back to article The wastepaper basket is on the other side of the office – that must be why they put all these slots in the computer

Can you smell burning? Is it the Friday morning bacon? Are you having a stroke? Or is it something more sinister? Find out in this week's episode of On Call. Regomised as "Will", our hero was the IT manager for a government department responsible for supporting lawmakers and looking after a number of security agencies and task …

  1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Pint

    Cider Drinkers - Icon

    The desktop services dept, moved PC's over a weekends office moves, the ITSC in the wooden hut in the car park got the calls on Monday to deal with overheating machines that those that should have known better when performing the moves, but obviously didn't.

    The self same inD'uhviduals who had pushed the machines & the vents up against the new nicely stuffed & fabric covered cubical walls in order that it looked nice.

    Also other departments that built forts of cardboard boxes full of paperwork around their PC, then wondered why they overheated.

    Social Services & Planning I'm looking at you.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Cider Drinkers - Icon

      A hemispherical wire cage bolted over the PC's vent should do the trick.

      Since storage boxes are made cuboid so that they can be stacked next to each without wasting space, is it possible that someone seeing a PC might think it was cuboid for the same reason?

      Another possible design failure is giving standard cubicles to people who are evidently expected to deal with lots of paper hardcopy.

      I'm not meaning to be overly sympathetic to your users, but expecting people to be not stupid (in the face of all evidence) is itself a form of stupidity (I'm not calling you stupid, I mean computer and office designers or the system in which they work).

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Cider Drinkers - Icon

        Another possible design failure is giving standard cubicles to people who are evidently expected to deal with lots of paper hardcopy.

        Yes, the failure being the involvement of paper in the first place.

      2. FloridaBee
        Facepalm

        Re: Cider Drinkers - Icon

        Never underestimate the depth or power of human stupidity.

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Cider Drinkers - Icon

          To quote a colleague (who is I think quotiing somebody else)

          There are idiots - look around!

  2. ColinPa

    Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

    My wife had to work in Spain. Their new building was almost complete - there were small problems like no switches on the wires sticking out of the light switch box, but that was "OK" - just put some tape over the wires. There were two sides of the building with a fire door in between. The builders needed access to both sides, so they put a steel bar across the top of the doorway to hold the fire door open. This was "fine" until someone nudged the door in passing and the steel bar fell - just missing them. They sovled this by moved the steel bar to the ground level - a perfect trip hazard.

    The Spanish builders were surprised when my wife's manager refused to move in to the building until it was "UK Safe".

    1. Empty1

      Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

      The builders should have known better - Fire extinguishers are the tool to keep fire doors open.

      1. teebie

        Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

        Of course, then the rooms on either have access to the fire extinguisher when they inevitably catch fire due to being populated by the sort of people who prop fire doors open with fire extinguishers

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

          For bonus points, use a foam-based fire extinguisher. All but guaranteed to be completely unsuitable for any fire you're likely to have in an office environment.

      2. cosmodrome
        Flame

        Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

        As long as the builders are around there won't be any fire extinguishers.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

          The only times I have ever needed to use a fire extinguisher has been when builders are around. One summer there was so much renovation work going on that once you heard an angle grinder start up you just knew the fire alarm was going to sound within the next five minutes.

          Me (empty extinguisher in hand): "Why the fuck did you leave all that waste piled up against the wall when you knew you'd be throwing sparks into it?!"

          Builder: "The skip's full and isn't due to be emptied until tomorrow."

          I always cheer when I'm watching a film where the bad guy gets smacked in the face with a fire extinguisher.

    2. H in The Hague Silver badge

      Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

      "The Spanish builders were surprised when my wife's manager refused to move in to the building until it was "UK Safe"."

      A few decades a friend was working somewhere in Asia, on the top floor of a tall building. A safety inspector from the UK came over and required that access be provided to the roof so personnel could be evacuated by helicopter in case of an emergency.

      The local builders were very helpful and provided a fireman's pole - unfortunately that only helps you get quickly to a lower floor, not a higher floor :(

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

        At which point he then comes back, removes it and re-installs it the other way up...?

      2. Arty Effem

        Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

        "The local builders were very helpful and provided a fireman's pole - unfortunately that only helps you get quickly to a lower floor, not a higher floor "

        They'd probably seen the film Fahrenheit 451 and thought that's how they actually worked.

      3. arachnoid2 Bronze badge

        Batman

        Had a rocket propelled platform on his fire pole to get back up the shaft.

      4. Rob Daglish

        Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

        Egremont Crab Fair usually includes a "Climb the Greasy Pole" competition. If anyone makes it to the top they get a crab apple as a prize. Maybe the builders had seen that and felt inspired?

    3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

      I worked for a short time in an Asian country for my current employer and they moved offices while I was there. The lifts hadn't been installed and neither had the doors so the shafts were left open as the building was occupied. Fortunately I was only there for a few more days so I avoided the lift lobbies, but what a complete shitshow...

      1. adam 40 Silver badge

        Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

        I visited a company in Taiwan with a high-rise office block, with a strange feature on about the 8th or 10th floor, one corridor went out the side of the building - there was no glass, just open air.

        For safety, there was a plastic garden chain across the opening.

        I didn't ask why....

        1. Andy the ex-Brit

          Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

          Nice place for a smoke break "outdoors"?

        2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

          For filming action movie high-rise scenes, obviously.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

          Nuclear physics dept of a certain British institute that, back in the day, had it's own reactor - so safety was a big deal.

          The lab on an upper floor was operated by a research council and so following their safety rules needed an extra fire exit. A section of wall and window was thus removed and a fire door installed, complete with push bar and exit sign.

          However the building was owned by layers of government dept that were crown immune from 'elf&safety and so the accompanying fire escape on the outside of the building never appeared.

          Naturally we nailed some wood across the door to stop anyone opening it and doing a scene from a Harold Lloyd cliffhanger movie. Safety saw this and were sore displeased and ordered the wood removed.

          When I went back next year the door was still there, unimpeded and sans fire escape, but now had a small official notice telling you not to use it.

    4. Abbas

      Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

      Just for the sake of curiosity, which part of Spain, southern perhaps?

      1. bpfh

        Re: Whoops mind your head if there is a fire, and dont trip

        Reminds me of the area around Malaga in the 80’s. Construction for time-shares everywhere. All floors propped up by hundreds of tree branches while construction went on above. Not an acro as we know and love to be seen. A scary sight to behold...

  3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. General Purpose Bronze badge

      Re: When bananas attack ..

      You're describing bullying.

    2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: When bananas attack ..

      Doing such a thing once can be passed off as being a (not particularly funny) practical joke. Doing it repeatedly makes you a bully.

    3. Trollslayer

      Re: When bananas attack ..

      You really are a disgusting excuse for a human being.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The story itself takes place nearly 30 years ago

    Oh so this will be some mainframe with whirring tape and punch cards then... The user's "lack of computer fluency was exceptional," he went on, "even for the 1990s."

    Hang on: that can't be right!? Oh God I feel old...

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The story itself takes place nearly 30 years ago

      Report: 1998 Was Ten Fucking Years Ago

      https://www.theonion.com/report-1998-was-ten-fucking-years-ago-1819581939

      (From 2008)

      Oh gawd

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: The story itself takes place nearly 30 years ago

      "Oh so this will be some mainframe with whirring tape and punch cards then... "

      Possibly. But the 1990's included the launch of Win98, Win95, WfW3.11, Win3.0, even Win2.0 was the 90s. Personal Computers were in the work place before Windows too, some were even networked running MS-DOS. Many companies and organisations were running PCs of one sort or another in the 90s. Prior to that, there were people running CP/M computers too. Not terribly unusual if not actually common-place.

      Also, me too, felling old that is. --------------->

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Flame

    The human mind is a frightening thing

    What on Earth was he thinking ? Slipping bits of flammable material into a box that uses electricity, what is more natural ?

    I mean obviously, this "computer" thingy has a portal to the waste dimension, right ? Isn't that in the specs ?

    And the fact that the thin opening is not labelled "Waste Basket" is just a mistake, obviously.

    It is one thing to not understand computers, it is an entirely different thing to build the intellectual fortress of stupidity that allows you to justify to yourself that you're doing nothing wrong.

    The helldesk drone should have evacuated the building. Then, when time came for explanations, the responsibility of the user . . . would have been swept under the rug and the helldesk drone would have been blamed for wasting everyone's time.

    Ugh, I hate stupidity.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

      "What on Earth was he thinking ?"

      That is whats bothering me ,that and the lack of repercussions.

      its not the usual user stupidity ( is it? )

      its just pure vandlism

      shame our hero didnt beat an explanation out of him.

      1. CuChulainn

        Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

        its just pure vandalism

        When I was at primary school, one of my mates had a Mars Bar everyday for his morning snack. This was in the days where 'the cane' and other corporal punishments were normal.

        Back then, Mars Bar were about twice the size of what they are today, and came in waxed paper wrappers. His party piece was to toss the wrapper - every day - into the high-level cistern which fed the urinal wash.

        I guess his excuse might be that he was only about 9 or 10, but he was very fastidious about it. Whatever his motive, it does illustrate how ignorance and bloody-mindedness make strange bedfellows.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

          The Young Ones, on a train:

          Vivian: Right, I'm off to stuff a whole roll of toilet paper down the bog!

          Mike: I always wondered who did that.

          1. SuperGeek

            Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

            Young Ones, again on the train

            Vivian: Do not lean out of the window? I wonder why??

            Precedes to stick head out of window and it gets lopped off!

            Classic example!

          2. Rob Daglish

            Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

            I once drove a coach full of Leeds United football supporters to a home game. On our way back, when they were suitably lubricated, I watched them coming across the car park of the service area will a CO2 fire extinguisher and an industrial sized bog roll firing lumps of paper at each other. It's probably only a small step away shoving it down the loo.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

          "Mars Bar were about twice the size of what they are today, and came in waxed paper wrappers."

          In secondary school he probably used them as condoms.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

            In college one of our female friends was nicknamed ‘Mars Bar’.

            1. CuChulainn

              Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

              It wasn't Marianne, was it?

              I'm sure you know the source of that label :-)

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

                No. Her name was Liz. And the nickname WAS from that kind of thing.

          2. CuChulainn

            Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

            True. These days.

            Back then, the wrapper was actually a fold-and-wrap style. When you unwrapped a Mars Bar, the wrapper was basically a big sheet of waxed paper. And it was thick waxed paper, too.

            And don't get me started about how much better the Mars Bar tasted back when it actually had some (a lot of) sugar in it.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

              " how much better the Mars Bar tasted back when it actually had some (a lot of) sugar in it."

              It used to have a nice malty taste. IIRC a few years ago they changed the UK filling to the same as their Milky Way.

      2. bpfh

        Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

        IBM Gold Service sales team. The sales guys with the high end pc’s and webcams - unheard of in the 90’s.

        Mr star sales raises a support ticket as his pc won’t start.

        Admits to me that maybe forcing the 20v power supply jack to his home speakers into the computers audio output rather than into the speakers may have burned out the mobo.

        Yup. It did. No repercussions for that either.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

      You're already going wrong in the first question. People like this aren't capable of thinking and breathing at the same time. Since he was still alive (and thus must have been breathing) he wasn't thinking.

      1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

        But still working for the government....

        Actually that does explain a few things!

    3. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

      the intellectual fortress of stupidity

      Love it

    4. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

      And the fact that the thin opening is not labelled "Waste Basket" is just a mistake, obviously.

      It's just possible, even 30 years ago, that the computer screen had a little picture labelled "Waste Basket" or "Recycle Bin".

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

        The missing floppy drive would have had an eject button. Pronounced ‘eejit’

    5. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

      The user probably only inserted the post its after clicking on the recycling bin icon.

    6. AlbertH
      Mushroom

      Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

      In a similar situation, with a hot computer full of waste paper, pocket lint and all manner of other detritus, the smouldering junk was poured into the file drawer of the (l)user's desk. The rather satisfying though small conflagration that ensued resulted in the building being evacuated, the destruction of several year's worth of "irreplaceable" records, a wrecked computer, a melted keyboard and the dismissal of the dingbat who'd filled the computer and every desk drawer with flammable cr@p. The many hoarded bottles of Snopake™ thinner added to the flames, by exploding quite spectacularly!

    7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

      "I mean obviously, this "computer" thingy has a portal to the waste dimension, right ?"

      Being the 90s, maybe it was running Win9x and had a teeny, tiny little waste bin icon on the screen so putting teeny tiny bits of paper through the slot was a simple way to put them in the waste bin? Who knows what goes through the minds of users and the weird half-logic that happens in there.

    8. DonM.

      Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

      In the US 60-70 years ago, some houses had these built-in 'medicine cabinets', essentially a recessed steel box with a few glass shelves and a mirror as a door. These boxes had a slot cut thru the back panel with a label "used razor blades". So your used blades just fell inside the wall cavity.

      I never saw one of these walls opened up but I always imagined this huge pile of used, rusting, and lethal blades. Perhaps a similar mindset at work in this case .....

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: The human mind is a frightening thing

        There's plenty of photo's of just that on the internet. Just do a quuck search on "razor blades behind bathroom wall" and you'll find it looks exactly like you'd imagine, a pile of razor blades behind drywall.

  6. BeverageBeast

    oh crumbs!

    Had a mysteriously dead PC come back from a site for repair, user had reported the smell of burning before it died. Opened the case up and it looked like someone had managed to cram an entire packets worth of digestive biscuits (broken down into crumbs) inside somehow. Seemed like the pile of crumbs had been there some time as it had re-hardened and congealed into some kind of mass that was impossible to shake off. Users do the weirdest things.

    1. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Bronze badge

      Re: oh crumbs!

      Might not be the user, that sounds like a mouse nest. A rodent-made pile of food, droppings and carpet-chewings. A nice warm place, perfect for a mouse nest. We had one living in the fridge drip tray, on top of the warm compressor. Little Mickey was living like a king!

    2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: oh crumbs!

      In my early IT days I used to work part time in my companies customer service department. I had a guy bring an old IBM PS/2 in complaining that it was intermittently switching off at random points.

      When I took the lid off I saw that almost every component was covered in cigarette tar and fluff. It was deemed a health hazard and passed back to the customer.

      1. Sequin

        Re: oh crumbs!

        I had a similar problem with my neighbour's laptop - ten minutes with a vacuum cleaner and a stiff paintbrush cured the problem (for a while)

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: oh crumbs!

          I find myself reading this in the voice of Humphrey Lyttleton, was your neighbour called Samantha?

        2. Col_Panek

          Re: oh crumbs!

          Obviously you've never had to clean the cigarette tar out of a piece of gear. Hopefully nobody ever will again have to.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: oh crumbs!

            Depends which country you live in. Smoking, including in the office, is still endemic in many countries.

            1. anothercynic Silver badge

              Re: oh crumbs!

              It was even in the UK in a certain industry until mid-last-decade. As you can imagine, that industry was... no surprise, tobacco. I hated having to go on site to a tobacco site in Southampton... they smoked like chimneys and I *stank* whenever I left. It was truly gross.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: oh crumbs!

                "I hated having to go on site to a tobacco site"

                Even in the late 1970s our tobacco customer's head office appeared relatively smoke free. They would keep offering us free packets of cigarettes though - which as non-smokers we declined. To protect their normal brand names they produced packets with similar names which they had also trade marked. To maintain the latter's registrations they had to send a few boxes to a few selected shops every year.

              2. Andy A

                Re: oh crumbs!

                Once had to upgrade a batch of XP tablets used by tobacco company reps.

                First thing we did on being allocated workspace on their site was to fix a large No Smoking sign to the door. Much more important than the screwdrivers and disks needed to do the actual task.

                Some devices needed cleaning with industrial strength detergent before we processed them.

            2. TRT Silver badge

              Re: oh crumbs!

              Our central IT lot bought a bargain lot of Dells (GX1s?) from a refresh sale of a Danish bank. 1000s of them to replace all the PCs in the college. A week before term started we had them all out on the desks in the computer suites. All set up ready to ghost. Turned them on and the room was filled with the most awful stench of fags and hash and sweat and just yuck. I was sick. Not such a bargain. We had to run them 24/7 for a month before it subsided enough to not cause complaints.

        3. Ian Mason

          Re: oh crumbs!

          We're presuming that they properly applied - to the user, not the computer?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: oh crumbs!

        "[...] covered in cigarette tar and fluff."

        A friend had her desktop by the open window overlooking a dusty village road. She had two walking hairy rugs in the form of English Sheepdogs. Her cigarette chain-smoking provided the glue to bind all the airborne detritus together inside the PC.

  7. R J
    Flame

    Fire

    I had built a nice little state of the art gaming computer with plenty of memory and a top-notch CPU (for that time) for SWMBO (who work as a graphich artist as well as enjoying some hardcore gaming from time to time, so performance was important). One day some 8-9months after I'd put it together it wouldn't turn on. Right enough, fans would start up, harddisks start spinning, and then it would mysteriously turn off after just a second or two. And there was this mysterious smell. You know, the nasty smell of burnt components.

    So I opened it up, looked ok-ish at first. Thinking maybe it was a dislodged RAM or something simple, I switched it on again, expecting the FOTT (Fear Of The Technician) to make it behave.

    This was the first time I've seen open flames on a motherboard. 6-7cm thick long flames were licking the side of the motherboard as I turned it on - and as the computer died again, so did the flames. Fascinated, I tried again, same result. This time leaving black marks of soot. I had to call SWMBO over so she could witness it too. Same result, but then she stopped me fearing for the rest of the computer.

    I took some nice pictures and got a new motherboard for free.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Fire

      Pity you did not record it and put the video on youtube for our enjoyment...

    2. CuChulainn

      Re: Fire

      Not sure of the time period you are referring to, but when I was on tech support for a retail company, for several years we had an issue with certain mobos with certain capacitors in certain tower systems which were from a bad batch (or three) from a certain manufacturer.

      Incidentally, it is down as 'the capacitor plague' in Wikipedia, and was in the early 2000s. A load of capacitors had faulty electrolyte.

      We had a few calls with smoking machines during that.

      1. whitepines
        Boffin

        Re: Fire

        That's generally what it is even today -- defective capacitors. They are placed across power rails that are able to source enough current to ignite the remnants of damaged MLCC capacitors. Once they go up, a nice film of resistive (as in partly conductive) carbon tends to coat the area, so on next power attempt the flame gets even bigger as the carbon ignites.

      2. Noram

        Re: Fire

        Abit motherboards from memory were especially affected, I had a KA7 which failed and when I looked pretty much all the large capacitors were bulging or leaking.

        I also had some 10/100 NIC's that came with an SMC switch (bought from jungle.com if anyone remembers them), and one day my dad called to say there was a funny smell coming from his computer, so I went through and it had frozen up Upon opening the case a capacitor on the network card had caught fire and scorched a couple of the PCI slots, surprisingly the machine worked fine when I removed the card, put a new one in a different slot and turned it on again, it lasted another ~5 years in various hands.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Fire

          Got a new motherboard around 2008, printed in big letters on the PCB was 'JAPANESE CAPACITORS'. Apparently a few years previously, Korean firms indulged in a bit of industrial espionage for a new type of Japanese capacitor, but they hadn't stolen all the documents. They missed test reports indicating medium term failures, and the tweak to the chemistry that the Japanese had developed to fix the issue. Lots of computers from well-known brands were affected.

          1. quxinot Silver badge

            Re: Fire

            I was going to point fingers at MSI, myself.

            But yes, it was absolutely commonplace to see bulging caps (at best!) for several years afterwards. That said, I think I only saw one video card with such issues, and for the life of me cannot guess as to what brand it was (I'm guessing EVGA, but that could be incorrect).

            1. CuChulainn

              Re: Fire

              Yes, it was on boards from several manufacturers.

              In fact, we had a policy for a while that anyone who called in for anything else would get a free replacement of the board 'just in case'. I can't remember the full details now on eligibility, but it was a big issue at the time. Some of them did blow.

              As you can imagine, many of the PCs sold in the high street retailer I am referring to contained budget or lower-spec hardware to keep costs down. My own self-builds fortunately straddled the period, and I always chose premium boards, but I did check to see if mine were involved when the problem broke.

              Dave is right about the 'Japanese capacitors' thing. Everyone wanted to see 'Toshiba'.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Fire

                "Everyone wanted to see 'Toshiba'."

                But that is the most important part of making a counterfeit - it has to look right.

          2. Ribfeast

            Re: Fire

            I remember replacing the Nichicon capacitors in my old 1989 Toyota Cressida ECU for this issue also.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fire

        The official story from the ieee.

        https://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/hardware/leaking-capacitors-muck-up-motherboards

      4. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Fire

        Incidentally, it is down as 'the capacitor plague' in Wikipedia, and was in the early 2000s. A

        From that wiki...

        ...problems were reported by the specialist magazine Passive Component Industry

        There are industry magazines for such things ?

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Fire

          There are industry magazines for such things ?

          Industry magazines are like porn sites: there's one for every taste.

        2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: the specialist magazine Passive Component Industry

          The capacitor edition is the current leading publication of its type. It tries to compensate for the poor ratings of the similar one on inductors.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: the specialist magazine Passive Component Industry

            I’m sure that’s just a phase.

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: I’m sure that’s just a phase.

              You forgot to tick the AC box.

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: I’m sure that’s just a phase.

                That was blocked. I could only go for a Direct Comment.

  8. Evil Auditor
    Boffin

    Feeding handwritten notes into a computer is how digitisation works.

  9. Andytug

    We kept an enormous paper clip (suitably bent) in our toolkit.....

    ....specifically for removing smart cards from laptops where the user had managed to insert them fully into the gap between the DVD drive casing and the laptop casing, conveniently positioned just a couple of mm below the actual smart card slot. Thanks HP, great piece of design there.......

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: We kept an enormous paper clip (suitably bent) in our toolkit.....

      I once had a device that used a micro SD card, where the slot in the casing was lot wider than the socket on the PCB behind it. The number of times I missed the socket when plugging in a card, which then slipped in above the socket and disappeared inside the device. It could only be retrieved by taking the case apart. Eventually I bodged a makeshift blanking plate to stop it happening.

      1. Flightmode

        Re: We kept an enormous paper clip (suitably bent) in our toolkit.....

        I had a CD player many years ago - a Sony CDP-990; I loved that beast. Not only did it have a 100-disc memory (programs, volume level and a user-enterable text string for each), but after inserting a CD it would take a few seconds to spin up (as CD players did). If you hit it juuust right at the right time, the CD would skip out of the tray and end up somewhere inside the player[0], requiring a Philips[1] screwdriver for retrieval.

        [0] I left my copy of Yello's "Baby" in there way too long.

        [1] Ironic, needing a Philips screwdriver to open a Sony product.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: We kept an enormous paper clip (suitably bent) in our toolkit.....

          Ironic, needing a Philips screwdriver to open a Sony product.

          Maybe it was specified in the Red Book?

          Only tangentially related, but it involves CDs. Around the time that x24 and x32 CD drives were newfangled and exciting, we had added a Creative-branded one to the home PC. For reasons that escape me it was living for a brief time on the kitchen table. Enter a Championship Manager CD (my brother's, recreational spreadsheets are not my thing), with the tiniest crack on the inner rim. We inspect it and decide it should be fine.

          Reader, it was not fine.

          On insertion the drive woke up and read the disc, okay. We then try to install, at this point the device kicks into its high speed mode with the asthmatic spin cycle sound that will still startle those who have only ever used USB sticks. There is a bang. The front cover of the tray (formerly stuck on the end of the caddy), shoots past my ear, closely followed by a fragment of now less-than-compact disc and bounces off the wall. After opening up the drive and removing the remaining pieces of the now vastly improved championship manager we reattached the front cover and found the thing still worked. It continued in service in my parents' house until replaced by a DVD drive, and was always particularly helicopter like when it started up.

          1. Andytug

            Re: We kept an enormous paper clip (suitably bent) in our toolkit.....

            Only ever seen that happen once, with an old Fujitsu 486DX (I think), the sudden bang and silence as the CDR shattered into several pieces was a bit of a shock to the surrounding company.....

            Although just like yours, after dismantling and removal of all the (many) shards of shattered CDR, the drive still worked perfectly. CD/DVD drives are built tough......

          2. WolfFan Silver badge

            Re: We kept an enormous paper clip (suitably bent) in our toolkit.....

            I had that happen to a car CD player (remember them?) which was a six-disc unit. A disc broke up in the machine, freezing it so it couldn’t move to the next disc. The car was still under warranty so I took it to the dealership, they removed the entire device and gave me a new one, and sent the old one off to the repair center in California. About a month later I got a package in the mail, one CD in about a dozen pieces, and five good CDs. All CDs were CD-Rs that I’d burned myself, the one which broke was the only Maxell, which might/might not have been significant.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: We kept an enormous paper clip (suitably bent) in our toolkit.....

            "now less-than-compact disc"

            You mean "much more compact disc"

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We kept an enormous paper clip (suitably bent) in our toolkit.....

          Upvote for Yello!

        3. NITS

          Re: We kept an enormous paper clip (suitably bent) in our toolkit.....

          Philips the elecrical-goods manufacturer has one L.

          Phillips the screw (and its driver) have 2 Ls.

          --

          A one-L lama is a priest,

          A two-L llama is a beast,

          But a three-alarmer is a fire.

          (Ogden Nash)

          1. Sherrie Ludwig

            Re: We kept an enormous paper clip (suitably bent) in our toolkit.....

            A one-L lama is a priest,

            A two-L llama is a beast,

            But a three-alarmer is a fire.

            (Ogden Nash)

            Actual poem:

            A one-L lama, is a priest

            A two-l llama, is a beast

            But I will bet a silk pyjama

            that there is not a three-l lllama.*

            *I have been subsequently informed there is a conflagration known colloquially as a "three-alarmer". Pooh.

            Why, yes, that's from memory.

      2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: We kept an enormous paper clip (suitably bent) in our toolkit.....

        I have a Raspberry Pi case with that exact same issue.

        Never bothered to bodge up anything though, as I don't swap the uSD cards often enough to be a major issue...

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: We kept an enormous paper clip (suitably bent) in our toolkit.....

      Standard piece of kit if you dealt with Macs. The buttonless cd drive and floppy drive was a great invention.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: The buttonless cd drive and floppy drive was a great invention.

        Umm, I can't remember the manufacturer now (possibly Iomega?), but I had the situation once where a drive (attached to a pc, rather than a Mac) swallowed a Very Expensive CD/DVD and the unit had to be sent to The Netherlands for it to be regurgitated. There was no paperclip hole.

  10. LDS Silver badge

    Once I had a discussion with a developer...

    ... who was not a computer illiterate, he thought to be quite skilled. But he liked to kept his PC case open (it was a startup, so little "corporate rules") - good bye proper cooling -, so he could reach hardware to mess with it, and moreover liked to keep his post-it blocks inside the empty disk trays - just under the PSU.

    I had to warn him repeatedly that keeping paper nearby electronics and electricity wasn't a bright idea... especially since he also had the bad habit of not turning the PC off at night. Only when we had a safety inspection and the inspector didn't like his mess, he was called by the owner who asked him if he preferred to be "fireproof" or be fired...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Once I had a discussion with a developer...

      As a PFY doing YTS in the late 80's - I worked for a company that did graphics cards and so had an IBM AT 286 for testing.

      It took about 18 months before I discovered that it even came with a case! I don't even think the CPU had a heat sink, let alone fans

      1. DougMac

        Re: Once I had a discussion with a developer...

        The good ole days before CPUs needed additional cooling and just ambient air in the case worked fine.

        Fans/heatsinks ontop of PC class CPU chips didn't really get into vogue until 486 class PCs, especially AMD or overclocked ones.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Got called to a home computer fault along these lines...

    A few years ago I got a call to go to someone's house to find out why all his windows icons were gone and why the ones that were left were "the wrong size".

    Turns out the unit had been randomly powering itself off, so the owner decided the best response was to run the HP Windows XP restore disc but without installing the graphics drivers. I installed them and soon the PC starts making serious fan noise and shutting down.

    Turns out the owner had a golden retriever who liked nothing more than lying next to the warm PC tower, the inside of the tower was covered in dog hair, which blocked the fans. Running windows without the graphics drivers underclocked the system just enough for the clogged fans to keep it cool enough.

  12. elDog

    Medicine cabinets in the US had, for a long time, slots to dispose of used razor blades

    Many a home remodeler had to know (or find out) that working in the bathroom between the studs could be hazardous.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Medicine cabinets in the US had, for a long time, slots to dispose of used razor blades

      Surely the presence of castrated rats would act as a warning?

  13. TeeCee Gold badge
    Meh

    Guess the country?

    "... task force was aimed at overhauling national policy for targeted crime prevention,"

    You'd have to be a native English speaker to come up with meaningless flannel like that. Also, our Civil Service are the only ones far enough up their own arses to use it without worrying that everyone's laughing at them for being such a bunch of pretentious tossers. Thus Britain, obviously.

  14. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    On the other hand, "responsible for supporting lawmakers" sounds more of a US turn of phrase.

    1. GrumpyKiwi

      Probably the FIB who are apparently notorious in the US LE community for their computer illiteracy. I have a recollection that it took them two or three tries to get a working email system for example.

  15. Kev99

    Never underestimate the stupidity of the human animal.

  16. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Shouldn't stuff paper in there

    It might jam the cupholder.

  17. VeNT
    Holmes

    I still have flashbacks to when I was providing on site support to gone users.

    One had a pc that suddenly wouldn't turn on. Apparently it had been slow for a while with random reboots.

    Turns out they had been using the power supply fan to cut off the burning end of her cigarettes.

    That along with the inside being covered in a thick layer of brown tar made my skin crawl.

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