back to article Disk stuck in the drive? Don't dilly-Dali – get IT on the case!

Welcome to an art-infused instalment of On Call, where Spanish surrealism runs headlong into the grim reality of a 1990s UK travel agency, and it is up to a Register reader to save the day. Named "Dave" by the increasingly unimaginative Reg-onymiser, our hero was working as frontline technical support for a local college. The …

  1. John Jennings

    In my case

    No one would let me bake any wet shoes of mine two days in a row :)

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: In my case

      If you baked them hot enough and long enough, they would be perfectly fine thereafter. Mind, they might turn into another Daliesque figure. Or catch fire.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: In my case

      Aah yes hairdryers...........

      At one employers I was the person with IT responsibilities at a satellite office. There were mostly very non technical people in that office and they dreaded my holidays. So one week off I return to a package addressed to me waiting in the post. As I opened it to discover a laptop the manager appeared and confessed. Between her and another staff member they had managed to spill a large glass of water into a company laptop via the keyboard. Panicked about what to do they had:

      Pulled the power cable and battery,

      Mopped the keyboard with a cloth,

      Turned the thing on the side to drain it,

      Whilst still on the side they put a hairdryer on full heat pointing at the keyboard.

      They then left this for 15 minutes to dry out.

      The keys then deformed and started to melt where the air was hottest. More panic set in at this point and they called head office who put another one in the post. She hadn't called anyone else because she thought she could be clever and fix it herself. After that an email from myself was sent to all staff at the office and posted on the noticeboard in the kitchen about what to do if liquids were spilled again. They were particularly surprised when I suggested flushing the offending article with distilled water. At the bottom of the email was an instruction in bright red and a very large font saying that On no account were hairdryers to be used with the heat on. Manager replied to my email saying that I was now banned from taking any holiday in case it happened again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: In my case

        About 20-odd years ago a respected colleague of mine at a technology company somewhere in Wiltshire spilled coffee on his keyboard. He was a thermal test engineer, so knew exactly what to do - rinse it with distilled water, then put it to dry out in the thermal test chamber we used for validation of system cooling solutions (basically, a big walk-in oven).

        This would have worked perfectly, had he not then gone to lunch and forgotten about it. The keyboard melted, smoked somewhat (rumors that it caught fire are exaggerated) and finally, tripped the very-sensitive smoke detectors.

        Which automatically, with no possibility of override, sounded the building-wide alarms and summoned the Fire Brigade with full blues & twos to come screaming onto the site.

        We all enjoyed spending 30 minutes shivering in the car park.

        1. el_oscuro

          Re: In my case

          In a somewhat related incident, I perpetrated what was later known as "The Ramen Event". After 30 years of successfully using a microwave, I put a bowl of ramen noodles and set it to nuke for 3 minutes. The problem was, I forgot to add water to the noodles, causing it to catch fire. Even worse, I added ghost peppers to the noodles to make it extra spicy.

          I effectively pepper-sprayed the entire building. But even better, it was about an hour before a happy hour so the end result was beer o'clock started early. I have never lived this down.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: In my case

            "I effectively pepper-sprayed the entire building."

            Got a good LOL from that. Wish I could upvote more than once.

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: In my case

        It is a constant source of amazement to me that people put devices capable of melting plastic close to their head!

        1. Weiss_von_Nichts

          Re: In my case

          Heads actually are very effectively liquid-cooled. Also, many plastics literally get plastic at relatively low temperatures.

      3. KarMann Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: In my case

        The sad thing of it is, they were actually doing pretty well with steps 1-3, you know, for some random lusers. But then, they had to go the extra mile with that hairdryer.

    3. ICPurvis47

      Re: In my case

      One of the engineers in the department in which I was a _very_ junior engineer decided that the departmental fridge needed defrosting (no auto-defrost in those days). He opened the door and emptied the milk, sandwiches, and other disgusting green objects from within and propped a fan heater up at an angle so it blew hot air into the fridge. He then went home for lunch. Some time later, our Section Leader went in to get his sandwiches and make himself a cuppa, and let out an anguished yelp. The hot air had done its job melting the frost, but had also caused the blow moulded inner lining to shrink back towards its original, flat, un-blow-moulded shape. Only the galss shelves had prevented it from going all the way, but the internal capacity was severely reduced, and said shelves could no longer be removed for cleaning. The fridge still worked OK, but the culprit was banned from going near it in future.

  2. ArrZarr Silver badge

    The Reg-onomiser just needs to take certain commentard's names and choose one of the words in them at a time to keep you going for another half year or so in some cases..

    1. Anonymous Custard

      I look forward to a contributor being renamed Custard.

      Of course it could be followed up with Roobarb the week after...

      1. jonathan keith
        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Best. Theme tune. Ever.


        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          And now my new ring tone!

          Replaces Liberty Bell

        3. JimboSmith Silver badge

          For kids tv it has to be this one or this one. Although I do have the Big Yin as mentioned above as the ringtone for my mum because she's a SuperGran.

      2. Korev Silver badge

        >I look forward to a contributor being renamed Custard.

        That'd be the cream of the crop

        1. Gnoitall

          Let's not over-egg it, shall we?

          1. David 132 Silver badge

            Yeah that idea's strictly for the Birds.

    2. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble?
      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Rich 11

      I'm happy to contribute my surname (no need to wait for Carousel; I ran long ago).

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge


    4. Sgt_Oddball

      Any room for...

      Military men? (or women).

      Mines the Dutch canvas fatigues...

  3. Anonymous South African Coward

    Had the case where a heater (the airconditioner's heating element cabling) caught fire, and I dumped the contents of a powder extinguisher into the aircon.

    Fun times.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?

      Tolkien was fond of pointing out that he "wrote" the OED (OK, contributed, obvs) so his spelling choices should not be questioned.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?

        To quote Tolkien (from the foreword of The Hobbit ):-

        "In English the only correct plural of dwarf is dwarfs, and the adjective is dwarfish. In this story dwarves and dwarvish are used*, but only when speaking of the ancient people to whom Thorin Oakenshield and his companions belonged."

        *The reason for this is given in The Lord of the Rings, III (Second Edition). 415

        1. spold Silver badge

          Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?

          ...but when it comes to that usage, I happen to know that 6 out of 7 Dwarfs are not Happy.

    2. Shadow Systems

      Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?

      I find it difficult to take seriously any person/site telling me how to use language correctly when they can't even spell the bloody word -- to wit: "number of English-langage texts".

      *Hands you a pint for the attempt to educate the unwashed masses*

      No worries, "dwarf" (lowercase d) is a verb meaning to make small by comparison. "Dwarf" (uppercase D) is the singular reference to a person of short stature. "Dwarves" (also uppercase D) is the plural form of the singular Dwarf. "Dwarfs" just sounds wrong, like claiming the plural of "idiot" is "management".

      Oh wait... =-)P

      1. Mr Humbug

        "like claiming the plural of "idiot" is "management""

        Mangement is a process, not a group of people. The correct plural of "idiot" is "senior executives" or "managers"

      2. Rich 11

        Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?

        (uppercase D)

        Do You always write Nouns using an initial Capital? If not, does the same Rule that applies to Dwarfs also apply to Giants, Eagles and/or Centaurs?

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?

          (1) Might Be.

      3. Hurn

        Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?

        Checked that other site - they didn't provide the "real" reason:

        In the middle ages, possibly up until the mid-late 19th Century, depending on font, the letter "s" was shaped more like an f.

        This meant dwarfs looked more like dwarff (and all the other words that ended with f, when pluralized, kinda looked like they ended with ff).

        Because of this ambiguity, changing what looked like ff to vef (dwarvef) made things much less ambiguous. However, once the common fonts made s look like the modern s, the "fix" was no longer needed. Unfortunately, the language rules are harder to change, these days, so no one bothered.

        1. JulieM Silver badge

          Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?

          "S" at the end of a word was always shaped like the "modern" S. The "f without a stroke" only ever appeared at the beginning or in the middle of a word.

        2. Screwed

          Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?

          I have long used two very distinctly different lower-case letters "s" when handwriting. Don't really know how I started doing it, but depending on the letters either side, or being first/last letter, or being double-s, I will choose one or the other.

          Pretty darned sure I am not consistent - some subconscious part of me selects the one to use.

          I am pretty sure that it isn't that rare to do this - or something similar.

      4. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?

        "I find it difficult to take seriously any person/site telling me how to use language correctly when they can't even spell the bloody word"

        It's Muphry's law:

        Muphry's law is an adage that states: "If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written."

    3. oldfartuk

      Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?

      OK, but Walt Disney was american, and despite the denials, aamericans speak English, which is the native language of the English peoples, so we get to choose how to spell it :-D . Tolkien was an englishman, so his spelling rules. We have the same problem with arabic speakers trying to tell us how to spell 'Moslem' or 'Koran' in our native language (do we tell Arabic speakers how to spell 'technology' or 'Roast Beef' in Arabic?)

    4. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?


      Holy crap. That site was excellent training for my ad-blocker.

    5. Dwarf

      Re: Dwarfs or dwarves?

      Er, um.

      I’m just going to have a bit of an identity crisis. I’ll be back after a long lie down.

      My question though is how do I explain this to the rest of the clan ?

  5. phy445

    At the higher education where I spent the early nineties nearly all of the Macs (SE/30s and the like) had neat craters a couple of centimetres in diameter burnt into their tops. It took me a while to realise that these were not some eccentric security marking - rather they were caused by angle-poise lamps sagging down so that the hot bulbs touched the cases of the computers...

    1. DanielsLateToTheParty

      At my higher education I had a friend who would place a line of tealights along the top of his monitor. It was CRT, not LCD, so there was plenty of room, and they never got hot enough to do harm. Then one day he bought slightly larger ones that did get hot enough but didn't notice until they had sank right into the plastic. Only the embedded metal frame above the tube stopped their progress, with the top edges flush with the surface of the plastic. After a bit of excitement and much amusement, he shrugged and topped them up with more wax.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      "neat craters ... burnt into their tops"

      cigarette burns, anyone?

    3. Rich 11

      In the late eighties those burn rings would have been caused by students resting their fags on the top of the Mac.

    4. Jeffrey Nonken

      I frequently used to put a laptop on a narrow stretch of counter between the stove and the 'fridge, turned towards me so I could watch movies while I was cooking, which left the front left corner sitting on a burner. One day I turned on the wrong burner on High...

      Fortunately I was right there and smelled the burning plastic right away. The case was melted and scorched on the bottom of one corner, but there was no other damage. I gave the laptop away to a friend, still working, two years later. Of course, I had to explain where the damage came from, much to his amusement.

      Not long after that incident I had a dream where I'd placed my tablet on the same burner, but not with the burner turned on. Instead, I absently placed a hot cast-iron pan on top of the tablet, damaging the case and the display. The dream was so vivid that when I woke up, I had to check the table to be sure it hadn't really happened.

      I gave the tablet to my (estranged, now ex-) wife a few months later, but didn't have to explain away any funny-looking scorch marks. Alas, it fell to its death not long afterwards when a cat knocked it off a table.

      That's how we know the Earth is spherical, BTW. If it were flat, by now cats would have knocked everything off the edge.

  6. Admiral Grace Hopper


    I love this coinage. Succinct, descriptive, complete and coherent.

    In the early part of the century a Major Government Department launched its online services with a major advertising blitz and much hoopla. What they didn't tell anyone was that due to a lining up of the holes in the requirement/development/delivery swiss cheese, one part of the processing relied on a trusty operative copying a bunch of data onto a floppy disk, walking down two flight of stairs to the data hall, sticking the floppy into the drive on the message queue server then stoofing it manually into the SQL server database. This happened daily until I left the team as it was cheaper than the political cost of fixing it. We called it our "Sneaker Net" application. I wonder if it's still running?

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Shonky-net

      I wonder if it's still running?

      Of course it is, there is nothing as permanent as a temporary solution ... except for a temporary tax hike.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Shonky-net

        Not running on stairs, please. And it's government work so no hurry. ;-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shonky-net

      I used to work for my local police force's IT department and we would have to send stats off to the Home Office which were dumped to reel to reel tapes which were removed weekly, popped into a jiffy bag and posted. This was still happening when I left in 2009 and for all I know is still the case.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Shonky-net

        I wonder what they thought it was when it arrived?

      2. Robert Sneddon

        Re: Bouncy-net

        Guy I shared a lab bench with a while back told me about the time he was seconded to an astronomical observatory somewhere near the Tropics for about six months in the days before ubiquitious data connections to remote locations. One of his jobs as general IT bod and tech gopher was to take the crate of disks (a sort of homebrew NAS box, from before the days of Synology and the like) carrying the recordings of the night's observations (several GIGAbytes of data!) down the mountain road to the nearest town with a FedEx office where they would be shipped back to Blighty for decoding and analysis. This drive was a couple of hours over what was laughingly described as a "road" rather than the bulldozed scrape in the rock and lava it actually was. It always amazed him the disks survived their road trip, ditto for himself since there were no guard rails, road markings and other such fripperies to guide him on his way.

      3. Long John Brass

        Re: Shonky-net

        They still make 9track reel to reel tapes?

    3. Timo

      Re: Shonky-net

      I bet they have improved on the process... by emailing the information downstairs. Maybe even had to hire someone to be stationed as the receiver of the info. Government efficiency and all.

  7. KittenHuffer Silver badge

    Deja Vu!

    I had almost exactly the same thing happen to one of the machines that I was supporting in a job long, long ago and far, far away!

    The fan heater under the desk was 'kicked' away when someones feet had warmed up ...... to directly face the front of a PC with a 5.25" floppy drive. It was nowhere near as sagging as the one pictured but I think the heater was only on medium rather than high.

    Within the floppy drive there was a plastic fork/guide that would sit either side of the floppy when it was inserted, and this was left with a serious case of brewers droop! Which was discovered the next time a floppy was (attempted to be) used to sneakernet some data from that machine.

    The fix was to extract the drive, then have a cow-orker apply pressure to the forks, holding in the correct position while I applied a hair dryer to soften them. It w**ked fine after that. And the PC was moved to a shelf, out of range of the offending heater.

    1. Chris G

      Re: Deja Vu!

      My brother in law worked for a tool hire shop, one of his colleagues applied a fresh cup of coffee to the tower by his desk. Working in a place full of tools, he immediately went and got a hot air gun, not really thinking that these things are used to strip paint, he set about drying off the tower.

      Did you know that burning plastic not only smells bad but disrupts function in a computer tower?

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Deja Vu!

      >>>a cow-orker apply pressure to the forks, holding in the correct position while I applied a hair dryer to soften them. It w**ked fine after that.<<<

      Oo-er missus!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Deja Vu!

        I love the smell of burning computer in the morning, smells like victory....

        1. Stevie

          Re: Deja Vu!

          Only if victory smells like nasty cat food.

          1. earl grey
            Paris Hilton

            Re: Deja Vu!

            I hate to say it, but that reminds me of the capacitors going bad on our old 1100 systems. Smelled of fish oil and we could tell the engineers before they totally failed. Stunk up the whole computer room.

            Icon - smells of fish?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Deja Vu!

              years ago I happened to complain to a cow-orker that it must be near lunch time as all I could smell was rotten cabbage...

              It turned out to be a very ancient PSU that had a dodgy selenium rectifier rather than a new canteen 'special'

  8. Paul Herber Silver badge

    El Reg goes all foody

    ice cream, cutting the mustard, taking the biscuit

    Coffee time.

  9. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

    Droopy Anglepoise

    I've seen a few results of those over the years too - a printer, a laptop and others. A 60 watt bulb produced a lot of heat close up - no doubt helped by the metal reflector.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Droopy Anglepoise

      >A 60 watt bulb produced a lot of heat close up

      Almost 60 Joules per second in fact

      1. Killfalcon Silver badge

        Re: Droopy Anglepoise

        In a-level physics, the teacher gave us a mnemonic "What's a Watt? A Watt is a Joule per sec".

        At the time, I thought "this is a terrible mnemoic, it's hardly memorable at all."

        Twenty years later, I'm forced to admit it worked.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Droopy Anglepoise

          Obviously a Watt is just kg⋅m^2⋅s^−3

          Now electron-volt,that's a sensible unit of energy

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Droopy Anglepoise

          And then there's my Boston-accented chemistry teacher:

          "Do as you aughta, add acid to watah!"

          That was over 20 years ago for me too.

    2. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Droopy Anglepoise

      "Droopy Anglepoise"... how did you find out my porn-name?

  10. chivo243 Silver badge

    Variation on a Drying scheme

    We had a user turn their keyboard into a Dali exhibit after spilling water on their lappy, then trying the hair dryer trick. We still laugh with the user about that one!

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      Re: Variation on a Drying scheme

      Back in the day a bunch of my student firends got together to upgrade a friend's computer. He'd had this thing for 4-5 years and got it second hand in the first place, and while they were off visiting folks we thought we'd do something nice for them.

      We opened it up (which was an _experience_ for those of us unfamiliar with how much dust builds up in cases) one of use took the HD off to devirus it (which was also an experience, and I was glad to have no part in), and the rest of us set about cleaning the internals enough to work out what hardware we could upgrade with hand-me-downs.

      While we were at it I thought "we should clean the keyboard".

      Took all the keys off, clean the board out with a brush, and dropped the keys in some hot soapy water to soak for a bit.

      I was a bit worried we might end up cleaning the letters off, but they were fine. The spacebar, however? That twisted half-way down the length and no longer fit. Had to just buy a new keyboard.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Variation on a Drying scheme

        I put the keyboard in the dishwasher (sans PCB)

        In these plague ridden times should probably do it again

  11. AdamT

    Fan heaters, what could possibly go wrong?

  12. BebopWeBop

    PC - as interpreted by Dali.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Named "Dave" by the increasingly unimaginative Reg-onymiser

    So real name Rodney?

    1. Charlie van Becelaere

      Named "Dave" by the increasingly unimaginative Reg-onymiser

      So real name Rodney?

      No, real name Dave.

  14. Sequin

    I once had to try to sort out a user's keyboard (that user being me) after a soft drink had been spilt on it. Not having a dishwasher available, I took it in to the gents' toilet and ran it under the tap. After shaking out as much water as I could, I decided to speed up the drying process by sticking it under the hot air hand dryer. Unfortunately, the thermostat on the dryer was buggered and the air it blew out was remeniscent of a pyroclastic flow from a volcano! The surround on the keyboard softened like putty, jamming most of the keys when it rehardened after I removed it from the airflow. Doh!

  15. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    The strangest things I have encountered involving floppy disks were people:

    A) inserting a 5.25" disk in tiny gap between the two floppy disk drives of a PC

    B) inserting multiple 5.25" disks into a single drive, because the installation program told them to insert the next disk and didn't tell them to remove the other (I still do not know how they managed that)

    C) folding a 5.25" disk and forcing it into a 3.5" drive, and then being surprised I told them they had wrecked both

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      The strangest things I have encountered involving floppy disks were people

      If you'd stopped there it would have been quite sufficient.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've also seen secretaries staple a 5.25in disc to a covering letter.

      Another instance (relatively harmlessly this time) one was instructed to copy a disc, did so using the copier. On to a sheet of A4.

      Another one didn't know about saving documents. After typing up a letter she printed it then closed without saving. A few times she saw a mistake after typing up a long letter from the dictating machine, so had to re-do it from scratch.

      All of these took place in a Kent hospital in the early 1990s.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I enjoy the stapling of floppies, as if done right, there's no damage to the data.

    3. Aussie Doc


      Can relate to the huge number of times I saw the old staple-the-note-to-the-5.25"-floppy trick.

      Also "Enclosed please find the 3.5" disks we talked about. Sorry it took so long. Couldn't get them out of the case."

      Yep. The 'case' was the actual solid cover for the 3.5" floppies.

      Interestingly enough both situations did result in a remarkable number of successful data saves and/or transfers despite the terrible treatment.

      Gawd, now I feel old.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I opened an old Jiffy bag that had been tucked away in a corner for years to discover the contents were some fibre cables that had been neatly folded in half to get them to fit in the bag!

  16. Notrodney

    Back in the late 90s, we had a salesmen place his laptop next to a projector while it was running. Not sure how long he left it there, but the Screen had to be replaced as it had melted!

  17. Kubla Cant

    You can't get there from here

    I seem to recall some computer* that only had a single floppy drive from which it booted. When running, the system would control the floppy, allowing programs to eject disks when they needed to. If you wanted to do so yourself, you clicked a desktop icon or something. The drive would eject as part of an orderly shutdown.

    The problem, of course, is what happens when the thing is unexpectedly powered off with a non-boot floppy in the drive. No doubt there was a simple way to get it out that was well-known to experienced users of these computers, but when you have no manuals, and it will be several years before the Internet is generally available, it's a bit of a challenge.

    *Early Apple Mac? The decision to have a drive with no eject button because it looked cool seems consistent with the bonkers single-button mouse.

    1. The First Dave

      Re: You can't get there from here

      The drive was made by Sony, so blame them more than Apple.

      Rebooting the computer automatically ejected the disc anyway (in most cases) so when you really wanted to boot from floppy you had to slam it back in again quickly.

    2. vcayenne

      Re: You can't get there from here

      Actually, booting while holding down that single button would eject the floppy...

    3. The First Dave

      Re: You can't get there from here

      Oh, and single-button mice are so much more sensible when you have left-handers around. What physical device have you ever come across that works differently depending on which finger you use?

  18. oldfartuk

    I worked for a government training agency in the 80's in what was called 'YTS Training', which involed trying to stop bored spotty teenagers wrecking Bus Shelters or sniffing Evostick by allowing them to wreck IT equipment and have spitting competitions in the toilets instead. One repair I had to effect was caused by a simple bit of Bored Teenager Logic - if a 5.25" floppy drive has a capacity of 360kb , then if you take another one out of its black palstic sleeve and glue it with Pritt to another one, the two glued-together discs must therefore have a capacity of 720kb right know what i mean innit? I was unable to extract the forcibly wedged in double thickness floppy and had to reapce the drive entirely.

    However, many years later AMstrad devised the Amstrad 1520, with its very own 10Mb hard drive. However , whilst making thier own hard drives needed a round of applause for 'Valiant Effort', the lack of basic technical knowhow in the subject meant that ALL the hard rives drives on the 48 machines we bought failed within 3 months. The problem was they overheated with such gusto the drive's plastic fascia would get soft enough to leave your thumbprint in, which made for a fairly foolproof Inventory system. We ended up replacing all the drives with 20 Mb Toshiba ones.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      >and glue it with Pritt to another one, the two glued-together discs must therefore have a capacity of 720kb

      And thus were a generation of enterprise software sales executives created

    2. TRT Silver badge

      As did I. I'll never forget the learning space they managed to book in Liverpool... all the windows were smashed out of the gents and I was leading the training in January I think it was. When you took a piss, the stream ran down the thick, Victorian porcelain back and had frozen solid before the liquid hit the bottom of the trough. I lasted just the first 2 out of the 5 days. Had to cancel the rest because the weather was so freaking cold.

      1. shedied

        This is the one and only time I feel that the question is warranted: Did you have to snap off the frozen stream when you were done

        1. TRT Silver badge

          No. For piss to freeze mid air from waist height the ambient temperature would have to be about minus 1000 degrees C which is impossible. Or the height would have to be much greater or the wind so strong as to break the stream up into tiny droplets. However with a freezing point of -5C and the increase in surface area caused by hitting the back wall of the trough, plus the thermal inertia of the ceramic exposed to minus 11 for over 24 hours it was possible to lower the piss temperature from body temp to minus 5 or below so fast that it never hit the ground. Not seen it before or since thank God!

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Wow. I've not been downvoted for doing some research before.

            1. Chris 239

              You must be new around here!

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Ha! Yeah. True. I'm not new but I am an eternal optometrist. Glasses half full and all that.

                But now I think of it... there was that time I researched the receipts in the petty cash... that wasn't popular.

    3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: YTS Training - bored spotty teenagers - spitting competitions in the toilets

      Looks like some of them landed jobs in the City...

    4. Aussie Doc


      Ah, yes.

      A 10mb hard drive back when that was a huuuge amount of space and OSs came on a few floppies and WYSIWYG was for wimps.

      Have one on me --------->

  19. Andytug

    It can be even worse if the heater is on top of the desk..

    …~~~wavy lines~~

    Back in the day when the office had lovely white plastic-cased Fujisu PCs, for the important people only.

    One Important Person was cold, and placed a fan heater on top of their desk, on a box. Then went to the toilet for some time, during which the heater fell forwards.....on to the PC base, blowing right on it. The result looked like Mr Soft's (from the Softmints advert) PC, only the internal metal casing stopped the whole thing from flowing off the desk like lava. Very lucky not to cause a fire.

  20. David Paul Morgan

    a melting mystery

    when I was a teenager, we came home from a shopping trip and followed the routine of "put the kettle on and make a cup of tea while putting away".

    I picked the kettle up and noticed that there was a curved melt mark in a shallow crescent with a hole at the centre of the curve.

    I showed this to my mother and father and we puzzled for more than a few minutes (after locating the top-of-stove whistling kettle to make tea) what couold have caused it.

    I worked it out when I noticed that my father had been shaving in the kitchen - the convex side was facing the rear (south facing) kitchen window and the kettle body was at the focal length.

    As the sun tracked the sky, the hotspot at the focus basically melted and burned through the plastic kettle.

    1. Sequin

      Re: a melting mystery

      When at university, studying for my finals, we experienced a heat wave, so lots of us went out on to the lawns outside to enjoy the warmth and get som fresh air. To prevent my notes blowing away, I took an apple shaped glass paperweight with me (which I still have) and placed it on top of my folders.

      After a few minutes I smelt burning and realised that the glass apple made a lovely lens, with a focal length of about 4 inches. There was a smoking black hole in the cover of my folder, which was covered in black PVC.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: a melting mystery

        There is still a scorch-mark on my mum's front-room window-sill caused by a 4"diameter crystal penguin. It has never been explained how the penguin got on to the window-sill, nor how I, at the age of 14, was so quickly able to diagnose what had happened...

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: a melting mystery mystery

      My interpretation:

      "had been shaving"

      with Mum's make up mirror

      "the convex side"

      I think you mean concave, hollow.

      convex --> ( <-- concave

      A portable dressing-table mirror is liable to have one side flat, showing things normal size, and one side concave, showing things enlarged.

      On sunlight this acts like the Jodrell Bank dish and concentrates it in a small area nearby.

      Google "concave building" and you will find, amongst other things, tales of large city centre edifices whose bendy glass front tends to set fire to properties across the street on a sunny day.

      On the north side of Ingram Street in Glasgow, Scotland, next to Queen Street, there is one whose (suspected) destructive power is limited by one thing only: it's in Scotland. So it's never so sunny.

      It is across from a lingerie shop, "Bold as Bras" or some such, so knickers on fire is quite possible.

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: a melting mystery mystery

        You are technically correct. The best kind of correct.

    3. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: a melting mystery

      I remember an article in a kit car magazine many years back. It was the tale of someone who, on one of our days of Full English Weather (brilliant sun and sharp showers), came back to their car and found a dirty great scorch mark across a seat.

      There had been a shower earlier, which had puddled on the clear panel the'd decided to have put in the roof part of the soft top. Think sunshine roof. Around the middle of the day the rain had stopped and the sun had come out to shine Down. The puddle of water on the sun roof had neatly focused the sunlight onto the seat.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: a melting mystery

      Back in forensic days my fire investigation colleagues had a case where fires were started on several occasions in the same house and were looking at possible means of arson. Then they traced it to a large silver bowl. Which years later led to a large gulp when I realised SWMBO's makeup mirror had put a long scorch mark on a the side of a chest of drawers. Luck escape. These concave mirrors are dangerous.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A certain wife of mine, who will only be identified as "Yes Dear" did have the misfortune to spill water on a TV remote control. She avoided panicking and duly dried it off. She then thought some water might have got inside, so she put the remote in the oven "only on low"

    And forgot about it.

    It is now a rather odd shape

    We bought a new remote.

    Yes Dear, Anon.

    1. Imhotep

      Our ingeniously designed LG remote is designed to fall over when you set it down.

      Luck of the draw is if it turns the TV off or changes the channel.

  22. Muscleguy

    I volunteer occasionally in a charity shop, we have pricing guns, plastic with a few metal parts. Behind the till is a stool in front of a wall mounted heater the older volunteers like to have on. One of the pricing guns was placed on the stool and a while later was noted to be part melted. With only one gun at times we were reduced to hand writing price labels.

    We finally got a new second pricing gun (those things are pricy) and it seems like a luxury.

    Yesterday our increasingly elderly till (running on Windows) was a real pain, being slow and unresponsive causing errors and finally running up a bill of £50k when I scanned a cheap costume jewellery necklace. I was pleased to finish my shift.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "running up a bill of £50k when I scanned a cheap costume jewellery necklace"

      Better than pricing a valuable antique at a couple of quid. SWMBO also volunteers in a charity shop and is furious when somebody turns up on an antiques programme with something really valuable that they acquired that way.

  23. Anne Hunny Mouse

    Dali's Laptop

    A year or two ago we had a faulty laptop come in which looked like Dali's Laptop. A medical consultant had put in on a hot stove

  24. Moonrunner

    #1 rule of tech support - Customers lie

    Starting out in the industry as a Bob for a small, independent ISP, renting the big telco's lines for last mile access, I had a runin with the BLFH (Bastard Luser From Hell). He was complaining about intermittent connectivity and slow speeds. I ran the basic diagnostics, and what seemed odd was that his numbers should look rosy , considering that he was pretty close to 'the good kind of remote', so that usually involved CPE or ISW issues. So, I went through a checklist with the luser...

    -Is your modem plugged directly into the phone jack (no splitters, extension cords, etc etc etc)?


    -What is the make and model of your modem?

    -[I forget which one he said, but it was a good BCM-based modem, that performed well with all types of the telco's remotes]

    -Which phone jack is it plugged into [multiple questions, boiling down to this]:

    -[The luser indicated the jack that the telco installer put in for DSL Internet only]

    -Are you using a 7'/2.1m or shorter phone cord to connect the modem to the phone jack?


    We ended up trying various things to get the customer the speed and stability that he was paying for, based on the perfect install, perfect remote, perfect equipment, etc etc etc. The process took weeks, involved us paying the diagnostic fee to the telco since their tech found nothing wrong on their end and even sending out a freebie modem to the customer. I was already getting pissed at having a ticket in my bin for weeks, so I decided to revisit some earlier questions...

    -How long is the phone cord from the modem to the jack?

    -Oh, about 30' (10m)

    -[in my head]: FUMOFOFUIHPUDIEMFFU, etc etc etc

    After chucking out that Dollarama grade 30' phone cord meant to allow grandma to use her rotary dial phone while shuffling around the Victorian home, not for 50Mbps DSL Internet, and replacing it with the cord that came with the modem, there was a marked improvement in speed and stability. I did give the client a politely-worded lecture about how cheap Ethernet cables are and how much pointless diagnostics time we would have saved, had he 'given me accurate information' during the initial call.

    Lesson for those of you starting out in a helpdesk/support role:

    #1 Rule of tech support is that CUSTOMERS LIE

    Don't ask them any leading questions. Be very specific (look at the difference between the initial question and the question I asked the second time around) and let them hang themselves. Also document everything. That customer did complain to the management about how long and arduous process of sorting him out was and implied that it was due to my incompetence. Fortunately, I took detailed ticket notes, which the management reviewed and ended up firing the customer, instead. Then they gave me the spiel about the #1 rule.

  25. Olivier2553

    Melted remote control?

    One of the kids wanted to prevent his sibling from changing the music on the stereo. So he hid the remote control on top of an halogen lamp. I found out the remote many years later when we moved. By that time the stereo was dead anyway. Strangely, we were never alerted by the smell of molted plastic.

  26. Glenturret Single Malt

    Chemical fun

    As a PhD student in the distant past, I had a still set up to give me supplies of extra dry solvent. Each morning, I switched this on and it would gradually heat up and bubble away until I had enough solvent for my needs. Until the morning that I forgot to switch on the water on the condenser whereupon hot vapour emerged from the top just beneath the heat sensor on the ceiling. I had disappeared to the gents for my morning call and was caught, ahem, with my pants down when I heard the sound of the fire alarm followed shortly by the fire brigade who had been called automatically. Fortunately nothing actually caught fire and the situation was remedied by turning on the water at the condenser.

    1. Sequin

      Re: Chemical fun

      Many, many years ago, when doing my Chemistry A level, the teacher decided to punish us for some infraction and told us to wash and dry a large pile of glassware - test tubes, conical flasks etc. H told us to dry it by swilling a few drops of acetone around the inside, then blowing it dry with a bellows with rubber tube attached.

      I decided to speed things up by swilling with acetone, throwing any excess down the sink, then flashing off any remaining by holding the open end over a bunsen for a second or two.

      After doing this for considerable number of items, I forgot to pour out the excess and held it over the burner. When the thing burst into flames I dropped it in shock, into the sink that contained all of the previous washings. This ignited, and caused the vapours in the drain to go bank, leading to waterspouts from all of the other sinks in the lab!

  27. IT veteran


    At a previous job in the late 90s, we had 2 offices firebombed by a disgruntled ex-employee. I remember seeing a HP printer half-melted.

    We got a lot of new kit out of it though, and the offices were unoccupied at the time so no-one was injured/killed.

    1. Moonrunner

      Re: Firebombing

      I'm betting that 90's HP printer still works, to this day. Same goes with my turn of the century Brother. If you want it, you'll have to Heston it (*) from me!

      (Take it from my cold dead hands - Charlton Heston's NRA speech)

  28. Jakester

    Plugging A Heater To A Small Computer UPS...

    ... creates some in-office fireworks. Seen it happen a couple times. Much better than just a laser printer.

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