back to article A user's magnetic charm makes for a special call-out for our hapless hero

Welcome to On Call, that time of the week where you can take time out from fretting about the days just past and nod sympathetically/take delight in tales of those that must smile and nod before the wrath of the user. "Max" got in touch to tell us about the time he was faced with what he delicately called a "trouble ticket" in …

  1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

    I know he wasn't a Londoner, but...

    a magnet made him shut his North and South? (Norf an' Sarf for you Cockneys.)

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    Nice one, REE!

    Rare earth element? You mean common courtesy towards support workers?

  3. keith_w

    And how many times have we poor IT support fellows been called out because the monitor was distorted only to find that the user had added a fan to their desktop environment? Thank goodness that LED monitors are not affected by stray magnetic fields. Icon because it causes stray magnetic fields.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why is there always at least one?

    Mid-90s, in support at a financial services place. One notorious actuary regularly came around to the IT department looking for an argument, Monty Python-like. He'd always say "Suppose...." and expect a response to some unlikely situation he'd dreamt up, as his version of "Is this the 5 minute argument or the full half hour?" He drove us scatty, and would stay for ages. Eventually I found his kryptonite; be just as rude and use his tactic against him.

    A: "Suppose....."

    IT: "Yeah, but just suppose that didn't happen"

    A: "Yes, but suppose...."

    IT "I see, but suppose it didn't happen"

    He quickly lost interest and went off to elevate his ego on someone else. He still left us all feeling sullied by his tirades.

    1. Chris King

      Re: Why is there always at least one?

      I had one like that, but one day I snapped and delivered this...

      "Don't worry, I'M the one they pay to Think Bad Thoughts And Make Sure They Never Happen !"

      Apparently, he went over to someone else and asked "Suppose Chris goes under a bus...?"

      No that he got any sympathy there either - "Well, we can only hope he'll take you with him !"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why is there always at least one?

        Surly anyone who's had kids knows how to deal with this kind of crap :-)

        Usually with kids it's the "why" question but still....

  5. Chris King

    Super Magnets

    Good thing they put some decent shielding on those things when they ship them. I had one sent to an Amazon Locker, then thought "Oh crap, what have I done ?!"

    1. BebopWeBop

      Re: Super Magnets

      Or in some circles, 'ohhhh goody - what do you think might happen (a speculative game to be played over beers).

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Super Magnets

        I sometimes get paid for destructive testing. Paid quite well. Funny thing is I'd do it for free, in some cases. Don't tell anyone :-)

    2. Tom 7

      Re: Super Magnets

      My dad was a mad professor and had access to things beyond normal ken - like Electron microscopes and centrifuges that did 50,000 rps. On day he came home with a magnet that was so powerful it stuck to the car door as he tried to bring it into the house and stayed there until one of his colleagues de-gaussed it with whatever he'd used to gauss it with. The window winder never worked again.

      1. PerlyKing

        Re: 50,000 rps

        Revolutions per second?! What was the radius?

        1. VonDutch

          Re: 50,000 rps

          Some lab ultracentrifuges go even faster.

          They have armour plating on the inside to try and contain shrapnel if a vial breaks but if the rotor head fails you want to be in another building.

  6. petef

    I've been there. The colours were bleeding on my CRT TV so I got it down off its shelf, back off in front of a mirror, manual open to get going on static convergence. But the picture was fine. At that point I twigged that putting my HiFi speakers either side of the TV was not my brightest idea.

  7. molletts

    I wonder what happened to his hard drive...

    I had a drive wiped by stray magnetic fields in my first job. Having set up a PC on my bench in the lab with the required software for in-circuit programming of the new-fangled flash-based microcontrollers we were hoping to use in our next product in place of masked ROMs, I was puzzled when I started it up the next morning and found it wouldn't boot properly. I had other stuff to do so I left it "for later" when I'd be able to spend a bit more time diagnosing the problem. When I eventually got back to it late in the afternoon, I found that the picture on the (CRT) monitor was jiggling around all over the place, which naturally aroused my suspicions about what may have caused the disk problems.

    It turned out that, on the other side of the wall from my bench was where overnight burn-in testing was run on the high-current motor controllers (hundreds of amps) we produced.

    I had a bit of a problem paying for petrol on my way home too... It hadn't crossed my mind that my credit card would have been wiped too, until it failed to swipe, at which point it became pretty obvious and I felt like a right plonker.

    1. jake Silver badge

      In all likelihood, nothing happened to his hard drive. I've been winning bar bets with this one for decades ... Back in the early/mid 80s, a friend and I were tasked with bulk erasing a couple dozen Seagate ST225 20 meg MFM drives. Having recently acquired a couple of rare earth magnets (industrial surplus, as re-sold by the late, lamented Haltec in Mountain View), we figured we could wipe 'em across the drives and be done with it. But first lunch, at Fred's on Middlefield Road.

      For those of you who didn't grow up in the wilds of Silly Con Valley, Fred's was (and is!) a dive bar[0]. Heavy emphasis on Dive. Home away from home kind of place, if you're into that kind of thing. A good place for planning destructive testing of all kinds. So naturally, we decided that we'd pull a drive out of the computer, but leave it plugged in, turn the machine back on and wipe the magnets over it "to watch the computer lose it's tiny little mind". Which we did.

      To our surprise, nothing happened. The drive trundled on, ignoring us and our magnets. So we found a bulk eraser for tapes and the like and tried that. Still nothing happened. I wrote a simple "walking ones" program to run over them instead.

      I've done this with increasingly strong magnets, and progressively denser HDDs over the years and have never, not once, lost a single byte of data EXCEPT mechanical data loss when the drive head gets bent into the running platter (the traditional meaning of a HDD head crash).

      Don't take my word for it, try it for yourself. Or read this account of somebody else trying it and getting similar results.

      "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." —Samuel Langhorne Clemens

      [0] If you pointy-clicky around in the go ogle link, you can get a look at the interior. Might not look like much, but a LOT of what happened in the proto-SillyConValley started in there ...

      1. Luiz Abdala

        Erasing hard-drives...

        Yep... something about de-gauss temperature... er... whatever...

        The point is, you gotta cook the drive, along with a magnet. It does that on the microscopic scale on the head when it records... I think.

        Icon, because memory leakage.

        1. Monkey&Typewriter

          Re: Erasing hard-drives...

          You CAN degauss a hard drive without cooking it, but it takes an extremely intense field. Not one you would encounter accidentally.

          There are devices for doing it. Here's an example: This is not an endorsement of Proton's products, just the result of a quick search. I haven't needed to destroy HDDs to that level in a decade or so. Note that once degaussed, the HDD is no longer usable. The platters inside are pretty though.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Erasing hard-drives...

            If you need to deguass to that level, a nine inch nail and sledgehammer punching it through the platters is cheaper, faster and FAR more satisfying.

            Followed by a nice baking.

            As far as reading with an atomic force microscope: Peter Gutmann's own followups to his seminal paper is worth reading:

   - read the epilogue(s)

            TL;DR: Those tests were on 10-20MB MFM stepper motor drives, attempts to repeat on 100MB voicecoil drives failed, higher density drives are unlikely to work either

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Erasing hard-drives...

              If you need to deguass to that level, a nine inch nail and sledgehammer punching it through the platters is cheaper, faster and FAR more satisfying.

              Not with the amount we have with the rolling replacement / uprade program.

              Who holds the nail and who swings the hammer? you'd be crippled in a week.

              I guess you could make a jig to hold nail and hammer in ready to strike position.

              If you're gonna do that you may as well make something to hold a railway spike in position.

              HDDs are tough!

              But no matter how inventive and/or effective you get ,

              the job will go to some WEEE certified twat in a van who visits occasionally , because he can write you the get-out-jail free card if some data escapes.

              god forbid we ever re-use anything that has stored data , or wipe it and sell it off .

              No its "Thanks for your service, and now you must die"

              1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

                Re: Erasing hard-drives...

                If you need to destroy hard-disks, use a more effective method, like a bench drill and a bucket of bleach. Drill a couple of holes (one at either end) through the case and platters, and then place in the bucket. Pour the bleach over the drives when the bucket is full, and leave overnight. That, or just take them somewhere that has an industrial grinder and shred them into tiny pieces.

                1. Cynic_999

                  Re: Erasing hard-drives...

                  I suspect that battery acid would be more effective than bleach ...

                  1. Kiwi

                    Re: Erasing hard-drives...

                    I suspect that battery acid would be more effective than bleach ...

                    With aluminium platters, the bleach may be more than plenty. Used to use acids and alkalis at work, and aluminium would barely react with some acids but with a weaker alkali it'd react a lot more aggressively.

                2. ITMA Silver badge

                  Re: Erasing hard-drives...

                  Many 2.5" laptop drives are far more fun since they use coated glass platters.

                  One swift blow with a hammer - especially one of those plastic "dead blow" ones that come certain brands of steel racking - and you have an instant hi-tech maraca LOL.

                  They just shatter....

          2. Unicornpiss

            Re: Erasing hard-drives...

            I do know it's not as easy as you might think. About a decade ago, when we did backups to tape, we had a bulk tape eraser, a device the size of a small clothes iron that plugged into mains current.

            On a whim, I tried it on an already damaged laptop drive. The device was powerful enough to lift the drive off the desk from a height of 4-5" and slam it into the bottom of the eraser, where it would hang, buzzing angrily at the AC power frequency as long as the current was on. I did this at least a half dozen times, letting the drive fall to the desk, then switching the eraser back on and letting it slam back into the eraser.

            To my surprise, I could still read the drive just fine, albeit with some more errors than it had before. After that, I used a hammer as a bulk eraser when disposing of obsolete drives.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Probably mentioned before...

        But did take several HDDs apart to display platters - and was surprised to find that there was a couple of magnets right next to the platters!

        On a different note, as a PFY playing about with a paint package - it had a graduated fill feature. So did

        a red to green transition, then went away for a bit, came back to find that the senior engineer trying to de-guass the monitor as he thought it was faulty!

      3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Fred's looks like a UK based "American theme" pub!

      4. ITMA Silver badge

        Not just that.

        Apart from the fact at the time CRT monitors still ruled the roost, hard drives had cases moulded out of solid (thick) aluminium with an aluminium lid - and aluminium does strange things to magnetic fields that try to go through it (I've used neodymium iron boron magnets for damping oscillations in a thin aluminium pendulum).

        Also virtual all high speed drives use(d) "voice coil" head actuators to sweep the r/w heads across the surface of the platters. If open one of these drives - as I did on a dead Seagate Hawk 3.5" 1GB (yes 1GB!) SCSI hard drive - inside just to one side of the platters, where the "voice coil" end of the head assembly are a pair of neodymium iron boron magnets (still the most powerful permanent magnets available). And that is INSIDE the drive - albeit with the field not going directly through the platters.

    2. Notas Badoff

      Stray magnetic fields...

      You would think the danger in a chemical physics lab would be the chemicals, right? Especially for flimsy cassette tapes, the removable 'storage' for this poor cut-down PDP-11.

      After having to retype my test programs a couple times when I could get back to the lab, I started saving programs onto *two* cassettes, one left in the lab and one taken home with me. Iteration showed one out of three lab-held tapes might be readable from one day to the next, but pocket copies always survived just fine.

      When the data acquisition subroutine started shaping up with consistent results, the thought of turning over the source to the requesting near-Phd was making me very nervous. My nervousness had introverted me accosting the few people I ever saw in the lab, who of course had no idea what problem I was talking about.

      Until one bright physics lad (graduate material for sure!) connected my whinging about cassette tape recording media to the concept 'magnetic'. He showed me a clotheswasher-sized blue tub on the far side of the lab with the letters NMR on it, as in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. Very probably the manual for it mentioned something about shielding. Ever tried playing darts next to a running MRI machine?

      I left the student three printed copies and two cassette copies, along with predictions of woe should he leave anything in the lab overnight. I kept three cassette copies and multiple listings for myself. Oh, and I inquired as to how confident he was his data collection apparatus was proof against raging magnetic storms.

      1. ibmalone

        Re: Stray magnetic fields...

        He showed me a clotheswasher-sized blue tub on the far side of the lab with the letters NMR on it, as in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. Very probably the manual for it mentioned something about shielding. Ever tried playing darts next to a running MRI machine?

        It's pretty hard to shield the static field, unlike RF where conductivity is enough, you need high permeability to complete the circuit for the field. Mu-metal is the alloy used, but it's much less less effective than the equivalent for electric fields, so the main thing you do for MRI and NMR is put them a long way from everything else. (You also stick MRI in a Faraday cage to exclude noise, but an NMR should be self contained.)

        As for darts next to a running MRI, even a non-running one is an issue. The field is from a superconducting coil which will hold its current for years. One of the few times I've really felt it was necessary to interrupt our PhD students chatting amongst themselves was when they were bewailing the wastefulness of leaving the mri magnet on all the time...

        1. a_builder

          Re: Stray magnetic fields...


          Well I used to run an NMR lab.

          We had six superconducting magnets ranging from 7 to 14 Tesla so biiiiig magnets.

          The worst one we had, for stray magnetic field was a first generation magnet 9T - it was dreadful - stray field all over the place. If you put an unshielded CRT anywhere near (near being 4 meters) it then the picture distorted. If you did certain pulse experiments you didn’t need a scope to tell they were working. The fun went away when we got some decent monitors.

          If you put a proper big rare earth in the right place and then calibrated the monitor and then removed it you *might* see what is described in the article but I’d be dubious.

          The 14T magnet was never an issue as the design had moved on and the 1T stay field was inside the magnet can.

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Stray magnetic fields...

          "the wastefulness of leaving the mri magnet on all the time"

          The waste would be in the liquid helium and nitrogen required to keep the superconductor cold enough to super-conduct. (The He keeps the superconductor around 4K, and the liquid nitrogen surrounds that to act as an insulator).

          And that brings us to another design consideration for installing an MRI. You want windows that blow out easily, because if the liquid gasses ever do boil off, they might do it very suddenly (a "quench"), so you want a nice easy way for that extra pressure to dissipate without blowing the roof off.

          1. ibmalone

            Re: Stray magnetic fields...

            Yes, that was the thing, they thought it was just plugged into the mains. Turning the field off every night would be much more wasteful, since you have to open it up (which loses more helium), dump the current, and then spend hours the next morning with generators running it back up.

            Modern commercially-available clinical MRI don't have a separate nitrogen cryostat (older ones did), just a complicated helium cooling system, and don't need much helium to keep going (I've not run any, but I think an annual top-up). This is in serious contrast to the experimental magnet I used to work with, which one of our research associates described as "an agricultural design"). It drank two nitrogen dewars a week and a helium one every three weeks.

        3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Stray magnetic fields...

          One of the few times I've really felt it was necessary to interrupt our PhD students chatting amongst themselves was when they were bewailing the wastefulness of leaving the mri magnet on all the time...

          Indeed. In a previous life, where I worked with such things (back when a 400 MHz machine was considered cutting edge), I heard stories of what would happen if, for instance someone's keys ended up inside the magnet. The procedure for retrieving them would involve "quenching" the magnet, which involves draining the liquid helium (at -269ºC), allowing the coil to warm up above the critical temperature, removing the errant keys, giving the owner a good kicking, and then cooling the machine back down again, before recalibrating it for use. This would probably take the machine out of commission for several days, and waste a lot of expensive liquid helium, not to mention the potential damage to the magnet, and thermal stress to other components. So, basically, not something you would want to do casually.

          Not to mention the idiocy of the idea of wanting to "save costs" by "turning off" the magnet, which when cooled and superconducting, and producing a static field, consumes no energy other than the resources required to keep it cooled.

          1. ibmalone

            Re: Stray magnetic fields...

            I heard stories of what would happen if, for instance someone's keys ended up inside the magnet.

            I've posted previously about the 3T MR scanner at a London hospital where somehow a cleaner ended up with a vacuum in the scanner room, and the vacuum rod ended up in the bore (nothing to do with me!). Siemens were consulted and it was fortunately concluded that hauling it back out by brute (but careful) force would probably be okay, and far preferable to shutting the thing down. (Never played with NMR, but I imagine physical access is much more limited and a 9T magnet is gong to hold onto those keys with significantly more venom.)

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Stray magnetic fields...

        "I started saving programs onto *two* cassettes, one left in the lab and one taken home with me."

        Experience with 1980s computer disk drives showed pretty poor reliability, even without the added spice of NMR equipment nearby

    3. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      I wonder what happened to his hard drive...

      Or floppy drives ?

      Back in the day, Apple used to have pictures of the Apple ][ (yes, that dates it !) with two 5 1/4 floppy drives on top, and a monitor on top of that. Needless to say, some users copied that setup.

      Back then we had a customer that made fixing bands that hold the lid on top of 45 gallon drums, and the factory employed significant welding currents. We got calls from them because their data disks were getting corrupted - we collected the machine and could find no fault, but back in the factory it would sooner or later corrupt a disk. We thought it might be the welding currents and the magnetic fields they produced - but moving the machine to the office (away from the welders) made no difference.

      Eventually we twigged. Apple didn't make a big song and dance about their monitor having magnetic shielding in it's base which third party monitors didn't have. So an Apple monitor on top of the drives was OK, a third party one wasn't - as we realised when we tried moving the disk drives to one side.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Floppy drives

        I wasn't in IT Support (thank Zeus) but I remember when I saw a n00b on our programming team "file" a floppy disk by using a magnet to stick it to a file cabinet. I managed to avoid screaming while I explained magnetic media to him.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Floppy drives

          n00b or not, how did he manage to be part of a programming team without knowing what a floppy disk was? Were you still at the stage where there were few if any qualifications available so took anyone who showed aptitude?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Floppy drives

            I used to run into programmers who didn't know what a floppy disk was all the time, well into the 1970s, trailing off into the '80s. I even ran across a few in the early 1990s ... These last were mostly folks programming industrial equipment with paper/mylar tape and card decks; seems that general purpose computers were outside their job descriptions. There may even be a few of this last set left in odd corners of the world.

            1. Yes Me Silver badge

              Re: Floppy drives

              I only want to say that holes, or their absence, in punched tapes or cards have never been altered by unexpected magnetic fields. M. Jacquard and Mr. Hollerith were no fools.

              1. DJV Silver badge

                Paper tape corruption

                Indeed, but, back in the 1970s, I heard a story directly from someone who experienced data corruption on a system that relied on punched paper tapes for program input. After several tapes became corrupt they finally pinned it down to a bored halfwit poking the occasional random extra hole into the tape with a sharp pointy implement.

                1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: Paper tape corruption

                  "a bored halfwit poking the occasional random extra hole into the tape "

                  There's a story of punch card stacks routinely being corrupted when exported to france - a QC checker was eventually assigned to follow the entire shipment to see what was going on.

                  French customs would open the shipment, pull a sheaf cards from the deck ("a sample"), look at them and throw them away. No amount of explaining that the entire deck was "ONE DOCUMENT" and what they were doing was the equivalent of ripping pages at random from a book would sink in.

                  A marker pen trace laid across the top edge of the deck made such missing bits more glaringly obvious though.

              2. jake Silver badge

                Re: Floppy drives

                Never say never ...

                Picture a data center in the basement of a tall building in San Francisco's financial district. Card punch up against a wall, near the ancient Otis heavy goods lift. Every now and again, at seemingly random times, the punch generated errors for a couple characters. Nobody could figure out why.

                Until IBM was traipsing in and out one fine weekend, upgrading who knows what hardware, as only IBM could. Someone (ahem) noticed that the gibberish was being generated about ten seconds before the elevator doors opened.

                Turned out that the motor for the lift was drawing so much current when it first started that it was inducing errors in the punch on the other side of the wall. Nobody put two and two together prior to this because the lift rarely went into the basement (that level was key-protected) ... until IBM was in and out that morning.

              3. disgruntled yank

                Re: Floppy drives

                Yes, but who needs magnets when you have fire hoses?

                Many years ago, I worked for a typesetting company. Magnetic storage hadn't quite made it all the way in that world, and files where kept on paper tape. One day, a storeroom a few floors down caught fire, and by the time the fire department had everything out, an awful lot of paper tapes were drenched. Most turned out to be more or less recoverable, but not all. I no longer remember whether there were random errors introduced.

              4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Floppy drives

                "punched tapes or cards have never been altered by unexpected magnetic fields."

                I have seen a card duplicator folding the newly duplicated cards into interesting shapes. The operator was leaning nonchalantly against it but not looking at what was happening in the output hopper.

              5. Unicornpiss

                Re: Floppy drives

                "I only want to say that holes, or their absence, in punched tapes or cards have never been altered by unexpected magnetic fields. M. Jacquard and Mr. Hollerith were no fools."

                But what about hungry moths/insects?

            2. knottedhandkerchief

              Re: Floppy drives

              Back in the late 70s I had to gently inform our computer science lecturer (at uni, for a non-IT science course) that it would be a good idea to open up an old (8") floppy disc. He had just told the lecture theatre that the magnetic media was square...

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Floppy drives

          The one that floored me was the field engineer who opened the back of a server, pulled the diagnostic floppy off the inside of the door where it was affixed with a magnet ... and the fucking thing still worked! Observing my surprise, he just shrugged and said "I know. I don't get it either. They did it this way for years before I got here. I don't ask questions, I just go by their playbook and collect my pay." He claimed to have seen several tens of these things, and the disk was only dead once.

        3. Aussie Doc

          Re: Floppy drives

          I recall having to make a house call to the deputy head of the local high school - he also taught 'IT' which seemed to be basically how to use Word and Publisher, but I digress.

          His problem with his home PC was corrupt data from any work he brought home on his two floppy (5 1/4") disks.

          Yep - big magnet attaching same to his PC case so he didn't lose them - always used the same two disks. Told him to stop it or he'll go blind - sorted.

          Must admit, like other commentards here, I have personally used magnets over the years and can't guarantee the loss of information.

          It does seem quite haphazard but my recommendations are still the same. Don't do it.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Floppy drives

            "like other commentards here, I have personally used magnets over the years and can't guarantee the loss of information."

            I use them all the time - to attach USB sticks to things.

            The day one affects the contents, I'll eat the stick.

            1. quxinot

              Re: Floppy drives

              I can lose data without any magnetic interference at all. Don't know why everyone else has so much difficulty.

            2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: Floppy drives

              why the hell is everyone sticking stuff to stuff with magnets?

              Regardless of wether it will kill the stuff.

              Use blu tack and sellotape!

              or god forbid - put the stuff in a storage receptacle like a cupboard / drawer .

              where do you even get these magnets? Magnet?

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Floppy drives

                "Use blu tack and sellotape!"

                Not on my equipment you don't. That shit causes stains, makes the gear look like hell, and adversely affects the resale value.

          2. alegr

            Re: Floppy drives

            3.5" 1.44 media could not be erased anymore with typical ferrite magnets. 360K 5" floppies could still be erased. Not sure if 3.5" 720K media was susceptible.

      2. 9Rune5

        their monitor having magnetic shielding in it's base

        Shirley that must've been standardized at some point, because I remember lots of boxes in the 80s with the CRT placed on top?

        Kids today with their USB memory sticks and LCDs. They don't know how good they have it!

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          USB sticks?

          kids today use consoles and phones and instagram, and theyre all connected . they dont need physical storage media for inane vines.

          They wouldnt know what a computer is, unless they got one to play Fortnite on, in which case they think it works like a console and have never even found the start menu.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          PCs usually had steel cases. Perhaps the Apple drives didn't.

          1. Boork!

            The Apple 5'' floppy drives had sturdy steel cases. The problem at the time was with the monitors, especially those made in Europe and the Far East, where the electromagnets were not shielded to FCC specifications. The standard use case for monitors in the early '80s was closed circuit TV, and even ones marketed for use with computers were often not built with shielding. I remember my boss at the time showing me one which a customer had returned and the readings were off the scale, even affecting transistor radios in the vicinity. You could see the bare coils at the back of the CRT.

    4. swm

      During a renovation at work our group was moved to some house trailers in the parking lot. I noticed that the CRT displays were bouncing so I built a magnetic field detector and, sure enough, there was a 60 cycle magnetic field permeating the trailer. But where did it come from? With a clamp ammeter I discovered a large current flowing through the trailer hitch which was connected to the safety ground.

      Eventually, this was tracked down to a miswired fluorescent light fixture in one of the trailers.

      One good thing about being in the trailers was that I could bring my dog to work.

      1. jake Silver badge

        "I could bring my dog to work"

        Good thing he didn't lift his leg on the hitch ...

    5. Terry 6 Silver badge

      I recall years ago a school admin placing a box of floppies that had backed up her files and accounts into the store cupboard on the shelf where the recent delivery of magnets for primary science had been dumped. Luckily the magnets are pretty crap so only a couple of discs were damaged. And they were only back-ups. And someone realised fairly soon and we redid the b/u (used same disks too, I think)

  8. Blockchain commentard

    Ah, degaussing

    Years ago, moved to a new job where they had reel to reel tapes to backup their S/38 minis. Some bright spark decided that that nights tapes should be degaussed in the morning and we had a fancy machine to do it. Put the tape in, press the button for 20-30 seconds, repeat with the other 5 tapes. For a laugh (seemingly), the new operator on his first day would be tasked with this job but the others would 'forget' to mention the lead lined apron you had to wear to protect your you-know-what's. Did it happen to me? Nope, because just as I was going to put the first tape in, a junior manager (who actually took his job seriously) was passing and stopped me and told me off for not wearing the apron. What apron I asked. Cue the other operators getting a bollocking (literally). That 'initiation' practice stopped that day.

    Mine's the lead lined one....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah, degaussing

      > For a laugh (seemingly), the new operator on his first day would be tasked with this job but the others would 'forget' to mention the lead lined apron you had to wear to protect your you-know-what's.

      It seems unlikely that this machine used x-rays so you were safe to skip the apron.

      1. Muscleguy

        Re: Ah, degaussing

        Indeed, I expect the shielded apron was to stop the user’s keys etc trying to exit their clothing and stuff like that. Either that or someone got their wires crossed in the H&S dept.

        I used to get proper irked by the H&S busybodies in the Bio lab who at best had a Masters degree trying to tell us experienced PhD scientists when we were expected to wear lab coats and gloves instead of leaving us to decide based on the actual hazards present from our samples or us to our samples.

        For eg during one multi day procedure you removed your glove to do buffer washes. Both because it was entirely safe to do so and because rnases drip from our fingers* and this reduced the background signal when the samples were colour reacted.

        However, when making and labelling and handling the rna probes we used on the samples EVERY precaution was taken to protect THEM from the environment including by us wearing gloves.

        *Thought to be a first line defence against rna viruses. The procedure used to include adding an rnase enzyme. Presumably someone forgot but left their gloves off at that stage and had no background problems so everyone stopped adding it and just left their gloves off for those washes. But try explaining that to the busybodies.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Ah, degaussing

          Radiation. Magnetic radiation.

          Storage Area 1 burned itself out in a magnetic firestorm. But Storage Area 2... that's 620 times the size. If that goes up... there's no telling what will happen.

        2. Cynic_999

          Re: Ah, degaussing


          I expect the shielded apron was to stop the user’s keys etc trying to exit their clothing and stuff like that.


          I have used them extensively, and the magnetic field from a tape degauser wouldn't exert enough force on a bunch of keys in a pocket to feel even slightly.

          1. ICPurvis47

            Re: Ah, degaussing

            When I was sent to a chemical factory in Germany to install some heavy current switchgear, I discovered that German money was magnetic, while British currency was not (late 1970s). I was working at the top of a 15 foot wooden ladder, with my head very close to the huge copper busbars, which were carrying about 400,000A and were at about 80°C. The resultant magnetic field had a curious effect on the money in my pockets, the German coins stuck together and moved around like a small rodent in one pocket, while the British coins in a different pocket were completely inert and unaffected. Also, the spanners the local fitters lent me were all made of bronze and didn't react, but my own steel spanners and socket wrench behaved as if possessed by the Devil, and flew up into the air and stuck themselves onto the underside of the bars. The ladder was wooden because the busbars were floating at an indeterminate voltage, and if someone elsewhere in the plant accidentally grounded their section, then your section could suddenly be at anything between plus or minus 400VDC from the steel reinforcing rods sticking out of the concrete supports, and therefor solidly earthed. Had some pretty firework displays at close range over those few days. I was sick to my stomach one day (had picked up some bug from eating takeaway food from a Belgian motorway cafe) and was taken to the site infirmary. I was chatting to the nurse and giving her my details (for their records, not because I was chatting her up!), and the doctor came in and was surprised to find that I was English. He said that I spoke German like a Dutchman.

        3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Ah, degaussing

          I expect the shielded apron was to stop the user’s keys etc trying to exit their clothing and stuff like that

          If it was lead shielding, it would have close to zero effect on a magnetic field, what with it being non-ferromagnetic and all that...

          ...which leads me to wonder what sort of electromagnetic field this thing was giving off; rapid pulses of on-off magentic field might be giving off some whacky high-energy photons that you'd rather not have penetrating your "junk".

      2. Unicornpiss

        Re: Ah, degaussing

        "It seems unlikely that this machine used x-rays so you were safe to skip the apron."

        Though if you had 'Balls of Steel", you were right to be worried..

    2. Cynic_999

      Re: Ah, degaussing

      Erm - your organs are not affected in the slightest by magnetic fields. Do you realize how strong the magnetic field is that you are subjected to when undergoing an MRI scan? (And no, unlike the X-Ray or CAT room, nobody wears a lead apron in the MRI room).

      I'm guessing that the same person who got you to wear the lead apron also sent you to stores and told you to ask for a "long weight".

  9. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

    A VIP that stands by his mistake

    a very rare specimen. I expected something like "How can you be so stupid not to notice" or something alike. But no, standing by his mistake.

  10. chivo243 Silver badge

    My only memorable incident

    Back around the turn of the century, I had the Asst. to some D-level call up and complain that when she opened a certain document Word would lose its mind and type crap. English wasn't her first language, probably 4th or 5th, and back in my greenhorn days, I was always as polite a possible. I showed up to see this "only in this document" phenomenon. Turns out this Ass. to a D had to transcribe written minutes stored in a binder. She would dutifully open the document in Word, type a few things date of meeting, minute taker (her), no problem! She would slide the binder into place, and open it right onto the control key!!! and proceed to transcribe the document, all the time producing utter crap! I moved the binder off of the key, repositioned they keyboard slightly and asked her to try again. No problem! I advised her to keep the keyboard clear, in a pleasant, calm tone, it could have happened to anyone. I was later asked about the incident, behind closed doors...

    1. trolleybus

      Re: My only memorable incident

      A mainframe computer, Burroughs 4700, late '70s. We rented out time to users who needed extra capacity for routine batch jobs. One user, a London discount house, was famous for its attractive computer operators.

      One morning one of said attractive operators come out of the machine room to say they had a problem: their work was taking much longer than usual. I went in and saw immediately that the array of lights indicating the system state was static. The computer wasn't actually doing anything.

      The second thing I saw was a handbag resting on a long key labelled stop/run.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: My only memorable incident

      " No problem! I advised her to keep the keyboard clear, in a pleasant, calm tone, it could have happened to anyone. I was later asked about the incident, behind closed doors..."

      I was relatively clear and pleasant when I asked the user why she'd deliberately disabled the antivirus package that was doing its nut when she tried to open the virus-infested email attachment that ended up trashing not only her computer but the rest of the (thankfully isolated) lan it was on ("It might be important") and why she thought it was a good idea to do so without bothering to consult with IT, and end up tieing up 2 of our staff for 3 days - not just once or twice, but THREE times.

      She turned around and filed a formal complaint about being lectured as if she was a naughty five year old child...

      Apparently my response that said user would be better off given an etch-a-sketch and some formal written warnings about unauthorised interference with IT equipment caused much hilarity as well as hitting a few raw nerves. Not long afterwards we were authorised to lock down the systems involved so she _couldn't_ repeat the offence and she rather pointedly avoided me for the rest of her employment (If I'd had my way, pulling that 3 times - especially as she'd been warned by IT the first 2 times - should have been a sacking offence. These days each event would have resulted in a major GDPR breach report+investigation)

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: My only memorable incident

        But did she say why?

        Just curious why anyone would do such a thing off their own bat.

        1. TSM

          Re: My only memorable incident

          Like Alan Brown said in his post: ("It might be important")

          About as important as the SMS I got the other day telling me that my online banking access (for a bank I'm not with) has been restricted and offering me a link to click on to restore it.

  11. Suricou Raven

    Been there. Almost.

    Laptop kept turning itsself off whenever the user tried to do anything with it. Problem turned out to be one of those magnetic healing woo wristbands, combined with the laptop using a magnet for the lid-close sensor.

    1. Is It Me

      Re: Been there. Almost.

      Also seen it from FitBit style watches with a magnet based strap.

      Mostly (at least on the laptops I played with) the magnetic switch was on the right and most people wear their watch on the left so it is quite rare

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "That time of the week" ...

    Aaaaa stop messing with my days........

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Why? It really is Friday today. No, wait! It's Sunday. No, Wednesday. Ah, fuck it. See icon.

  13. Fabrizio

    Always treat everyone like a customer

    I've been on both ends of the equation:

    * I've been mistreated for something I had nothing to do with

    * I've treated people not kindly enough in a certain situation.

    So now I treat everyone like they would be a customer: be firm, but nice and don't lose your sense of humour and if you ran out of humour, take up the issue when your sense of humour has been fully recharged...

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: Always treat everyone like a customer

      One day at a previous job (the "previous" bit of that not being connected to this incident) I happened to take a support call as the 1st lines guys were already on calls. It was a customer who was "known to be a bit blunt" and he'd been sent a bill for something that should have gone to someone else. It was a case of him working for a qango and the bills being paid by the local council - but we'd been having issues getting things set up properly with the supplier.

      After having several minutes of me saying "bu..", if yo...", "hold o...", etc I finally reached the end of my patience and our office went quiet as I said in a stern voice "for f***s sake X, shut up a minute and listen will you - I'll make sure it gets sorted out". it did the trick, he finally shut up long enough for me to get those few words in. He did comment that he was not accustomed to being spoken to like that - but he did later apologise for driving me to it.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Always treat everyone like a customer

      Going in with a smile, a PleaseAndThankYou[tm], and the attitude of "I don't know if you can help me, let's find out!" when you discover an error helps keep folks on your side ... if you come storming in, looking for blood, you'll only piss 'em off. This is true when dealing with customer service in almost all walks of life. It's basic social engineering, innit.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Always treat everyone like a customer

        On the other hand, if you let them walk into denial of their fuckups - and then point out that they've committed a major GDPR breach and facilitated a serious case of identity theft, you can hear the "oh shit" clicking into place.

        And when they keep denying it, it's even more amusing, especially when they keep changing their story, as that's just grist for the investigators.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Had an interesting experience many years ago. My top boss at the time had several other business interests, including three or four small office blocks in Docklands. The tenant in the ground floor in one block was complaining that the displays on his CRT computer monitors was dancing all over the place. All of 'em.

    Got down there and had a scout round. Monitors definitely dancing but nothing obvious causing it. Then I noticed the monitors across the middle of the office were the worst.

    On a whim. I rummaged in the toolbox, found an old spare relay, which I divested of its coil. Hooked up to a 'scope it did duty as a search coil. There was a nice defined source of a few hundred Hertz crap running across the office, about 3 ft down.

    Reported back to my boss, who used my findings to give the local electrical company a kicking.

    It turned out a big drive of some sort (never did find out what) hadn't been installed that well and was spraying EM crap down the neutral.

    1. jake Silver badge

      I'll bet a plugged nickle ... was a sump pump in your basement.

  15. Juan Inamillion

    Not exactly IT..

    Back in the '70's when I was a sound recording engineer for while I remember one client who was paranoid about the safety of his multitrack tapes and insisted they were wrapped in aluminium foil (sigh) and that he took them home every night. One day he came in, we lined up the tape and pressed play... and the tape sounded like the old Radio Luxembourg with the sound fading in and out. Obviously it couldn't be the studio's fault and he hadn't travelled home by London Underground (oh yes, that was supposed to be a problem too!). But when he'd got home the night before he'd parked the reel of tape next to his (CRT) TV....

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: London Underground (oh yes, that was supposed to be a problem too!)

      My desk was immediately above Platform 4, Baker Street station. My (CRT) monitor would go into belly-dance mode every time a train entered or left Platform 4. In those days that was the platform for the fast Amersham service which was only one train an hour.

      1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        Re: London Underground (oh yes, that was supposed to be a problem too!)

        “ Platform 4, Baker Street station. ” - that brought back memories. I always used to get my trains back from platform 1, because they started there and were usually empty when I got on, even if it meant I missed a (full) train on platform 2 to do it. That’s what 5 years of commuting at school age in the 1980s did for me. These things are now forged indelibly into my brain.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. ITMA Silver badge


    A nice story... Shame it gives every indication of completely made up. I think the appropriate technical term would be "utter bollocks".

    Even a pretty huge rare earth magnet could not in any conceivable way produce a "fault" of no display on a CRT monitor which can then be "magically" fixed by using the degauss button.

    Image distortion and really stranger colour patches over the face of the screen, yes. No display all - no.

    How do I know this?

    Well apart from growing up in a house where my father was a "TV engineer/Video" engineer - back when they came and repaired your CRT in your living room, so I've had my head in the back of CRT based TV since I could walk - one of my previous jobs has been in the UK technical support department of NEC (Uk) Peripherals at their UK HQ supporting their Multisync (CRT) range.

    The Guardian's IT columnist, Jack Schofield, fell foul of "talking bollocks" when writing in his column about some new Sony Trinitron monitor and how it was brilliant because it had this "unique" Sony feature called an "aperture grill" that no other colour CRT monitor has.

    Erm, no Jack. They all have them, and the generic name is "shadow mask". In fact colour CRT monitors cannot work without them. The only thing unique to Sony is the the specific layout and shape of the holes.

    I did get a grudging, curt response some weeks later in his column when I wrote in to point this out.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Hmmmm

      You really should get a downvote for letting reality intrude on a nice story (but I won't as I appreciate truth too much for that).

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Hmmmm

        He didn't say degaussing fixed it, but that degaussing revealed the problem. Probably when degaussing the picture stablised in the corner instead of the centre, or summut.

        1. ITMA Silver badge

          Re: Hmmmm

          Yes he did as the reported problem, and the problem observed was :

          "It powered on, showed sync, but no video at all."

          Nothing what so ever on the CRT. No flicker of anything, until:

          "As a last resort," said Max, "I hit the manual degauss button and was rewarded with colours, strange colours in a bizarre pattern."

          Using the built-in degaussing coil on colour CRT monitors does NOT cause the picture to stabilise - it does the opposite. For the few seconds it operates the alternating magnetic field generated from the degaussing coil disrupts the fields from the scan coils causing short, gross picture instability.

          What it certainly does not do it cause a non-existent picture to come back - unless there is genuine PSU fault in both monitors that for some mysterious reason does not occur when tested elsewhere.

          Only when the picture does "magically" appear does it then reveal the presence of a strong permanent magnet via the usual expected symptoms. However, then finger of suspicion for the everything, including the reported problem of "no picture", is quite firmly pointed at the magnet. Which is complete rubbish.

          1. Strebortrebor

            Re: Hmmmm

            If said magnet was strong enough to deflect the electron beam *entirely off the screen*, that would explain the reported behavior. It's not stated whether the monitor was on a stand, and the magnet placed under the stand, or if it was near the front face of the screen. The closer the magnet was to the CRT's neck, the greater the deflection would be. The degausser's field might have been strong enough to pull enough of the beam onto the screen to create a bit of a distorted image while the degausser was active.

            1. ITMA Silver badge

              Re: Hmmmm

              When I first encountered Neodimium Iron Boron magnets (still the most powerful permanent magnets available) back in the late 80's, a sales rep brought two big (0.5" x 2" x 4") ones as a demo.

              They could sure screw up the display on a colour monitor (I tried it on a 15" CUB RGB monitor, plastic case not metal) but still couldn't defect the electron beams anything like enough to do that.

              We used much smaller ones for damping oscillations in a pendulum made of thin sheet aluminium.

              So no, not starter.

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Hmmmm

      The *other* thing unique to the Sony Trinitron - if I recall correctly; it's been a few decades - is the hoops they jumped through to avoid the PAL decoding patents. I *think* that instead of looking for the phase of the swinging colour burst, they looked for the combination of the half line correction pulses and the line that the burst started on to deduce its phase.

      Also - we used to get reports of Trinitrons turning themselves off whenever Angela Rippon read the news. She had a quiet voice, and the extra mic gain required picked up the line whistle from the studio monitors - which the Trinitron used to turn itself off in the absence of signal, apparently.

      But like I said, it's been a long long time...

      1. Pangasinan Philippines

        Re: Hmmmm

        The give away was the extra Tint control which was similar to NTSC TVs and not normal on PAL sets.

      2. drgeoff

        Re: Hmmmm

        Sony's early PAL TVs used the modulated chrominance signal from only every alternate (in time) line. The gaps were filled by repetition using a glass delay line so that the following demodulation stages saw a signal with no line by line inversion of the phase of the V component. In effect the PAL signal was converted into an NTSC like signal.

    3. Pangasinan Philippines

      Re: Hmmmm shadow masks

      The Sony design was more efficient than the traditional circular hole masks.

      In 1976 or maybe 1977 I went to an exhibition in Hong Kong Central where Japanese TV companies had small prototype CRT TVs without any shadow masks.

      There was an additional phosphor vertical stripe between the colour phosphors that fed back a signal when hit by the single beam.

      The beam was multiplexed and synchronised to coincide the brightness for each of the colour phosphors.

      Looked good and bright, but the technology was not adopted. probably did not work so well on larger CRTs.

      1. drgeoff

        Re: Hmmmm shadow masks

    4. Francis Boyle

      Re: Hmmmm

      "They all have them, and the generic name is "shadow mask". "

      Er, yes and no. Aperture grills may be a type of shadow mask (though I don't think that's the common usage) but they consist of a grid of parallel wires rather than the perforated metal plate of the latter making them a unique and superior, not to mention expensive design. I could never afford one new but when LCDs came in I bought a bunch that lasted me until I could afford an LCD that I liked. (And even then it was a slight step down in quality.)

      1. Simon Harris

        Re: Hmmmm

        I remember one of the features of a Trinitron screen were the one or two faint horizontal dark lines across the screen - because the aperture grill consisted of a row of thin vertical wires, without additional support they would have resonated with any loud sounds, so they were locked down with horizontal wires to stop this.

    5. drgeoff

      Re: Hmmmm

      My parents' first TV was a Decca DM4C 17 inch purchased in the late 1950s. (I remember seeing the very first episode of Coronation Street on it.) One Easter my father decided to take it with us when we went to spend the break with my grandparents some 60 miles away who did not have a TV. No picture could be obtained. Sound was OK but not a hint of anything lighting up the screen.

      Back home and with a still dead screen the local TV repairman was called in. Back in those days the electron gun was deliberately angled such that it did not fire directly along the axis of the tube. An "ion trap" thing was clamped round the neck near the heater. Shaped like an omega clip, two curved pieces of metal with a permanent magnet between one pair of their ends and a nut and bolt at the other ends. Adjusted in the factory to bend the electron beam so that it went through the centre of the deflection coils but the heavier ions did not. With the hour and a half of vibration during the car journey the thing had become loose and the weight of the magnet had tuned the assembly sufficiently out of position that no electrons at all were getting forward to the deflection coil area and thence to the phosphor screen.

  17. Sam Therapy

    Not IT related but magnetic field related...

    A band I knew back in the 80s spent a lot of time and money recording their forthcoming album in their own very well equipped studio and, when the recording was completed, took the master tapes home to keep them safe. Except... (and I'm sure you know where this is going)

    One of 'em - the utter bladder head - put the tapes down on top of one of his hideously expensive and ridiculously powerful stereo speakers, had a few celebratory drinks and played a lot of music through his stereo at very high volume. For hours. No, he wasn't the drummer. Bass player and musical director of the band.


  18. TRT Silver badge

    We once had a twin screen set up

    Home brewed of course, but the two CRTs would interfere with each other. It was back in the days of the C 1000 and the IBM coprocessor card.

    Tried putting a grounded steel plate between them which kind of worked a bit. Then I nickel coated the plate with a spray which helped a lot. Still not perfect so I coated the case of the monitors with the same spray. But for reasons of aesthetics I coated the inside. Who would think that the designers of the monitor would run a HT track right along the edge of the PCB where it slid into a plastic groove in the rear casing? A few power cycles of thermal expansion was all it took to finally grind the lacquered insulation layer down to the point it arced through the spray coating. Quite a loud crack was heard as the monitor fused itself into oblivion. Stupid design if you ask me!

  19. Daniel Gould

    Bouncy picture on CRT

    Many years ago, working for Nynex as IT support in one of their call centres. User complaining of their picture jiggling on their display. It would do it for a few minutes at a time and then stop. Someone had already replaced the screen, but it still happened. I noted it was worse early in the morning and at lunchtime. I realised that the other side of the wall from this user was the canteen, with an industrial microwave against the wall. Got the catering manager to put their spare piece of stainless steel splashback behind the microwave and fixed the issue :-)

  20. Sequin

    Back in the 80's we used to be able to get taxis around London when visiting our head office if we carried a box of floppies with us, as it was received knowledge that carrying them on the Undergound would cause data corruption. Amazingly, we always found a reason to carry a box of disks with us!

    The BBC program "Micro Live" did an investigation of this, sending a reporter riding around the circle line for hours, and proved that it was nonsense - pretty soon afterwards the accounts team sent out a memo saying that from then forward, we had to use the tube with the great unwashed.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: sending a reporter riding around the circle line for hours and proved that it was nonsense

      Ah, but was the reporter on a clockwise train, or a counter-clockwise one?

  21. Strebortrebor

    degaussed my laprop drive whilst running

    It *can* happen here. A couple of years back I was using my laptop to check out a reported cabling issue to a POS terminal (aka cash register) in a department store. I carried the standard fox-and-hound (tone generator and sniffer) and cable mapper to check the continuity on all pairs. In addition, I would use a couple of laptops* to check out the cable in question. I first toned and traced the cable to the wiring closet, connected one laptop in place of the register, and took the other to the wiring closet. When I returned to the register to begin the test, I found that the laptop had blue-screened. Turns out that, space being limited, I had set it down on the cash wrap with the HDD over the magnet that the cashier uses to remove anti-theft tags from the clothing. That drive was toast. the machine was fine with another drive installed.

    *It has a Broadcom NIC. Broadcom has a Windows app that can access their NICs' built-in diagnostic capabilities. Among other things, it will tell you the length of each pair, detect split pairs, and tell you the connection speed and duplex. Doesn't do nearly as thorough a cable analysis as a proper tester, but in conjunction with the cable mapper it will often give you a clue as to the location and nature of a fault.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: degaussed my laprop drive whilst running

      I wonder if the difference is that the laptop drive was spinning in the magnetic field; the 'floppy stuck to the fridge with a magnet' wasn't. (Also, the domains on a modern rusty disk are a damn sight smaller than those on a floopy).

      I do recall that internal TV/monitor degauss coils had a thermal resistor in to gradually decay the field when first turned on; the bulk tape erasers used a similar circuit, and the hand held coils were used by powering on close to the screen and then gradually moving away; effectively the same thing.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back in the late 90's, we were a warranty center for Packard-Hell. One day a mom and two young children came into the store. Mom was really upset, a new $2000 + computer with a 19" crt, and the thing looked like the inside of a faster than light slip stream (or a bloopy blippy lava lamp on steroids). Our degaussing hoop had no effect, and we were starting to write up the warranty paperwork, when little girl popped up with "little brother was running a magnet around on the screen".

    Mom turned very red and silent and we about fell over laughing after their car was out of the parking lot. Amazingly P-H took exchanged it without question - tho we never really provided the complete answer.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Optional method of HD disposal

    Told by someone I served with, after he had left the role.

    Person in question used to be an ATO (Ammunition Technical Officer - bomb disposal / blow stuff up for fun guy)

    They would have controlled disposal of all the "blinds" and dud pyrotechnic devices once a month at the disposal range.

    Quite often a very serious looking bloke would turn up, with a brief case handcuffed to his wrist.

    Once the last safety had been set, the ATO had to withdraw while serious dude would place a number of HDs and other data storage devices from the briefcase onto the top of the items for demolition.

    Que BOOOM! The way to dispose of explosive devices is to put more explosives on them, for added effect...

    The serious dude would then be first to examine the area for any data devices that had not been destroyed beyond data recovery condition.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Optional method of HD disposal

      At Bigger Blue we used thermite. Not because we had to, but because we wanted to. The stuff was known as "burn before reading", therefor ...

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Optional method of HD disposal

        Thermite is cheap, easy to make, and FUN! Why wouldn't you?

  24. Simon Harris

    A couple of magnetic incidents of my own...

    In 1987 I started an MSc in Medical Electronics and Physics and built some microprocessor controlled equipment to study eyes for my dissertation. I was assigned a workbench in a dungeon (otherwise known as the sub-basement) in the bowels of the hospital where I was studying to build my equipment. I had a monochrome CRT connected to it, and the picture periodically got distorted with a very noticeable downward tilt. I was on the point of sending it back as faulty when I discovered that two floors above me was the hospital's MRI scanner. The basement above me contained a mechanical workshop and the floor there was marked with a line past which people with pacemakers were warned not to step.

    Rather more recently, a few years ago I acquired a new case for my phone. I also have a railway season ticket to get to work - the sort with a magnetic strip that you put through a slot in the station barriers. After fitting the case to my phone I found that my season ticket was regularly malfunctioning, and I ended up at the ticket office three times asking for a replacement before I realised that I had been placing my phone in the same pocket as the ticket and the case was closed with a magnetic catch.

    1. alegr

      Re: A couple of magnetic incidents of my own...

      If an iPhone gets into environment with a few percent of helium in the air, it dies. It has an MMS oscillator, which dies when helium seeps through silicon to the oscillator chamber. It will take a few days to start working again.

  25. Robert Moore


    I worked with a guy years ago who was damn near religious in his refusal to use magnetized screwdrivers when working on PCs. Mostly towers at that time, and you could lose a lot of blood working on them if you weren't very careful. I finally took apart a defective HDD and showed him the 2 rare earth magnets inside the drive, about 1cm away from the HDD platters.

    It was fun watching the light go on over his head when he realized that his fear was totally unfounded.

    It was a common belief at the time. (Some still believe it today.) I use an old HDD magnet to magnetize my screwdrivers. :)

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: Screwdrivers.

      When I got my first desktop computer with a hard drive in the 1980s I must own up to overestimating the fragility of hard drives, although from a physical point of view rather than magnetic, and whenever moving the computer from one place in the house to another with the caution one might use when tranporting a Ming vase containing a sleeping baby, clearing forgetting that it was quite robust enough to be thrown into the back of a lorry to be delivered to me in the first place.

      1. Simon Harris

        Re: Screwdrivers.

        Hell! How did I manage so many typos and such bad grammar in one post, and not notice during the editing period?

  26. Unicornpiss

    Vibration is much worse

    About 14 years ago I was doing user support and one guy kept having hard drive failures every few months. It was a head-scratcher until I was able to use a manufacturer's utility to pull the drive's logs (this was before S.M.A.R.T on an IDE drive) The drive said "Error xxxx excessive vibration detected" I had one of his other failed drives and it had the same error when interrogated. I finally asked the user what he did with his laptop (IBM Thinkpad A31 if I remember right) on a given day. Everything was pretty normal except for when he left for the day and without shutting down his machine, strapped it to the back of his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and made his commute home. After asking him to shut down the machine before going home, there were no further issues.

POST COMMENT House rules

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

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like