift. I used a similar solution. I was also required to sign that I wasn't going to do any further education -- I protested and we agreed I could sign saying as I didn't have the gift of prophecy I could say whether I would do any further education or not. Correct number of papers in file with signature so everyone was happy. (back in the 80s)

            6. mr_souter_Working

              Re: Overtime

              "A colleague at my first IT job opined that timesheets are a work of fiction."

              well I can say for certain that mine have been for years.......

      2. simonlb

        Re: Overtime

        My previous employer went through a period of trying to avoid paying overtime and instead, pushing us to take time off in lieu (TOIL). When I'd accrued 16 hours of TOIL I booked three days leave from that and my manager said it should only be two days. I politely pointed out that 16 hours of overtime at time and a half is 24 hours pay. which was three days work. Turns out, people had not been factoring in the time and a half or double time rate when taking TOIL.

        I got my full leave after suggesting a meeting with HR and a Union rep present.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Overtime

          How much longer did the TOIL idea last once that aspect had been rumbled?

          1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

            Re: Overtime

            Had something quite similar to that last time we had a downturn. The manglement had the bright idea of punting a few people, and for those of us left to continue the still quite high workload we would be paid TOIL rather than overtime.

            TOIL bank limit was raised to 300 hours, and they were surprised when I hit that a few weeks later. And when asked to take some of it, had to point out that if I did then a swathe of projects would basically stop as there were no others left to take over them, with accompanying wailing and gnashing of teeth from customers.

            In the end they relented and paid off a chunk of it, when I said the other option would be that I just did as they said and took the whole lot (alongside holiday allowance, bank holidays and suchlike - this discussion happened in October and I calculated with all the owing I'd be back sometime in February).

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Overtime

              Manglement and beancounters are always surprised by the logical and foreseeable consequences of their actions.

              1. Johndoe888

                Re: Overtime

                New manglement introduced a requirement to actually take 50% of days holiday instead of paying outstanding leave at the end of year, it's about to go horribly wrong !

                1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                  Re: Overtime

                  Meaning the first already started their year end holiday two weeks ago and by the first of December nobody will be there except for some manglement wondering where everybody is and why?

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Overtime

                  New manglement introduced a requirement to actually take 50% of days holiday instead of paying outstanding leave at the end of year, ...

                  Could be worse. Where I am now, any leave not taken simply disappears at FYE. If the amount is too high (I keep forgetting what the threshold is), you also get a reprimand for not taking it.

                  And that's still not the worst I've seen: at one of my previous places, they'd pay off the unused leave at FYE - but the total amount would be taken out of your department's R&D budget for the next year, with everybody being very deliberately made aware of the fact. That did real wonders for the workplace atmosphere ...

        2. Drew Scriver

          Re: Overtime

          After moving to the USA one of my first jobs was in sales support at a satellite office for a large multi-national company.

          Having been a DBA in the old country I figured I would create a database solution for tracking sales leads and the like. I was non-exempt and had to track my hours. My boss liked my idea but warned me that I could not incur overtime. Instead, he offered comp time. Not being familiar with the labor laws of my new home country this sounded reasonable to me and I was fine with that arrangement. I dutifully tracked my overtime hours for the project and enjoyed my comp days.

          After a year or so Payroll and HR found out somehow and contacted me. There message was clear: I was complicit in breaking the law by taking comp time instead of getting paid and my boss was in fact breaking the law and exposing the company to legal action. They gave me an ultimatum: resolve the issue by the end of that day or face disciplinary action.

          With some trepidation I trudged into my boss' office with my overtime records and told my boss what HR had told me.

          My boss didn't miss a beat and told me to immediately file all the overtime (several hundred hours) - and wished me a very merry Christmas indeed. :-)

          1. Drew Scriver

            Re: Overtime

            Oh man... can't believe I wrote "there" instead of "their"...

            That'll teach me to write comments during boring meetings...

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Overtime

              Don't worry overly much, I am used to it by now ;)

              1. N2

                Re: Overtime


                Nothing worse than a boring meeting,

                with 300 power point slides, I used to be asleep after 12, highly reccomended to defeat insomnia

            2. Swarthy Silver badge

              Re: Overtime

              <soothing voice>There, Their, They're.</soothing voice>

          2. BossHobo

            Re: Overtime

            There's a good boss! I wonder if he suffered any repercussion?

      3. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Overtime

        Where I last worked, there was some sort of "investigation" (by whom I'm not sure) and suddenly all the support staff were no longer "exempt" and had our time sheets audited. Some folks never recorded overtime" as being "meaningless". But those of us who did suddenly got a huge check for the last 10 years of overtime we had recorded. A happy day indeed for us. Not so much for manglement.

      4. ICPurvis47

        Re: Overtime

        I was promoted to being in charge of the Technical Publications Department when the incumbent decided to retire. It was Grade 6 on our management structure, which meant that I would be on call 24/7, with no overtime. I had a word with the CEO, and he agreed to downgrade the post to Grade 5, with the same salary but not on call, and with overtime. This meant that I could leave at 5:00 and go home, but if I wanted to earn a bit of extra cash, I could go in on Saturday morning and get paid overtime at time and a quarter. This worked out quite satisfactorily until the company was reorganised (again), and the whole department was declared redundant. The manuals we produced were then supposed to be prepared by the Sales Engineers from the Project Specifications, but five years later, they were in such a mess that I was head hunted back to set up a new Tech. Pubs. department, under the same arrangement as previously, but with a higher salary.

      5. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Overtime

        I always pointed out I was exempt from working for free.

    3. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

      Re: On-call???

      The correct answer would have been ...

      A correct answer for someone who places more value on pay than on his own peace.

      Oh, wait, you mean the idea is that the exorbitant claim motivates management to restore his peace? Who knows how that might end up ... unintended consequences and all that.

      OK then, it's the correct answer for someone with strong nerves and thick skin, happy to raise the stakes and possibly burn bridges. Not all of us have the personality for that.

      1. cream wobbly

        Re: On-call???

        Well if you're somewhere north of competent, you have to grow some strong nerves and thick skin, or how do you get the "quick question" people off your back to be able to do your own job instead of the one you were promoted from?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On-call???

      The correct answer would have been to quit and become a consultant, and then you could charge 5x as much regardless of the hour or day of the week!

    5. big_D Silver badge

      Re: On-call???

      If you are a true BOFH, it is a 3 hour minimum and a refreshments allowance.

      1. D@v3

        Re: On-call???


        My approach has generally been a 1/2 day toil call out fee, then a 1.5:1 toil:worked hours. Usually works out as more than a few hours of work (and travel) gives a day off. Might not be official, but things are generally relaxed enough around here for it not to have been flagged. (helps everyone involved that it is not a regular occurrence).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: On-call???

          Typical USA "exempt system" for those of us in management in retail (probably the biggest abuser of said exempt system) is to pay salary with bonuses. Might get one or two of those at first, but then the upper manglement, whilst drinking fine scotch on the deck of their vacation home, will raise the sales targets needed to get said bonuses. Ultimately went out of management for a bit lower salary because I got tired of earning less per hour than the people I was managing and having to work 7 day weeks to make sure the jobs got done. And there ain't no such thing as a "consultant" option.

    6. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: On-call???

      I was deputy head of department at one place I worked and when my boss went on holiday I was in charge. So he buggered off to sunnier climbs and left me with the immortal line "Don't spend any of the budget and don't screw up." My boss handed out his mobile phone number for emergencies so I gave out my home phone number just in case. First morning is a Monday and the overnight cover bloke is newish on the job.

      First thing I know is the phone starts ringing at 3am. It's the overnight bloke who has a problem he's unable to fix and has called me for help. He's not calling me from in front of the terminal he's using so I ask him to call me back from there. That gave me a chance to wake up and figure out the solution for the problem. I told him at the end of the call that I'd be in an hour late in now. He was told to tell the team and then he apologised for calling me so early, disturbing my sleep etc. I said I wouldn't have given my number out if I didn't want people to call me

    7. shedied

      Re: On-call???t

      You left out the 400% charge for calls that coitus interrupts because there was a time when weekends meant for some bonding time with a nonbeige nonmetallic SO.

    8. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: On-call???

      "Turns out, after my recovery of the Auspex box, someone decided I was now the expert on those machines and posted my name and direct phone number on the wall right next to them."

      This is exactly why I no longer give out home/personal number to my employer. If they want to be able to contact me out of hours, they can provide me with a phone and I will have the option of turning it off or silent.

      In this context, employer definitely includes any management, and most of colleagues as well, as it has been proven again and again that they can not be trusted not to abuse the information.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: On-call???

        In this context, employer definitely includes any management, and most of colleagues as well, as it has been proven again and again that they can not be trusted not to abuse the information.

        They can be trusted after they had "a conversation" with HR -instigated by the salary department- about abuse of that information.

    9. I Am Spartacus
      Paris Hilton

      Re: On-call??? - What Overtime

      Last year I got a call. On News Years Day, hung over from the night before. Lying on the sofa, not really doing anything and the mobile goes.

      It was someone I shall call Paul, because that's his name and I don't see why he shouldn't go unpunished. He wanted to quiz me about a problem that had occurred overnight when the clocks changed. One specific application I had something to do with was giving weird error messages.

      At first I had no idea what he was on about. But. after listening to him cour a couple of minutes, I realised what he was on about.

      "Err, Paul, you do know I was made redundant by the company, don't you?"

      >> "Oh, really? When was that?"

      "Three years ago."

      >> "So, can you help me anyway, because your mobile is still in the on-call list".

      I suppose I shoudl be proud that the app had run for 3 years with no calls required!

  2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Where were you 20 years ago?

    Wow. time flies eh?

    I'd just started my first contract at IBM as Technical delivery and support lead for all of the underlying SUN infrastructure on a big SAP programme.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      20 years ago? Dinking around with NT4 and win95\98 + macOS 9.2. Time has marched on!

    2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      20 years ago? I was failing to get any interest for my neat ideas of what the Web could bring us. Like my 1997 implementation of the idea that later saw the light in forms like google docs.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

        I think that was about the time I played with Doom or Duke Nukem and had a go at taking photos of the local shopping centre to mock-up a 3D walk through. It's didn't come to much in the end although id did work after a fashion. A while later, StreetView appeared. If I'd lived in the US I might have had some patents on the idea and be posting this story from my private island.

    3. Oh Matron!

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      Where was I 20 years ago? Had just finished a years placement at ICL in West Gorton, and was just in the process of graduating before a long slog at BT

      ICL was a fun gig. They even had a tea lady who came round in the afternoon with a tea trolley.

      Good times :-)

      1. Bowlers

        Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

        I went to West Gorton a few times when ICL started using EMC kit. I always found it strange that I had to wear a white lab coat in the comp room. Made me feel a bit Boffinish.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

        The same at Devonport as well. And a few Plessey sites I worked at.

    4. Outski Silver badge

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      1997: setting the Y2K testing rubric for Lotus Notes 4.1 in a central govt department. Despite IBM/Lotus' assurances that the code was fine, we wanted to be sure that there wasn't anything going on using text representations of dates that might cause grief.

      1998: all clear - devs had been told to use date formats when dealing with, you know, dates, never text.

      31/12/99: Long departed from the civil service, but as far as I know it was all ok

    5. BigSLitleP

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      20 years ago? Doing laptop repairs on Toshiba, IBM, Compaq and Canon equipment. I'd passed my C&G and been sent on training courses by my employer.

      ....then got told that even though i'd worked really hard and was a fantastic employee for 2 years i would not be getting a pay rise. Back to college I went! Met my wife that year as well. Never looked back. Good times.

    6. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      Working for a slowly dying 3Com.

      I believe we had just moved into a brand new campus in Marlboro, MA (which many of us took as an omen of impending doom...and correctly, as it turned out).

      We would shortly discover that the company, in a stunning reversal of strategy and demonstration of executive whimsy, had decided to discontinue the recently announced enterprise switch upon which we had been working on for the previous couple of years. This came as a shock to us, and a much larger shock to our customers, who had only recently started to place multi-year orders for it.

      Things went predictably downhill from that point. But wait, there's more.

      A year or so after the enterprise switch had been discontinued, multi-year customer and vendor contracts nullified and the parts stock sold off to the scrappers, someone in management decided that a stripped down version of said switch might be "just the thing".

      Yes, supply chain workers were dispatched to recently dumped vendors and scrap merchants with instructions to recover what they could and negotiate new vendor contracts. This effort was received with the level of enthusiasm you might expect, but, eventually, a smaller, less ornate version of the enterprise switch (now, more of a wiring closet switch) was offered for sale.

      1. l8gravely

        Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

        You sure this wasn't the Ascend/Lucent debacle where they did the exact same thing? Sure sounds like it! I too suffered with a new product being cancelled after customers had wanted it. Morons.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

          At a guess whoever's brain-child the product was had moved on and nobody wanted to pick it up and risk having it outshine their own pet product.

        2. ICPurvis47

          Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

          I worked on the development of a heavy current switch for use in industrial plating works, Chlorine manufacturing plants, etc. We produced a Mark 1 version, which we supplied to several chemical plants and a plating works, and a smaller, Mark 2, which went to a chemical plant. I then moved on to a different type of switchgear (vacuum bottles), and forgot all about the Mk1 and Mk2, and development stopped on that project. Five years later, one of the original customers asked if I could go to their plant (in Germany) to oversee the relocation of their original set of 12 switches (12 x 25kA @6v), but the management told them that as we were no longer in Heavy Current Switchgear, I would not be going over. They scrapped the perfectly functional switches and installed older design mechanical switches instead. Management had thrown away a perfectly lucrative line of business because it was not electronic, despite the whole history of our company had been in the manufacture of Big Thick and Heavy kit.

      2. Imhotep Silver badge

        Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

        I always wondered what happened to make 3Com disappear. In a time when you had to manually install network cards to network a PC, 3Com was my go-to choice.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

          io=300 irq=10

          Put me in front of a dim CRT and my fingers could probably reflexively type out IP addresses for some long-departed DNS servers and the ethernet port of an old Cisco 2501.

        2. Daveytay

          Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

          I had to flash the firmware to stop the duplicate MAC addresses. Bad 3c905 bug in production! Oh, and with Netware Client on Win95OSR2 at the time. Want to disable Netware "secure" login. Boot up, rename nwlogin.dll back to ntlogin.dll. Works on NT4 too. Good times... I sure learned tons at that job.

      3. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

        I remember running around installing 3com Token Ring cards. *shudder*

        A couple of years ago, I was looking at the new offices my employer wanted to move into. (New to them.) It was fully wired, with network ports all over the place, my boss was pleased. I got my tester out and quickly discovered, that all the ports had been wired up for Token Ring and would have to all be re-wired, before we could use the building.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

          Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

          I worked on some of those TR products. I hated them.

          16Mbit UTP Token Ring was doomed to fail. It was a desperate attempt on the part of TR vendors to compete with 100BASE-T. Token Ring's only, and I do mean, only, advantage over Ethernet, was its perceived reliability and "deterministic" behavior (which mattered less and less as Ethernet speeds increased). PHBs at banks and insurance companies loved it. The rest of us used Ethernet. I believe there was even an attempt at Token Ring over CATV infrastructure. I know there was an Ethernet over CATV.

          Token Ring was (EMI) noisy, 3x more expensive per interface than Ethernet, and annoyingly complex (the MAC needed proprietary firmware loaded, while Ethernet "just worked") and rate-limited by design. You were never going to see 100Mbit UTP TR, because the waveforms couldn't go down the cable. While Ethernet was self-clocking and had waveforms tuned to the characteristics of the cable, TR didn't and the requirement that there be a maximum amount of clock skew through the ring drove all kinds of issues with edge rate and distortion.

          1. swm Silver badge

            Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

            I remember that hospitals initially wouldn't use ethernet because of its nondeterminism.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

              I worked in a hospital trust not all that long ago, that still had a couple of cabs of stuff connected via TR. The "spares" were on the floor, and the couple of us that would probably be held responsible all dreaded working out quite what to do at the point of something keeling over.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

            > 16Mbit UTP Token Ring was doomed to fail

            About 22 years ago, the place where I worked was about 20 miles form IBM's Basingstoke office. They would bring the truest of the true blue techies they had to show them that, yes, an AS/400 really could work in an ethernet environment, and that 5250 emulation on a PC worked too. Many were still unconvinced.

          3. Elfoad Regfoad

            Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

            25 years ago, I was working on a network analyser for token ring networks. Proteon made a token ring card (1345 IIRC) that could go into promiscuous mode. This worked well until one of the employees at Proteon cleaned out their office and tossed the masks for making to chips that were capable of going into promiscuous mode (she didn't know that she had the only copy). Once Proteon realized what had happened, they quickly grabbed all of the old TR cards and gave them a new part number, so folks who wanted a TR adapter that could go into promiscuous mode could still order them.

            For testing purposes, we had our staff on PCs using a very convoluted network (best way to test our network stacks was to have the employees use it). We had Ethernet (coax and twisted pair), Starlink, Token Ring (IBM and Proteon, 4 and 16). We even had a couple of computers using SLIP and X.25.

            And in keeping with the original topic of this On-Call, I was at work late when someone called. I was the only one there, so I foolishly answered the phone. It turned out it was one of the founders of Proteon. Fortunately, he asked a question I could answer. I told him that the info he wanted was in appendix of the manual. The next thing I heard was the sound of shrink wrap being torn off the manual.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

          Ah, Token Ring. I was listening to my boss (the Technical Director for the company) explain to me that Token Ring cards didn't need any drivers because they are "very smart cards" and "had the drivers already loaded on them".

          This was in response to a question of why we were shipping kit to customers without installing the drivers after we installed the cards. We were also supposed to burn them in for 24 hours. The burn in process was to place a "custom test disk to fully exercise the system" and then plug it into the TR test network, turn on the PC, let it boot from the disk, and 24 hours later turn it off.

          The "custom disk" was nothing more than a floppy with DOS, a TR driver, and enough commands in a script to load the driver. That is all. As some said, fun times.

          Anon because some folks may still recognize me at the old company.

    7. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      Writing thunking layers to allow the 16 bit software the customer was too cheap to replace to run on the new Y2K compliant platform.

    8. Alister

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      Hmm, 1999, I was an NHS Paramedic, and computing was a hobby.

      On balance, I think I'd rather be where I am now, working in IT, than still be trying to deliver effective patient care in today's NHS.

    9. bpfh

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      20 years ago, I had finished my first 3 week contract that ended up becoming 9 months for Big Blue being desktop OS/2 support, and just started working for a french company that made fax gateways that installed into Exchange Server and Domino, farting around with NT 3.51 and 4, and was on my way to my MS Windows 2000 Admin certificate...

      In the name of our Lord Raptor Jesus, how time has flown!

    10. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      20 years ago? Celebrating 19 years in computing! :-P

      40 (well, 39) years ago, playing with a ZX80 and sitting in East Grinstead, England and chatting with the ops in Houton, TX. of an oil exploration firm using VAX Phone. That, plus all the whirring tapes and people walking around with drive spindles to swap out is what hooked me on computing.

      And where has instant messaging come to in the intervening 40 years? We now have emojis... Give me the good old days!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

        "And where has instant messaging come to in the intervening 40 years? We now have emojis... Give me the good old days!"

        Yes, there are reasons why the Ancient Egyptians moved on from hieroglyphics. Kids never seem to learn from the experience of their elders.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

          Yes, there are reasons why the Ancient Egyptians moved on from hieroglyphics.

          They got invaded and basically destroyed by an empire that used the Latin alphabet.

          Then when that lot got bored, they were invaded by an empire that used an Arabic one.

          And a bit later on, another empire that used a Latin alphabet.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

            You forgot the Assyrian invasion and their cuniform.

        2. Adrian Harvey

          Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

          It generally surprises people to learn that Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics are not in fact a form of picture writing. They are in fact a fancy font used for monuments and the like. Each picture maps (roughly) to a syllable and a word is composed of several syllables. A simpler font was used for everyday writing.

          It was long assumed to have been word-pictures (like Chinese or emojis). But after the Rosetta Stone unlocked the language this was found to be a misapprehension.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

            "It was long assumed to have been word-pictures (like Chinese or emojis). But after the Rosetta Stone unlocked the language this was found to be a misapprehension."

            True, but it just doesn't have the same "git of ma lawn" sound as blaming da yoof for re-inventing picture writing.

          2. Francis Boyle


            pretty much the same is true of Chinese. A Chinese character is a complex symbol (usually) made up of phonetic and semantic components (very few of which even vaguely resemble the thing they represent) and even then usually only manages to encode one half of a word. So actually nothing like an emoji.

    11. Imhotep Silver badge

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      I was just starting a gig as a consultant for a large multinational company that turned into a full time position. It turned out to be a big step up for me professionally and financially.

      It was very a good year after a pretty rough patch.

    12. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      20 years ago? I was 12 at the time, so just starting "middelbare school" (high school? middle school?grade 7? Dunno what other countries are calling it). I had other worries than computers at the time.

    13. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      20 Years ago I was IT Manager for a manufacturing company (so not much change in the intervening period!)

      We'd completed the upgrades on the ERP system for Y2K in plenty of time and had tested all the PCs for BIOS issues so were looking forward to the festivities.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

        20 Years ago I had jumped ship from RACAL Seaton as a Electronics Test Tech (That was slowly dying & we all knew it - The stress actually caused me to take a week off & applied for the job that I jumped ship from).

        So I became a PC builder with some fieldwork (Computers & printers) in the run up to Y2K, then got laid off sometime after that happened. Then went contracting providing project & then deskside support working for the likes of Barclays, Lloyds, Norwich Union, GSK, RAC, D&C Police.

        Certainly a change for the better.

    14. cream wobbly

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      Newly minted with a BSc, planning our slightly late upgrades from 6.4 to 6.5.

    15. JJKing

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      20 years ago I was physically running between classrooms rolling out computers in catholic schools. All they had was a Server (NT4.0) and Win98 boxes joined to the Domain. ALL software needed to be installed, user accounts created, email accounts created. All servers had a 2GB FAT32 and 2GB NTFS partition with ZERO network storage capacity. Most had 14 tray CD towers with a drive mapped to each tray so Office 97 could be deployed and Encarta 98 gave the students research ability because a 64k ISDN line was of so inadequate for online access.

      There was no deployment software (tight fisted bastards wouldn't purchase Ghost 5) so each machine had to be individually installed and configured. The company I worked for provided each school with 3.5 hours per fortnight irrespective of whether they had 10 machines in one or 180 in my largest one. I personally looked after 850 desktops, 120ish laptops, 100+ printers, 41 Servers (each school had an Admin and Curriculum Domain), 40+ 3Com (pieces of crap) SuperStack II switches that would take 6 weeks to replace even if they were DOA. One of the schools had 4 of those demon switches and I had 5 (not a typo) of them replaced in a 4 year period. In fact all 16 of my then schools had at least one switch fail in the first year of operation.

      Twenty years ago was a very exhausting time for me.

    16. Montreal Sean

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      Time does fly!

      This time 20 years ago I was a month into my break-fix career, having just started at Unisys...

      I left them for a few years later for a better offer elsewhere.

    17. Richard Crossley

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      Freezing my butt off in a computer room testing the company's systems for Y2K compliance. Found some bugs, but not much Y2K related.

      Icon, mines the one with the Sybase ASE 11 document set. Please bring it, I need wrap myself in something.

    18. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      Oddly enough '99 was a relatively thin time. I did get one contract doing some Y2K testing during the summer. I had a few days between getting the contract, which was supposed to be to cover paternity leave, and doing it. The contract was only 3 days - I suspect if I'd worked it out it might have been at a loss but it kept things ticking over. It seemed rather odd that someone couldn't fit 3 days to test their new box for Y2K compatibility around a mere 3 days paternity leave.

      In retrospect it seems likely that that they wanted a fall-guy at minimum cost (Scottish client) if things went bad. OTOH I knew that both aspects of the platform - up-to-date Unix and Informix - was unlikely to have any problems. I also had time in that few days to Google an official-sounding test regime I could point back to if needed and tailor a schedule based on it. I also had years and years experience of writing reports that would stand up to close legal scrutiny by being explicit in what they did and didn't cover.

      So basically, apart from the overheads, money for old rope. Their then new box will be unlikely to survive to Y2K38 if, indeed, it's still running now but that's SEP.

    19. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      Called in to work on a PDP-11 control system for several pieces of heavy equipment in a processing factory - because of course nobody would still be running that kit in the year 2000.

    20. GrumpyKiwi

      Re: Where were you 20 years ago?

      1999? Contracting for the British MoD rolling out ***DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS*** on a ***DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS*** platform.

      The best bits were the ***DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS***, but that sure didn't compensate for ***DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS*** and the worst of it was that my line manager was ***DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS*** and Welsh.

      Looking back on it, I can only shake my head and ***DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS***.

  3. defiler

    Even after he'd left...

    My first experience of having to fix a Citrix system was at Scottish Equitable. Their IT had been outsourced to Computacenter, and I was one of the contractors hauled in (since I'd been made redundant literally the day before).

    To be clear, the vast majority of the work being done was OS/2 and NT4, but this Citrix ticket landed on me, and whilst I could see part of what was wrong there was something eluding me that needed a little extra experience. I spoke to my team leader who gave me a name and a mobile number.

    Spoke to a nice friendly chap who partway through the call asked what system I was having trouble with. I told him.

    "But we don't have a machine with that name."

    "I don't know what to say, but I'm looking at it just now."

    "Which building is it in?"

    "Scot Eq House." (There being an 'Aegon House' just across the road and the St Andrew's Square building.)

    "You're from Scot Eq? I've not worked there in nearly a year!"

    "Ah. Fair enough. Sorry to bother you with this - do you know somebody here who would be able to help, or shall I bounce it back to Bob?" (Team leader)

    "Nah - what does it say at..." and he proceeded to help me diagnose the thing down the phone.

    And now I do Citrix as my day-to-day.

    And because of him, I've also made sure to at least try to help even after moving on from a role. I'll not own the problem, but I'll give some pointers and hopefully skip a lot of timewasting.

    1. Lazlo Woodbine

      Re: Even after he'd left...

      I was hounded out of a job by a complete PHB.

      About 6 weeks later I got a call at my new job "Hello, I've got a Mr xxxx on the line for you"

      Ahhh, my previous PHB

      "Sorry to bother you, but we need to recover a backup and don't have the password, you don't happen to remember it do you..."

      Now I could have said no after the way he'd treated me, but I really liked everyone else in that building and didn't want to ruin their days while he ranted at them all until he got what he wanted, so I told him and then asked our receptionist to never put him through again...

      1. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Re: Even after he'd left...

        Never give a password to a PHB, give it to the appropriate administrator.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Even after he'd left...

          In the circumstances it might constitute enough rope for a PHB to hang himself.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Even after he'd left...

        "I was hounded out of a job by a complete PHB."

        I'm guessing from the tone that the B means something other than Boss, possibly something relating to the marital status of his parents?

        1. keith_w Silver badge

          Re: Even after he'd left...

          the B stands for boss?

      3. eionmac

        Re: Even after he'd left...

        Unlearned here. What does "PBH" mean?

        1. Shooter

          Re: Even after he'd left...

          *PHB* refers to Pointy Haired Boss, of Dilbert fame.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even after he'd left...

      As a contractor I used to a lot of work for one particular company, generally the jobs would be built and tested on my dev servers (deliberately low spec machines) and once complete would be uploaded to the companies machines and wiped from mine (the contract actually stated that I was not allowed to retain a copy of any completed work).

      After several years we parted ways due to a falling out over one of their customers switching to me directly unaware that I had been doing jobs for them indirectly, I had checked with one of the directors that it wouldn't be an issue and was told that the customer was a seagull * and they were glad to be rid of them, the other 2 directors disagreed and instantly ended all contracts with me.

      About 5 years later I got a phone call asking if I had a copy of an old project because their client had delayed launching it and in the years in between they had lost their copies. I had a quick think and said that I wouldn't have the complete project but would see if I could find anything at all from it in old backups, luckily for them I found an old CDR with a backup of the project from 2 weeks before it was completed, I sent it to them and wished them luck in trying to remember what was changed in the last 2 weeks of the project (the project never went live and the company suddenly went bust about 6 months later)

      * Seagull Client - Flies in, Craps over everything, Flies out

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Even after he'd left...

        Thanks! I think you have pointed me in the direction of my new favourite axiom.

        Seagull Management.

        I see a lot more of that than I do Seagull Clients!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even after he'd left...

      I've helped a few places as "the chap who went before"...

      My first job straight out of university was as the IT tech/manager at my old secondary school. I lasted just over a year despite the terrible pay, and left for a job with another organisation with four weeks notice.

      Unfortunately for the school they couldn't find anyone to do the job on the money I was paid, and couldn't raise the pay rate without me being able to take them to the cleaners under employment law, so they had no IT staff for three months, with the deputy head doing the basics like password resets etc.

      One day however there was a lightning strike and powercut on site. Everything came back up apart from the network connection for one of the buildings which was fibre fed. I then got a call from the school asking if I'd take a look, I simply asked them to leave my access keys on the desk and I'd pop in that night.

      Turns out all that was needed was to powercycle a few fibre media converters but it took me a few hours to work it out. I then stuffed in an invoice and got a few quid back (which gave the Deputy Head a bit of leverage to push forward getting someone/anyone in).

      I also gave the new chap (when he eventually existed) a few hours walkaround the site and explained the worst oddities of the system. I offered to my current employer to take the day as holiday but they said it could count as "community outreach"...

  4. OssianScotland

    On Call

    About 10 years ago, managing global IT for a small oil company, with a critical system running on a terminal server in the UK. The main (fibre) router we had was a bit patchy, and would sometimes lock up, so in the best IT tradition, the cure was to switch it off, let it cool down and restart it.

    I was an early starter, since the majority of operations were "East of Suez" and I preferred to get in to work around 0630 to handle India and the Muddle East during their mornings, so I quite often got calls when people knew I was going to be up and heading in.

    I was, however, not very amused to get a call from India at 0430 one morning, to say the router had locked up and could I please go in to reboot it. The lack of amusement was that it was 0430 on December 25th! I did go in - empty roads, so a very quick journey, power cycled the router, and got back before the kids were stirring, but felt that the whole thing was a sort of passive-aggressive "we're working when you aren't" type of thing.

    Fairly shortly after, put in an alternative ADSL line and a network operated power switch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On Call

      I remember a few years ago ringing HP, and speaking to India - think he said his name was "Steve". Anyway, he wasn't too pleased that I had called on an Indian Bank holiday, and he was working while his friends all had the day off.

      Also, thanks to those guys, I learnt the phonetic alphabet, mostly out of embarrassment. They were doing all the alpha, bravo, charlie stuff while I was apple, banana, cucumber - no, might be confusing with Q, I know computer!

      1. Outski Silver badge

        Re: On Call

        When I was setting up our 24/7 support team in Malaysia, I got the NATO alphabet up on the wall very quickly, after hearing the guys trying to thing of words on the fly. I also learned that it's acceptable to swap London in place of Lima, lima meanining five in malay/java which could be awkward in an ATC situation.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: On Call

        "might be confusing with Q"

        No problem. Q is obviously quince.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: On Call

        No, Ray, I said M. M as in Mancy!

      4. Phil Endecott

        Re: On Call

        It’s quite a fun pub game to try and invent the worst possible phonetic alphabet.

        Sea = S

        Hay = H

        Eye = E

        Are = A

        You = Y

        etc. etc.

        1. JJKing

          Re: On Call

          It’s quite a fun pub game to try and invent the worst possible phonetic alphabet.

          Maybe it was on the Goons or the Navy Lark but there was the Cockney alphabet. The only three that I remember were:

          A is for horses

          B(ee) for tea (need to say that one quick)

          C is for swimming in

          1. ICPurvis47

            Re: On Call

            A fer 'orses,

            B fer Mutton,

            C fer yourself,

            D fer nition,

            E fer brick,

            F fer vescent,

            G fer Police,

            H fer consent,

            I fer an eye,

            J fer oranges

            K fer Francis (music hall star and film actress),

            L fer leather,

            M fer sis,

            N fer lope,

            O fer the garden wall,

            P fer relief,

            Q fer the flicks (cinema),

            R fer mo',

            S fer Williams (swimmer and film star),

            T fer two,

            U fer me,

            V fer la France,

            W fer a quid,

            X fer breakfast,

            Y fer Mother,

            Z fer breezes.

            1. AndyFl

              Re: On Call

              I can beat that. The infamous "Indian Alphabet Song". Every letter wrong but done with evident glee!


        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: On Call

          If you cant just bring yourself to down a bottle of whisky in one you can always play a slightly modified version of Fizz-Buzz. We once tried Fizz-Buzz-Guzz-Wuzz - 3,5,7,11 3-say Fizz, 5- say Buzz and reverse order, 7 Say Guzz and skip one, 11 say Wuzz and reverse skipping one. Oh and you have to use roman numerals. I think we made it to CL once before calling for an ambulance.

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: On Call

      but felt that the whole thing was a sort of passive-aggressive "we're working when you aren't" type of thing.

      Nothing passive about that. And next time return the favour of calling out of office hours, preferably on a holiday for him.

  5. Jay 2

    I remember Auspex kit, with it's mainly but not quite SunOS. Usually the differences would come out and bite you just at the wrong time.

  6. Deimos


    I spent most of early 99 getting our monster database servers up to standard. This was done by Easter so by November I was a happy compliant tech lord ( under many layers of senior lords) and spent my free time laughing at the IT groups who weren’t ready.

    Then I was “invited” to apply for a more senior lordship and got the job plus much money. Met new over lord and found out that the job was actually more fun than I thought, big happy me. Until leaving overlords domain, “one last thing” he said and yes you guessed it. I was in charge of all Y2K compliance, especially the IT groups who weren’t yet ready.

    December was busy but we managed it. As far as I remember the only Y2K failure I ever saw was my very NSFW Jo Guest calendar program.

  7. Martyn 1

    And be careful where you leave your own contact details.

    Many years ago when I was VMS system manager at Big Bank they had a data feed to/from another organization which stopped working, there was no documentation and everyone involved in it's implementation had left, and eventually it landed on my desk, I fixed a shonky bit of code and made the mistake of commenting my changes and adding my name to the comment!

    Roll forward a couple of years and I'm working for DEC, and I get a call from customer support manager saying that Big Bank had a problem with some code falling over, nobody had any idea what it was doing and so had logged a call with DEC support who found my name in the code so it was now my problem and I had to fix it for them even though I wasn't working on customer support!

    First call I made a call to Big Bank I explained what the code was supporting and their response was that they'd decommed that service about a year ago so didn't need it fixing - thank you very much.

    I tend to initial my comments nowadays rather than giving a full name :-)

    1. Baldrickk

      Re: And be careful where you leave your own contact details.

      I let the blame tool for whichever SCM tool I am dealing with handle that...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And be careful where you leave your own contact details.

      But only after changing your name first. I suggest -

      William Thomas Fitzpatrick.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And be careful where you leave your own contact details.

      "I tend to initial my comments nowadays rather than giving a full name :-)"

      I tend to use my company-issued login (initials plus some random numbers). Someday when I leave, my account will be removed, including the directory entry, and only those who worked with me will know whose login that was.

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    One from my more distant past, my forensic science days. We definitely weren't police but the police were inevitably our biggest "customer". One way or another* the local station got to know my address, or at least that I lived in their area and my phone number was in the book. Late one Saturday evening I got a somewhat apologetic call. It wasn't anything to do with my work but would I come into the station because they wanted an independent witness.

    They'd arrested a drunk. You may have heard the expression "feeling no pain" as a euphemism for being drunk. For this guy it wasn't a euphemism, more like the literal truth; he must have been well anaesthetised. He was head-butting the cell door and shouting. By the time I got there he'd damaged one cell door - two layers of wood interleaved with a steel sheet and had to be put in another cell. They thought he'd broken his nose in the process and he'd bled all over the first cell. He was continuing to hit the cell door. There was no way I could actually go into the cell to see inside but there was a continuous racket coming from it: bang, bang, bang, "I want my solicitor", bang, bang, bang, "I want my MP", bang, bang, bang, "I want my solicitor"... Never heard anything more about it.

    * It may have been because the station sergeant was a former senior SOCO. We came across him once off-duty in the local supermarket following the store detective. He suspected she was on a bonus for each case brought to court and was slipping merchandise into unsuspecting victims' shopping bags. He eventually caught her.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      "We came across him once off-duty in the local supermarket following the store detective. He suspected she was on a bonus for each case brought to court and was slipping merchandise into unsuspecting victims' shopping bags. He eventually caught her."

      So much wrong captured in three sentences!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        I wonder how much it cost the supermarket in compensation for her victims. And the hassle of getting the convictions quashed.

  9. Sequin

    I became the support contact for an old Prison Service system running on an old Concurrent CP/M machine when someone looked through a pile of old CVs and spotted that I'd worked on CP/M systems in the distant past. I was told that the system, which collected Officers' overtime details, must work flawlessly each month, or they'd go on work to rule and there would be riots in prisons all around the country!

    1. Killfalcon

      In an old role, my team supported a whole bunch of Group finance teams. Almost all of the work was dealing with the many ways the Actuaries broke things (so many ways), but once in a blue moon we got a call from Payroll. Payroll for us was three older ladies who had collectively run the process for decades - very capable, very professional, and damn near invisible most of the time.

      Anything simple they'd sort themselves - after all, they'd been there when we stopped using punch cards and handled every upgrade since - so if they called us it was always a bad day.

      Next to nothing motivates you like "if this doesn't work, you don't get paid".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I can relate. I had to sort out payroll upgrades for a client around 20 years ago (Ceridian was the payroll software... ugh). One of the staff members was concerned that I was not sufficiently motivated, since I was a contractor, not an employee. I pointed out that if I failed to resolve the issue, he would get paid late, but I would *never* get paid.

        Every Ceridian update came with at least three sheets of paper labeled "read me first", each printed on an eyeraping shade of red or orange. No, they weren't copies, each page had different warnings or instructions.

        Once spent an hour or so on hold with them. Hold music was a radio station (in Atlanta, IIRC). Once was tempted to grab a second phone to call in to win concert tickets...


        1. irrelevant

          Re: payroll

          Payroll.. I had to do a 250 mile round trip on a previously booked day off, 27th December, in order to fix payroll at a customers. 1990s, using an archaic synchronous dial-up to send the payments to BACS, which was not working. Failure to fix would mean well over a hundred minimum wage care home employees wouldn't get paid and, I was warned, probably wouldn't turn up to work again! So no pressure there then..

    2. JJKing


      must work flawlessly each month, or they'd go on work to rule and there would be riots in prisons all around the country!

      So no pressure then.

  10. trevorde Silver badge

    Perk of working for IBM (*)

    Company I worked for got bought by IBM, who were really big on 'enterprise level support'. As a lowly developer, this meant one of our team carrying a Nokia featureless phone 365x24x7 as a third line support drone. Initially, none of us were keen to take it on, even for the extra money. It turned out that the phone *never* rang as none of our customers worked outside of normal office hours. In effect, it was free money! Once we figured that out, we all took it in turns to carry the phone!

    * other than that, there are no perks for working for IBM

  11. DrBobK

    SunOS 4.1.3 yeeuch.

    Everything SunOS after 3.x was dire anyway as I remember, but I think you had to have it, rather than 3.5, on SPARC systems.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: SunOS 4.1.3 yeeuch.

      I appreciate the sentiment. I only knew 7, and everything before it and after it was grief. Sometimes you want to tell developers to have a year off, step away from the keyboard, put down the knife.

      You should maybe give seven a chance, you can have my books if you want because they are museum or landfill ready.

      My last serious job interview was an offshoot of Sun in Linlithgow, I just got a flashback to the casually dressed young woman who greeted me, and it was for an offshoot developing a high density storage drive. The offshoot was blown away by a cloud.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2 stories

    "Ever tried to be helpful and come to rue your non-BOFH behaviour later?"

    "Where were you 20 years ago?"

    Actually, 2 stories from myself, here.

    1- I was once contacted by an unknown dude, back in the years, 2 decades ago, for a script that apparently failed, in a DC unknown to me. I asked the due "Why the heck are you contacting me ? I know nothing of your systems !". It turned out the script got my name on it, as the author, and was copied to this very DC. The dude simply thought I'd be on support for the stuff he'd copied without telling me and for which he was paid. Forever.

    2-once, I was on call for a DC. I was called while vigorously having sex with my partner. I responded while ... still inside my partner. It turned out the failing software was such an horrible shit it totally got my motivation down. Worst on call really !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 2 stories

      Bravo, Bravo, hope you didn't get a bollocking for using your bollocks!

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: 2 stories

      "... still inside my partner. It turned out the failing software was such an horrible shit it totally got my motivation down."

      Their software caused problems with your hardware?

      Did you fix their problem with a floppy?

      (Sorry - someone was bound to say it! I'll get my coat.)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Old job, was forced to have a work mobile when management changed, because "It's a large site, and we don't want to put in a PA system on the factory floor or the carpark".

    That dog leash got turned off and left resting in it's fruity coffin inside the desk drawer whenever I left premises for home.

  14. Roger Kynaston Silver badge

    not quite 20 years ago

    I was working for an outsourced Council IT whose Revs & Bens server used a common product from a well known shit software supplier. This one used an Ingres DB. I had the task of getting a so called DR box to work. I did teach myself a bit of Ingres in the process and got labelled at the Ingres expert. Another council contract then rang me asking for help with their production system. That was very nerve wracking.

  15. Stevie
    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      But it's still worthy of a upvote.....

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      And it is well worth an upvote. But why didn't you just copy/paste? Easier than providing that link.

  16. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

    Ha TOIL indeed

    Try working for NHS and TOIL.

    As Band 8 staff and 'clinical' I worked overtime at Band 7 rates which due to tax / NI meant I worked for less than the staff I managed

    Why? Band 8 is 'management' thus no overtime. So when I worked overtime ( to 'manage ' ) junior clinical staff - I could not be paid at my 'clinical' rate - even though managing required clinical expertise!

    Why the cr*p.? Because doctors exempted themselves from Agenda for Change so all the equivalent clinicians / Band 8's were/are absent.

    Oh and TOIL, cannot take as you are essential to maintain service. Pay? See above...

  17. Duncan Cummings

    In the early 80's I worked for a company that made computers used by accountants in Australia and New Zealand. When we launched a new product (The Hartley 3923) I travelled around the country training the Field Engineers on it. 22 years later, I get a call from one of the guys I trained, asking if I know how to format a new hard drive. I wasn't able to help him and while talking to him asked how he found me. Turns out he had asked the engineer who designed it for help and he couldn't remember either.

    *Beer icon because I like beer.

  18. Giles C Silver badge

    I had two occurrences happen recently

    The first was a problem with a firewall that we had worked on for 11 hours on a Friday (11 am to 11pm) it went on so long that of the three of us working on the problem we had each of us drive home and then rejoin the call.

    Over the weekend it went wrong again so I was called out for another 8 hours on the Sunday afternoon. But someone else was on call not me!

    The second occurred a couple of days ago, an email from an ex colleague who asked me when you went to the Wakefield office where did you install the WiFi monitors - I left the company a year ago and did that installation about 2 month before leaving them! I could sort of remember where I put them but not exactly.

  19. OzBob

    I left a job in 2001 as a permie in the local civil service

    and came back in 2015 as a contractor. The first thing that greeted me in my mailbox was a forums update for the HP Support Website, for kit that the Govt Department had decommissioned long before I got back. So they had been spamming my (non-existent) email box for 14 years and either hadn't upgraded or had dragged everyone along to any new systems.

  20. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Way back at the beginning.

    After I got my EE I was working at a shop that repaired pro audio, guitar amps, that sort of thing. It was a very big shop near Los Angeles and I worked on lots of gear from famous musicians along with just the average Joe. At one point Fender guitars made a mixing console with a built-in amplifier. The engineer that designed the amplifier must have worked serious amounts of overtime to come up with such a complex design for a product that was bottom market. As a right of passage, every tech in the shop had to work on one of these for at least a day though they were never repairable. Along comes Johnny (me) and gets one working. What a mistake. Nobody told me that I should just prod and poke for a day, throw up my hands and admit defeat. One of the problems with these amps is that when something popped, it would take out a smattering of other parts. If you didn't find all of the bad components and fired the thing up again for a test, you'd lose the parts you just replaced and likely a few more compounding the problem. You can guess that after getting one to work, I was lumbered with a few more that kicked my backside before I was allowed to give up after spending a whole week of getting nowhere. The bosses at the job sucked but there is a bunch of satisfaction in getting a classic guitar amp or a big mixing console back up and working. I wound up repairing most of the Fender stuff from name artists because I had nearly memorized the schematics (tube circuits are a breeze) and could spot the most popular mods and would not "correct" them so the amp would be back to what the artist was used to before it stopped working. The other bonus was the repairs were routed through Fender and I would sometimes be comped tickets to a show as a guest of Fender for making them look good.

    Always claim shear luck when fixing something you never want to work on again. If you buff your knuckles and brag you are a god, they'll just have you working on the dogs full time.

  21. Tom 7 Silver badge

    "The developers," he remarked, "got a very stern talking to about running production app

    And the managers who ordered this to happen? I always made sure they put that shit in writing or got some witnesses to make a note for protecting my posterior.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    backup tapes story

    I left a company in 2010, after moving their DC. We actually had to evacuate the former building entirely.

    And, as usual, there were a lot of historical backup tapes across vaults, closets, everywhere, for which, of course, we didn't have any budget to move them, nor space to store them in the new rented DC. Nor did we even know why so many old backup were kept ... They were all of "unlimited retention".

    Of course, there was no response to our queries to management on what to do with this huge number of tapes (10 000 or so).

    After a while, I had the big tape library (5000 tapes) dismantled plus 2 entire closets of tapes securely destroyed.

    2 years later, I was no longer in the company, and this support dude called me, asking for a couple of tapes that were in the closet, like, you know, after evacuating the building, I had stored all this stuff at home or something

    "No luck, dude, everything was destroyed, since we evacuated the building".

    Good times.

  23. Boris Dyne

    That'll never go anywhere... wait, I've got an idea.

    26 years ago I was standing in the multi-media room of the dept of computing science in a university only a stone's throw from George Square (a very small stone too) one morning and our excited american research asst colleague was demonstrating with a DAT and two Power Macs how he could send a packet of music from one Mac all the way to a server in the US and the back out through the other Mac. We thought this was great and then asked him what use it was. Only remembered it when I saw that episode of the Big Bang Theory.

  24. sum_of_squares

    The only correct response:

    1) find out who was behind this

    2) get his details

    3) file it under "night shift support (1 AM to 5 AM)" plus get an entry into every NSFW-spam-mailing list available

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