back to article He was a skater boy. We said, 'see you later, boy' – and the VAX machine mysteriously began to work as intended

Everyone loves a mystery so clamber into the On Call vaults for a good old-fashioned VAX-based whatdunnit. Our story takes us back some 40 years when Register reader "Ethan" (for that is definitely not his name) was toiling away in product support for DEC. DEC, or Digital Equipment Corporation, was quite the noise in the …

  1. herman Silver badge
    Flame

    Static

    I fondly remember the years when static electricity was a real problem.

    A whole CIT-Alcatel telephone exchange would go wonky whenever a cleaner polished the black perspex doors of the 19 inch racks.

    Since then, we have learned how to do grounding and bonding properly and there is even a Mil Spec and three different and conflicting handbooks on static control.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Static

      Does anyone but me remember populating memory cards with RAM while standing naked in a bath-tub full of cool water? Sounds like over-kill to avoid static, but try to remember that my first 32K of RAM set me back around US$2,000 in 1978 (I *think* that was the price ... might have a trifle more), and the early chips were dreadfully sensitive to static. Yes, 32 kilobytes.

      1. A K Stiles Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Static

        Not quite that era, or that extreme!

        I do remember buying my first PC (486DX66) and speccing the memory be doubled (to 8MB I think) which cost me something like £160. Around the same time I remember reading an article in a computing magazine that made the ludicrous suggestion that the author could foresee a point in the future where the cost of memory might come down to as little as £1 a megabyte!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Static

          soooooooo middle class ;o) i only had a 486DX33 with 4mb

          1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Static

            My first "modern" PC was an AMD "586" with 16MB RAM. I upgraded it to 32MB EDO (Extended Data Out?) RAM, replacing the FP or "Fast Page" RAM it shipped with . I remember when you booted it, it would cheerfully announce "EDO RAM Installed!", assuring you that you were on a fast track to the future and all was right with the world..

            1. Dewlap

              Re: Static

              My very first was a Sinclair ZX-81. I bought the kit, but was sent the UK version. The replacement was assembled. Next, a TI-99/4A. The first Intel based was a knock-off of the Compaq "portable" - 5" green screen monitor, 640KB RAM, 2 5.25" full-height floppy drives with a full size controller card. I eventually upgraded it with a Hayes 1200B, a full size MFM controller, and a 20MB hard drive.

              1. TomG

                Re: Static

                I started with a Sinclair progressed to the TI-99/4A. I still have the TI.

          2. Trygve Henriksen

            Re: Static

            And my first was a 386sx 16MHz, with 2MB RAM, 42MB HDD and both 3.5" and 5.25" diskette drives.

            It had a 14" monochrome CRT, though. Because I couldn't afford a Colour monitor at the same time.

            1. Unubtanium

              Re: Static

              My first "modern" one was a 8086 Toshiba, 1 MB Mem and 20 MB disk and monochrome LCD(was a drag able) laptop. Was the king of the street with it. Anyone remember "staking you HDD" for "more Space" ???? Think it was Dos 6.22 that "popped my cherry" Man i loved that machine!!!

              1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
                Happy

                Re: Static

                My first ever PC though (or perhaps I should say "microcomputer"), was a Commodore PET.

                1. ricardian

                  Re: Static

                  I used the CBM PET as an introduction to 6502 assembler and bought Raeto West's invaluable book "Programming the Pet/CBM". I think I paid about £5 for it in the early 1980s - now Amazon are selling copies for over £60 (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Programming-Pet-Cbm-Raeto-West/dp/0942386043). I must have a dig around the attic to see if I kept my copy.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Static

                  Ah, the PET - I had the 4K version but a clever friend helped me upgrade to 32k plus a floppy drive...hours of innocent fun persuading the little beast to write in lower case. *Sigh*

              2. rototype
                Coat

                Re: Static

                Think you mean Stacking - Staking is what you do to Vampyres when they become a pain in the neck.

          3. Dante Alighieri

            Obligatory

            xkcd

          4. ridley

            Re: Static

            In 1995 I was running a small computer company when someone offered me some 1mb memory sticks at what I though was a very good price, so I bought iirc 300 of them at a few pounds each.

            That night the love earthquake happened and dram just disappeared. Over the next few weeks dram became scarcer and scarcer and I just held, didn't even bother building pcs. Suppliers kept offering me more and more...

            Eventually o sold for iirc £100 a stick and went on a very nice holiday.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Static

              Kobe, shirley?

      2. David Roberts
        Trollface

        Re: Static

        Yeah.

        I remember having a few beers then writing that section of the tech manual.

        Didn't think anyone would take it seriously, though.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Static

        my first 32K of RAM set me back around US$2,000 in 1978

        When I started using computers in the early 70s core memory was approximately 1 currency unit(¹) per memory unit(²). In 1979 we were flabbergasted by the drop in price when we bought 16 kwords (16 bit words) of semiconductor memory for a PDP-11 for a mere £2000.(³)

        (¹) Dollars or pounds. Pounds were worth more in those days, but the dollar/pound ripoff was even bigger than today.

        (²) Bytes or words. 24 bit words for ICL 1900s.

        (³) I also remember paying £2k for a 1GB 12" Winchester drive circa 1986/7.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Static

          TSMC just announced prices for its new 5nm wafers

          One of the figures was 680MTr/$ = I learned that transistors/dollar is a unit and they are now literally too cheap to measure !

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: Static

            "Transistors/dollar"

            They're cheating though, they make smaller ones each year and charge the same price :-)

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Static

          "(³) I also remember paying £2k for a 1GB 12" Winchester drive circa 1986/7."

          More likely to have been 100Mb. 1GB 5.25" drives were $2000 in late 1994

          1. rototype

            Re: Static

            1986/7 more likely to be 10MB

      4. DS999

        Never heard of anyone ever doing that

        I think it may have been just you. I've heard of wrist straps but never anything so ridiculous as what you describe.

        1. Shooter
          Happy

          Re: Never heard of anyone ever doing that

          No kink shaming, please! Whatever makes him happy...

          1. jake Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Never heard of anyone ever doing that

            Who's ashamed? I was young and impressionable, had just got to Berkeley, all my friends were doing it ... All I remember about it was that I was terribly excited, and awfully pleased with myself when it all worked the way it was supposed to. I only did it that way the once, I discovered other options that came more easily to me, and were more fulfilling.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Never heard of anyone ever doing that

          Might have been hazing, but it was a common recommendation in Silly Con Valley through the late '70s or thereabouts.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Static

        A price $2K for 32K static memory in '78 seemed a bit on the high side from what I remembered so looked it up in the December 1978 issue of BYTE. In the Jameco ad. A couple of mix and match options but it worked out a around $250 for 32K bytes of memory chips. The TTL support chips on the board would have been about another $10 / $20 or so.

        $2K was about the full system price if you bought say a high end Z80A, a MC6845 based video etc, and all the peripherals.

        Now a PDP 11 fully populated 32K board would have put you back $2K in 1978.

        Of all the companies advertising in that BYTE issue in 1978 Jameco is one of the very few still in business. You can see their building beside 101 when heading north just before you get to San Mateo. Around the same time Oracle Towers hoves into view. Looking like the set backdrop for a RoboCop reboot.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Static

          "Now a PDP 11 fully populated 32K board would have put you back $2K in 1978."

          Heath H-11, LSI-11, Q-bus. In kit form. Came with the parts to make it 32K, was upgradable to 64K. Bought from a guy I met at the Homebrew Computer Club for just under list price ... it was still in the original, unopened box. He was selling off all his home computer kit, priorities changed with a new baby in the house.

          I swapped that board and a well used, refurbed by me, PC11 for a 64K board a couple months later.

        2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          Re: Static

          In the early 90s, we paid for a memory upgrade on our McDonnell Douglas 19/300 and iirc, all he did was move a jumper to enable the memory that was already there.

        3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Static

          Do you know OCP is an anagram of COP?

      6. rototype

        Re: Static

        My first real PC was a Rair Black Box, 256kB RAM, 8085 CPU and a 10MB 5 1/4" full height HDD running MP/P (Multiuser CP/M). It came with DB2, WordStar and after a long slow train journey to Sheffield one evening after work - SuperCalc.

        Not a games machine as the input/output was all via RS232 to either printers or dumb terminals but I do remember I managed to get a BASIC version of Othello (Reversi) once and managed to massively increase the speed of it from re-drawing the whole screen every move to addressing the screen locations individually then compiling it.

        Such fun we had back in the day but it did teach me how to troubleshoot RS232 problems and that's more than paid for itself.

        <Think we need an owd codger icon for 'Back in my day....'>

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Static

      You're all too young!

      My first own PC was an 80286 with the RAM upgraded to 1MB from the standard 512KB. I acquired an RLL* HD controller and suitable disk which pushed the storage to a whopping 32MB.

      For those who don't know these altered the recording density across the drive which gave a 50%+ increase in capacity.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Static

        My first own PC was an 80286 with the RAM upgraded to 1MB from the standard 512KB. I acquired an RLL* HD controller and suitable disk which pushed the storage to a whopping 32MB.

        If that was a ST225 with an RLL controller? Living dangerously, you were. But if you religiously kept track of the sectors going wonky by running stuff like SpinRite you had some safety margin.

        My first PC was also a 286, 12MHz and 1M memory. HD was a 3.5" NEC, 20MB. The one after that was a 386/40 with 8M, which ended up with two surplus RD54 (Maxtor 3190) disks on an ARLL controller, so over 600MB disk space.

        I just realised that my current file server takes just a bit more space than those two RD54s, and offers 6TB, 10000 times the storage.

        1. Noel Morgan

          Re: Static

          still remember typing

          debug

          g=c800:5

          and 1701 errors (somebody was a star trek fan)

      2. HandleAlreadyTaken

        Re: Static

        >You're all too young!

        >My first own PC was an 80286 with the RAM upgraded to 1MB from the standard 512KB.

        Well, you're quite a spring chicken too then :)

        My first PC used an 8086 (yeah, with the whole 16 bit data path!), running at a glorious 4.77 MHz, packed full with 640 kb of RAM (which was enough for everybody)! And it had a whooping 20 Mb disk, so enormous that the OS couldn't even conceive such a thing could exist - so I had to split it in a 4Mb and a 16 Mb partition

        1. Jeffrey Nonken

          Re: Static

          Pfft. KIM-1. 6502, 1K of RAM. Never did anything useful on it; I had some utilities (like an assembler, for one) and was on the verge of burning a ROM that would have helped bootstrap me towards more utility when the tapes were stolen from the back of my car. Somebody must have been surprised when they played the tapes and got a lot of screeching, but that gave me little satisfaction. The utilities were no longer available, so I gave up.

          My first practical computer was a Z80-based TRS-80 Model 1. Ran a dial-up BBS on it for a while. I had the RAM maxed to 48k, modified it and the OS so I could run a faster CPU; lower case with descenders; and four double-sided floppy drives.

          1. swm Silver badge

            Re: Static

            My first computer was a "big board" Z80 computer with 16KBytes of memory (I think) with dual 8" 240KBytes floppy disks. The operating system was 512 bytes.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Static

              That we're luxury. A 1MHz CPU with 4 clock instruction execution. You lucky bastard. We had nowt but a 600Khz CPU with 6 to 12 clocks per instruction.

              Floppy disks? Floppy disks. How 'bout paper tape punches and a teletype keyboard you had to punch hard to get a key strike. Fingertips rubbed raw and bleeding after 10 minutes. And the printer so loud your ears would start ringing after about 30 mins and start going deaf after 60. It were quieter workin' down mine at coal face with pit ponies.

              A boot-loader and monitor? In EPPROM? How about a bootstrap loader that had to be input using binary toggle keys on a front-panel. In Octal. Did have nice flashing lights thought. It were like Christmas everyday, it was.

              Some people dont know ther're born. Soft Southern bastards.

              1. ICL1900-G3

                Re: Static

                Yep, programmed in the bootloader for a DG Nova from the front panel, but MY first computer was an IBM 360/30 running BOS - even more primitive than DOS.

        2. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
          Boffin

          Re: Static

          Mine was an XT, I forget how much (little?) memory I had, but I earned myself a 20MB Hard card (HDD on an expansion card) by fixing someone else's similar machine and taking their old HDD as payment. Saved having to keep swapping the 5¼" floppies around to load programs.

          1. rototype

            Re: Static

            Obligatory "Who needs more than 640k?"

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Static

          "My first PC used an 8086 (yeah, with the whole 16 bit data path!), running at a glorious 4.77 MHz, packed full with 640 kb of RAM"

          The original IBM PCs came with 64kB ram as standard. Some of the clones maxed out at 256kB

          it wasn't that much earlier that we were drooling over 8kB microcomputers and thought a 32kB PET was impossible to fill

    3. Coastal cutie

      Re: Static

      Way back when in my banking days, when mainframe terminals were the size of a small desk, we had a records clerk who carried enough static to trip the overload switch. They might have found the problem sooner if they'd listened to all of us who complained of getting nasty shocks off her and had witnessed metal handrails sparking as she went to touch them. New (less cheap and nasty) carpet and a change of footwear sorted it.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Static

        Cheaper to sack her surely?

        On a related note of static induced issues....

        I had an electronics tutor that was known for killing computers bought from Dixon's (Even when tested in store, gets it home, DOA). Make model didn't matter. His demonstrations never worked, he blew up transistors for a past time, just by proximity & would spend so much time trying to find a working, or nearest equivalent that the point of the lecture was totally lost.

        Some rat of a student (For beer money (Not me)) flogged this to the tabloids as the man who had to discharge himself, before kissing his wife when leaving or arriving from work.

        In hindsight, being a lecturer in electronics was the best career course for him, as he was probably unemployable as a field service guy.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Static

          Cheaper to sack her surely?

          I'm sure she would be an electrifying experience in the sack.

        2. Slef

          Re: Static

          "Cheaper to sack her surely?"

          Does sex reduce static?

      2. Snapper

        Re: Static

        Worked with a guy we called 'Captain Magnetic'.

        He only had to be close by and the computers just went strange.

      3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Static

        I expect it was here that I read* a story about an office worker, female, whose computer-related misfortunes were resolved when she dressed in underwear that didn't e.g. crackle electrically (?)

        Outerwear too, but apparently the underwear was the problem.

        * Ah - looking down, I may be about to read it again.

    4. Ozzard
      Mushroom

      Nylon knickers: a whole new problem for "Britain's first supercomputer"

      My father worked as a commissioning and maintenance engineer on London Atlas in the early '60s. Apparently they needed to ground the operator's chair and other bits of the environment once nylon knickers came in, lest said operators knock the machine out with a static zap.

      That said, the panel into the machine at the side of the operator's chair was frequently removed: it was where the chilled air entered, and hence a perfect place to keep the shift's stash of (also recently introduced) Ski yoghurts.

      (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TRfy70DqD8)

      1. GreyWolf

        Re: Nylon knickers: a whole new problem for "Britain's first supercomputer"

        I can confirm that about the nylon underwear. Same problem occurred at CEGB's IBM 7094. The operators were all female; some embarrassed manager had to tell them "No More Nylon".

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: Nylon knickers: a whole new problem for "Britain's first supercomputer"

          Probably more embarrassing for the male member of staff that kept causing sparks to fly.

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: Nylon knickers: a whole new problem for "Britain's first supercomputer"

            Probably more embarrassing for the male member of staff that kept causing sparks to fly.

            Oh god, Bri-Nylon underpants. Proof positive that the devil exists.

            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              Re: Nylon knickers: a whole new problem for "Britain's first supercomputer"

              You bastard! I'd managed to forget those abominations! Now my twitch is back...

        2. Richard Pennington 1
          Joke

          Re: Nylon knickers: a whole new problem for "Britain's first supercomputer"

          They must have bought their knickers at Marks and Sparks...

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Nylon knickers: a whole new problem for "Britain's first supercomputer"

        Once when testing for this kind of thing, I discovered that the average female office worker can generate upwards of 85KV walking down the hall to get a cuppa, but myself walking along the same path came up static free. Seems my unmentionables were made of cotton, hers were made of silk and petrochemicals. Her heels were leather, my soles were high-carbon rubber.

        It might not be very politically correct to discuss such things these days, but then I don't get paid to be PC, I get paid to fix problems.

  2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
    WTF?

    Yes, those were the days - NOT

    I remember our PDP 11/34 in the early '80's used to have it's disk drive opened up about once a month or so and the tech pull the platters out and wipe them down with a cloth wet with alcohol to clean them. Usually after he was called due to a head crash. Reliability? What's that?

    My bet is the roller blade guy was jerking the cabinet rather than it being a static issue. Especially at UCSD, given the humidity there a couple of thousand feet from the ocean.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

      The RA82s I worked with on VAXes in the mid 80s were, I believe, something of a revelation as they worked reliably!

      We had a PDP 11/45 but fortunately that was never switched on.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

        Biggest problem with with RA drives as I remember was the drive belts snapping other than that I don't remember any big issues, early RD series were very prone to failure from memory until they got earthing issues sorted.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

          Biggest problem with with RA drives as I remember was the drive belts snapping

          There was a problem with the breather vent crumbling and its debris dropping on the upper platter. The VAX errorlog just listed the logical block numbers, but a colleague had written a tool that converted those LBNs to head/track/sector, and if it coughed up that most of the errors were on head 13 you asked logistics for a new 70-18491-01. Yes, that number is seared into a few synapses.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

      In the 1980s, I looked after a Systime 5000E (repackaged PDP11/34A with 22 bit addressing bolted on) which had CDC SMD drives rather than DEC drives.

      We payed an external data company to clean the platters of all of the disk packs about once every 6 months (normally during the academic vacations). This was mainly because we would regularly switch disk packs, as we ran 2 OSs (RSX11/M and UNIX Edition 6 and later 7) at different times of the week.

      The guy came in with a machine that would not only allow him to clean (with solvent and special large lint free giant cotton bud like tools) but also check the balance and warp of the platters to try to stop head crashes. I think it earned us a slight discount on the system maintenance cost.

      When they came in, they wanted the space they would work in to be deep cleaned, and insisted that the doors and windows were shut while they were working.

      Our biggest bug-bear was heat. It was meant to be an office environment machine, but we found it required more ventilation than we could give it, and we anxiously watched the thermometers during the summer. Difficult decision to either open the windows and let dust in, or keep them shut and watch the temperature. They bean counters would not allow us to buy a window mounted AC unit, which would have been the best solution.

      1. Bogbody

        Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

        I worked for Systime in the '80s (up until the last but one big redundancy loop).

        I was at the meeting where we were shown the first CDC 90meg SCSI half-hight drive by tbe CDC rep "Dave".

        Washing machine sized hard drives vanished that day. :-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

          Wow! I'm still shocked by the fact that you had to clean the platters of hard disk drives!

          All the drives I've seen have been sealed (1st HDD seen 1988 ish)

          1. the hatter

            Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

            It was a revolution, going from drives that were big because that's how they made them, and which needed servicing , all sorts of possible work, and too expensive to scrape a whole unit. At some point, they figured that platters were reliable enough that it would benefit them to be sealed, and once sealed, they could downscale a lot of the methodology, because they no longer had to be resilient to some of the things the large platters (and their heads) in crudely-filtered air had to tolerate.

          2. Nasal Explorer

            Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

            "All the drives I've seen have been sealed (1st HDD seen 1988 ish)".

            Ah, young-uns.

            1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

              "Young-uns"

              Not really, no.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

        Hey, another Systimer!

        I worked West Midlands between 1980-1988

        Ah yes, the regular PM of SMD Drives...

        Just before leaving DEC took over Systime in 1986 I brokered a deal for a bankrupt company to sell off their Systime 11/44 CPU as an upgrade to a Systime 5000 11/34 on a certain mediterranean island.

        I supervised the packing and shipping and waved it goobye.

        It wasn't so simple a CPU upgrade when it arrived. There was a persistant memory error and they had suffered a head crash on one of the CDC9762 drives.

        I bribed our storeman for an upper and lower head and booked flights out to try and fix it.

        Once on the island I found a CDC engineer with an alignment pack & tool that he could lend me (more bribery)

        I couldn't get hold of the CDC tester to position the heads so had to write a routine to poke commands directly into the Control & Status Registers of the drive controller, and to plug each head into "head 0" to read the data.

        I finally managed to swap and align the crashed head.

        I performed the drive clean with some swabs, alcohol and a plastic ruler, whilst the drive was out of its pack.

        Definitely a squeaky bum moment as the pack was loaded and the power button pressed, but it loaded the heads and read data OK!

        What a fun company Systime was (escpecially coming from the dinosoar that was BT)!

        1. Bogbody

          Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

          Òh yes! I worked at HQ in Leeds "Windolene Palace". I was in QA under Harry and Alex.

          Intetesting times indeed :-)

      3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

        One of these days I will learn to type and spell correctly. Not holding my breath, though.

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Yes, those were the days - NOT

      I worked as a temp replacement test tech on the RK06 production line in Westfield, MA for two summers while in graduate school. I recently ran across my documentation binders.

      For an EE just about to enter the workforce, those two summers were a great education in practical engineering and what happens on the production floor. I even got paid!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wheeled office chairs

    A friend on mine used to work in an office where one of the workers had a German Shepard as a guide dog.

    It used to love grabbing the back of a chair and dragging it (and its user) through a doorway and onto the top of the fire exit stairs.

    Only defence was to give it a dog treat.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Wheeled office chairs

      I've been grabbed by a few office dogs in my time! Normally at the Xmas party! And they just wanted a treat from me as well!

      Had to be --------------->

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Wheeled office chairs

      "a German Shepard as a guide dog"

      For you Brits, that's an Alsation.

      This cross-pond translation brought to you free of charge.

      1. Symon Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Wheeled office chairs

        Ah, thanks. We call it a German Shepherd. --->

        p.s. I think the name changed because something happened in the past which made the Germans unpopular in the UK. Can't quite remember what though...

        1. Look! A big red button!

          Re: Wheeled office chairs

          I think I can help you out here. I'm pretty sure this was because of the Euro '96 Semi-Final. It was at the same time that Dachshund became draught excluders.

          1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

            Re: Wheeled office chairs

            At 'Button, I gave you an upvote just for your choice of pseudonym. I wish I could give you another for the comment as well. Please accept a pint & I'll toast you on both accounts.

            As for why the Germans might have been hated, I thought that was when the Oktoberfest switched to Light Beer & started being served by fat hairy men instead of sexy girls in revealing attire. I could be wrong, but then I've been busy oggling the Saint Pauli lady & her huge ... tankards!

            *Cough*

        2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Wheeled office chairs

          I think the name changed because something happened in the past which made the Germans unpopular in the UK.

          About the same time as the royal family changed their name from "Saxe-Coburg and Gotha" to "Windsor".

          1. Vincent Ballard
            Thumb Up

            Re: Wheeled office chairs

            And the Battenburgs became Mountbattens.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Wheeled office chairs

              Yeah, they got sick of people quoting "let them eat cake".

      2. jasha

        Re: Wheeled office chairs

        They changed it back about 40 years ago, and it's generally interchangeable these days.

        Don't mention the war. The first one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wheeled office chairs

          First (and so far only) time I went to Germany, I saw a German Shepherd the first day I was there. I caught myself wondering if they were just called "shepherds" over there. Or, would it be a German German Shepherd?

          I was quickly distracted by the local beers, and never asked about the nomenclature.

          1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Re: Wheeled office chairs

            Unless you're a Formula One nerd, you probably haven't heard of the dual axis steering Mercedes introduced this year. They're German, of course, and in German it's Das DAS system, which sounds like a Kraftwerk lyric.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Wheeled office chairs

              If your were a Formula One nerd then you probably know that the Mercedes F1 team's engineering base is in Brackley in the UK where they've been since they've been through BAR, Honda and Brawn team names. So it was probably "the DAS system" ... and knowing English engineering humour they probably intentionally called its the DASS system to be able to confuse German management!

              I've heard that the engineering side of the current Renault F1 team always refer to themselves as "Enstone Racing" from where they are based whatever the official name is (has been Benneton, Renault, Lotus, Renault again and about to rebrand as Alpine)

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Wheeled office chairs

                Ever notice the F1 nerds never talk about racing? That's because follow-the-leader is a child's game, not racing ...

                1. Rich 11 Silver badge

                  Re: Wheeled office chairs

                  As opposed to the preferred Yank style of racing, which boils down to going round and round in flattish circles until a tiny drop of water threatens to fall from the sky.

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: Wheeled office chairs

                    At least they are racing.

                    The rain tire issue has been contemplated, but they decided not to go that route because they want fans in the stands. Unlike the F1 primadonnas, the NASCAR drivers are quite happy to meet the fans, sign autographs, etc. They know which side of their bread the butter is on.

                    (Note that I'm not a fan of NASCAR. Far too crass & commercial. I'm more of an old time racing fan ... where we happily drive on road courses, in the rain. Here's the schedule for my local track ... not a lot of oval track racing there. Not even when the NASCAR circus is in town.)

                    1. jdzions

                      Re: Wheeled office chairs

                      Since there are no fans in the stands at the moment ('cause 'Murica is completely incompetent when it comes to stamping out COVID), they've actually done a race or two as true road courses with rain tires and all. Don't think they've actually raced in the wet, but they prepared for it. That's a change, and a good one as far as I'm concerned.

          2. ABehrens

            Re: Wheeled office chairs

            They just call it a German Shepherd dog. But of course in German: "Deutscher Schäferhund".

      3. UCAP

        Re: Wheeled office chairs

        We call them German Shepards as well. Alsation dogs are actually a separate breed now (although derived from the German Shepard breed back in the dim and distant pass).

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Wheeled office chairs

          Yes I know about the "official" name change ... but my Brit friends still call my critters Alsations when they are visiting.

          As for the "separate breed", Shirley you're not talking about the designer dog sometimes called the Shepalute? These things exist for one reason, and one reason only: Separating fools from their money.

        2. Vometia Munro

          Re: Wheeled office chairs

          The name "Alsatian" still makes me shudder slightly: separate breed inasmuch as many of those seemingly ubiquitous dogs in the area where I grew up were encouraged to be aggressive and were notoriously temperamental as a result. AFAIK it's nothing innate about the German Shepherd, just that... well, a lot of people got them as hard-man status symbols and the rest got them to protect their homes from the former group.

      4. David Roberts
        Headmaster

        Re: Wheeled office chairs Alsace-Lorraine

        https://www.google.com/url?q=https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Shepherd

        Just to correct the weird left-pondian spelling.

        Dogs from Alsace so Alsatian.

        1. ABehrens

          Re: Wheeled office chairs Alsace-Lorraine

          That's not a left-pond spelling. It's simply wrong, on both sides of the water.

      5. Scott 53

        Re: Contact-tracer spoofing is already happening – and it's dangerously simple to do

        "For you Brits, that's an Alsation."

        Translation: Alsatian.

        1. jake Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Contact-tracer spoofing is already happening – and it's dangerously simple to do

          Sorry about the spleling, I know better ... I had my "in the wee hours" filter installed on the fingers, normally I manage to catch that kind of thing before posting. Mea culpa. Beers all around.

      6. Bloakey1

        Re: Wheeled office chairs

        No, to those Brits that is a German Shepherd and an "Alsation" would be an Alsatian in their language.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Wheeled office chairs

      Really shouldn't let BOFH train the guide dogs.

      1. rototype

        Re: Wheeled office chairs

        Ever heard of 'Lucky' - GSD trained as a guide dog - See QI for details

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Wheeled office chairs

          Also rebutted at Snopes.com ;-)

          https://www.snopes.com/?s=Wuppertal

    4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Wheeled office chairs

      It used to love grabbing the back of a chair and dragging it (and its user) through a doorway and onto the top of the fire exit stairs.

      Ooooooohhhh... a BOFH-trained doggo! Hey, Simon! Here's an idea on luser control!

      1. Stumpy Silver badge

        Re: Wheeled office chairs

        No maybe trained by the PFY.

        If it were BOFH trained, then surely it wouldn't have stopped at dragging them to the TOP of the fire exit stairs. It would have been trained to gently push them over the edge ...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Wheeled office chairs

          Maybe that happened if it wasn't bribed suitably rewarded.

    5. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Wheeled office chairs

      What about the defence involving kicking the out of control animal down the stairs?

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Wheeled office chairs

        I have a bizarre knack of being able to say 'hello doggy' in a stupid voice and any dog other than my own will immediately stop leaping at my throat and play nice. Worked on a bull mastiff today but not in time to not look like something out of Ghost Hunters.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Wheeled office chairs

        With a properly trained German Shepherd it would take your leg with it.

        Whether or not the rest of you would still be attached to it is none of its concern.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Wheeled office chairs

          A properly trained guide dog wouldn't be dragging chairs around, regardless of who was sitting in them. And they certainly wouldn't be removing the limbs of passers by.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: Wheeled office chairs

            Is it actually an employee with a guide dog, or some random passer by that the dog dragged into its self-chosen warm electric humming home and won't allow them to leave...

  4. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Moments of Inertia

    Bored of chair races one evening we removed the wheels from a swivel chair, sat the youngest technician on it and gave him two of the heaviest lab PSUs he could hold at arms length. We span him as fast as we could and then he pulled in the PSUs to his body. Luckily the tech and one of the PSUs survived intact and we were never tempted to try again.

    1. IT's getting kinda boring

      Re: Moments of Inertia

      Something similar - sit on a chair, the other operators pushed said chair, chair + occupant shoot down a corridor between tape racks.

      Great until one guy didn't bother to try and stop before reaching the door at the end of the corridor. Lets just say the door came off worse....

      Luckily for us the damage wasn't discovered until a few weeks later when we were off shift...

      1. juice Silver badge

        Re: Moments of Inertia

        > Great until one guy didn't bother to try and stop before reaching the door at the end of the corridor. Lets just say the door came off worse....

        In a previous life, the building was retrofitted with tiny meeting rooms at either end of each floor - basically little glass cubes with glass doors, which usually had a table in which took up about 70% of the available space, forcing everyone to sit with their backs literally pressed to the walls.

        And as the company grew, these rooms became in greater demand, and more people tried to squeeze into them. And that meant that there was a permanent battle over chairs, as people dragged them from one room to another.

        Until one day, someone was a bit too enthusiastic about their chair dragging, and caught the door somehow. I'm not clear on whether they rammed it, or somehow managed to hit a flaw or a resonant frequency, but the door immediately decided to emulate a car window and turned itself into many, many tiny glass cubes, liberally scattered across the carpet...

      2. amacater

        Re: Moments of Inertia

        I'm a wheelchair user. Took a door off its hinges at school after going down a slope at high speed. Missed the wall either side. I was actually wearing a seat belt so only sprained my ankle and didn't break my neck ... I don't wear a lap belt any more - safer to bail out of the chair.

        Data centre and chair races - "For safety's sake we're removing the wheeled chairs from the data centre" "But I'm _in_ a wheelchair, ... " Oh, ah, yes, not you" :)

    2. Vometia Munro

      Re: Moments of Inertia

      lol; wonderful, and the replies. The infamous "chair training course" in Dilbert probably isn't satire.

  5. Locky

    The need for speed

    Reminds me of something a old BOFH told me back in PFY days.

    In terms of the cost of DR, never underestimate the cost saving a speeding techie with a boot load of DLT tapes in their car.

    1. bpfh Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: The need for speed

      Yep. Never underestimate the bandwidth of the fedex truck. Ping times suck though!

      1. Symon Silver badge
        Go

        Re: The need for speed

        The best thing about FedEx is their logo. Once you see why → you can never un-see it!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The need for speed

          The spoon in the E, by chance? :)

        2. Vometia Munro

          Re: The need for speed

          I never noticed that before. It made my eyes go all funny.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: The need for speed

      When I was at Stanford, early one Saturday morning a Grad student drove to Berkeley on his motorcycle & came back with tapes of the over-night build of 3BSD. Our Professor, visiting from DARPA for a couple weeks/months (a dude by the name of Cerf, you may have heard of him), wondered how the hell our VAX had the latest version of BSD already running (10AM-ish), when the Switched56 connected source code system hadn't completed the download of the source, much less started to compile it.

      Biker's answer: "My motorcycle's latency might be sub-par, but it still has a much higher bandwidth capability than your network!". Cerf's reply? "Nice hack!" ... A variation of this quote ("station wagon full of mag tape") is often attributed to Tanenbaum in 1996, but it was a fairly common meme around 1980.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: The need for speed

        "a dude by the name of Cerf,"

        In California? Yeah, must be a gnarley Cerfer Dude.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: The need for speed

          Nah. He was a suit. We went surfing to get shut of him and his ilk.

    3. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge

      Re: The need for speed

      Indeed. It was short session with a pencil and a notepad that saw me driving a server 90 miles up the road rather than squirting the contents of the discs down the wire.

    4. IT's getting kinda boring

      Re: The need for speed

      Been there, seen it, done it.

      Boot load of reel to reel mag tapes in a beat up Fiesta moving from an old DC to a new DC. Great until I had to pull up suddenly at a rather notorious roundabout. Queue a boot load of mag tapes deciding to try and move to the back seat for a better view.

      Oh, I miss those days.

      1. juice Silver badge

        Re: The need for speed

        > Queue a boot load of mag tapes deciding to try and move to the back seat for a better view.

        Never quite done that, but at one point, I was driving home, via a rather big and steep hill, which has traffic lights at it's foot. As such, when heading up said hill, it's generally best to boot it and hit it at speed, so you don't end up having to faffing around as your car runs out of steam.

        However, this particular time, I forgot that I'd just been shopping at BnQ and had about half a ton of wood chippings in the boot.

        To be fair, the car responded marvellously to the challenge, but there was an impressive cloud of smoke which came out the rear!

        (Said car was a 2005 Mondeo TDCI, which were pretty infamous for having an EGR (exhaust gas recirculator) which tended to clog up and make the exhaust smokey. The general advice for dealing with this was to run the car at high revs for a bit to burn things out. Or as one forum put it: "stick two fat lads in the back seats and go for a raz!"...)

        1. Ozzard
          Go

          Re: The need for speed

          Even the earlier Mondeo TDs had that issue if you normally drove politely - the recommendation from the garage on mine was to take it to the local motorway, luckily only a couple of miles away and quite high above the land, and floor it up the slip roads a couple of times before taking the vehicle for its MOT.

          Also ideal for burning off boy racers at the lights - diesel is unexpectedly torquey at low revs, and I've occasionally seen some very surprised young faces through the clouds of black crud in the rear view mirror.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The need for speed

            When i collected my Golf GTi 1.8T i asked the mechanics at the dealership the best way to run it in and look after in the long run. They recommended clearing the soot out of the turbo by giving it a boot.

            it got a massive boot everyday, 2 years later it got a new turbo under warranty and i sold it a year after that.

            Fun times

            1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: The need for speed

              Um - not sure whether you're describing pedal percussive maintenance, or...?

              If you got the part replaced on warranty, then it worked out anyway.

          2. juice Silver badge

            Re: The need for speed

            > Also ideal for burning off boy racers at the lights - diesel is unexpectedly torquey at low revs, and I've occasionally seen some very surprised young faces through the clouds of black crud in the rear view mirror.

            Yup. This was the 2006 130bhp beast, but I actually had more fun in my previous Mondeo, which had the 115bhp engine; it had a surprisingly fast gearbox and I became pretty proficient at balancing the clutch and turbo-enabling revs when sat at a red light. It definitely came as a surprise to at least one driver of a much newer, more expensive and theoretically faster car!

            (OTOH, I did get to take the 130bph machine to the German autobahn and floor it. I hit over 140mph on the speedo (125 according to GPS) before deciding to take my foot off the accelerator, on the grounds that extended high-speed hijinks in a recently purchased second-hand car wasn't particularly sensible. Then too, even at those speeds, I was still getting impatient Audi and BMW drivers pulling up close behind me...)

            Sadly, when I switched from the 2006 to a 2008 model, things lost their shine a little. Ford might have boosted the engine power to abotu 140bhp, but they also made it larger and about 10% heavier, so for all that it was still a pleasant drive, it definitely didn't feel quite as responsive.

            1. Vometia Munro

              Re: The need for speed

              We have the newer lardy-arsed version but it's still pretty lively and just seems to get more enthusiastic at speed. Which I'm not 100% convinced is a good thing. Ours is an automatic which isn't normally what I'd choose, but it's what they had and it has its benefits as there is a pretty much perpetual traffic jam here. Still, in spite of that it remains pretty keen and will quite happily wheelspin when the traffic lights change. Not much, just enough to let me know it's not faffing about.

            2. Bogbody

              Re: The need for speed

              A few years ago a couple of friends and I were rattling along the autobhan between Hamburg and Berlin. One of my friends decided to have a little play with is Honda Blackbird.

              At somewhere north of 140mph he said that the autobhan was bumpy, narrow and twisty and there still were Volvos and Audi flashing him 'cos they wanted to overtake.....

              For the non-bikers a Honda Blackbird is an 1100cc weapon capable of cracking the speed of a licence shredder in horizontal flight. :-)

          3. Andy A
            Megaphone

            Re: The need for speed

            > Also ideal for burning off boy racers at the lights - diesel is unexpectedly torquey at low revs, and I've occasionally seen some very surprised young faces through the clouds of black crud in the rear view mirror.

            I had a Sierra diesel in the late 80s. No turbo then, but plenty of torque.

            Once turned onto a main road at the entrance to a village, spoiling the fun of someone intending to transit the 30 zone at double that speed. His horn and headlights came on.

            I slipped the clutch and hit the loud pedal.

            The glare from his headlights disappeared, and the horn sound faded because he could no longer see where he was going.

            1. Andytug

              Re: The need for speed

              Not diesel, but you used to do similar with clogged up petrol engines, remove the air filter and pour Redex (fuel system cleaner) carefully into the top of the carburettor. Clouds of white smoke would ensue, but would take crud out of the engine with them.

              Did this once with an old Nissan Micra (the squared off one), however unbeknownst to me it had some double throttle flap thing in the carb, so some of the Redex sat on the second (closed) flap, until I pulled out onto the road and floored it, at which point it did a pretty good impression of James Bond’s DB5 by leaving an impenetrable white cloud for a good 400 yards plus as all the remaining Redex was dumped into the engine at once....

              Ran much better afterwards though :)

              1. dvd

                Re: The need for speed

                "it had some double throttle flap thing in the carb"

                vacuum secondary ;)

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: The need for speed

                  HEATHEN!

                  Mechanical secondaries are the only way.

          4. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Re: The need for speed

            I rented a Transit dropside a while ago. I think it was a 3.5l diesel lump, something like that to deal with the max loaded weight. Empty, it surprised the hell out of me, let alone the boy racer next to me at the lights.

            Then I discovered I could switch the traction control off, and it got slower and produced mega clouds of tyre smoke.

            1. Rob Daglish

              Re: The need for speed

              I had a long wheelbase Transit a few months ago as a (sadly temporary) replacement while my vivaro was being repaired for about the 100th time.

              I'd assumed watching reruns of "The Professionals" and "The Sweeney" that all that going round corners in a Transit with the back wheels leaving the ground was stunt driving. Turns out it wasn't... they really do corner like that when they're empty!

        2. molletts

          Re: The need for speed

          ... run the car at high revs for a bit to burn things out.

          Commonly known as an Italian Tune-Up.

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: The need for speed

        Very polite of the tapes to queue up.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: The need for speed

          Well, queuing is a British thing, don'tchaknow.

    5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The need for speed

      An occasional client had offices on Banbury and Swindon both running SCO on tower servers.

      On-site work was on Saturday mornings when the business wasn't running. I drove down to Banbury and he picked up the Swindon server and brought it to Banbury. No faffing about with tapes.

      In relation to another of today's stories, he used fax to take orders. Online support was by means of him disconnection the fax and plugging a modem into his fax line and me dialling that on a Nokia Communicator.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: The need for speed

        In another life 01BC (Before Career in computers & technology).

        I used to take a Maestro Van down to the Devon South Hams & used to find varying routes that were more scenic than the company would have approved off, one such was returning to Exeter, via country lanes off of Haldon Hills (& Potential speed traps), there was a bump while heading down this hill & I used to launch the van into the air in a Dukes of Hazard style.

        One day I forgot about the unsecured engine I was bringing back & it slammed right into the back of my seat (& shoulder).

        Now my father had a similar experience, they used to let the apprentice drive the company van & on one contract, he used to take a country lane home to the north side of the city to be dropped off first, he also decided on a similar flight mode (To be fair, this is in part where I got the idea from) when reaching a level crossing on the main London Waterloo line.

        He also had a engine issue during the flight & landing, the engine sheared its mountings.

        Fun times!

    6. Dante Alighieri
  6. Willy Ekerslike

    VAX Sucks

    How times change. My first thought when seeing the heading was another tale of the office cleaner unplugging something.

    Just waiting for Dyson to make the reverse journey and build computers...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: VAX Sucks

      another tale of the office cleaner unplugging something

      A very traditional tale in hospital ITUs!

  7. jake Silver badge

    I remember a very similar story ...

    ... making the rounds at SLAC in the very early 1980s. I never did track down the truth behind it, but it is true that quite a few folks were quite into the then new RollerBlade fad, and were known to use them to get around the SLAC campus, both inside and out.

    1. james_smith Silver badge

      Re: I remember a very similar story ...

      Did a warehouse automation project once where the site was so vast the owners gave us bicycles to get around on. Unfortunately we fell behind schedule, so the grumpy owners took the bikes away to punish us - and of course we then fell even further behind schedule having to walk everywhere.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: I remember a very similar story ...

      When the big Tesco supermarket at Bar Hill near Cambridge first opened they had staff on rollerblades to do price checks. Don't know why they stopped - accidents, perhaps, or difficulty recruiting skaters?

      1. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: I remember a very similar story ...

        They had those at the local big Tesco store (I think it was the largest in the country at the time). They didn't last long, certainly safety was an issue.

  8. Roger Kynaston Bronze badge
    Pint

    almost certainly not it but I like it

    Could Ethan's problem roller skater have been causing an induction loop as he whizzed round the VAX? Magnets moving at speed. Like I said, almost certainly not the case but a fun idea.

    -> is approaching

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    google youtube for "guy on office chair going downhill" and enjoy.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Need a program for ageing techies - 'Last of the Tequila Slammers"

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Or "Frank Spencer" "rollerskating", if that isn't too easy. It starts relatively tame...

  10. David Robinson 1

    Upgraded Sneakernet

    How much of a bandwidth upgrade is Rollernet over Sneakernet?

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge

      Re: Upgraded Sneakernet

      Ah, Sneakernet.

      Way back when The Internet was still capitalised and web applications were still new and exciting, a Large Government Department and its third-party suppliers did a pretty good job of putting a large part of their functionality online, to the advantage of them, their users and the taxpayer in general. As with all new systems, however, there were wrinkles. In the publicity for the new way of doing things great play was made of how this use of technology was the very sharpest point of the cutting edge of public administration. What was less publicised was the non-functional bit that was a bone of contention between the department and two private-sector suppliers which, while the contractual wrangling was going on, wasn't going to get fixed anytime soon. In the meantime, the shiny whizzy technology was reliant on a PFY (or equivalent) downloading an Excel spreadsheet, exporting it as a CSV file onto a floppy, walking down two flight of stairs to the data hall and manually uploading the data onto the database every morning.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Upgraded Sneakernet

      Surprisingly, Rollernet has less bandwidth than Sneakernet!

      Both have the same packet size (give or take), and Rollernet is significantly faster ... but it turns out that there is a routing issue ... Sneakernet almost always uses the least-cost route available, but Rollernet almost always takes the most scenic route.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Upgraded Sneakernet

      similar bandwidth, lower latency. Higher potential for sudden packet loss.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PDP kettle issue

    Very much the same thing, we had a customer with a PDP that would randomly crash, usually around a certain time, no end of engineering, software visits etc. In the end after much shouting from customer there was a team on site for the day to fix the issue.

    The problem usually manifested itself first thing in the morning but of course this day it didn't until the office junior flew in the door late for work and with one swift flick put the kettle on and tripped the computer system. All systems were on clean supplies those days but it appears no one had noticed that someone had a dded a kettle. It didn't happen every time hence the apparent randomness.

    Similar issues could be had anywhere with a decent radio transmitter (air field/farm office).

    1. Rob Daglish

      Re: PDP kettle issue

      Or a 70CM band radio... One friend stayed in a hotel, and when she fired up her handheld amateur radio, found that it set off the fire alarm of the hotel due to some very poor shielding on the fire alarm control panel which was in the next room...

      And there's always the endless fun to be had with a car park and the appropriately timed use of the transmit key to block everyone's remote unlocking of their car...

  12. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Coat

    solution?

    a little operator education was dispensed (possibly with the aid of a long, sharp stick)

    I'd have just greased the corner of the VAX cabinet...

    1. Flere-Imsaho
      Devil

      Re: solution?

      The BOFH is strong in this one...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: solution?

      Greased very lightly, every day for a month. Then, once the blader gets used to having to grab on firmly, replace grease with stickum.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: solution?

        Your solution, while interesting, would have taken some time to produce the required result - in fact may take longer if the grease will help the skater do faster turns so he will carry on.

        Personally, I would've used something sharp and or pointy stuck to the side.

        1. ClockworkOwl
          Devil

          Re: solution?

          Barbed wire, hidden under paper.

          Painful to grab, worse as you realise you can't let go before momentum carries you on...

    3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: solution?

      At Clairmont Tower in Newcastle Uni. in the late 1970s, their solution was to put yellow tape on the floor around the Ampex memory cabinet on the S/370 with dire warnings in big letters that anybody going into the exclusion zone would be ejected from the data centre sharpish.

      I do not know whether it was physical movement or static, but the 370 did not like losing 4MB of it's 6MB memory.

      Actually, thinking about it, not that different from the social distancing measures being taken now,

  13. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Pint

    Changes

    I had to take the back off a new laptop the other day. I'm familiar of course with M.2 drives, but was surprised to find the machine's drive was now postage-stamp sized with the rest of the M.2 form factor being a piece of plastic to take up space. I'm thinking it would be fun to take it back in time and show it to a DEC engineer, maybe set it on top of one of the disk packs.. Of course he or she would be much more impressed by the time travel, as they should be.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Changes

      The storage density achieved is still a bit unnerving to me (queue "sufficiently advanced tech - magic" comparisons, that's magic as in sorcery not in "The Collecting" (or was it "Gathering?"), and then it should be "Magic [TM]")

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Changes

        Putting it in an orderly line?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Changes

          "Putting it in an orderly line?"

          Sure ... it was a call for multiple comparisons.

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Changes

          I think that word can and should be shrunk down to "cue" - your kilometreage may vary.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Changes

            So what do we call a poolsnooker bat?

            Cue the Billiards fanatics ...

            1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: So what do we call a snooker bat?

              it's brown and sticky... I'd call that a stick.

    2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Changes

      But back then you'd be allowed to copy your data off of it, ad do a data recovery if needed. Put that M.2 in an Apple product, and you're forbidden.

    3. JClouseau

      Re: Changes

      And they're selling 1TB microSD cards these days, I for one :

      1. will never trust such a tiny little thingy to hold reliably any "serious" data;

      2. would probably lose it in less than 48 hours;

      I've never worked on mainframes/minis but I'm quite sure at least those disks were rather hard to lose.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Changes

        Never trust any storage system small enough to swallow.

      2. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Changes

        The big problem is getting genuine products. Found some instructions how to spot fake Sandisks. And any 1TB drive cheaper than 256GB SanDisk is obviously fake, just common sense.

      3. Old Used Programmer

        Re: Changes

        Just a bit... Though where I worked around 1971, one of the operators reached behind himself to pick up a pack for a 2311 drive (6 platters, 7.25MB per pack) while standing on the freshly washed floor. He slipped and the pack came down edge on. The upside is that everyone had the presence of mind to *not* mount the (visibly bent) pack on the drive.

        I was the one that had written the backup routines, so when I got in, I had to do the restore...to a different pack (obviously).

    4. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      show it to a DEC engineer,

      No need for time travel, I'm right here.

      In our museum there are a couple of ancient hard drives. One usually gets pointed at with visitors around: "If you use your phone to take a picture of it, the file would be too large to store on that disk." . There's also an IBM microdrive (a real rotating harddisk the size of a CF card) on top of a 10" winchester: "These two are both several hundred times the size of the other."

      1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: show it to a DEC engineer,

        I actually have an IBM microdrive in my collection of accumulated cruft.

    5. Dante Alighieri

      Time Travel

      What do we want? Time travel.

      When do we want it? Its irrelevant!

    6. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Changes

      Nah, we've had time travel since 1963. Comes in a great big blue wardrobe thingy though. And even bigger on the inside. They have had it miniaturised a few times but the consequences are usually pretty silly.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planet_of_Giants

  14. Al-Noor Ramji

    I worked for a big tech firm and happened to be on a client site one day, doing something completely unrelated to the incident. Somebody came out of the computer room and wandered over to see me (I was recognised as the most senior IT person on site). Anyways he walked up to me calmly as if to ask if I fancied a coffee or something and said "one of the servers is on fire what should I do?". Well I wandered over to the machine room door looked through the glass and promptly hit the big red button that cut power to the servers and another button that was the fire alarm and told everyone to get out of the building.

    Some things dont need a lot of technical knowledge.

    1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Anyways he walked up to me calmly as if to ask if I fancied a coffee or something and said "one of the servers is on fire what should I do?"

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EBfxjSFAxQ

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        I knew what that was going to be before I even clicked it!

    2. Rufus McDufus

      I member in our server room at a university I worked as an operator, we had a few little Mac SEs (I think they were) which functioned as file servers for an AppleTalk network. These were located close to our seating area. I remember chatting to my boss once and noticing suddenly they were all aflame just behind him. Not the first fiery incident with early Macs & SEs either.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Coat

        Apple made a big thing of the fact that every Mac came with Fire Wire...

  15. JClouseau
    Holmes

    CSI: Miami

    "The branch tech," said Ethan, "made the profound statement: 'I think we may have found the source of our problem.'"

    Great. Now I'll have David Caruso and his impersonation by Jim Carrey in my head for the rest of the day.

    Thankyouverymuch

  16. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

    Bandwidth

    In the good old days of Kermit* I remember someone saying "do not underestimate the bandwidth of a truck of computer tapes on the M1".

    Of course, now I can go into my local shop and buy a 4 Terabyte hard disk for under £100. If a truck was filled with those, how would its bandwidth at a legal 70mph compare with fibre to the premises these days?

    *(The communications protocol, not the frog.)

    1. proinnsias
      1. Dante Alighieri

        Re: Bandwidth

        Jinx!

    2. Unicornpiss Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Bandwidth

      The bandwidth of a truck full of tapes wouldn't be quite as impressive if:

      -You needed to send the data to the ISS, or possibly even just overseas.

      -You had one extremely large file that you needed to span across all of them and then recombine.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Bandwidth

        Then it's a damn good thing that there is no chance of anybody even suggesting using tape to transfer large quantities of data to/from the ISS, isn't it?

        Multiple tapes were sent overseas quite regularly back in the day. I sent a few myself (especially BSD releases). It worked nicely.

        I've used many tapes to make a rather large disk image before, and then recombined them to clone the system on another machine across the bay. It's not all that bad. Easier if you have a couple tape drives for your script to alternate between.

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Bandwidth

        The ISS? A Tesla could do that ;-)

        If https://www.whereisroadster.com is authentic - then I think the Martians might be getting worried about now, it looks to be getting a bit close.

  17. Sparkus

    Bandwidth.......

    Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.

    Computer Networks, 3rd ed., p. 83. (paraphrasing Dr. Warren Jackson, Director, University of Toronto Computing Services (UTCS) circa 1985)

  18. earl grey Silver badge
    FAIL

    can't imagine all that

    at no time in the years i worked would a rollerblader have been tolerated in any of the computer centers. it would have been immediate termination with prejudice. i can easily remember the weight of an armload of 7 or 9 track tapes being moved around...

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: can't imagine all that

      You obviously never worked in the early SillyConValley & environs.

  19. Baudwalk

    Rather than...

    ...reminding us that unlikely named "Ethan" is a pseudonym, why not use more natural names like "Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel"?

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Rather than...

      Or Raymond Luxury-Yacht (pronounced, Throatwarbler-Mangrove)

  20. Rufus McDufus

    Mountaineering

    Rollerblading? Pah. We used to mountaineer around the server room of DEC/Systime VAXes, bigger old Suns, Goulds, IBMs, ICLs etc. Never killed one. Well apart from maybe a Gould which crashed every ten minutes anyway.

    1. Norman Nescio

      Re: Mountaineering

      Yes, well, our ops were a well behaved bunch. We never did identify the source of the footprints on top of the cabinets.

      [Object of the task was to circumnavigate the machine room without touching the floor. The Krone frames for all the hard-wired terminals were tricky: narrow, and tall, so there was only room to lie on top of them.]

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Mountaineering

        Footprints on top of the chassis are usually made in the stockroom before the gear is installed in them. We used to bust QA for failing to notice the marks on the top of taller cabinets before shipping them. It only became a problem when they had windows one floor up so visiting big-wigs could be impressed by looking down on the DC.

  21. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    I saw static problems occasionally but shielding the RS232 cables and grounding the shield fixed them about 90% of the time. My first "pc" used an 8080, my buddy at work helped me get it running, he was so impressed - it ran way better then his 4004 so he "upgraded to an 8080 too. Back in those days everyone would run into static issues, but once they understood the factors they were never a problem ever again.

    The description of the problem in El Reg might have been static but the first thing I would have done was to reseat all the ribbon cables in the device, if that didn't fix it I'd have reseated all the chips in sockets next.

  22. Gravesender

    I remember a similar story involving a PDP-11 installed on a mezzanine in a warehouse that was experiencing random restarts. Eventually someone figured out that the event was occurring whenever a fork lift with a gasoline engine passed underneath the computer. The fault was with inadequate EMI suppression on the fork lift ignition wiring. The solution was to post a "No Lift Trucks" sign under the mezzanine.

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