back to article Mate, it's the '90s. You don't need to be reachable every minute of every hour. Your operating system can't cope

Remember when you wanted to be contactable at all times? No, neither do we. The subject of today's OnCall, however, was the kind of aspiring departmental head who was hellbent on impressing the bosses, no matter what he broke in the process. The tale comes courtsey of "Keith", a Data Systems Technician for the US Navy, who …

  1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Stop

    Perhaps

    If the minimum interval possible to configure had been in the order of 5-10 minutes, perhaps people wouldn't have come to expect email to be instant?

    I still honour the hierarchy of priorities: telephone call for "urgent, must respond now" stuff; SMS for "ASAP but not necessarily immediate"; email for "FYI" or "sometime in the next 2 days" stuff. Yes, I also introduce unnecessary delays to get the point across.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps

      Hourly should be more than enough for most businesses.

      For home use, once or twice per day.

      Unless you WANT to be a slave to email, that is ...

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: Unless you WANT to be a slave to email, that is ...

        Don 't kink shame me

      2. J27 Bronze badge

        Re: Perhaps

        You must be retired, because if your boss emails you something important and it takes up to an hour for you to reply you're not goign to be employed very long in today's world.

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Perhaps

          If something is urgent we are told to IM the person if they are online at work. I often talk to others several times a day after being pinged. Email is very useful to create a written record for all to see.

          In my personal life, again, it it is urgent call or text and then maybe follow up with an email with more details (if needed). If you are in my contact list I will respond as soon as I can.

        2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Perhaps

          I don't know about others, but if my boss has an urgent email that needs my attention in a less-than-a-day timescale, he will have made sure I know about it via a more immediate means. Like I'm sure many organisations do, we have IP telephony and IM though both Skype and Teams (which as far as I can tell appears to be a re-badged dumbed-down version of Skype formulated purely so that Microsoft can sell the same thing twice to unwary businesses).

          For the same reason you wouldn't hammer in a nail with a screwdriver, or drive in a screw with a lump-hammer, you shouldn't be using email for things that you want to be immediate. It's not the right tool for the job.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Perhaps

            >drive in a screw with a lump-hammer

            Kids today...screws are supposed to be hammered in to the thread depth of the shank and then tightened by driver - keeps them true.

            (You're welcome)

            1. logicalextreme Silver badge

              Re: Perhaps

              This sounds like it's a thing, but peril awaits those who take Reg comments at face value so I'm going to do my own research before destroying a bookcase.

            2. ckm5

              Re: Perhaps

              Or you could use scrails

              Aka, screws driven by a nail gun....

              You're welcome ;-)

              1. logicalextreme Silver badge

                Re: Perhaps

                I have a weak spot for portsmanteau.

                1. David Given

                  Re: Perhaps

                  Or weaksmanteau, if you will.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Perhaps

              >drive in a screw with a lump-hammer

              I hired a guy to put in a doors with windows on either side. In the walk out basement opening he hammered the screws into the concrete walls. He did drill the holes first. And in his defense this was a long time ago. Way before impact drivers or even battery powered drills with a high torque setting. So putting a screw into concrete was chore.

              But still, I didn't hire him for anything else after that.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Perhaps

                Are you certain he was hammering in screws and not anchors of one description or another?

            4. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: Perhaps

              If you drive a screw in to thread depth with a hammer IKEA would be out of business as anything other than a meatball and firewood provider.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Perhaps

                Burning so-called "wood" from IKEA is contraindicated ... You never know what holds their MDF together. I'm equally leery of their meatballs.

            5. spotburst

              Re: Perhaps

              Have you never heard of a pilot hole? The harder the wood, the more important it becomes... You're welcome.

              1. Stevie Silver badge

                Re: Perhaps

                And if you are driving into hard wood, wiping the threads with a bar of unscented soap helps no end.

                I imagine carnuba wax would do too, in a pinch.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: Perhaps

                  Both soap and wax can play merry hell with your finish. It is almost always better to use appropriately sized pilot holes.

          2. J. Cook Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Perhaps

            Teams is the current iteration of Skype for Business, which was Lync Communicator, which was Office comunicator. The only thing shared between Teams/SfB and Skype is the name.

          3. TonyJ Silver badge

            Re: Perhaps

            "...(which as far as I can tell appears to be a re-badged dumbed-down version of Skype formulated purely so that Microsoft can sell the same thing twice to unwary businesses)..."

            Actually you cannot get Skype for Business now on a new plan with MS - it's Teams and it's going away soon full stop.

            And whilst I found it quite jarring at first compared to the simplicity of SfB, Teams has some advantages such as persistent messages in the chat windows, file storage and sharing (backed off to One Drive for Business and/or SharePoint).

            It still isn't always the most seamless of UI's (in my humble opinion) but it's not that bad once you start to get used to it.

            1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

              Re: Colin Wilson 2 - Apple have got this right!

              Teams chat permanent storage in MS cloud is there only for NSA convenience...

        3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

          Re: Perhaps

          Phone, Skype, Teams < looong list >. Those are for instant stuff. Email? No. And a boss has to know which communication way to choose for urgent things.

          1. logicalextreme Silver badge

            Re: Perhaps

            Given that Teams still doesn't integrate with the Windows 10 notifications centre and its own notifications disappear after about five seconds with no configurable hide timeout, I currently rank Teams below email for instantitude. In fact I've picked up an email before asking me to look at a Teams chat that I was hitherto unaware of.

          2. jgarbo
            Devil

            Re: Perhaps

            Bosses like to believe that all their requests are urgent. Why else be the boss?.

            1. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: Perhaps

              Which is why I never have a phone you cant remove the battery from.

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: Perhaps

              A good Boss hires people who get the job done, and thus has no need to make requests.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Perhaps

            I used to report to an MD who thought email was appropriate for urgent stuff, and that urgent emails outside of working hours (and often quite late at night) should be responded to instantly. He also believed his categorically-not-urgent-at-all emails about whatever faintly-tangential-to-our-business video or blog he'd just stumbled upon were in fact mission critical. But, best of all, about once every six months he'd fire off long manifestos to all staff about how we needed to stop being so reliant on email. In eighteen months, he arranged three different no-expense-spared company away days, so that all staff could receive training in his enlightened position.

            The staff - only about 20 people - all worked in the same building, the majority of them in a single open plan room, and did most stuff face-to-face or over the phone, following up with summary emails to keep a written record of key decisions, and - of course - to keep our useless MD in the loop, since he worked from home all but one day a month. I suppose the moral of this story is that the people who really don't understand what email is for are often the ones for whom that knowledge would be most useful. Oh, and the punchline of the story is that, after the company had turned a good profit three years running, he frittered away ~180% of annual turnover on his expensive attempts to 'change the working culture', and the company went out of business. Fuck you, Sean.

        4. FIA

          Re: Perhaps

          You must be retired, because if your boss emails you something important and it takes up to an hour for you to reply you're not goign to be employed very long in today's world.

          You must be young. :) If it's important they'll call you or IM you or if you're still in an office simply walk over.

          If you spend all your time responding to emails you'll never get any work done.

          Everyone thinks their particular issue is the most important thing in the world, it often isn't.

          If your place of work really needs emails responded to that quickly, it's probably not a great place of work. Don't stress. Sometimes life and happiness is much more important. (Then you can save the stress for those times when it really does matter). Otherwise burnout is heading your way.

          I've worked at the places where everything is always the most important thing and must be done now, and also at the places that will work you hard when needed, but then appreciate the effort afterwards. I know which one I prefer.

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            Re: Perhaps

            The boss I call 'turkey' was like that- everything was a 'drop whatever you are doing and fix this RIGHT F'IN NOW GO GO GO GO GO GO !!!!!!!1111oneoneoneone' priority, even if it wasn't.

            Like performing remediation on the production vmware servers of real or imagined 'defects' (like disabling copy/paste from the console on an esx5 host, which has that function turned OFF by default to the point that the flag isn't in the vmx file.)

            ON CHRISTMAS DAY. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AFTERNOON.

            [RedactedCo] is a 24/7/365 shop, so we are open for business every day; the nature of the business means that holidays are generally amongst the busiest times on the production floor.

            Since I was doing remote work at the time to care for a family member that had major surgery, I replied back to him via email, with his boss (the CIO, and a sensible person) simply that no, that's not going to happen, but if he's insistent on it, to put it in writing, and I would start with the VMs that are running the production floor, and that each one has to be powered off first in order for me to add the toggle to the vmx file, which is about a 10-15 minute downtime for each server.

            I then disconnected from the work network, turned off the laptop, and spent the rest of the day unmolested apart from the CIO going "you were joking, right? I'll deal with him" via text message.

            I think. I have holes in my memory from that boss, he was extremely toxic.

            1. TonyJ Silver badge

              Re: Perhaps

              I have worked for similar bosses along those micromanaging types who get hot under the collar because you're not in constant contact with 15 second updates.

              One thing I learned that I've stook to for close to the last 20 years - set your boundaries early and stick to them.

              The company pays for 40 hours of effort a week. No, that absolutely doesn't include my missing a lunch break, working weekends and/or evenings except by exception. And that is in exceptional cirumstances and guess what? You're paying me for the privilege one way or another, whether in actual overtime or time off in lieu.

              No, I won't be reading your emails past 17:30, or at weekends. No, I won't be answering my phone (if it is genuinely urgent and exceptional, leave me a voicemail and maybe text me as well).

              Funnily enough, what caused me to adopt that attitude initially was when i joined large global company. During the interviews we agreed my salary and package to both of our mutual consent.

              When I got the contract to sign, I noticed that the annual salary was 50 pence a year more than agreed which struck me as odd.

              Still being relatively young and lackign in cynicism, I called their HR department to ask if they knew, was it ok, etc. and was told "Yes - that is how our grading structure just happens to work, don't worry about it"

              And of course I had no reason to dispute it.

              Fast forward a couple of months and I was asked if I'd work a weekend. Yes, sure, said me.

              When I came to claim the overtime, I was told "Sorry you can't at that grade".

              Indeed - up to £27,000.49p you were eligible for overtime. At £27,000.50p you were no longer eligible.

              I told my boss there and then I would never work overtime again. Had they been honest about it, I'd have had a chance to discuss and argue and be aware but given the underhanded way it was handled I wad furious.

              It was a bitter lesson learned hard (always make sure everything you agreed and even believe was agreed is in your contract. Always make sure calls etc to HR are followed up by an email) but it was also freeing - I realised you can tell management to suck it and by and large they just move on to someone more malleable.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Perhaps

                "I realised you can tell management to suck it and by and large they just move on to someone more malleable."

                At a previous employer, I was given a cellphone by my manager and told in no uncertain terms that the only purpose was to reach me while I was in the building - I was most definitely NOT on call. A few months later, my manager left. I started getting a couple middle-of-the-night calls every week. I eventually started turning off the phone at night. When they called our home at 2 AM, my wife picked up the phone and, with no other introduction, said "I don't care who this is. Don't ever call us in the middle of the night again." *Click*

                From then on, they called someone else (who "wasn't on call") in the middle of the night.

          2. jason_derp Bronze badge

            Re: Perhaps

            "Don't stress. Sometimes life and happiness is much more important."

            Definitely retired.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Perhaps

              I ran with that philosophy long before I was even pseudo-retired.

              If your job is stressing you out, you are in the wrong job. Find a new one.

              Before you poo-poo this, have you really, honestly tried to look for a replacement?

        5. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Perhaps

          At my job, if I receive an email during work hours, it will have come in fast and I'll read it reasonably soon. I have to parse through emails that I don't really need to receive, so it's not instantaneous but I'll get to it soon enough. If you send me an email after work hours, we'll talk tomorrow. I don't sync my work email to my phone or personal computers and I don't use the work computer when not at work. If something urgently needs my attention, and it probably doesn't, there's a reason that some of my team members have my personal phone number. There's also a reason why nobody else at work has it, because there will always be someone who thinks their problem is urgent when it's not.

          If people want constant contact with me, even outside work hours, those people can inform me that I need to be on call, provide me with the equipment, and pay me extra for the fact that I will limit my actions when on call so I'll be available to answer calls and respond quickly. Otherwise, they will get contact during work hours at an initial priority level that allows me to get normal work done between requests.

        6. sisk

          Re: Perhaps

          I dunno. If my boss emails me something important and it takes an hour to reply she assumes - usually correctly - that I'm busy doing my job and am not at a good point to drop things and write her back immediately, If it's really urgent she calls my cell phone. And for context a call from her on my cell phone is usually something security related that needs immediate attention.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Perhaps

            That is how it should be.

            Maybe El Reg commentards have more than our fair share of self-important PHBs. (Maybe that's why we wash up on these shores).

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Perhaps

              I doubt it's more than our fair share (although it sure seems that way sometimes, I'm sure ...). Rather, I suspect it's more blowing off steam. Talking about the good ones isn't cathartic, and nobody would believe you anyway.

      3. Len Silver badge

        Re: Perhaps

        Email is a tough one and requires discipline from the receiver when it comes to frequency.

        If I’m on a call with someone and they are sending me a document I need to look at while on the call I don’t want to wait ten minutes for it to arrive. If I am doing something else then I’d rather check my email once an hour at most.

        You can find all sorts of technical solutions but the best solution is to adapt yourself. Turn off all alerts on email and train yourself to only look once an hour or so. Unless you’re waiting for something urgently you just don’t look. Perhaps even only start up the email client once an hour.

        I am an email power user with somewhere between fifteen and twenty email accounts spread over two concurrently running email clients (that sounds complex but actually reduces distraction if you separate them well) yet if I need to concentrate on a document I turn both off. It took some discipline but now it works.

        Now, installing discipline in the senders of email, that is a wholly different matter...

        1. Graham 32

          Re: Perhaps

          Emails with one-time passcodes that expire in a few minutes are more than enough reason for instant email.

          Sitting there mashing refresh going "no... no... no... no... got it!" is annoying.

        2. RM Myers Silver badge
          WTF?

          installing discipline in the senders of email, that is a wholly different matter...

          Very true! Before I retired, I was getting 100 - 150 emails every day, and probably 90% or more were worthless to me. The "all employee" type emails were part of the problem, but the biggest issue was people sending emails to everyone on a project (distribution list) rather than just the people affected. Since I was involved peripherally in a number of large projects, the worthless emails just piled up. In the end, I just ended up skimming most emails at best, and usually limited email reading to once or twice daily.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: installing discipline in the senders of email, that is a wholly different matter...

            Filters.

            The (only) reason I miss Outlook is the sophistication of the filters.

            Thunderbird isn't nearly as good for the If/or-then-else type of filter rule.

            1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

              Re: installing discipline in the senders of email, that is a wholly different matter...

              One thing I like about exchange is that a lot of the filters can be run server side. Our systems team have locked the server down enough that the users effectively need to use outlook (not my decision), but even with being restricted to using outlook, I still have the advantage I don't have to recreate dozens of rules on each install..

            2. Colin Miller

              IMAP filtering. Was Re: installing discipline in the senders of email...

              There are a number of headless apps which connect to a IMAP mail server, and can move emails to filters based on your rules.

              As IMAP is a push protocol (POP3 was pull), and IMAP stores the mail on the server, the filters can activate on receipt of emails.

            3. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: installing discipline in the senders of email, that is a wholly different matter...

              Are you kidding me?

              I use both - Outlook at work and Thunderbird at home.

              I get between 800 to 900 legit emails a day, and thousands of worthless "informationals". Withouit rules it would be chaos.

              Outlook periodically announces it can't run ANY rules because I somehow no longer have permission to do that. Restart or I can't send emails - oh, it *looks* like I sent 'em, they just never make it because "no permissions".

              Outlook occasionally mysteriously announces I have "run out of space' (on a cloud account yet) and switches off rules at random.

              When it does either of these things my phone client clogs with witless messages from a server cluster monitor announcing it has self-cleared a backplane problem I can't do anything about anyway. Phone rendered useless as an email machine as a result of useful emails beingswamped by one-a-minute useless mails.

              I've given up adding rules for new conditions. 50% of the time the update will bork switching off a random number of rules. If I wait until late at night I can switch them back on again, but not during the working day.

              And lets not even start in on the need to use local cacheing to make reading emails a less-than full morning task, largely negating the point of cloud email in the first place.

              Thunderbird usually works fine except for an occasional "double receipt" issue.

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: installing discipline in the senders of email, that is a wholly different matter...

                Maybe because the volume of email is much lower, but I have the opposite. Sometimes, just after TB launches emails seem to download to the general inbox and stay there, the rules having not run on those messages. When that happens running the rules manually doesn't move them either At one point I found I was creating duplicate rules, thinking that a rule for a given message source didn't exist already.

          2. FIA

            Re: installing discipline in the senders of email, that is a wholly different matter...

            A colleage once commented that I had (something like) 2000 unread emails in my inbox.

            The horrified look as I right clicked and selected 'Mark all as read' was priceless.

            Nothing bad happened.

            1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

              Re: installing discipline in the senders of email, that is a wholly different matter...

              On a management course before email was widespread, I was taught the 'pile' method of managing your inbox. It went: skim-read the messages then put them on the pile. Let the pile build up for a week or so, then throw the pile in the bin. If a repeat message arrived it was probably important and should be acted on. The rest: meh.

              Another guy went on a course where he was told to only spend 20% of his time dealing with email. So he did. He read emails on Thursdays.

          3. Len Silver badge
            Meh

            Re: installing discipline in the senders of email, that is a wholly different matter...

            It’s not the volume of emails (I have over 47,000 unread emails as I type this), it’s useless subjects. Of those 47,000 I most likely know I don’t have to open them now, maybe next week (when I have time) or never (archival). A meaningful subject let’s me prioritise it.

            Useless subjects are my biggest bugbears. I’ve had a business partner where over 90% of his email subjects were “hello”, “hello sir” or “good morning”. Some of them contained random shit about the latest Liverpool game, some of them contained extremely important details about the exact time, location and name of the person we would meet the following week. How to distinguish!? My email subjects are along the lines of “Initial considerations on strategy ABC and next steps before meeting XYZ on 21 September”. Bonus: search actually works if you do that and filters (smart folders!) can do their magic.

            That bugbear is closely followed by my second biggest bugbear and that is not creating email strands. Call me anal but I prefer to have one strand per topic (and ideally even one topic per strand). If we’re picking up that project again that was on ice for six months I will breathe new life into a six month old email strand if that has vital discussion in it. Yesterday I replied to an 18 month old email strand as an opportunity is suddenly back on our radar. You can imagine that a business partner that would start every day with a fresh email strand (“good morning”) made my blood boil.

            Needless to say, we have parted ways...

            1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Re: installing discipline in the senders of email, that is a wholly different matter...

              "I have over 47,000 unread emails as I type this"

              Glad to find out I'm not the worst! I topped out at about 20k unread a few years ago, before I deleted most of them (still unread).

          4. Stuart Castle Silver badge

            Re: installing discipline in the senders of email, that is a wholly different matter...

            This is what I have done. At least while at work. I check emails a couple of times each day. While it doesn't seem to happen much now, with nearly every user working remotely, we used to have a lot of all staff emails, and in some cases, those who responded would reply all. This meant about 90% of the emails I got were noise to me. That's a lot of noise when you get 200 emails a day. Thankfully, since we started using Yammer, that chat has moved, and I rarely (if ever) check Yammer..

          5. To Mars in Man Bras!
            Trollface

            All Employee Emails

            >The "all employee" type emails were part of the problem...

            Many aeons ago I worked for a UK software company that had its head office in Australia. At least a few times a week, we'd get emails [which had obviously just been sent to all employees] from HQ in Melbourne, telling us such vital information as "There are doughnuts available in the kitchen..." or "Someone has left their wallet in the meeting room...".

            So, in order to return the favour, one day I replied to one of these emails writing "Simon has just gone to the toilet. No news yet as to whether it will be a number one or a number two!"

            I later got called into the boss's office where [trying hard to look stern and not snigger] he told me he'd received an angry email from Aussie HQ demanding to know why the UK office was informing the higher echelons of company management about our toilet habits.

            It worked though. We stopped getting the irrelevant round robin emails from HQ, after that.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: All Employee Emails

              My problem isn't all-employee emails, but rather being added to too many groups. There's a group I'm in which is rather small, but we support a variety of things. The problem is that I support about two of them, so I'd not be able to help with most requests. We created multiple email lists so users could ask only those people most likely to know about the thing, but a lot of users don't appear to be sending their requests to these specific mails. Instead, they find the larger all-team address and send their request there. I can't ignore that group because some things that do apply to all of us get sent there but also because the requests for those few things I do support are going there. Still, about 90% of the mails that are sent to that group are useless.

            2. Overcharged Aussie

              Re: All Employee Emails

              Similar problem, I worked in an Australian office of a global company that had one of their offices in a building called International House. The folks there would often send an email to the alias of international-all about cake in the kitchen or a similarly local event blissfully unaware that they were mailing every employee not based in the US.

              Ah good times.

              1. Toni the terrible

                Re: All Employee Emails

                So why not use 'reply to all' asking for a Slice?

                1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
                  Trollface

                  Re: All Employee Emails

                  I did it once, asking for the slice to be delivered to my office since I was on a call.

                  I provided even the office number.

                  We were using the same kind of numbering at their location and ours, so they didn't see any problem, up to the moment they arrived to a technical closet...

            3. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: All Employee Emails

              Ha! I got a confusing "all staff" email about y2k NYE coverage about locked doors and entrances and finally figured out it was from our head office in the State Capital and had NO relevance outside that staff.

              I wrote back that I would not be on callout because I was a filthy consultant and everyone knew we were a shiftless bunch (this was the actual attitude of those state capital staffers BTW), that I would be cowering behind locked doors as my neighbors attempted to break in to get my stores of bottled water and toilet paper, and anyway Zhoutec was coming and I would likely be kidnapped and probed deeply and often by space aliens.

              I was called into my boss's office and reprimanded. His boss had been contacted by the sender of the mail who had claimed that she couldn't spend all day separating out our mail from the state capital staff and that she felt threatened by my mail.

              Boss said we would have to call her and her boss and apologize. I immediately agreed, saying that the poor woman obviously needed psychiatric help and I would be recommending that to her boss.

              My boss hit the roof, until I pointed out that a) there was NO threatening language whatsoever in my email and that anything she had seen in it of that nature she had conjured from the fevered folds of her own brain, and 2) that although she had no time to check her recipient list or to make a proper mail distribution list to avoid wasting the expensive time of everyone in our office, she DID have time to find out who my boss's boss was so she could complain to him.

              Problem quietly vanished into the hot air it was confabulated from.

        3. Barry Rueger

          Re: Perhaps

          Turn off all alerts on email and train yourself to only look once an hour or so.

          This! I disable nearly all of the beeps, flashing LEDs, and pop-ups, especially on my phone.

          Very little of what happens merits stopping what I'm doing to check it out.

          Silence is golden

        4. Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

          Re: Perhaps

          "Now, installing discipline in the senders of email, that is a wholly different matter..."

          You need one of these, applied often:

          https://imgur.com/gallery/p5SRy4F

          And a badge imprinted: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

      4. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: Perhaps

        "Hourly should be more than enough for most businesses.

        For home use, once or twice per day.

        Unless you WANT to be a slave to email, that is ..."

        i just signed upto a service, it gives me 15 mins to click the authorisation link they sent to me via email.

        wouldn't really be doable if i only got email twice a day.

        more and more services are using ephemeral links for ensuring you actually have access to the comms information you provide, which is a good thing.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Perhaps

          That's different - you're checking for a specific mail you are expecting to receive within the next few minutes.

          The discussion here is about general periodic checking.

        2. FIA

          Re: Perhaps

          Email clients should probably add a button so you can do this kind of 'ad hoc' mail fetching.

          ;)

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Perhaps

        Well I guess I still had it set to check every 11 minutes from when I was on call by email. Had to have things fixed before the next midnight run.

        I still like to see new things "quick" so rolled it back to 17 minutes which is what I thought I had it was set to.

      6. Marshalltown

        Re: Perhaps

        Heh, "hourly." I used to check email three times a day. At the start, just after lunch and about half-an-hour before leaving. No SMS. The boss regularly complained that I wasn't looking at my email often enough. I would point out that his door was ten strides from mine, and he even had a telephone if he didn't want to yell.

      7. Aus Tech

        Re: Perhaps

        Good point. Now that I'm retired from the full time work scene I only check my email once a day. If anyone needs to urgently contact me, then they can call my home or mobile number. Some of the items that come in via email are sometimes important, such as Family History research messages, but they are never urgent enough to require an IMMEDIATE response. Tomorrow will be soon enough.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Perhaps

      I use a similar priority, with the exception that WhatsApp voice messages are classified at the same level as email. If you can't be bothered to write it, it can't be that urgent.

      1. gobaskof

        Re: Perhaps

        Phone instant.

        Email a few hours to a few days, with mounting apologies for any days past 3.

        SMS I tend to totally ignore, choose phone or email.

        I try to avoid WhatsApp for work, but if you do any work in Africa then WhatsApp is the de facto method of business communication. So WhatsApp=Email if you are African, and WhatsApp=SMS if you are not.

    3. Symon Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Perhaps

      Sadly, these days your personal Gmail and Hotmail get pushed to your mobile device apps. by default. It takes some scrabbling around to turn notifications off, or a little effort to set up a proper email client instead. Is it pub time yet? Aeroplane mode on...

      1. Paul Shirley

        Re: Perhaps

        Yet I still manage to not even notice anything but the phone ringing. I wait for my wife to answer that.

        The joy of living in an age where 'dealing with the mail' means bulk deleting it with as little effort as possible once a month or so.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Perhaps

      Remember, a lot of people were already used to "instant" email - using a terminal login to a Unix server meant you were under a "push" model.

      It's only really when IP enabled PCs came along that people moved to a pull model, and so frequent check intervals were a more natural choice.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Perhaps

        "Remember, a lot of people were already used to "instant" email - using a terminal login to a Unix server meant you were under a "push" model."

        Is that true? I wasn't around for the older systems, but any time I've used modern email on a terminal it hasn't pushed notifications even though the mail was pushed to the server. The two ways I saw things were if I launched a terminal mail client or a message on login informing me of unread messages. If a message arrived while I was working, I didn't see it. Of course, I didn't bother trying to change this since I also connected the account concerned to a normal client, but did it work differently in the past?

        1. Bill Stewart

          Re: Perhaps

          The shell checked whether your mailbox file (/usr/spool/mail/yourname or whatever it was named in that version) had a last-written time that was later than when it had last told you you had mail.

          How the mail got delivered to the mailbox file varied a lot, e.g. was it from somebody else on the your machine (and therefore immediate), or was it from some other machine (depended on the network connection - was it uucp dialup? Did your machine poll them or did they push to you? That could vary a lot; if you were in Australia it might be one phone call a day to pick up everything from your US office.

          You have mail

          $

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Perhaps

          Some systems I used had a daemon that wrote to the terminal when a message was received.

          Failing that, there was biff, and other utilities that would write to the status line (arguably these latter two are pull - but only polling a local file)

          VMS (not Unix) also alerted the user as soon as a message was received.

          Basically, every system I used (since 1988) had immediate email notification of one form or the other, which seems to upset my two downvoters!

    5. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps

      You are my hero!

      More seriously people always bitch and moan that I am unavailable at night during my sleep time when they do the exact same thing! Heck people who gets angry because my smartphone is not turned on 24 hours a day don't have their smartphone turned on 24 hours a day.

  2. 45RPM

    Back in those days I used to get my email using an old compact Mac. You know the kind - black and white screen, 512*342 resolution. Even though it was running a proper pre-emptive multitasking OS (A/UX), I didn’t much fancy bogging it down with email clients and whatnot. So I did what every other similiarly minded computer user did back in the day, regardless of the make, model and OS of their computer. I logged in to the email server and used its own built in pine (or elm - I can’t remember. Actually, I think that it was elm) email client.

    Happy days, the days before email got all clagged up with pictures, emojis, html etc. Just, nice, plain, simple text.

    1. jake Silver badge

      I still use (al)pine for my email needs. It's an old friend, the fingers know it well. Still maintained, too ... "stable" was last updated on June 19th.

      1. MarthaFarqhar

        When we moved from our departmental hosted email to GroupWise (shudder) as a result of management wanting to standardize, one of the first questions the users asked was "Can we get Elm or Pine working with it?".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We had a client that repeatedly blamed us (network guys for the building) for the service of their easily-overwhelmed webmail provider.

      The boss of that office would call us down, and sure enough, they'd keep hammering refresh and the website was becoming unresponsive.

      "Its your equipment, pal"

      I opened a browser window on another machine, and proceed to watch a random SFW 1080p60 YouTube video. While their webmail website was still crawling.

      Our equipment bollocks.

      To this day, I don't think he grasped that there could be problems at the other end. I think he brought in an external provider in the end. No doubt till tied to the same crappy webmail service.

      Anon, because I still work there.

  3. ColinPa

    Stop pressing enter!

    When I was working in the machine room on one problem, the operations people had a different problem - their system would not IPL.

    The theory was that you dial in the IPL address (yes, that old) , press the load button, press enter on the operator console and the system would prompt for IPL parameters.

    The problem was that nothing was displayed on the operator console.

    We all went out for some "fresh air" - while the operators had a smoke. When we came back we passed an office with someone sitting at a screen with the IPL prompt, so we all did a right wheel and asked him what was going on. The poor guy said "I dont know.... I keep getting this screen". It turned out that he was sitting there pressing the enter key as fast as he could, and so he was getting the operator console.

    He was educated to wait until the logon screen came up, before pressing enter.

    Problem solved.

    This is one of those classes of problems where the solution is to do nothing!

    1. Richard Gray 1
      Pint

      Re: Stop pressing enter!

      I had a classic do nothing fix.

      I was senior enough to do things, but still junior enough to be sent out to the back of beyond and do stuff ( I loved it!) and was in Indonesia. The task was to merge their GroupWise with the main office GroupWise systems.

      I had the local local guy, the local regional guy and me the "big shot from the UK" (that was probably close to what they thought of me, not what I thought of me which was wow free trip to Indonesia).

      I was pre warned do double check everything because if you hit GO and then cancel, or it stops be prepared for World Wide Pain (TM)

      So we checked, double checked and hit Go.

      After half an hour there was nothing, no sign we had hit the button, no indication at all. not even a whirleygig the cheapskates.

      After an hour the locals were getting nervous and wondering if something had gon wrong and should they cancel it and try again.

      Given that we were doing this over a bit of wet string, I stated loudly that I was hungry and it was time for my dinner. "but the merge...." but I was resolute in wanting my dinner. or more to the point to take away the temptation for one of us to try and cancel it.

      a couple of hours fighting through the local traffic, an nice evening meal, and fighting back, we came to the on screen message of merge complete 0 errors.

      And that is how going for lunch can merge a system...

      Beers becasue we had them after obvs...

      1. Symon Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Stop pressing enter!

        Nice story! Just in case there's anyone here who uses stuff without a progress bar, you might be interested in this:-

        https://linux.die.net/man/1/pv

        It lets you know if you have time for a swift half --->

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stop pressing enter!

          From that page:

          "Frequent use of this third form is not recommended as it may cause the programmer to overheat."

          I love the humor quietly embedded in documentation...

      2. J. Cook Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Stop pressing enter!

        Exchange (in a DAG) is also like this, along with other things, like restoring mailboxes, exporting mailboxes, etc. In my documentation for testing a DAG failover with Exchange, there's several places where it notes that a healthy dose of patience is needed. One step literally says "Go get a cup of coffee/water/tea/soda/etc."

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Self-Inflicted Silliness

    When I was but a lad I managed to take the family Windows 3.1 machine out of action with a little impatience. I'd decided I didn't want to keep taking the time to find the shortcut for a game I was playing a lot, so I moved the shortcut to the Startup folder.

    This was A Bad Move as it was a DOS game, and of course back in those days Windows shut down to run DOS programs. The machine then became a box solely dedicated to running that game as exiting the game would start up Windows again, but Windows would then run the game on startup causing Windows to immediately shut down again.

    Needless to say my Dad took the opportunity to update the PC to Windows 95.

    1. Mr Sceptical
      Devil

      Re: Self-Inflicted Silliness

      I once disabled my uncle's CD ROM drive for a couple over year by editing the resources file so I could get the sound working in Wolfenstein on his 386 ;-)

      In my defence, I did fix it next time I was there, but seeing they lived in a different continent, we weren't exactly over weekly.

      1. Dabooka

        Re: Self-Inflicted Silliness

        IRQs / DMA settings for the sound card I assume?

        My memory is fuzzy on these matters.

        1. Mr Sceptical
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Self-Inflicted Silliness

          That's the bitty! It was back in the early 90s, so memory is equally as fuzzy...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Self-Inflicted Silliness

          Io: 300 irq:10 for a 3c905 eternet card.

          I still remember writing the values down in a small notebook my first day as a PFY. I scrawled the numbers down in the certainty that I'd forget them otherwise. Apparently they burned their way in, and the above values pop into my head as soon as someone mentions IRQs.

          Now... where the hell did I park today?

    2. 45RPM

      Re: Self-Inflicted Silliness

      Yeah, I did something similar once. In a bid to boost adoption of OS/2, IBM gave away a product called OS/2 for Windows on the cover of a UK magazine (PCW perhaps?). Excited to try the new hotness, and given that my computers at the time (an 8086 powered Deskpro or a Mac) didn't meet the requirements, I commandeered my dad's 486.

      Er. Error.

      To this day, I don't know what I did wrong. All I know is that after installation, and despite being well in spec, the blasted thing wouldn't boot. I booted up using an MS-DOS 5 boot floppy and…

      …discovered that the OS/2 installer had, for some reason, flattened all of the system directory tree and splattered itself (and Windows) over the root of hard disk. What a mess.

      The only bright spot was that the directories containing my fathers work were in tact. So I was able to backup to a 44MB Syquest disk and reinstall. Very annoying and a definite squeaky bottom moment. I didn't mess with OS/2 again. Clearly it and me were never meant to be friends - but I still have the installer disk on my desk to remind me of the perils of diving in without first reading the documentation and making a backup.

      1. Mr Sceptical
        Thumb Up

        Re: Self-Inflicted Silliness

        I think you're right about PCW - it was a massive tomb back then and I spent ages lusting after all the hardware I definitely couldn't buy as a kid.

        You do learn your most important lessons from those moments though, so it's good you managed it on a system you had no issues accessing and were also able to fix it!

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: massive tomb

          While I recall PCW being quite hefty, I'm not sure it was mausoleum sized.

          Autocorrect unsure what a tome is, perhaps...?

  5. GlenP Silver badge

    Instant Email (Not!)

    Back in the 90s the company I'd recently joined as IS Manager was at least ahead of the game in having some Ethernet* connected desktops as well as the 3270 terminals; the email however relied on individual dial up modems on a few computers. A leased line to the 'net was way out of budget so instead I found a dedicated network email server box that used ISDN. To keep the call costs down it polled for new messages and sent outgoing ones every 15 minutes.

    Inevitably I had the HR Manager late afternoon/early evening come storming in complaining that an email she'd sent to the US hadn't been received yet (about 5 minutes after she'd sent it!) I checked the queues at our end to see if I needed to push it through manually but no, it had already left the building. It then took several minutes to calmly explain that email is not instantaneous, that there was nothing I could do about it and that the likely source of the delay was the receiving end at the corporate headquarters.

    *The old thin wire setup with make-before-break plugs and sockets so we could take a single PC off the network without crashing the whole thing!

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Instant Email (Not!)

      25+ years later I can sit at home in the UK and manage the email settings on an network in Australia!

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Instant Email (Not!)

        25 years ago, I had been managing email settings on networks in Europe from my home in California for around a decade and a half. (delivermail on 3BSD in late '79.).

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Instant Email (Not!)

      I maintained dial-up UUCP links for a couple of non-profits until the dawn of the year 2000. They used Pegasus for their MUA, and a local mail spool, connecting to the MTA hourly. I handled the MTA on my end with Sendmail and an always-on connection. The system wasn't b0rken by Y2K, but they both decided to wake up and join the 20th Century to celebrate the beginning of the 21st with an on-demand dial-up TCP/IP connection to one of my routers. They both still use that system ... I've offered to upgrade them for free, but not needing much Web access they see no real need.

    3. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Individual Email (Not!)

      Before I joined my employer back in the late 90's they had only one email address! Which was donated by a neighboring University. Quite a few people used it, so every subject line for each message you sent began with your name, I only know this tidbit as my former boss, god rest his soul, would slip back into that old way of doing things, and put his name in the subject line. I've never heard of it before or since...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Individual Email (Not!)

        Pre 2000....

        Head Office had the nice stuff - proper email server etc etc Novell 386 (Lotus cc:Mail and then MS Exchange)

        We in the technical office had .... what ever we had to hand, so WfW 3.11, so we could do things like fax from desktop (gasp!) and they couldn't! For email we had a shareware email server that used a single POP3 emai address, but somehow analysed the emails and send it to the correct people. Flosietech? Flosietek? Something like that

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Individual Email (Not!)

        Wow, I'm in contact with someone who always puts her name as the subject.. I could never work or why...

      3. eionmac

        Re: Individual Email (Not!)

        25 email addresses were sufficient for about 450 office based staff per HQ. So all email subject lines began to YY from XX, but as all sharers could read them, we had the salary figures for all from HR who assumed emails were like sealed envelopes.

    4. Oh Matron! Silver badge

      Re: Instant Email (Not!)

      Mid 90s, I worked for HMSO.... They updated their terminals to Windows 3.11 running vt220 emulation (which is where you got your email). In fact, there were NO apps installed on windows bar the VT220.... Seems overkill, but it did allow me to make some wicked macros that had my work for the day finished by 10.30am :-)

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Instant Email (Not!)

        Macro's & scripts - The trick is not to tell anyone that.

        1. To Mars in Man Bras!
          Trollface

          Macros & Scripts

          Oh yes!

          The first job I was given on my first day as the new graphics guy, at a company I worked for back in the 90s, was to resize a folder of several hundred images to 640x480 pixels each [back when that was considered 'screen resolution'], for use on their CDROM software.

          Boss says. "I need these all done by Thursday. Do you think you can manage that?"

          "I should be able to" I assure him.

          Ten minutes later, after he's left the room, I'm idly reading the intarwebs while, in the background, Photoshop's "Automate" feature is swiftly batch processing the entire folder of images in a few minutes.

          The fact that you could automate Photoshop was a secret I guarded jealously from my non-graphically minded colleagues, during my entire employment there. If someone hove into view while a batch was processing, a quick click on the 'Pause' button and some ostentatious manual editing until they went away again made sure My reputation for being able to work through huge amounts of files with impressive speed remained untarnished.

          1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

            Re: Macros & Scripts

            Crafty!

            Or, perhaps I should say: Stupid colleagues.

        2. gotes

          Re: Instant Email (Not!)

          At a company I worked for recently there was a team of users who spent most of their day manually entering data from a spreadsheet in to an IBM RPG application via a terminal emulator. I showed them how they could complete this task in a matter of minutes using macros. Most of them were not impressed, I assume because it made them pretty much redundant, so they carried on doing it by typing everything in by hand.

          Data integrity? We probably haven't heard of it...

  6. Brex
    Thumb Up

    Memories

    Ah, good memories of using Eudora on my Mac back in the 90s.

    1. Daniel von Asmuth
      Thumb Down

      Re: Memories

      Back then the Microsoft TCP/IP stack did not support SLIP (for modems), so I had to use Trumpet WinSock, which was horribly unstable.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Happy

    Got a call one weekend and the conversation went like this:

    Caller: My name is <BLAH> and I'm the section head of <WHO CARES> team. Our computers are down and YOU need to fix this ASAP. I've got a report to run.

    Sure enough, I had no access to that site ... wait. Something's not right.

    Me: What site are you again?

    Caller: <BLAH> site. Are you fixing this or should I escalate this to YOUR MANAGER?

    I have heard of that site before. Checked my emails ... yup. There it is.

    Me: Is there power to the site?

    Caller: Uhhhh ... No. They are doing power maintenance downstairs.

    Wait for it ... wait for it.

    Caller: Oh. <CLICK!>

    1. Mr Sceptical
      Alert

      Deserved a good BOFHing

      That's the kind of user who clearly deserves to get up close and personal with the stained end of a bulk eraser or cattle prod...

      Or maybe they'd care to inspect the Halon system in operation?

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: Deserved a good BOFHing

        Too late, they fell through a window on the 8th floor.

        (Must get around to having some glass put in that window frame)

    2. Diodelogic

      Is Power Optional?

      While working at Microsoft as a front-line tech, another tech who was having a major problem with a customer's system asked me for some help. I was known as the "hardware guy" since I built my own machines, etc. The computer would not boot, would not display anything, would not--well, anything at all.

      After hearing the t-shooting steps that had been tried, I said, "The computer isn't plugged into the wall."

      The tech went back to the customer and asked him to make sure the system had power. The customer blew-up at him (I'm sure you've all had the experience) and let him know that he was a doctor and not some ignorant doofus off the street, and the problem was Windows and so forth. A week went by like this, and finally the tech asked the customer again to check that the computer was plugged-in.

      You can almost certainly guess the answer. No, the computer was not plugged-in.

      1. John 110

        Re: Is Power Optional?

        I might have said this before, but a wonderful IT person where I worked had a solution for the "not plugged in" fault. If it was obvious from the phone call that the power wasn't on, she would tell the user that they'd had problems with a batch on power cables and ask them to check the serial number on the wall plug. After a minute she usually got a sheepish reply that the problem seemed to have gone away....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Is Power Optional?

          That is a bit of brilliance. Just plausible enough to avoid tripping the bullshit detector, just specific enough to require the user to look, and (above all) implies that it is indeed the IT department's fault, so the user will cooperate.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Is Power Optional?

        "You can almost certainly guess the answer. No, the computer was not plugged-in."

        I've seen a situation where it really wasn't all that obvious to the user. They'd had some electrical work done at the office over the weekend which entailed all devices being unplugged from the wall sockets, them plugged back in ready for start of work on Monday. This user had PC, screen and printer. Three devices, check. Three plugs in wallpoints, check. But no power to the PC. Turns out the under desk fan heater is a 4th device and goes into the wallpoint behind the filing cabinet which currently has nothing plugged in. Naturally, all the cables are black and tangled up.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is Power Optional?

        Just last week, whilst visiting a relative, we woke up to the wifi/broadband not working one morning. After an hour or so of not wanting to get involved Standard Operating Procedure finally kicked in, and a quick examination of the router box in the living room discovered the power adapter plug in the back had been pulled out. Cats...

      4. Man inna barrel

        Re: Is Power Optional?

        Doctors might be an example of people who know lots about something, so they think they know about everything. One tragic example of a doctor lacking in common sense was the chap who decided to get his garden bonfire going with petrol. He died in a ball of flame. The general idea of learning from one's mistakes is that you do not actually die.

        Well I suppose the human species might have benefited by weeding out this poorly adapted person from the gene pool. However, there is a possibility that the self-immolating doctor already had children. Let us hope the good doctor bequeathed his stock of dangerous chemicals to his progeny.

  9. Joe W Silver badge

    Now that's a title

    Depending on how you group it:

    combat computer-repair-technician (impressive, like a black belt, gun toting commando BOFH, strapping mines to misbehaving machines - or users... )

    1. Mr Sceptical
      Pirate

      A Keyboard Killer...

      ... Providing you've got one of the early IBM keyboards you stand a good change in any hand-to-hand combat.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: A Keyboard Killer...

        Always bring a classic IBM keyboard to a PC/Mac fight :-)

        Or

        You call THAT a keyboard? THIS is a keyboard!!

    2. Evil_Goblin

      Re: Now that's a title

      Or someone capable of reformatting and re-installing Windows for Battlegroups while under fire...

    3. ThinkingMonkey

      Re: Now that's a title

      In the military, in addition to having the most massive case of "If we can't make an acronym out of its name, we're not having it." you've ever seen, there's also the "It is required to have a "cool" name." syndrome.

      I thought the same thing you did when I read the "combat computer technician" until I remembered that I had, many years ago, been an illustrious member of a "combat cargo" unit.

      "What kind of highly trained black-ops, special-ops fellow are you anyway?", you say? We carried the big frozen boxes of food from the huge freezers below decks to the smaller cook's freezers up in the mess hall and also toted big boxes of mail from the helicopters that landed on the ships to the ship's mailroom. Real "combat cargo" type stuff, you know. I hope I don't get charged with revealing confidential military secrets now....

      exiting the room walking backwards. Slowly.

  10. NibblyPig

    Couple of years ago I wrote an e-mail service connected to our application, and thanks to a fault, it got stuck in a loop sending error messages to my boss.

    Kudos(?) to SendGrid, which didn't even wince under the sheer load of infinite e-mails, going to my boss's phone. It was an iphone, and couldn't even use it because the sheer volume of incoming mail rendered it inoperative, except for incessantly beeping new e-mail over and over.

    I believe he took it into an apple store, where they were able to disable the e-mail client long enough for him to call me. Much to my relief he wasn't angry, just concerned. I switched off the service until it could be fixed, and when I looked through the source code, I saw my own TODO saying to implement something just in case it goes rogue. It was a startup, fast and loose, get the product out of the door so there were many such TODOs.

    When I went back there four years later, for a brief bit of work, I found the same TODO staring me in the face, along with pretty much every other one I'd put in. Some habits never change.

  11. chivo243 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    contactable at all times

    I should send you the bill for my shrink because you've brought back a lot of bad memories! In another industry, I had a pager for 2 years, hell would have been a picnic.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: contactable at all times

      I found pagers were very unreliable, especially on Friday afternoons!

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: contactable at all times

        And when *ahem* safely stored in a metal biscuit tin...

        1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: contactable at all times

          Pagers were (are, amazingly) a broadcast fire-and-forget system. There's no feedback to the network or sender as to whether a page was received. You could just have taken the battery out rather than risk exposing it when reaching for a biscuit.

          1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: contactable at all times

            But then I'd have had to think up another reason to empty the biscuit tin...

      2. chivo243 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: contactable at all times

        I found that 4am on Saturday was a good time for that!

      3. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: contactable at all times

        A pager I had survived being frozen when I threw it in a freezer during a NYE party (it went off when the batteries cooled to the point their voltage dropped), being immersed in very hot water when I flicked open my towel over a giant co-ed jacuzzi (the real point of joining that raquetball club) forgetting the beeper was in the towel, and being subsequently placed in the sauna to dry until it became too hot to hold and the metal belt-clip warped, and being thrown against I don't know how many hard objects.

        Motorola made a "good" product back then. Unfortunately.

    2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: contactable at all times

      I worked on call for quite a few years, ending about a decade ago. I had an Iphone at the time.

      The iphone ringtone still makes me panic when I hear it on TV.

  12. T. F. M. Reader

    History...

    I am not sure about 1994 or 1995 (by then Linux was my primary platform, but mail retrieval details are fuzzy in my mind), but I am pretty sure that in 1996 - still within the stated time period of the story - fetchmail -d 60 was no problem at all even for multiuser machines. Checking mail every minute was, however, considered absolutely unnecessary, so fetchmail -d 180 was normal for me and my colleagues.

  13. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Linux

    Win3.1

    When I got laid off from Data General, I had a Sun SPARCstation on my desk, had learned my way around UNIX, had discovered comp.os.minix and comp.os.linux, and had managed to download all 13 install diskette images and get Linux running on my 386.

    The next job wanted me to use ViewLogic on a networked 486 running Win3.1. To say that I was unimpressed would be an understatement. Try to do anything too complex and QEMM/Win3.1 would fall over backwards.

    Then, I discovered our one Sun system, also with ViewLogic installed on it. I brought in a second HDD, shoved it into my desktop, installed a dual boot Linux and configured it as an xterm off the Sun system. ViewLogic, of course ran fine on the Sun, through my xterm, since the Sun had a real operating system.

    It was at this point that I decided the folks building Linux had a far better idea of how to build an operating system than the chaps at Microsoft. The contrast between the two (one developed at great expense, and one produced as "stone soup" by folks who probably should have been doing something else) was enough to convince me that Windows was severely behind the curve as an OS...

    1. Snapper

      Re: Win3.1

      T'was ever thus!

    2. cob2018
      Linux

      Re: Win3.1

      If there was EVER a time when the Rubbish From Redmond was NOT "behind the curve" I must have blinked and missed it.

      Please provide date, time, location, and supporting documentation. ;^>

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    My first major upgrade

    Anyone else consider (at the time) a 56k Modem a massive speed boost?

    Can't remember what I had previously.

    1. rafff

      Re: My first major upgrade

      110Baud acoustic coupler and a DecWriter-> 300 baud modem -> 1200 -> 9600 ->19.2k; I never went higher with modems. (As a side note, writing modem firmware in C with Flex generatng the AT-command processor, and then shoe-horning into a 6502 with an 8k ROM was a fun project.)

      After that, Demon were offering the experimental ADSL at 2Mb with static IP addresses. Now, FTTC is sufficiently fast that I no longer care.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        Re: My first major upgrade

        My first 300 baud acoustic coupler, Omnitec 701B, bought new, was $350. A fortune in 1973.

        Lasted me a good long while, though.

    2. LoPath
      Pirate

      Re: My first major upgrade

      I remember the jump from 300 baud to 1200 baud was "incredible".

    3. StevieD

      Re: My first major upgrade

      1200/75, 1200, 9600 HST, 14.4k HST

      Ahh, the joys of blowing a few hundred quid downloading os/2 warp from rusty and edies one weekend over an old USR HST modem. It was legit work too, we were looking at "ahem" stable multitasking oses to use for our software.

      The beancounters were not amused :D They would have been even less amused if I'd broken the old v22 hayes out and used that !

      1. red floyd
        Linux

        Re: My first major upgrade

        A few hundred quid? At that point, it might have actually been cheaper to buy the box with the floppies in it...

        Of course, it wouldn't have been as much fun...

    4. Oh Matron! Silver badge

      Re: My first major upgrade

      I was on a trial at BT that got me bonded ISDN. 128K FTW!

      And then they took it back again :-(

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: My first major upgrade

        When I was a kid, we, like everybody else, had dial up.

        A friend round the corner had cable internet which was so fast that it could download a 3MB MP3 from Napster in a minute or so. Incredible.

      2. Down not across

        Re: My first major upgrade

        Remeber Freeserve?

        I had BT's crippled ISDN (HomeHighway) and used cisco 2503 to bond D channels via Freeserve. Yes, had to drop the line(s) every hour or something to keep the call free, but wasn't difficult to do with IOS and at least connection estabilished quick enough over ISDN that most applications didn't even notice.

        Eventually Freeserve cottoned on (I'm sure I wasn't the only one) and stopped allowing bonding. By that time DOCSIS solutions were available so it didn't really matter.

    5. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: My first major upgrade

      I remember spending over a hundred quid buying an external serial modem rather than the PCI winmodem so I could use it in Linux - for anybody too young to remember ( ! ), a winmodem was a modem where most of the hardware was implemented in software - meaning that the drivers didn't just need to be able to communicate with the hardware, they needed to implement it.

      I also remember a few years before that we had a dial up Internet connection that was unlimited usage for a fixed monthly fee on a freephone number - I've no idea how that was profitable.

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: My first major upgrade

        X-stream.

        I don't think it was profitable, hence you haven't heard of them since.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: My first major upgrade

          Xtreme & Freeserve. They were backup ISP's for me.

          I used ClaraNet & had a Mercury line, so weekends I used to dial into their overseas access number for the great price of 50p a irrespective of call length on Saturdays.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: My first major upgrade

          x-stream only worked through their dialler s/w IIRC and you got an advert banner across the bottom of the screen. All the rest of the "free" ISPs used 0845 numbers and where in effect their own telecoms provider so got the "termination fee" thanks to the newly created unbundling/competitive market.

          The main reason they've all gone is because there's no market for dial-up and the revenue model doesn't work with BB.

        3. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: My first major upgrade

          No, it was multiple words stuck together, like theinternetcompany or dialupforafixedmonthlyfeeoverthepublicswitchedtelephonenetwork

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My first major upgrade

        "winmodem was a modem where most of the hardware was implemented in software - meaning that the..."

        Meaning that the modem would crap out and drop the connection if your computer happened to need to do something at the wrong instant (do something like respond to a mouse movement of a few pixels).

        I worked at a regional ISP back in the winmodem era. I hated those things.

        If I had it to do over again, I'd have stocked "real modems", like external USR modems, and would have offered them as trial runs for people with crappy winmodems. Even selling them at a loss might have made up for the tech support time.

    6. l8gravely

      Re: My first major upgrade

      LOL! 56k was a speed daemon! My home C64 started with a 300 baud modem, I could read faster than the text could scroll by on the screen from the local BBS I dialed into. Anyone remember "Electronic New York" running Citadel BBS software? Fond fond fond memories...

      Then moving to a 1200 baud, then 240, then 33.2k then finally to my final 56k modem which I just recently in the past year got rid of. Good times!

      I still read email over SSH sessions, only pulling out the phone for important graphic laden ones, which isn't many.

    7. AK565

      Re: My first major upgrade

      After 56k, I discovered a modem used two phone lines. One was the 'dedicated' computer line that have you 56k. The second line was the 'house' line. When the house line was not in use the modem would use that to double speed. When a call came in or someone made a call the modem would disconnect from it.

      This was mid 90's. I don't recall details beyond getting a noticeable speed bump.

  15. slimshady76
    Holmes

    That Win 3.1/WinSocks house of cards...

    This one hit particularly close for me. I was a SysAdmin at the same period, with the same infamous combo of Windows 3.1/TCP WInSocks stack/Eudora Lite. Throw a bunch of axious Unversity professors/researchers in the mix, and you have a nice cocktail of endless summonings-to-the-desk.

    I even recall one of the researchers told me he started lowering the mail check interval incrementally "to see how far he could go before things went wrong". Ah, the joys of the scientific method.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: That Win 3.1/WinSocks house of cards...

      If you want scientific and email problems, you should read the story about the 500 mile email.

      1. slimshady76
        Pint

        Re: That Win 3.1/WinSocks house of cards...

        Thank you for that. It was an amusing and educating way to end the week.

        Have a cold one on me!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hi

    winds me up when i get an IM that simply says Hi,

    They go to the bottom of my list.

    my IM's start

    Hi <Name>,

    i'm trying to do XYZ & <colleague> said you could help me out. Any chance you can blah blah blah.

    at least give peole a chance to mull other stuff from the initial hello.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hi

      I very commonly start with a "Good morning." If they don't reply, it's because they're actually busy (not just "Teams says busy"). Sometimes someone will reply "In the middle of something, I'll get back to you." Otherwise they reply with a greeting, which lets me know they're not neck-deep in something and it's ok to proceed.

      What gets me is the folks who will start with this simple protocol, but when I reply with a similar greeting, will spend 5 minutes typing their initial query. At which point I've often moved on to something else.

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

      Re: Hi

      In my case, it's emails that start with "Hey!" They go straight in the bin.

    3. EVP Bronze badge

      Re: Hi

      Starting every single email with ”Hi” is quite a bit annoying too. If you have been exchanging a number of emails on the topic during the course of the day, it’s still ”Hi” first. You don’t need to handshake every fscking time!

  17. davebarnes

    I miss Eudora

    I really miss Eudora for email.

    It had some features that I used all the time that have never appeared in the mainstream email apps.

    1. l8gravely

      Re: I miss Eudora

      I still use 'VM" (viewmail) inside emacs for my day to day reading. My fingers are too hard wired to switch to mutt, and I haven't taken the time to re-wire mutt to match my fingers. One of these days...

    2. swm Silver badge

      Re: I miss Eudora

      I still use Eudora for my emails. Still gets the job done and is pretty virus proof if you don't download graphics.

  18. Great White North
    Devil

    Ah yes 110 baud acoustical couplers, I can whistle the connect tone, great fun to walk through the computer lab and get all the not in use modems trying to connect.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Omnitec 701

      The 701A had an optical sensor that disabled the microphone unless a handset was blocking the sensor.

      Every morning, a room full of Teletypes would greet me when I whistled the right tone.

  19. TomPhan

    Just checking everything takes up the work day

    Currently I can be contacted via: Teams, Yammer, email [Outlook and web based], SMS, pager, telephone [Avaya on my laptop, a desk phone, a work issued iPhone], notifications from Office components, WhatsApp.

    Perhaps one day there'll be enough time to do some work as well.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: Just checking everything takes up the work day

      You should have told me you had limited means of contact or I wouldn't have tried to contact you by courier, letter, telegram or pigeon post!

  20. stvangel

    Those were the days...

    In my software company way back then, I was one of the two partners. I made it a point that all machines had SCSI. Real ones like Adaptec and not the "SCSI" cards that came as a strange card bundled with a drive with documentation written in Mandarin. Forget getting those to work with anything else. IDE drives at the time were a joke. You got what you pay for. This was the days of 2x CD ROM burners and there were rules. You wanted to burn one, you disabled your screen saver, started the burn and walked away. Lunch was a good option as it was only a 2x and you had nothing else to do. Back then if you had any interruption you invariably made a coaster and had to start from the beginning. Windows wasn't very forgiving. Same days when doing a print job might make your computer unresponsive for a minute or so.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Those were the days...

      From around that era I remember printer/scanners that would for some bizarre reason would turn scanned documents into TIFF files whose size considerably exceeded the available RAM. And the software would hold the entire TIFF file in memory.

      Oops, I set the DPI too high, I need to reboot.

  21. Luiz Abdala Bronze badge
    Alert

    The worst I ever witnessed - and corrected - was...

    ...A network of 5 Windows 95 machines, all of them with modems, hogging up a PABX central to get - you guessed - dial-up internet access. (with fancy COAX thin-net 10base2 cables! Terminators! 50 Ohms! BNC connectors! All that jazz!)

    The thing was taking 5 phone lines, in a language-for-foreigners school. Five precious landlines which were used to enroll people in new courses.

    I put just one - on the principal's office - to do said modem dialing, installed a proxy software on it, and turned all other network cards to "gateway" access on that machine (fixed IPs are nice on small networks!). A valuable instruction to cause the modem to disconnect in 5 minutes, auto-dialing enabled, and the thing could complete most of web access requests without dropping the ball, if the modem got a line on the first try.

    Plus, the proxy would cache most of the own school central web pages, causing them to be extremely fast (static web pages were an asset back then!). Tested everything, you could hear the modem dialing on the other room, as you tried to browse on Netscape... and you could hear see the modem hanging up by the end of the shift when nobody was using for 5 minutes. Brilliant.

    The whole thing worked fine, and on the first year, they got 80% more students, because FOUR LINES were available. The whole jerry-rig I had done with proxy software went away when they bought their first ADSL line with a router. And Cat5 cables.

    I took the coax cable for myself with all the terminators, and assembled my own network at home, for free, after being cleared, of course.

  22. Jeffrey Nonken

    I have my desktop e-mail client set to check every 30 minutes. I have my work client set to alert me, but just a quiet sound.

    I have my phone set not to bother me. If I want to see if gmail has anything new, either I'll catch it on my desktop or I'll manually run it on my phone. I do not check my work e-mail on my phone.

    If it's that effing urgent, text or voice.

  23. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    Servers, no matter what size, shape or form factors they come in, must always "reside" in a secure room or a DC. Unfortunately for me, there are just times when this is not possible or you can't say "no". A JFDI (Just F*ckin' Do It) kind-a thing.

    So we have this PC that became a "server" and needs to be connected to the network at all times. And it sat on an empty cubicle. Alone.

    One day, during lunch time, I heard a "bing" from the NMS. The server is down. Geez.

    I soon discovered that someone has disconnected the server from the network and replaced it with a VoIP phone.

    While we were waiting for the dreaded angry calls from the servers "owners", I quickly called that phone extension and the conversation went like this:

    ME: Where is the server?

    (NOTE: No "pleasantries". I went straight for the kill. Some interrupted my lunch and that made my blood boil.)

    Person: I disconnected it ...

    ME: (Interrupting) Plug it back in. Now.

    (NOTE: By this time, I had two colleagues stop whatever they were doing and eavesdropping my call.)

    Person: I need the connect my phone. I am moving to this cubicle.

    ME: Plug the server back in.

    Person: Excuse me, do you know who you are talking to?

    ME: (Trying to calm down.) I don't care. In the next ten minutes, a group of angry people, led by the person sitting in that corner office, will be calling to find out why their precious little server has stopped working. How about I tell to come and see you?

    I let that sink in for a bit before ending the conversation with "Last warning: Plug that server back in." and terminated the call.

    Two colleagues were standing next to me, arms across their chest and eyes wide open, "Did you just threaten someone?".

    Before I could answer, the NMS chimed and we saw the notification of the server disappear. The server is back online.

  24. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

    emails...

    I used to work in a large (1000 bed) NHS Teaching Hospital. My (Clinical) manager used email to alert all (professional clinical) staff to the new 'targets' - usually a couple of times a day. As I was ward based and CBA logging in to ward Windows P C's (worked for the hospital for nearly 20yrs and logging in synced 20 years of email to your now local profile - thanks IT dept) I appeared to 'not read my emails' and was harried/persecuted for it by said manager

    Actually I did; just used the OWA (web access for those too young) which required no local login on the 12+ wards I would visit per day. Of course, this didn't send 'read' receipts/requests that my manager attached to *every* email he sent - including the "cakes are in the staffroom" sort.

  25. arctic_haze

    Eudora memories

    I was expected to use Eudora Professional at an American University around 2000. It was supposed to be the only mail client compatible with their server. Of course it was not and it could not even show anything outside ISO-8859-1 while I exchanging messages in a language with different character set. I quietly installed the Netscape client and everybody was happy. Except for Eudora.

  26. Bill Stewart

    I'm still using Thunderbird; my mom might still be using Eudora?

    I eventually bit the bullet and imported everything from Eudora into Thunderbird, but I still preferred Eudora.

    My mom might still be using Eudora 1.4 on her Mac (it's one of the G3 all-in-one slab versions, that she bought after the graphics card on her Performa 630 died.) She doesn't use it a lot (her vision hasn't been very good this century, and she doesn't see well enough to use mouse-driven things), so it's usually my sister reading it to her, and my sister might be doing that in Gmail (which she switched to after her dial-up provider suddenly stopped doing business. My siblings had been trying to get her to upgrade to broadband for a while, so they could use the Internet when visiting, but when all you're doing is a few dozen emails a week, dialup is just fine.)

  27. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

    Effectively I still use Netscape 0.92

    which got later Netscape 1/2/3/4 and 6. Then Mozilla Browser. Now Seamonkey 2.53.* from http://www.wg9s.com/ since I always hated Thunderbird trying to imitate Outlook Express, including the bad stuff. As for version 2.57.* and higher: Mail is still broken, folder tree pane is empty. Sadly.

    Oh, news 19th August: Official new beta avail https://www.seamonkey-project.org/news

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Effectively I still use Netscape 0.92

      I have wondered over the years whether Thunderbird was trying to be like Outlook, Outlook Express, or Outlook.com. Somehow it seems to miss the good points of each as well as avoiding the poor ones.

      It gives me the single log-in for email and diary across assorted devices, so that I can pick them up on my phone, PC, laptop and tablet. But the calendar client isn't great and I have to use a 3rd party sync tool (TBsync) to enable this across the devices.

      It has some basic filtering, which does for me, but that isn't great either.

      And it sort of allows a unified inbox*, so that I can see most of my emails at once, irrespective of the address, though not all because imap won't, and it doesn't make that particularly obvious either.

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      *Is it just me? Does everyone else with several email addresses want a different inbox for each of them, instead of just having a set of folders under one unified inbox, so that all emails for, say, purchasing go into that folder whether it's from a supplier or a co-worker ( when I worked f/t- mostly just friends and family now). But emails about admin would go into that folder, meetings into.........and so on.

      1. eionmac

        Re: Effectively I still use Netscape 0.92

        YES. I run 11 email addresses in separate folder in TB. Separates 'work' from 'personal' from 'mum' from XX

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Effectively I still use Netscape 0.92

          Ah, interesting. eionmac

          I use folder rules to put work, shopping, freelance work, family, retailers, etc. into the required folders under the unified inbox. Because I have more folders than addresses, by a factor. I'm guessing you have your own domain with unlimited addresses or aliases, so can generate an email address for each use case.. But that's still too much of a faff for my taste.

          I just have a small collection of free email accounts - I'm not relying on email for my livelihood so have no need to pay for accounts. And which email address I use only partly depends on purpose. Retailers I need to contact will always get my gmail account with a +recipient-name as part of the address;as in my.name+Tesco@gmail.com . But otherwise I rely on a filter rule to place emails where I want them to be.

  28. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Multitasking, background tasks and multi threading worked just fine on single core CPUs like the 386.

    So not a dream at all. Just for MS users it might have been a dream.

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