back to article Don't be a fool, cover your tool: How IBM's mighty XT keyboard was felled by toxic atmosphere of the '80s

A reader's brush with filth is retold in today's episode of On Call in which the dirtier side of IT is laid bare. A reader already Regomised as "Jim" got back in touch with another story from the days when the IBM XT seemed to be on every desk and the migraine-inducing clacking of the keyboards filled the office soundscape. …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    Are you suggesting that fruity users dribble on their keyboards?

    1. WhoAmI?
      Coffee/keyboard

      I don't think it's dribble they need to protect against judging by the excitement shown at some announcements

      1. nichomach

        Upvoted, but...

        ...damn, that's nasty....

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Are you suggesting that [...] users dribble on their keyboards?

      There's a lot of users that drivel on their keyboards.

      (N.B. I removed the "f" word to try and avert a torrent of downvotes. Prob won't stop the grammar pedants though).

      1. sev.monster Bronze badge

        Re: Are you suggesting that [...] users dribble on their keyboards?

        I think your noto bene may have actually increased your amount of downvotes.

    3. katrinab Silver badge
      Unhappy

      No just that the butterfly keyboards in MacBooks from a few years ago would fail with the very slightest ingress of dust,

  2. JimC

    keyboard condoms

    And ye gods they were a pain to install. But rather important when IT started to be useful in say vehicle workshops.

    1. Shadow Systems

      Re: keyboard condoms

      Agreed. At an ex employer's we had to share our work stations with members on other shifts. I had the early morning shift & was always having to wear disposable plastic gloves to clean the keyboard, mouse, & monitor before I could actually *use* the damned things. One of my other-shift-coworkers was a disgusting bastard that ate, drank, & smoked all over everything. Repeated complaints did nothing but amuse/annoy my manager.

      I finally bought a keyboard condom & applied it, but I couldn't figure out what to do with the mouse nor monitor. I ended up affixing cling wrap over them in the hopes said coworkers would get the hint. They didn't & had the unmitigated gall to complain that *I* was making it difficult for THEM to do their jobs.

      My boss made me remove the keyboard condom & plastic wrap, so I returned the next day with my own brand new keyboard & mouse. The company ones got locked in the drawer while I worked, then returned at the end of my shift when I took my toys home for safe keeping. I still had to wipe down the monitor every morning to clear it of the detrius, but at least I no longer needed to sterilize the keyboard & mouse before starting work.

      If any of those ex coworkers are reading this, I hope you contract a scathing case of SpaceHerpes.

      1. David Robinson 1

        Re: keyboard condoms

        Upvote for Ice Pirates reference.

      2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: keyboard condoms

        No one at work, besides me, may touch my keyboard or mouse. And I still used to rinse it biweekly.

        Got a bit traumatised in a former life when I discovered the disgusting, brownish-grey, sticky patina of filth covering my then boss's desk, keyboard, mouse, stapler, pens and everything. Heck! It even covered the boss himself.

        1. RustyNailed

          Re: keyboard condoms

          I loathe people touching my equipment (quiet down at the back), whether it be keyboard and mouse, mobile phone or other gizmo, on the basis that all my stuff works, and generally continues to work.

          Other people seem to have an innate ability to make a 'thing' cease working properly merely by holding or looking at it, and I then have to fix it. I have no idea how they can cause the problems they do, but they don't touch my stuff.

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Re: keyboard condoms

            My pet hate was when people would come up to my screen, and poke it with greasy fingers, or even worse, a pen.

            Back in the day of matte ground screens on CRTs to prevent reflections, greasy marks were very noticeable, and ballpoint pen ink was very difficult to get off.

            Tends to happen rather less with LCD screens now. I guess that either they're further away at the back of the desk, or people realize that they are more fragile.

            Talking about fragile, during an office move a while back, a significant number of LCD monitors were ruined because people stuck labels to the screen part of their screen with sticky tape, and then ripped the surface when trying to peel the tape off!

            1. David Robinson 1

              Re: keyboard condoms

              One woman in our office managed to scratch an LCD panel with her fingernail while pointing at something on the screen. Fortunately it was the one on her desk. If she'd done it to mine, there would have been an after hours swap.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: people realize that they are more fragile

              Not all people.

              To economize one time I bought a professionally refurbished laptop. Work quite nicely for a good long time. But after I got it, I was cleaning the LCD screen better and found a couple of the spots on it looked like they were from ink pen pokes and didn't clean off. I think there were small dents in the surface that held the ink.

              Luckily they were quite small and in my office I used an larger monitor.

              1. Robert Moore
                Pint

                Useful trick for ballpoint pen marks.

                Place the surface flat, facing up.

                Spill a small amount of isopropyl alcohol. Enough to make a small pool.

                Wait about 5-10 minutes.

                The ink will slowly begin to lift off the surface. You can then wipe up the alcohol.

                Repeat if needed.

                Clean the entire surface with your preferred cleaning method.

                This is sometimes also effective on very old ink, sometimes even old Sharpie marks.

                1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
                  Pint

                  Re: Useful trick for ballpoint pen marks.

                  What about Tippex?

                  I'd have used the Joke icon, but........

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Useful trick for ballpoint pen marks.

                  > The ink will slowly begin to lift off the surface.

                  Top tip: buy a Stain Devil - the ballpoint ink will lift almost instantly. It's so much quicker than messing around (literally) with other solvents you might happen to have lying around.

                3. DCdave
                  FAIL

                  Re: Useful trick for ballpoint pen marks.

                  Reminds my of when my Dad walked into Tandy (Radio Shack):

                  "Got any isopropyl alcohol?"

                  "Na, sorry, don't do that"

                  "Got any tape head cleaning fluid?"

                  "Yeah, right over here...."

                  1. TheWeetabix

                    Re: Useful trick for ballpoint pen marks.

                    When I was much younger, a friend worked for a large energy company that had a large robotic library. This device took a mix of high-purity ethyl alcohol and water, around 160 proof.

                    Since this was in the days before bitterants were common, occasionally a bottle would go missing.

                    After that, reading things like https://www.theregister.com/2002/12/27/the_bofh_christmas_spirit/ have given me a giggle.

              2. A K Stiles

                Re: people realize that they are more fragile

                Half the (softish TFT style) screens in my previous existence were like that - peppered with ink-filled dents. It was incredible that some of them still worked the amount of abuse they got (and the inability of some people to read a thing without pointing at it with a pen).

            3. CuChulainn

              Re: keyboard condoms

              My pet hate was when people would come up to my screen, and poke it with greasy fingers

              I get that even now with my car windscreen.

              I have to confess I am a bit OCD about it, and the slightest streak or smudge winds me up no end simply because I am aware of it. Periodically, I'll give a good clean - detergent followed by degreaser, using monofibre cloths which have also been cleaned to remove grease.

              I can guarantee that within 30 minutes of doing it someone will point at something by holding their bloody finger on the glass.

              The grease on a single fingerprint can be visible no matter how you try and get it off without going through the whole routine again. And that's just the windscreen - if they rest their head on the side windows, there's a pint of grease to get off!

              Therapy is probably a better way going forward for me.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: keyboard condoms

                Stop giving people lifts in your car!

              2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

                Re: keyboard condoms

                Therapy, or more driving lessons. Most of us can go a bit longer than 30 minutes without mowing down a pedestrian.

                But yeah, they can be a bugger to wipe off.

              3. sev.monster Bronze badge
                Angel

                Re: keyboard condoms

                Car condom.

            4. anothercynic Silver badge

              Re: keyboard condoms

              I will admit that I have that bad habit (of touching screens). Apparently my directions of where to look for something when I was a developer working with others were never good enough. Pointing where the problem was was quicker (but inevitably left a smudge). With the clear/bright LCDs (Apple's forté), the oil on fingers shows up even quicker and yes, it's annoying as hell.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: keyboard condoms

                I've always tried very hard to avoid touching the screen when pointing, even when it's not mine, simply because I know how much I hate it. But one useful method is to point with your fingernail towards the screen, rather than the pad of your fingertip - that way, if you do accidentally touch the screen it's unlikely to leave any residue.

          2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

            Re: keyboard condoms

            I'm glad I'm not the only.

            It's even more fun if you do something that requires specialist equipment (at least if you want to play more than every few years) and in a public space some arse decides to use your bit of kit.

            (10-pin bowlers can go apoplectic with rage over this but when you've had it drilled just fit your hand, and some tit in the next lane picks it up you're allowed to be somewhat miffed. Especially when it's heavier than the public balls and thus likely to get dropped upon first attempt to use it).

            1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
              Devil

              Re: keyboard condoms

              The solitary downvote... You must be one of those people who insist on playing with other peoples balls....

      3. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: keyboard condoms

        Boy do I know what you're talking about... I was assigned a desk and the appropriate accoutrements for the desk when I started a new job. First thing was to take alcohol wipes to the keys to get the crud off, then the keys were *removed* to clean underneath them. The rodent was treated similarly. I'll just say that it wasn't pleasant. To be fair though, I also had the bad habit of eating at my desk (especially those damn Waitrose croissants and yum-yums our company provided free), so I had to repeat the cleaning process once or twice to the kit whilst in my possession to not let it cruft up.

        Unfortunately, Apple keyboards (now that I am a fruity user) of various designs are somewhat... more sensitive to cruft, so I have to be a lot more cautious now (and this COVID lockdown palaver doesn't help kicking the bad habit when you live in the kitchen during the day).

        Mea culpa, mea culpa maxima.

      4. garethm

        Re: keyboard condoms

        Honestly, my best tip for this is to get an ergonomic/split keyboard signed off. Nobody wants to use them because they hate them!!

  3. davef1010101010
    Coat

    Sticky fans

    Used to service printers as well as part of my job. Regularly called to an industrial waste site's office/cabin where there was an OKI dot matrix 132 col inside a large printer hood. The fan built into the hood that was supposed to provide airflow across the printer would regularly sieze.

    Why.... chain smokers in the office, the grunge/tar from the smoke would glue the fan.

    I've got a million of these, how log have you got?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Sticky fans

      "I've got a million of these, how log have you got?"

      Should that be "how lung have you got"?

      1. davef1010101010

        Re: Sticky fans

        After decades of passive smoking on buses, in the workplace etc, probably closer to the mark than you think

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Sticky fans

      >I've got a million of these, how log have you got?

      I wooden know...

  4. Lon24 Silver badge

    Not Cheap

    I was, for a brief time, the UK pricing manager of one of IBM's then competitors. AFAIR we priced PC keyboards at £199 a throw. When I pleaded I was embarrassed by the margin and lack of competitiveness I was firmly reprimanded that we needed to give our salesmen (yep - all men) room to negotiate discounts if the customers would buy enough to make Atlas Club!

    Now I pay about a fiver for keyboard & mouse from my favourite wholesaler. But then, I don't smoke.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Not Cheap

      Wow. When I was buying IBM Model M's for X-Stations and IBM 43Ps, we were only paying about £105, and I thought that was expensive!

      Mind you, buying a Unicomp Model M is about the same price now, although in real terms, they are much cheaper because of inflation.

    2. ridley

      Re: Not Cheap

      In my days as a PC builder we were after some really cheap components for a really cheap loss leader PC (We hardly ever sold them we invariably sold up) but I was able to buy a 105 key keyboard from a UK based distributor for ......28p. Someone made those, boxed them, has a little manual printed, shipped them half way round the world to a distributer who paid duty on them and sold them to me for a profit...Even I was somewhat shocked at that price*

      They weren't the best keyboards in the world, but they weren't as bad as the price implies either.

      *This is the reason I really take Umbridge at having to paying £2 for a plastic radiator valve cap from your local three letter DIY store. They must cost them about a penny each. Grrrr

      1. Pete B

        Re: Not Cheap

        "*This is the reason I really take Umbridge at having to paying £2 for a plastic radiator valve cap from your local three letter DIY store. They must cost them about a penny each. Grrrr"

        And about the same to print them when you need ;-)

        https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1674069

      2. marcellothearcane

        Dolores?

        It's "umbrage", unless you're referring to the character from Harry Potter.

        1. TSM

          Re: Dolores?

          Given that it was capitalised, I assumed it was indeed an intentional reference to her.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    With working at home freeing smokers from workplace restrictions is this becoming an issue again?

    1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

      Interesting thought, given it's illegal to smoke on the workplace

      1. Annihilator Silver badge

        There are exemptions for private residences, but from memory if you were to host a physical meeting there you would have to refrain from smoking for 24 hours. Same if you were to give a colleague a lift to a work event, you wouldn't be allowed to smoke in the car or for the 24 hours beforehand.

        Granted, I'm not sure a 24 hour respite would make a chainsmoker's car any less... fragrant.

        1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

          I was told there were no exceptions, although I find it hard to imagine how they’d enforce it.

          That said, it doesn’t affect me. I don’t smoke and smoking is banned in my house anyway..

  6. CAPS LOCK

    Keyboard covers are 'mandatory' in the healthcare sector...

    ...Let me know if you ever see one in use...

    1. John 110
      Coat

      Re: Keyboard covers are 'mandatory' in the healthcare sector...

      When I did IT support in a Microbiology Lab, I bought a pile of the cheapest keyboards in the catalogue (we had to use a preferred supplier) and when somebody complained about a wonky keyboard, I flung it in a waste bucket and had it autoclaved (https://www.steris.com/healthcare/knowledge-center/sterile-processing/everything-about-autoclaves) and plugged in a replacement.

      Only once was the order referred to Computer Services, and they OKed it when I prised the keys off a dud keyboard and showed them what had accumulated underneath. Of course, I did it in a full containment cabinet with everybody gowned and gloved... (one of the guys they sent never came back to deal with any problems above my paygrade, he always sent a minion...)

      -->Lab coat (I know it's not a Howie coat, but you have to use what you have)

    2. VicMortimer

      Re: Keyboard covers are 'mandatory' in the healthcare sector...

      In these days of COVID?

      Every keyboard, mouse, x-ray button, and anything else tech-related has been wrapped in plastic.

      1. The Central Scrutinizer

        Re: Keyboard covers are 'mandatory' in the healthcare sector...

        Not they ain't. Was in hospital last week for a few hours. No sign of plastic covered computers, mice or anything else.

        1. gerdesj Silver badge

          Re: Keyboard covers are 'mandatory' in the healthcare sector...

          "Not they ain't. Was in hospital last week for a few hours."

          So perhaps you actually observed a compliance issue.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Keyboard covers are 'mandatory' in the healthcare sector...

      Clinical keyboards and mice are in use where I work. Our department was instructed to roll them out to wards, A&E and other treatment areas.

      Most staff get on and use them but some people actively detest them. The first examples we had of this were the clinical mice being skinned! Keyboards ended up with the surface stabbed and torn. It has been a while since the whole outside has been torn off to reveal the physical keyboard underneath. It would be hard to use as they are all blank!

      The first ones we used were really expensive. They were blue and were apparently seen on Casualty. Nowadays we get white "Sterile Flat" ones - as seen on Amazon. No idea what we pay for them though.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Smoking

    Back in the days when I had friends that smoked, if I wanted to show them stuff on my PC I would wait until they'd finish their cig, then propose a demo.

    I have never allowed cigarette smoke near my equipment. There's enough to clean with normal dust already.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Smoking

      "...I have never allowed cigarette smoke near my equipment. There's enough to clean with normal dust already..."

      I've never, ever, allowed anyone to smoke in my house full stop. Problem solved.

      Both my ex-mother and ex-father in law smoke, as does my mum. On the occasions they visited they smoked outside, no exceptions, no matter the weather. And even then the dirty sods had a habit of just flicking their cigarette butts on the floor wherever they stood, no matter how often I made them pick them up again.

      I have found over the years that smokers are overwhelmingly selfish - my own mother, despite being one of only two people who smoke in my family would insist on sitting in the smoking section of restaurants (remember when that was a thing?). She eventually got the message when I refused and sat in the non smoking one each time.

      Almost every smoker I've ever encountered has said things like (in reference to the smoking ban before it came in) "It's my right to smoke in a pub... if non smokers don't like it they can go somewhere else..."

      Which of course, utterly ignored the fact that overwhelmingly more people do not smoke compared to those that do.

      Anyway it's Friday and it's too early to continue on my soapbox ;-)

      1. Sequin

        Re: Smoking

        My reply to pub smokers using that argument was "I have the right to drink beer - would you be ok if I pissed on your shoes?"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smoking

          Mentioned this before - used to worked with a "vegetarian"* that smoked rollups. He would point out how unhealthy your lunch was while holding a ciggie. Explained to him about second hand smoke, but there wasn't a thing called second hand eating of meat pies.....

          * he claimed that because he ate fish and chicken and not red meat, he was a vegetarian

      2. JeffB
        FAIL

        Re: Smoking

        Re: Smoking/non-smoking sections.

        I remember when the food court at Euston station introduced a non-smoking section, it was on the mezzanine. So not only did you have to walk through all of the smokers to reach it, but all of the smoke then drifted up towards you...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smoking

          I remember an airline in the 1980's (I forget which one) that put the smoking section at the front of the aircraft. It created similar problems.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Smoking

            Just as long as it made life worse for the overpaid twats in First Class.

            1. longtimeReader

              Re: Smoking

              Had a manager who was being an arse at checkin for a transatlantic flight. He insisted loudly and annoyingly on being put in the smoking section, knowing it was small and likely to already be full. So hoping for a free upgrade. The agent instead called back the person she'd just processed and asked if HE would like an upgrade freeing up a space in coach smoking for my manager.

              1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: Smoking

                Well played.

          2. MarkTriumphant

            Re: Smoking

            Even worse, JAT (the Yugoslav airline) separated smoking and non-smoking to left and right of the aisle. It was not fun flying to visit my fiancee.

          3. Imhotep Silver badge

            Re: Smoking

            Southwest Airlines put the smoking section out on the wing. At least that is what they tell passengers during the preflight safety spiel.

            1. Shadow Systems

              Re: Smoking

              I'm an Air Force military brat & my father told me of the following incident that may or may not be true.

              A C130 Herc was ferrying supplies overseas to the base at Ramstein, Germany when one of the soldiers asked if it was ok to smoke. The Load Master walked to the back of the plane, secured his safety harness, & slapped open the drop ramp as if to allow for parachute deployment. "Sure. The smoking section is right this way." There was no more discussion of smoking during the flight.

              Even if it's utter shite, it makes me smile imagining the look on some ground pounder's face staring out the back of the now open plane.

              1. DWRandolph

                Re: Smoking

                While approving of the Load Masters actions, did he have a little chat from the pilot later about unexpected changes to the aircrafts performance characteristics?

              2. Fr. Ted Crilly

                Re: Smoking

                Most likely shite C130 has a presurised hold, if there were people being carried 'downstairs' ie too many for the 'upstairs' (and separately presurisable) then a trans atlantic flight (i'm assuming here) the fat albert would most definatly be at altitude and pressurised, good laugh at the thought though :-) which reminds me of my brother bringing(was) twitching fresh lobster and huge prawns back via gander to RAF Lyneham in the deep freeze, an uninsulated bit of a C130 upper ramp door, perfect!

          4. MJB7
            Boffin

            Re: Smoking

            I can do better than the "front half". In 1987 the smoking section of the Turkish Airlines flight from Delhi to Ankara was "the left hand half". It didn't help that my partner was about two months pregnant with our son at the time...

            Icon: Suitable protective gear.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: Smoking

              (also MarkT earlier)

              I'm told that the air systems in modern aircraft circulate air effectively from the aisle to the windows, not down the length of the cabin, so actually a left-right split wouldn't be as bad as you might think, and apparently it's one reason why fewer people have caught "the virus" on board plane than was initially expected - you could easily catch something from the person sitting next to you, less easily from the people immediately behind and in front, but highly unlikely to get something from a passenger even just two or three rows away.

              All moot, of course, as back when smoking on aircraft was allowed I suspect the air handling systems were considerably more "simple".

              Speaking as someone who hasn't actually flown since 1981, and that was in a very basic Dan Air HS748 :-)

              M.

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: Smoking

                >"I'm told that the air systems in modern aircraft circulate air effectively from the aisle to the windows, not down the length of the cabin, so actually a left-right split wouldn't be as bad as you might think and apparently it's one reason why fewer people have caught "the virus" on board plane than was initially expected"

                As part of the CoViD research into air travel risks, I discovered that modern aircraft owe their efficient air circulation to the work done in the early days to mitigate the worst effects of sitting directly behind a smoker, basically airplane designers and constructors have ever since simply reused the designs....

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Smoking

                and that was in a very basic Dan Air HS748 :-)

                Ah, the Paraffin Budgies, they used to do the Belfast-Cardiff-Bristol loop. If you were lucky your luggage got off at the same airport you did.

                1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                  Re: Smoking

                  The particular flight I did was a family holiday, Cardiff-Leeds/Bradford-Prestwick. I had a window seat over a wing and was startled to see the wings flapping!

                  M.

                  1. H in The Hague Silver badge

                    Re: Smoking

                    "I had a window seat over a wing and was startled to see the wings flapping!"

                    Yup, those smaller aircraft really bring you closer to the dynamics of flight :).

                    I used to get flights from Rotterdam to the UK on Shorts aircraft built in Northern Ireland. Basically a village bus (square fuselage) with wings bolted on to it. Always found the dotted lines painted around the doors, marked 'cut here' amusing. And the patches on the wings of what I assumed was duct tape but later learned is actually 'speed tape' (same thing, but more expensive).

                    1. WhereAmI?

                      Re: Smoking

                      Colloquially known as the Flying Shed. Started contracting in Shorts (!) just after the last one rolled out.

              3. Rich 11 Silver badge

                Re: Smoking

                Speaking as someone who hasn't actually flown since 1981, and that was in a very basic Dan Air HS748 :-)

                The last aircraft I flew in was a Dragon Rapide. I remember looking out of the window over the lower port wing and thinking, "That engine is smaller than a motorcycle". Afterwards I looked up the engine's power and found that it produced twice the BHP of a Kawasaki 1100, which was a bit more comforting.

                1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                  Re: Smoking

                  My father tells me that the one and only time my grandmother flew was in a Rapide from Cardiff (presumably Rumney) to Weston Super Mare to visit an ailing relative. I've no idea when (1950s?) or how they afforded it - the family wasn't very well off. I think there's one based around here permanently - St. Athan's perhaps? It seems to have turned up in a couple of TV shows over the years. Dr. Who springs to mind, but I can't think in what context...

                  M.

          5. MrBanana Silver badge

            Re: Smoking

            And even towards the end, as the smoking section got ever smaller, it made little difference to those next to it. As all the other smokers on the plane would just walk back and stand in the smoking section, doubling the horrid fug.

            1. anothercynic Silver badge

              Re: Smoking

              I can confirm that this was the case with Air France in the late nineties to the early noughties. They had turned the flight into a non-smoking flight, but had a 'smoking corner' which was cordoned off with curtains. It was between two sections of Economy where the loos were. So woe betide you if you were a non-smoker and sat anywhere near that area (either before or after it), since all the smokers would wander down, open the curtain to get in (and let the fug out), close it (or just partially close it), light up, puff away, and repeat the process to exit. It was nasty.

              I was so glad when the airline went fully non-smoking...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smoking

        Well im a smoker , both before and after the ban . not in the daytime these days.

        I dont alow anyone to smoke in my house full stop . including me. a policy i invoked a couple of years ago while giving up drinking tempiorarily

        I dispose of my butts corectly

        Non smokers did indeed have to sit with the smokers in the old days , althought i now find the idea that we ever smoked indoors in pubs and restaurants rediculous . cant imagine doing it.

        "It's my right to smoke in a pub... if non smokers don't like it they can go somewhere else..."

        well both partys have "gone somewhere else" - to the pub

        We smokers were clinging to the idea that there would still be a separate smoking area - whose to say which half of the pub is "somewhere else" ?

        Again ,glad that didnt happen, seems like a totally bonkers idea to fill a room with smoke.

        1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

          Re: Smoking

          There are ( and were in 2007 ) air filtration systems that were more than capable of removing enough smoke.

          It wouldn't have been unreasonable to have smoking rooms, or smoking areas with a minimum air replacement rate. Perhaps with a modest increase on the business rates for percentage of floor space which allowed smoking.

          But the goal wasn't to protect non-smokers. The goal was to make people quit. And it worked.

          Whether that's a good or bad thing is up to the reader.

          1. WonkoTheSane

            Re: Smoking

            I'm still waiting for the "Smokatorium" shown in a 2000AD Judge Dredd strip back in 1977.

            https://judgedredd.fandom.com/wiki/Smokatorium

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Smoking

            I recall smoking rooms on offshore oil rigs and platforms. Always inside as smoking outside was a definite no-no (smouldering weed and flammable gas don't mix well)!

            Whilst the smoking rooms would usually have fairly robust extraction systems, you only needed to walk in and breath to get your nicotine hit. There was one which was a glass cubicle to one side of the mess - sometimes so full of smoke it was difficult to see how many people were in there.

            1. ICPurvis47
              Holmes

              Re: Smoking

              When I was working in a factory in the Midlands, the rules changed regarding smoking, and a Smoking Room had to be provided for the workers to go to on their 10 minute "Smoking Break". As a non-smoker of many years' standing, I did not like going into that room, so I avoided it for several years. Then, one day, I had to go there to summon somebody (I don't remember who) to the telephone in our office. As soon as I opened the door, I could smell the thick, brown fug, so I stood just outside and yelled "Mr.****, you're wanted on the phone" before beating a hasty retreat. Someone else in our office commented that if the smokers could take 10 minutes "Smoking Break" every hour or so, why couldn't the rest of us take a "Sex Break" in a suitably furnished "Sex Room"?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Smoking

                "Someone else in our office commented that if the smokers could take 10 minutes "Smoking Break" every hour or so, why couldn't the rest of us take a "Sex Break" in a suitably furnished "Sex Room"?"

                Or even just a 10 minute break in a Non-Smoking Room...Not as much fun as a "Sex Room" but definitely fairer.

              2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                Re: Sex Rooms for non-smoking breaks

                My understanding is that in the Smoking Room, you're expected to use your own smokes exclusively - unless, as told in some stories here, smokes are the business that the company is in.

              3. TonyJ Silver badge

                Re: Smoking

                And these are the things smokers don't usually realise. It really doesn't matter how effective the filtration systems are, it permeates into everything and it stinks! Because of the damage to a smokers' sense of taste and smell they really don't realise how bad it is.

                I remember getting home from pubs and restaurants before the smoking ban and my clothes absolutely reeking of tobacco and making everything else in my wash basket smell just as bad.

                It staggers me now but when I was a kid, my parents used to smoke in the car with me and my sister in the back - I can still remember how sick it used to make me feel but neither of them would stop. They wouldn't dream of doing it now with their grandkids in the car (well my mum wouldn't - my dad quit cold turkey 30+ years ago).

            2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              Re: Smoking

              Yes - the glass smoking rooms. There was one in the dining room/canteen of the hospital I first worked at back in the early-to mid-Eighties. Sometimes the fug was so thick I think it was the inspiration for the scene in "Dune" where the Navigator is introduced...

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Smoking

            "There are ( and were in 2007 ) air filtration systems that were more than capable of removing enough smoke."

            Try as you might (and many motorway services restairants did), these areas still leaked noxious smells

          4. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: Smoking

            Several airports I fly through still have smoking rooms. Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Zürich are three of them.

            1. Hazmoid

              Re: Smoking

              I can add Helsinki to that list, or at least last time I was through there ( about 10 years ago), and It made me laugh as it was a completely glass room with multiple extractor fans in the roof. I suspect it would be quieter on the runway.

          5. martinusher Silver badge

            Re: Smoking

            Around that time I had to share an office with a smoker. Nice bloke, but. His habit was mitigated by having his own personal extractor fan situated in the ceiling tile above him. I hate to think what the ceiling space looked like, but then I never had to go up there.

            The most depressing smoking area I've been in was -- again, back then -- when I visited one of my brothers who was dying of cancer. The hospital he was no-smoking but bowed to the inevitable by providing a smoking lounge consisting of a room with some old sofas in it and some really powerful extractor fans (loud). It more or less worked, but maybe its real purpose was to show the world the future -- those barely living skeletons, felled by cigarettes but still unable to resist just one more. Five minutes in there and you'd never smoke again.

            1. CuChulainn

              Re: Smoking

              Five minutes in there and you'd never smoke again.

              Good story, and upvoted.

              You'd think that, wouldn't you? But unfortunately it doesn't seem to work that way.

              In my city there is a large hospital, much of which deals with cancer treatment and care. I've visited people there, most of whom never came out again.

              But the one thing I remember is the nurses who look after those patients. Back when smoking wasn't banned on the site, they'd all be outside the doors smoking. Nowadays, they all walk off-site and stand outside the gates smoking.

          6. WhereAmI?
            FAIL

            Re: Smoking

            My first job after leaving school (1978) was with the Plessey company doing QA on those pub air filters. We had to sign our names inside with a rotating dentist-type drill as well as stamp with a numbered QA stamp. One day we had a batch of thirty or so down the line and it was my turn to do final sign-off. I refused because I didn't think they were up to snuff. Cue a fairly heated argument with my boss (note: he was not a manager) and I held my ground. He signed/stamped them all off and I was hauled into HR to be given a written warning for not doing my job.

            Of course, I neither received an apology nor was the written warning rescinded when twenty-six of the thirty were returned 'failed in the field' within three weeks.

        2. VicMortimer

          Re: Smoking

          American here, it's still possible in my state to smoke in a bar. Bars that are 21+ in my state can elect to allow smoking.

          I mean, they could in the before times. No idea now, maybe I'll find out in a month or so (my first shot is tomorrow).

        3. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Smoking

          Visit Vienna sometime... Austria is known as the 'ashtray' of Europe because they still allow smoking in their pubs/restaurants (indoors), ostensibly because smoking was fundamentally part of the 'Café Kultur' in Vienna. Their 'solution' was to put the non-smokers in a tiny section of the restaurant separated by a glass partition, so as to really passive-aggressively drive home the point about the café culture.

          1. Def Silver badge

            Re: Smoking

            Yeah, I was surprised and hated that about Vienna too.

            Smoking inside public places is technically illegal in Portugal too, but in most bars nobody gives a fuck. Which is why I'm in no hurry to go back there.

      4. wheelbearing

        Re: Smoking

        As an 18 yr ex-smoker (but like with booze, reckon am still addicted on some level), most of my work colleagues/acquaintances/mates who I smoked with were considerate pepes on the whole, and not at all selfish AFAICT, but as with most of those in the smokers "club", were usually happy (or at least reluctantly prepared) to share fags on request. Sharing a light was almost compulsory, not to do so would have been seen as very stingy and almost unheard of.

        I do agree that a minority of smokers over-shared their smoke and butts, and that (like a lot of bad behaviour) this got worse the more alcohol was drunk.

        I stopped smoking indoors altogether when OH got pregnant & we had kids.

        I do admit to smoking at my desk (only in the evenings though) until it got banned shortly before the main UK anti-smoking laws came in. In hindsight, that was very selfish. The IT Manager in the business at the time used to go into the server room for a smoke....

      5. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Smoking

        Almost every smoker I've ever encountered has said things like (in reference to the smoking ban before it came in) "It's my right to smoke in a pub... if non smokers don't like it they can go somewhere else..."

        This reminds me of an anecdote, in a time before the smoking ban, and when I myself used to smoke.

        I was sat, with a friend, in the pub at the only occupied table in the section at the back of the pub, having a ciggie with our pint. A guy rocks up, with a couple of lackeys, sits at the other end of the table and starts doing exaggerated coughing and waving of arms, as if we had decided to sit at his table and start smoking. Whatever you might think of smoking in pubs, I think you'll agree that this sort of behaviour is just a dick move.

        It turned out later, that the guy was our local (Lib Dem) MP. He got voted out at the next election.

        1. Scott 26

          Re: Smoking

          Lots of smokers vs non-smokers stories, but one from the UK:

          Having a pub lunch in Bristol (?) ... dense fog inside, so decided to take my meal and pint outside... found a (BBQ table style of thing) table to myself... not many smokers outside (weather wasn't 100% suitable).

          Halfway through my lunch a guy sits down at my table and lights up. I politely say "excuse me mate, do you mind?". He says "if I don't like it I can choose to go somewhere else"... I reply "yup, just like you can choose to be a cunt". He was speechless at that.

        2. Fr. Ted Crilly

          Re: Smoking

          Yeah in 't old days was a regular thing on the underground in London, I mean its got Smoking written on the outside yes?

      6. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Smoking

        > if non smokers don't like it they can go somewhere else..."

        We did., in droves. Pubs and restaurants are still picking up returning custom from people who got out of the habit of going out because of smokers

      7. CuChulainn

        Re: Smoking

        Many years ago, I went to a friend's house to listen to some music (and get pissed). It was in his 'den', and his wife was not best pleased when she came back to find us all in the house drinking.

        He was proud of his music system, which included an expensive CD player (back when CD players were still the the latest must-have tech).

        The problem was that the CD kept skipping. The other problem was that he was a very heavy smoker.

        I checked his CD and the tray was as sticky as hell in the way that I knew smokers' equipment became. I told him to buy a CD cleaner disk and run it, and it fixed the problem.

      8. Manolo
        Mushroom

        Re: Smoking

        Smokers are always proclaiming how "social" they are, chatting together in the designated outside smokers area, sharing fags.... Just look at he ground in the area, count the butts on the ground and you can tell how "social" they are.

      9. uccsoundman

        Re: Smoking

        "...Almost every smoker I've ever encountered has said things like (in reference to the smoking ban before it came in) "It's my right to smoke in a pub... if non smokers don't like it they can go somewhere else..."

        I was always amazed by this argument. Remember I'm in the USA out in flyover country. You get into your car and go to a special building where they serve you expensive portions of an intoxicating drug (alcohol). Their profit depends on you buying and consuming enough to be drunk. THEN you have to drive back home, dodging police officers looking for an easy ticket. But if the police don't catch you, you are still a danger to everybody on the road.

        I've never heard of anybody killing a bus full of children because he smoked an extra pack of cigarettes, but I regularly pass a place where a bus full of children was killed because a driver had an extra 12-pack of beer.

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Smoking

      No smoking in my workspace, most of the keyboards died after being drowned in Coca-cola, one or two had issues with ketchup.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Smoking

        Yes. Sticky carbonated drinks will kill even a Model M (2 attempted rebuilds, one worked, one failed).

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Smoking

        Rule of thumb: the best cure for keyboards doused in any kind of beverage is a bucket of (clean) water and leave it in there

        It's easier to dewater and clean something up than to deal with corrosion if it's left

        NB: I did run into a reuters terminal which used keyboards that literally had foil strips on blocks of polyurethane foam on the ens of the keystems. Drying that out was problematic as the foam didn't like IPA

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: as the foam didn't like IPA

          IPA generates its own foam.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Smoking

          Having last year cleaned a load of keboards and mice, it irritated me that manufacturers didn't make it clear whether a keyboard was or was not "cleanable". One batch of HP keyboards were a really good, designed to be taken apart, circuit board removed and rest in the dishwasher. However, I only learnt this by looking up the user manual online.

          As for mice and wheeled mice in particular...

        3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Smoking

          With both of the rebuilds, when I dismantled the keyboards, the sticky mess that was left after the drink had also eaten into the tracks on the membrane.

          The first rebuild, a real Model M, I did not soak the keyboard (I had not heard of the process), just went straight in to the stripdown, and found the membranes stuck together. Unsticking them ruined the tracks, and even though I tried to use conductive paint, I could not get all of the keys working, even after several attempts.

          The second one, a Unicomp, I knew about the soak method. I tried it with the whole keyboard, and then tried with the plastic interior out of the case and with the complete key set of keys and spring/rocker assemblies, but it still didn't return the keyboard to an operating state.

          Fearing the worst, I cut the plastic rivets, and found that the Unicomp membrane was actually mostly sealed with a mastic bead, which prevented the water getting in in sufficient quantity to clean up the gunk (the previous IBM one was open on all sides, so probably would have worked). The drink had seeped into one of the holes of the rivets.

          But even opening the membrane, and cleaning it well by hand was still not enough. After bolt-modding it and putting it back together, I found that two keys would not work. So I stripped it down again, and with a meter found that one track had been apparantly eaten into by the drink. Resorting to the conductive paint again, this time I managed to restore the tracks, and got all the keys working.

          I think that the IBM board failed because of the higher resistance of the painted tracks, and the difference in electronics (PS/2 vs. USB).

          The bolt-mod actually made the feel of the keyboard better (some of the plastic rivets had already broken - the keyboard was my son's, who has a machine-gun like typing style).

          1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

            Re: Smoking

            One advantage of the drop in keyboard prices (these days I get Logitech ones for about £15) is that you can try extreme cleaning and if it fails, just grab a new one. I have heard, but not tried, that just bunging the whole thing in the dishwasher on a gentle cycle can often work.

            In the old days, plastic cups of coffee all over the keyboard used to be a common problem, usually sorted by just putting the keyboard keys-down on the radiator for a day. That only worked with coffee without sugar. If it had sugar in just bin it.

            Problem these days is more biscuit crumbs, and blobs of hummus (this is the 21st century) than fag-ash. A good shake often helps.

    3. Andy A
      Thumb Up

      Re: Smoking

      One place I worked (railway engineering, so not the cleanest of places) introduced official smoking areas - and enforced them.

      The areas were red-painted squares 4 metres on a side, with an ashtray on a 2-foot pole. No seating. In the middle of the yard, with no shelter. Very popular in the winter!

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Smoking

        "The areas were red-painted squares 4 metres on a side, with an ashtray on a 2-foot pole."

        So how long until metrification is complete in UK?

        1. Spanners Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Metrification

          So how long until metrification is complete in UK?

          We got rid of Fahrenheit, didn't we?

          I remember converting the temperature for my grandparents to probably around 1964 or so. If we can get rid of one unintuitive and difficult system, we can get rid of others!

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Metrification

            There are still holdouts, particularly among some weather forecasters, for some strange reason.

          2. mooblie

            Re: Metrification

            "We got rid of Fahrenheit, didn't we?"

            Only in winter, not in summer.

            1. Spanners Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Metrification

              not in summer

              If someone was as odd as to assure me that the temperature was, for example, 86 degrees, I would know that either global warming had run away and everyone was dead or that I had to subtract 32 then divide by 1.8 to get something meaningful (like 30 in this example).

              I am too young to be instantly conversant with Fahrenheit. Fortunately, I am fast at mental arithmetic.

              1. CuChulainn

                Re: Metrification

                To be honest, you have to be very(-ish) old in the UK to be instantly conversant with Fahrenheit. UK weather forecasting officially switched to Celsius in 1962, though some parts of the system never really have (even more so with other 'old' units).

                I remember having to do multiplication and long division using Imperial measures and £sd when I was at primary school. Once we decimalised, things became a lot easier and made more sense. But even at University some years later, and especially when using older text books for reference, the necessary corrections that ended up in many formulas (as fractions) that had to be translated could be a real PITA.

                My favourite one was the approximation of π to 22/7, and the revelation of how badly a clock designed using it would keep time.

                I think it's like someone else has said, it's what you are brought up with in many cases. Americans understand weather reports in F and most people in the UK don't. The fun comes if you also use the Kelvin scale in your everyday business, where Celsius makes it easier to move between the two (IMO).

                1. ICPurvis47
                  Boffin

                  Re: Metrification

                  A much better approximation to Pi is 355/113, which is accurate to six decimal places.

                  I only found this out recently, after about sixty years in engineering!

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Metrification

                    Reminders of a mathematician's cheer:

                    Sine! Cosine! Cosine! Sine! 3.14159!

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: Metrification

                      Reminders of a mathematician's cheer:

                      Actual official cheer at Illinois Institute of Technology:

                      E to the x dydx e to the xdx

                      Secant, sine, cosine, sine.

                      3.14159

                      GoooooTECH!

                2. Boothy Silver badge

                  Re: Metrification

                  Even my parents, born late 1940s, early 50s, used Celsius. (UK)

                  I'm in my 50s now, and can say Fahrenheit was never used in our household. I know 32 °F is freezing, but I'd have no idea what a comfortable room temperature was, or if it was hot outside if in °F!

        2. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Smoking

          If anything, it'll reverse under the new Brexiteer regime.

          Oops. I said it out loud.

        3. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Smoking

          I actually like it - 4 metres and 2 feet is much tidier than 4 metres and 60 centimetres or four-and-bit yards and 2 feet.

          Imperial measurements are based on sizes we can intuitively relate to because they are [close to] the sizes of body parts.

          1. Sandtitz Silver badge

            Re: Smoking

            "Imperial measurements are based on sizes we can intuitively relate to because they are [close to] the sizes of body parts."

            Is it? I'm not aware of any lower body part of mine that is approx. 1 foot long. Not that anything down there a a metre-long either...

            I'm certainly more fond of the metrics since calculating (in head at least) is WAY easier since it's all in 10base and you don't need to memorise all the different coefficients between yards, chains and furlongs; acres and square feet; ounces, pounds and stones; etc.

            Perhaps that's why most people don't bother with anything but feet, yards and miles; square inches/yards/miles and acres; and so on. Plenty of units are just not used. Then again not every metric unit is used, the deca prefix especially.

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: I'm not aware of any lower body part of mine that is approx. 1 foot long

              Commentards might think you are talking cobblers.

          2. Spanners Silver badge
            Meh

            Re: Smoking

            My extended armspan is almost exactly 2 metres. Many of my fingers are 2CM wide. It is about 20cm around my wrist. I can't find any part of my body that is an even number or fraction of a rod, pole, perch or furlong though. In fact, I can't find any part of my body that is an inch or a foot long either.

            1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

              Re: Smoking

              A furlong is 10 chains. A chain is 22 yards. A yard is three feet.

              If you are 6' tall, you have a reference point to measure a chain ( or a furlong ).

              Alternatively if you have a cricket pitch handy, the distance between the wickets is one chain.

        4. Def Silver badge

          Re: Smoking

          So how long until metrification is complete in UK?

          Never. Once Brexit has returned the UK to 1953 everyone will have stopped using those EU-imposed, new-fangled metric weights and measures.

          But on a serious note, I'm not sure there's much in the UK that isn't metric these days. People still use imperial measures in speech, but that's about it really. Speed limits are still in miles for some unfathomable reason - possibly because unbimetreable just sounds ridiculous.

          1. H in The Hague Silver badge

            Re: Smoking

            "Speed limits are still in miles for some unfathomable reason - possibly because unbimetreable just sounds ridiculous."

            In Ireland they changed the speed limits from mph to km/h in 2005. (Distance signs had been in km for much longer.) Initially caused some confusion as it wasn't always clear if a speed limit was in mph or km/h.

      2. GloriousVictoryForThePeople

        Re: Smoking

        >4 metres on a side, with an ashtray on a 2-foot pole.

        I think that's a mixed metraphor

        1. Diogenes

          Re: Smoking

          Try the standard model railway scales - HO 3.5mm/ft (1 :87.1) OO 4mm/ft(1:76) and UK O 7mm/ft - as oppossed to US o scale 1:48 or .25in/ft or European O 1:45

  8. longtimeReader

    Industrial keyboard

    I worked for a time on QA of IBM's "Industrial" PC, intended for use in places like factory floors rather than offices. One test put the system in an excessively smoky and dirty environment - after a while the keys on the keyboard could not even be depressed as there was so much gunk caught underneath the keycaps. But we were able to simply turn it over, shake and tap it, and everything started working fine again.

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Is there such a thing as a laptop condom to protect laptops against thrills and spills from users' coffee cups and water glasses?

    1. Sequin

      My neighbour once asked me to have a look at her laptop as it kept shutting down. Just touching the thing revealed that it was extremely hot, and also covered in a sticky residue which reeked of tobacco.

      Turning it over, the mesh covering the ventilation intakes was no longer a mesh - the tar had built up so much that about 90% of the holes were closed up completely! Ten minutes with a stiff paintbrush, a vacuuum cleaner and some baby wipes returned it to working (and clean) condition.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Only in El Reg..

        ..... can you mention touching a neighbour's laptop that was extremely hot without raising a smirk.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well Thinkpads have dribble holes, if that helps.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not to my knowledge, but have seen keyboard overlays that "stick" over the keyboard

    4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Stretchy "clingfilm" / plastic wrap / Saran wrap (PVC, LDPE) seems worth trying. Maybe test first in case the laptop is ventilated in or out -through- the keyboard - do something intensive maybe that makes the fans roar, then lay a sheet of paper on the keyboard to see whether it is sucked down, or floats up.

      Don't wrap the whole laptop, that will almost certainly overheat; cover the keyboard and maybe use adhesive tape to stick the edge of the plastic sheet.

      An early Google result for "Saran" and "keyboard" tells of a leaking roof and a miserly boss...

    5. Roland6 Silver badge

      Yes search for "laptop keyboard cover". Although many are universal and so fit may not be ideal.

      However, some vendors do allow for coffee/water spills in their keyboard design. Only problem here is that if the spill is a full cup of coffee then expect to lose the keyboard. (Currently have an HP Probook in this state, disassembly confirmed no leakage beyond the keyboard "drip tray" - system all working with external keyboard so worth repairing.)

      Otherwise you are restricted to laptops/tablets with membrane keyboards.

  10. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
    Devil

    SGI Keyboard

    I 'liberated' my old SGI keyboard over 20 years ago from a former employer as the SGI Indys we used were being replaced with Sun equipment.

    At my next place of employment where I was writing a lot of code, that keyboard was used and it sounded like a machine gun going off. Worked very well as a 'do not disturb' device.

    It is still going strong.

    1. nintendoeats

      Re: SGI Keyboard

      I've got one on my desk (also from an Indy), yeah it's a beast. Honestly, typing on it feels...manly...like every keystroke is a swing of a pickaxe. After a long day of coding on that thing, I would be exhausted!

  11. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    I miss IBM keyboards

    Is it just me? Modern flat keyboards (like the Dell one I'm currently abusing) behave like floaty slidey things. I want something traditional, made of depleted uranium billets with enough mass to give a black hole indigestion, nice chunky keys and a decent curve to the keyboard. Is there an XT/AT to USB converter?

    1. Vometia Munro

      Re: I miss IBM keyboards

      There is indeed. A chap called Soarer makes a contraption that does the job nicely. The only problem I've had is plugging it into my KVM, but my KVM seems to have an interesting view of USB standards so I don't think it's the fault of Soarer's converter.

      Most modern keyboards are dire: I'm really not a fan of the squishy rubber dome things which often seem to evoke the feel of the Spectrum only with actual keys perched on top. There are various modern mechanical keyboards of varying quality (currently using a Durgod with MX Reds in it; feels a bit like a BBC Micro or Dragon from years past) and you can still get Model M keyboards from Unicomp but a lot of people think the vintage Model M and especially Model F keyboards are superior.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I miss IBM keyboards

        "the feel of the Spectrum only with actual keys perched on top."

        ISTR there was an actual "keyboard convertor" for the Spectrum that was an open box that sat on top of the Speccy and had purely mechanical keys which in turn pressed the actual keys below

        1. Vometia Munro

          Re: I miss IBM keyboards

          That's entertainingly horrifying! :D

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Careful now

      A recent Arstechnica article warns of the rabbit hole that is creating your dream mechanical keyboard. For a price it seems you can it all, your choice of mechanical key - linear, tactile or clicky, - modularity, programmable firmware to switch between schemes, lighting, USB C or A connections.

      https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/03/typing-my-way-down-the-mechanical-keyboard-rabbit-hole-with-the-drop-ctrl/

      Interestingly, the figure of around $200 is mentiibed, similar to the price charges in the 80s by margin-raisibg salesmen, according to an above comment.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Careful now

        mentiibed

        margin-raisibg

        Would it be a cheap shot to suggest that maybe you need a new keyboard yourself?

    3. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: I miss IBM keyboards

      There's no need for a converter, Unicomp ended up with the rights to the Model M, and still produce updated versions of them with a variety of connectors and stylings. You can get a brand new Model M for ~£130, your choice of black or beige, US/UK/dvorak layout, with windows keys/mac keys/tux keys/no special keys. They even do a 122 key keyboard if you miss having 24 F function keys.

      UK stockist

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: I miss IBM keyboards

        I have bought two Unicomp keyboards. They're definitely good, and quite robust (one of the Model M's I referred to above as having been repaired after exposure to carbonated drinks was a Unicomp one), but they are quite a bit lighter than my real 1992 Model M. Also, some of them appear not to have the 2 part key caps that a real model M had.

        Also, the moulds are wearing after all this time, so they're beginning to look a bit lower quality.

        I would still recommend them for people who want a positive typing experience, but I would say that some of the individual key-switch keyboards are now quite good as well (Model M's are actually membrane keyboards, the feel comes from the buckling spring mechanism). The one I'm using at the moment is a SUMVISION Acies ten-key-less keyboard (my Model M is too big to cohabit with another keyboard on my working-at-home desk), and significantly cheaper than a Unicomp Model M.

        The only real problem is that the key legends require you to have the keyboard lit to be able to see them, and they're a bit garish with the lights on. I might just replace the LEDs with white ones to see whether that makes any difference.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: I miss IBM keyboards

          " but they are quite a bit lighter than my real 1992 Model M"

          A lot of keyboards being produced around then were "heavy" by virtue of having a steel slug glued into the bottom, not because of some extra high quality chassis

          The same trick was applied to Viscount phones to make them appear to be higher quality

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Re: I miss IBM keyboards

            Yes, it's quite true with the IBM Model M. There's a big steel plate forming the bottom of the plastic-membraneX3-rubber_shim-steel sandwich inside the plastic case. It's not just for weight, it's actually the bottom layer, with the rubber sheet and the the lower membrane immediately above it, and is also curved so that the rake is not just the height of the keycaps, but a formed by the plate.

            There's videos on YouTube about bolt-modding the keyboards which show you exactly how they are put together.

            With the Unicomp keyboards, the plate is of a lower gauge than the original IBM ones, and I get the impression that the plastic of the external case is either thinner, or of a less dense plastic as well (it's certainly more flexible when it's apart). This makes the whole keyboard, though still heavy by today's standards, lighter than a real Model M.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: I miss IBM keyboards

              Argh. What am I saying. The rubber sheet in the Model M keyboards is between the membrane and the rockers, not the membrane and the steel sheet,

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: I miss IBM keyboards

        I should point a former colleague at this site... just in case his ancient IBM 122-key keyboard eventually gives up the ghost...

    4. Fortycoats

      Re: I miss IBM keyboards

      I have a Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000. Got it 14 years ago and it's still going strong. It's quite sturdy, but not cast-iron heavy. Whenever I changed jobs, the keyboard came with me. Also helps that nobody in the office is used to the ergonmic shape so it will never be used by anyone else.

      Got another one Xmas 2019 for my daughter, so they might still be available somewhere.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: I miss IBM keyboards

        "Got another one Xmas 2019 for my daughter".

        Seems a fair swap.

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: I miss IBM keyboards

        I *think* I still have one of the original Microsoft Natural Keyboards floating around in a box somewhere. Now that was a beauty.

    5. Scott Wheeler

      Re: I miss IBM keyboards

      They do exist, yes. Alternatively you might look at Unicomp keyboards. Apparently they bought the designs and tooling from IBM. I have a Model M that I bought about 15 years back. That one has a PS/2 interface, so I use a converter, but their modern ones are USB. The disadvantage as always is the sheer noise of the thing. I had to give up using it in an office because of the complaints and I prefr a Das Keyboard these days - however that is lighter and not dished, so the Unicomp keyboards would probably be better for you.

    6. knottedhandkerchief

      Re: I miss IBM keyboards

      My Cherry "click" (MX3000) is routed through two adaptors - DIN to XT/AT and then to USB.

    7. HausWolf

      Re: I miss IBM keyboards

      You can buy a Model M with USB,

      https://www.pckeyboard.com/

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I miss IBM keyboards

      >and a decent curve to the keyboard

      Just run an apple keyboard through yer grans mangle and curve to taste...

      (Pro tip: longways)

    9. HighTension

      Re: I miss IBM keyboards

      I've got a Redragon K552 now after a number of Model Ms started failing after a spill (they seem to have got more fragile as they age). For 30 quid or so it's a really nice keyboard.

  12. ForthIsNotDead

    The 80s were generally a happy time...

    The music was great. But Jesus... there was a lot of fag smoke, fag ends, and ashtrays everywhere. It was awful. One the best laws ever passed (I think it was by Labour - might have been as a result of laws passed in the EU) was banning smoking in public places. What a difference. It's amazing how one becomes accustomed to norms so quickly. Watch an old episode of The Sweeny or anything around that time and it seems outrageous to see people smoking in offices!

    I remember when I left school in 1987 I was sent to work on a YTS helping to run a really old ICL computer system for an agricultural dealer (Shukers, in Shrewsbury - in case anyone remembers it!). One of the ladies in the office was such a prodigious chain smoker that she was given her own office. And this in an office full of smokers. She was one of my favourites, but god.. the stench and fog when you went in there, and the yellow walls and ceilings... Shudder...!

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

      You should rewatch the Usual Suspects from the 1990s... not only is the detective smoking, but he's smoking a cigar... in a hospital *burns* unit!

    2. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

      We arrived in London from NZ in ’93. NZ had passed smoke free legislation some years previously. Coming to the UK was an unpleasant reversion to the past we thought we had left behind.

      It took almost 20 years to catch up to where NZ was in ’93. NZ is aiming for zero smoking. Not sure how we’ll handle tourists when that happens if they can’t buy them and there’s nowhere to smoke them.

      ATM machines here still haven’t caught up to NZ ones in ’93 and you can punch in how many dollars worth of petrol you want, click pull the nozzle handle and then flip the catch so you can let go. It will stop automatically when the amount punched has been dispensed. As well of course if you chose to fill.

      The technology clearly exists here to that but it still hasn’t happened. I suspect b/c They make money out of all those £20.02p petrol bills. The NZ system doesn’t have those.

      1. wheelbearing

        Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

        Some of the supermarket self-serve fuel pumps have had the option to choose how much you want to spend for a few years now - I think you have to select in increments of £5. But I think you still have to hold the handle until it's finished.

        Don't US pumps have a similar thing where you can just click the handle and let go and it fuels until the tank is full?

        1. FBee

          Pro-tip

          just nudge your car's fuel cap between the pump trigger and finger guard and let go away!

          1. Vometia Munro

            Re: Pro-tip

            Yikes. I've had a few incidents over the years when the auto-cut-off hasn't worked and petrol's come splurting out everywhere, so I think I'll not...

        2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

          I believe the reason for not having the "click the handle and let go" thing here is that there are instances of static charge building up on the nozzle whilst it is pumping, and then sparking when it is picked up again, igniting the petrol vapour. I don't know if this is apocryphal, but having to hold onto the nozzle while it pumps would mean that it would be continually earthed though your body, and it wouldn't spark when you touch it again.

          Apparently not having the locking pins also helps prevent accidental spillages, from nozzles falling out of tanks, overflows, etc.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

            The earthing really can't be guaranteed, many people have rubber soles under their shoes, so I think that is apocryphal.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

              At least one instance of flames caused by static electricity while filling a car has been caught on video.

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6VKxmUPb3g

            2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

              Well, there's several potential (geddit) ways for there to be a static potential between the user and the pump handle, from the pump not being grounded, and the user being grounded, to the other way round, or neither. Clothing can build a static charge, from moving around, etc. The main point here, though, is that if the user is holding onto the pump, they are going to be at the same potential all the time whilst they are doing so, and the only discharge is going to occur when they initially touch the pump, which has a metal body, and is most definitely grounded, and unless something is seriously wrong, won't be surrounded by an explosive mix of air and petrol vapour, unlike the tip of the nozzle whilst it is pumping.

        3. Imhotep Silver badge

          Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

          US pumps generally have a ratchet on the trigger that can fit in of one several slots to keep it open at fifferent rates of flow.

          But there are a few states that don't allow them.

      2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

        Latching petrol pumps are illegal here. For some strange reason we've decided that when pumping highly flammable liquid into an open container of finite capacity, one should pay attention to the process.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

          When it's -30C outside or lower, most people are quite happy to keep their hands in their pockets, rather than pumping gas.

          1. David 132 Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

            Oregon checking in here. In pretty much the entire state, we have gas station employees to pump the fuel for us, by law. Very nice on a cold winter day. Not so nice when I drive across the state line to WA or CA and absent-mindedly sit in my car at the pump for 5 minutes until I remember that I have to *shudder* get out and pump my own fuel like a medieval peasant. Oh, the humanity!

            (and before we re-hash the usual arguments: no, we don't pay any more for our fuel than neighboring self-serve states, and no, I've never been noticeably inconvenienced by having to wait maybe 30 seconds for the attendant to wander over to my car. And we do have trigger latches on the pumps, so the poor attendant doesn't have to stand there holding the trigger the whole time.)

        2. Rob Daglish

          Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

          In the U.K.? First I’ve heard of it. I’ve personally used a number of pumps across the country that latch on. Mind you, usually when I’m filling a bus up on a truck stop...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

            I usually fill up 2-3 times per week over a pretty wide swathe of the UK and I've never come across a latching fuel pump handle. Maybe it's different on the HGV pumps since they have such large fuel tanks.

            1. ICPurvis47
              Mushroom

              Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

              If you look closely at the pump nozzle, almost without the exception, there are holes on the trigger guard to accept the latching wires, but the wires have to be removed to stop the latching action for local regulations (at least in public petrol stations). I carry a wire on my keyring that just fits into the holes and re-enables the latching action. I have only been told off once by an eagle eyed kiosk attendant, he switched the pump off and wouldn't allow me to pump any more petrol until I removed the trigger wire. Most petrol station fires were (are?) caused by ladies putting the latch on and getting back into the car to get their handbag out, and their slipping across the upholstery fabric is what builds up the static charge. As long as you touch the car body to earth yourself before touching the nozzle, there won't be a spark.

              1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

                Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

                Touching the car body is unlikely to properly ground you after building up a static charge, rubber tyres are generally a good insulator. There was a trend in the '80s and '90s of having "earthing straps" on the backs of cars, because of the belief that static charge causes car sickness. As any fule kno, car sickness is, of course, caused by witchcraft.

                1. ICPurvis47
                  Boffin

                  Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

                  Touching the car body will equalize your potential to that of the car, and this is what prevents sparks on touching the nozzle. It doesn't matter that you still have potential with respect to ground, the spark will only take place if you are at a different potential than the metal parts of the nozzle handle, which is itself electrically connected to the mouth of the tank.

                2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
                  Joke

                  Re: As any fule kno, car sickness is, of course, caused by witchcraft.

                  I used to know someone who dated a witch.

                  He would take her out in the car when the weather was good. Every time she put her hand on his knee he turned into a lay-by.

            2. Def Silver badge

              Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

              Could be a difference between petrol and diesel. Diesel is a lot less flammable than petrol.

              I have a diesel car here in Norway and the vast majority of pumps have latches.

      3. TSM

        Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

        For what it's worth, here in Australia I've never been able to get petrol out of an ATM, only money.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

      Most of the TV shows and films have lots of smoking in them. Yup tobacco sponsorship is still a thing.,.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

        People really did smoke a lot then though. When you see films and series made now and set in the '80s or earlier, it's a dead give-away when nobody is smoking, and all the white walls aren't yellow.

        It's remarkable what we put up with back then. Even back in the '90s, I recall night-clubs where you couldn't see the other end of the room, and if they were hot and sweaty, there would be tar dripping from the ceiling. I can't say I miss it.

        1. Mast1

          Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

          We helped a friend move into a rented property, only about 10 years ago. Our job was to clean the residue from the previous smoker (carpets had been stripped out by the landlord). Since I am pretty tall, I was sugar-soaping the (artex) ceilings without using steps, which meant that it was easier to dodge the drips of liquid tar from an area just sprayed. Full PPE for that.

          1. Hazmoid

            Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

            We rented a flat in south Perth that had been lived in by a chain smoker who just closed all the doors and hid in there. Not only did we find that the brown walls were actually white, but that the curtains were actually a cream colour.

            Worst part was that because the ceilings were coated in vermiculite, we couldn't wash them :( also the owner refused to replace the carpets so we had them steam cleaned, twice.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

          In modern movies, the heroes don't smoke cigarettes, so if someone is smoking, it could be a clue they're a villain.

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

            And when you do see someone smoking, it is obvious they don't know how to do it. Real smokers could/can do things with a cigarette that still (to my eye) look very impressive.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

      "One the best laws ever passed (I think it was by Labour - might have been as a result of laws passed in the EU) was banning smoking in public places. What a difference. It's amazing how one becomes accustomed to norms so quickly."

      In France, just, I think, a couple of years *after* the anti-smoking public rule in France, I had one colleague come to my office ... only for smoking. You know, since it used to be, before me, a heavy smoker office. And law was only for public spaces, not offices.

      I had to complain about this before it ceased.

      Fortunately, this is now not possible any longer.

    6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

      "Watch an old episode of The Sweeny or anything around that time and it seems outrageous to see people smoking in offices!"

      After this past year of another enforced "new normal", "Watch an old episode of The Sweeny or anything around that time and it seems outrageous to see people in offices!"

    7. ICPurvis47
      Thumb Down

      Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

      When my daughter and her husband bought a semi in Leeds, the previous (old) couple had both been heavy smokers. The walls and ceilings were a dull tan coloured, and we had to strip all the wallpaper and most of the plaster off and start again from bare brick. The lath and plaster ceilings also had to come down and be replaced with new plasterboard before the whole lot was papered and painted white. The stench when we first entered was indescribable.

  13. Nick Pettefar

    Mars!

    I worked for Mars for a while in the mid-90s and was called down to the chocolate consistency testing room to look at their erratic PC.

    It was a venerable IBM XT with 5 1/4 floppies and the flackery keyboard.

    They complained that the floppies only worked once or twice and had to keep making new ones.

    I typed on the keyboard and instead of the clack it was a sickly sort of crunch. It turned out to be full of bits of chocolate accumulated over years of testing.

    When I opened the XT’s case it was jam-packed full of dust and hair and chocolate, so much that it pushed against the slot of the inserted floppy and contaminated it.

    I cleaned it all out and suggested a keyboard condom.

    The chocolate consistency testing machine was quite fascinating to watch though.

  14. JeffB
    Coffee/keyboard

    Dishwashers

    I remember reading an article many years ago in one of the many IT publications that somebody used to put grotty keyboards through a dishwasher to divest them of various layers of gunk and detritus, the author said that provided they were given sufficient time to dry out completely before hooking up to the computer they were perfectly usable

    1. Vometia Munro

      Re: Dishwashers

      I've taken the keys off and put them in the dishwasher before (finally a use for the lid of that basket thing!) but the idea of putting the electronic bits in there makes me feel rather nervous. Maybe I shouldn't be, but I don't think I'll put that one to the test.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Dishwashers

        havent we all got dozens of old surplus kbds lying around?

        just try one of those , it was getting binned anyway.

        I've been meaning to see if an old motherboard will still run if immersed in a fishtank of old motor oil.

        (i'll keep the 240v bits out ... first time round .. )

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Dishwashers

          I believe that one of the models of Cray supercomputer used to immerse some of the boards in a non-conductive, inert liquid to aid heat dissipation. I can't remember what it was called, but I understand it was green.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Alien

            Re: Dishwashers

            Aliens used to pump their suits & helmets full of that stuff, to help against the forces produced by FTL travel according to one documentary I saw back in the 70's.

          2. David 132 Silver badge

            Re: Dishwashers

            Back about 10-15 years ago when there was a vogue for liquid-cooling of gaming PCs, a good friend of mine came over to my house one evening, watched me working on my desktop system, which happened to have the case lid off - and wordlessly poured a glass of water straight onto it.

            After my heart had resumed its normal cadence, and perplexed by the lack of sparks/fizzing and the fact that the PC was quite happily ticking along like it was no big deal, my friend sniggeringly admitted that the glass had actually contained one of the inert, non-conductive cooling liquids. Sapphire, I think it was called.

            And yes, we're still friends.

          3. swm Silver badge

            Re: Dishwashers

            I believe that the CDC 1604 used freon piped to every board for cooling.

          4. Down not across Silver badge

            Re: Dishwashers

            I believe that one of the models of Cray supercomputer used to immerse some of the boards in a non-conductive, inert liquid to aid heat dissipation. I can't remember what it was called, but I understand it was green.

            3M FluorinertTM. Introduced with Cray-2 with the rather memorable "waterfall". IIRC Cray 3 also used Fluorinert for cooling, sans the waterfall. The current and recent (FC-40, FC-74) are colourless, whether that was the case for Cray-2 I can't recall (didn't think it was colourless, but it was some time ago).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dishwashers

          Maybe fresh oil? IIRC doesn't old oil have little bits of metal in?

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Dishwashers

        I would suggest not using any dishwasher detergent or tablets. They tend to have mild abrasives and slightly corrosive components in them that may leave a residue inside the keyboard or damage PCBs.

        I would probably not use anything, just let the water do it's stuff, but it might depend on how hard the water is in your area.

      3. NITS

        Re: Dishwashers

        I ran the plastic bits of a Model M through the dishwasher back in the day. It worked fine after drying and reassembly. The only unintended consequence was that the dishwasher washed out all the lube from the stems, so they had a bit more plastic-on-plastic friction than originally. A bit of silicone spray would take care of that.

        Model M keyboards, while they have plastic layers with printed wiring on them, are not "membrane" keyboards as I understand the term. Rather, they sense the capacitance change that occurs when the flappy metal bit at the base of the buckling spring moves.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Dishwashers

          The previous model F keyboards (on the 5150 and other IBM systems) operated by capacitance change. Model M's used a reduced cost mechanism compared to the model F, and are definitely contact based.

          The rocker mechanism is plastic in the model M (I've had several of them apart, and they are definitely plastic), and operates when the spring buckles, and presses the two layers of the membrane together, in the same way that the rubber dome of cheaper keyboards do. I've even operated the membrane without the rocker.

          Believe it or not, the model F was even more clicky (well, actually more clunky) than the model M. I thought the feel of the model F was absolutely amazing (better than the later model M), but unfortunately, the layout was quite eccentric, although there was not really a standard keyboard layout back then. The model M shipped with the 5170 PC/AT really defined that (although the physical key positions - although not the character layout - of the DEC LK201 keyboard was very similar).

    2. PTW

      Re: Dishwashers

      No self respecting firm threw out IBM keyboards. When I started in the 90s it was, case off and throw them in the ultrasonic cleaner, leave to dry, reassemble and back in stock. Some required foam cleaner and a toothbrush on the key caps.

    3. NorthernCoder

      Re: Dishwashers

      Due to coffee-related incidents at work I have twice given my keyboard a good rinse in the shower. After drying over night it has worked perfectly. YMMV.

      The keyboard isn't anything fancy, but I like it.

    4. picturethis

      Re: Dishwashers

      "used to put grotty keyboards through a dishwasher"

      Yep, same here. In the mid-90's worked for a company and personally saw the crew that worked on computers systems to use the dishwasher to clean up Sun 3/110 workstation keyboards (optional and very expensive in their day). Worked like a charm, after ruining the first 2 by not removing them before the "dry" (heat) cycle..

      By experimentation, they had the best results:

      - wash with keys facing down

      - no detergent (just hot water)

      - remove before heat cycle

      - blow off w/ compressed air

      - let air dry for a couple of days

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the PC prophylactic

    We use these in the NHS in various environments where fluids might be flying around.

    you would not believe how much they cost.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      "...you would not believe how much they cost..."

      you would not believe how much they cost the NHS.

      FITFY

  16. Pangasinan Philippines

    Not Smoking but . . . .

    A security gate with PS/2 PC.

    The queue of cars entering the gate caused a build-up of gunge that made the key caps illegible.

    I sourced a keyboard condom and a new keyboard.

  17. chivo243 Silver badge
    WTF?

    Still a thing!

    Not as bad, but still a thing. I have a colleague that smokes, must exit the building to do so, and return to work. Their white fruity keyboard is still filthy black from the nicotine on their fingers...

  18. Notrodney

    I had a friend who did IT Support in a hospital. One of his best/worst tales was working on a PC with a very dirty keyboard. He wondered how they could have got it quite so dirty, and then he realised it was the colonoscopy department!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I also do IT support in a hospital.

      Worse keyboards I've come across have been in Dr's offices!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Likewise

        There was a particular office that I got called to in successive years summers because the inhabitants of the keyboard were leaving!

        Very small and in a long line coming from the keyboard and across the desk.

        Rubber gloves.

        Ask for a yellow bag.

        Put keyboard in the bag

        Put gloves in bag without touching them.

        Tie up bag.

        Pass bag to Sister along with the comment "you may wish to have this burned".

        The doctors that used the ward office used to eat their meals over the keyboard. When there were replacements, they were taught to do this so that it carried on to future years.

  19. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    When using a keyboard condom...

    ...does it take longer to do a proper job because of the loss of sensation?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When using a keyboard condom...

      Yeah, and it’s also much slower to poke with one finger only.

  20. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    I need

    a keyboard condom just to cope with the BOFH stories, let alone the grot that flies around an industrial unit.....

  21. AIBailey

    The only keyboard I've ever lusted after - Optimus Concept

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      To my eye, that looks too slim to have actual mechanical cherry-type switches though. If it's something you're using all day, there really is no substitute.

      1. RNixon

        Nope.

        Not only is it not mechanical, it's not even halfway decent.

        All the reviews I read of it when it finally dribbled onto the market were basically 'Cute, but impossible to type on.'

  22. J.G.Harston Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Doing NHS IT support, the modern equivalent is keyboards bunged up with surface sanitiser.

    I took one dead keyboard apart just to see why it had died - never again!

    1. Rob Daglish

      I’ve recently slots a few touch screens on copiers to hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. The tech who swapped them out (I don’t have to do that anymore!) reckoned it was quite common lately.

  23. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Ahh Model Ms..

    I've happy memories of using both IBM XTs and ATs, and associated keyboards. The AT was a model M. The XT keyboard was the original XT one. Both were lovely, if a bit loud, to type on and both, along with their respective computers, were built well enough that if the user should become angry and throw it at the wall, the wall would likely come off worse.

    That said, before I started tech support, I was an admin assistant in our local hospital. I cleared invoices for the catering department. They had a computerised till system (similar to what used to be in McDonalds before they installed the LCD terminals they use now). The keypads for those were expensive. They failed regularly, but still cost hundreds for what was essentially a printed sheet, stuck on a membrane and laminated..

  24. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Pint

    The 80's PCW Shows\Car's & Girls

    I seem to be the only one of the commentards, that remembers (Vaguely - See Icon) exhibiting or even attending PCW shows & the like back in the 80's.

    I vaguely recall chatting up two ladies in a Mercedes convertible going around Hyde Park Corner, with my head out of a taxi window.

  25. Blackjack Silver badge
    Happy

    Could be worse, like having to tell someone who us going bald that his keyboard doesn't work right because the space between the keys is full of hairs.

    Not gonna say if that's a true story but you can probably guess.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In my experience of such keyboard problems - teenage boys*** aren't going prematurely bald.

      ***teenage girls don't seem to cause the same problem.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still happens in 2021

    A neighbour is a chef. In his work kitchen they have a laptop which is loaded with their music - and the lid is permanently open for key press selections. Every so often the laptop fails and it is replaced - with the faulty one being offered to me to repair. A thin film of grease covers the keyboard/screen and in some cases has penetrated below the keys.

    Usually I can salvage it - possibly with a new keyboard being needed. I have suggested they explore using voice control.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: I have suggested they explore using voice control.

      Try a virtual keyboard:-

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Virtual-Keyboard/s?k=Virtual+Keyboard

      Disclaimer: I recommended a trial of this idea for a food production company, but has yet to be tested.

  27. ITMA

    "However, upon flipping the 83-key device over in order to access the screws, Jim noted a cloud of dust flow out of it.

    Sure that there had been no sneaky cremations performed nearby, Jim took a closer look and realised the cause of the failures.

    'The employee was a chain smoker, and was exhaling toward the keyboard, thus depositing a fine smoke and ash residue in it which gradually fouled the keys and made it unusable.' "

    You got of lucky!

    I've had the same except the light beige keyboard of this particular "management accountant" was DARK BROWN!!!! It had started as light beige but his chain smoking soon changed that - as it did for every subsequent keyboard.

    If you picked it up to turn it upside down, "ash" falling out was the LEAST of your worries - getting your fingers back off the keyboard wouthout the use of chemical solvants while still keeping skin on them and not leave it stuck to the keyboard was far more of a problem.

  28. Palf

    Tha's all nesh

    I've been smoking 3 packs of Marlboro Red daily for decades and occasionally buy a new keyboard. I always buy the cheapest. They last for years as a rule. I don't know what all the fuss is about.

  29. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Coffee spray

    Coincident with our election cycle.

  30. Fursty Ferret

    Since suggesting that the person concerned might cut down on the cigarettes wasn't a viable option

    Which is weird, because in general approaching a manager and pointing out that their employee's [insert disgusting habit here] is costing the company a fortune in new hardware tends to result in a quick solution - rarely involving condoms, keyboard or otherwise.

  31. Delta Oscar

    This reminds me of Field Service with DEC in the late 70s. I was sent to a customer who had not had a PDP mini for very long. In I go to do The Required and, having completed another Miracle In The Field, I lent up against the window sill to ring the Office. After a while, I could not understand why I was beginning to feel whoozy with the wall mounted aircon exhaust blasting up directly at me. Then I realised: the exhaust was full of neat nicotine due, I suspected at the time, to the aircon filters being completely clogged up with office muck - including nicotine due to the chain-smoking women in said office. (This happened despite the customer being told not to mix smoke and the Mini in the same room - remember this was the 70s.) The customer was given 'a word'......

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    cigarettes no! but a stogie is allright...

    in the not so distant past (nineties) the office in the US I worked at had a break room for cigarette smokers. No smoking at your desk. Unless it was cigar or pipe, which was okay. Possibly due to the owner of the shop being a casual cigar smoker, and I as a foreigner would bring Cuban cigars from Canada, which he really appreciated. Anon - what's the statute of limitations for breaking JFK's Cuban trade embargo?

  33. tweell

    Keyboard condom user

    Back 30 years, I worked in a battery factory. There was an electroplating station that was run by an IBM XT. The keyboard was supposedly chemical resistant (and cost $300) but would regularly have to be replaced. A standard XT keyboard would only last a few days before failing, which makes sense considering people wore MOPP 4 gear to work there. Ordered to 'make it work, and don't buy anything expensive' I taped a clear garbage bag around the next XT keyboard, which lasted until the keyboard cover came in. I caulked around that cover, got a few more, and that is how the place ran until I left.

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