back to article Saving a loved one from a document disaster

Welcome to the weekend, wherein you will doubtless be called upon by friends and family to demonstrate your IT prowess when you'd far rather be sipping on a beverage in a hammock. But if you thought turning up the volume on Skype notifications for gran was a pain, spare a thought for those on the other end of the phone in …

  1. trevorde Silver badge


    Still shudder when I see WP formatting codes

    1. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

      Re: Imperrfect

      Always found it useful tool myself. It was also great for showing out WP really jumped the shark when Corel introduced that awful shadow cursor thing and could see all the codes inserted simply to save having to set the margins yourself. At least you could turn it off.

      1. keith_w

        Re: Imperrfect

        One company I worked at, the receptionist complained about how slow (a Xerox (?) 386 was. When I checked, she had the codes displayed - 22 lines of codes and lines of typing and it updated everytime she pressed a key.

    2. Little Mouse Silver badge

      Re: Imperrfect

      WP 5.1 was perfect for typists. Everything was keyboard controlled, so there was no back and forth between mouse and keyboard like today. And this was an age where the Typing Pool was still a thing in many companies.

      I was always a little bit in awe with how fast they could get words onto a page.

      1. JassMan

        Re: Imperrfect

        I totally agree. There are so many apps around now which force you to use the mouse when a simple hot-key would work just as well.

        Also I am pretty sure that RSI didn't exist until the mouse was invented. The shape of mice (even so called ergonomic ones) is not conducive to making hand movements consistent with human skeletal structure.

        1. RachelG

          Re: Imperrfect

          it might also have been that the people whose jobs involved lots of typing were more likely then to have actually trained as typists, and therefore avoided RSI through better technique. (eg: the tops of your hands should be level, so you can balance coins on them, and your wrists not resting on anything.) Also this was literally the era of the IBM mechanical keyboards, when IBM model Ms were new and had competitors.

          I was a young coder at the civil service at the time and I was warned not to make it too obvious I could touch-type as a: I'd be given more of that kind of work and b: the secretaries wouldn't like it. hell with that. hell with those days.

          1. ShadowSystems

            Re: Imperrfect

            At RachelG, re: typists.

            I had to take typing in school as it was part of the standard curriculum. When my English teacher that year started getting report happy ("Give me a 500 word report on...") I stopped writing them out longhand & started typing them up on my home computer. At first she got all huffy that I wasn't *writing* my reports, claiming that "How do I know if *YOU* did the work?"

            I offered to bring in my computer & printer, set up on a desk in the room, & type my reports where she could watch, but only if she then gave me the keys to her class so I could come in after hours to do the rest of my homework.

            She called my bluff, I brought in the computer, she gave me another 500 word report, & I promptly sat down & typed it up... In class, while she watched, and all my classmates got an interesting lesson to the report creation capabilities of a Commodore 64 with a dot matrix printer.

            Make a mistake? Backspace, delete, fix, & keep going. Want to reorder a paragraph or two? Copy, paste, done. Want to change it to double spaced? Settings, toggle, reprint, done.

            When the "rough draft" and the final version take less time to generate than it took her to grade it afterwards, she accepted that I could take the computer back & type up my stuff at home.

            I also inspired most of my classmates to get a computer of their own, and that was before they realized I could play games on it, too.

            *Hands you a tankard & raises mine in toast*

            Here's to typing classes & using them to annoy your other teachers! =-D

            1. Robert Moore

              Re: Imperrfect

              I was the first person in my school to be allowed to hand in assignments printed from my CoCo 2 and my DMP-105.

              I had to fight teachers and administration to be allowed this. It was worth it though.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: CoCo 2

                Upvote for mentioning the wonderful CoCo 2. Wish I'd never got rid of mine

                1. ShadowSystems

                  Re: CoCo 2

                  At the AC. If you enjoy using a can of compressed air to clean out said computer, does that make you cuckoo for CoCo puffs? =-)p

                  *Runs like hell*

            2. l8gravely

              Re: Imperrfect

              I wish I could rember the name of the word processor I used on my C64 to write my papers. As a lefty I have terrible handwritting, mostly because I think my brain puts down words faster than my hand can write them. I can at least type almost as quickly if I need to!

              but the C64 with a dot matrix Oki24 printer (used 8 pins in draft mode, 24 in "typewriter mode" but much slower, was a dream to use. As the writer said, being able to re-order paragraphs and fix my typos was really a great feature for me. Writing out longhand was such a chore and such a waste of time when I wanted to insert a new paragraph.

              My writing got better because of the editing capabilities. :-)

              Who else remembers having to buy the high-quality fan-fold paper to feed through the tractor feed of the dot-matrix printer (Okimate I'm pretty sure...) so when you ripped it off, the teacher didn't see the telltale little nubs on the sides of the paper.

              I haven't looked back since, and refuse to write long hand for anything over a few words if I can absolutely help it. I don't know how authors who write books don't just toss their pens away when writing.

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: Imperrfect

                I have very poor hand-eye coordination. Coupled with a crap primary school teacher or three and being Summer born meant that my education was seriously hampered*. Handwriting was actually quite painful and looks messy. Six decades later it still is, though I still got a decent degree- somehow. And I can teach it brilliantly, my letter formation is actually correct. As long as I don't have to do more than a few words at a time.

                But mum taught me type. and once I got a device, in my early 20s, life just changed. Starting with a Brother portable printer and quickly moving to proper printers on computers.


                *It didn't need to be. They just needed to be a bit less horrible about it and to remember I was also a year younger than some other kids. Luckily once I was in high school some teachers were, so those were the subjects I flourished in. And of course it's why I ended up as a Special Education specialist teacher.

              2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

                Re: Imperrfect

                Now you got me curious which word processor you were using.

                One of those on this list on C64 wiki?

                Or one of those on this list on

                Most mentioned are: Speedscript, Paperclip 64, Easy-Script, MS Mini-Office II, VizaWrite...

                1. ShadowSystems

                  Re: Imperrfect

                  It was PaperClip 64, then PaperClip 128.

                  Now I wish I could still see so I could use my old C128D setup. Far fewer problems on that old workhorse than with this gussied up, frilly dress wearing, glossy sparkly pink lipstick sportin', turd covered pig that is MS Windows.


                  1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

                    Re: Imperrfect

                    With that brilliant description its a shame we're limited to one update

                2. jtaylor

                  Re: Imperrfect

                  On the VIC-20, I used HES Writer. It was a slightly horrible line editor.

              3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                Re: Who else remembers having to buy the high-quality fan-fold paper...

                Now that is spooky. I found an unopened box of the stuff (A4 when trimmed) in the spare room just a couple of days back.

                Anyone in need of it, do please let me know...

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: Who else remembers having to buy the high-quality fan-fold paper...

                  Local primary school?

                2. ITMA Silver badge

                  Re: Who else remembers having to buy the high-quality fan-fold paper...

                  Are you talking DIN A4 or the "old" A4 in inches?

                  A4 8-1/4 x 11-3/4 in 210 x 297 mm

                  NOT quite the same and when generating printer drivers for WP 5.1 you had to make very slight adjustments between A4 (inches) and ISO/DIN A4 (in mm) if the software didn't use Form Feed to go from one page to the next when printing.

            3. Cheshire Cat

              Re: Imperrfect

              In '87, I did my A-level Physics project on the Amstrad word processor in the science department. It was just sitting there and nobody knew how to use it, so I asked to use it to write up the project (which included graphs, done with a different package). All worked well and made things much easier to managed a 20-page document.

              I also managed to think up a project that would let me use the newly-acquired laser (I used it to measure tiny shrinkages in cooling metal rods), though the safety regs of the time meant I needed to have the entire classroom to myself when using it...

              1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                Re: I needed to have the entire classroom to myself when using it

                I had to read that twice. Once because I thought you were talking about a laser printer...

            4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: Imperrfect

              How to prove it's you writing... spell idiosnycractially? ;-)

        2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Imperrfect

          Also I am pretty sure that RSI didn't exist until the mouse was invented.

          O? Tennis elbow is a classic example of RSI and existed before PARC even came up with the concept of the mouse.

          1. Yes Me Silver badge

            Re: Imperrfect

            Doug Engelbart was at the Stanford Research Institute when he invented the mouse.

            Xerox PARC was a mouse copycat ======> icon

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Imperrfect

              PARC didn't copy it so much as was invited to find uses for it. We all were. Tech was mixed & matched fairly freely in Stanford Research Park back then. It's a good thing, too, or we wouldn't have computing and networking as we know it today.

          2. swm Silver badge

            Re: Imperrfect

            The old manual typewriters avoided RSI because of the strength required. The IBM selectrics started RSI because of the ease of typing and the small motion of the fingers.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Imperrfect

              "The old manual typewriters avoided RSI because of the strength required."

              Absolutely untrue. I have an Aunt who was invalided out of the Navy for it back in 1944.

            2. Spanners Silver badge

              Re: Imperrfect

              A couple of decades ago, I was in an office full of secretaries fixing something or other. I ended up typing something out to test things.

              A younger secretary commented that I was putting a lot of force upon that keyboard.

              An older one just said, "he learned to type on a manual typewriter like me".

        3. PM from Hell

          Re: Imperrfect

          RSI Existed for decades before the mouse or even computers. My mother was a contract Comptometer operator who had to give up her very well paid job because the pain got so bad.

          Working with data prep operators in the mid 80's most were sporting wrist or elbow braces from injuries received initially from using card punch machines then on 1st generation key to disk systems.

          Many typists themselves ended up with RSI and initial computer keyboard were sometimes worse than the IBM golfball typewriters they replaced. I do seem to remember speccing dedicated data prep keyboards from compaq when replacing a legacy key to disk system and providing upgraded keyboards for a secretarial pool after running some user experience exercises. I think they had to have longer travel to replicate the experience of using a typewrite as the expert typists muscle memory couldn't shorten the key depressions they had made several million times in the past.

          In my first management role I was told anything over 4 pages in length had to be hand written and passed to the typists for transcription into a document. At that stage they were not actually saving drafts, every iteration was re-typed. As a technician I'd been typing my own documents for years and was used to basic text editing features like cutting and paste plus I have terrible writing. It took a stand up fight with my manager before I was even allowed to submit drafts as electronic documents (initally as wordpad documents) which were then retyped by the typists into wordperfect. It ws actually battle to get wordperfect licences for my team so we could stat to design forms to support the service management processes I had been brought in to implement

        4. Stevie

          Re: simple hot-key


          WordPerfect made Clive Sinclair key function overloading look amateurish.

          1. Tim99 Silver badge

            Re: simple hot-key

            That’s why the minimum WP licencing requirement was a WP keyboard template. As I recall, our very large corporate licence was a lot of money up front and then £5 for each template - Manuals and disks were extra.

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: Manuals and disks were extra

              Pretty impressive manuals IIRC. You felt like you were getting something for your money - which was a hefty outlay in those days. Mind you, software distributors Softsel/Merisel used to run, twice a year at the Penta in Heathrow, dealer seminars where their products were given out free for everyone attending the seminars: WordPerfect Office, PlanPerfect and DrawPerfect. They never gave away WordPerfect though. Microsoft got in on the act by giving away Word, Excel, PowerPoint before they morphed into Office. The barometer of good freebies was how long the queues were for a seminar. WordPerfect's were always well attended.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Imperrfect

        And a live DJ in the queue, playing music and interviewing WP employees, better than the montone music loops and pre-recorded voiceovers today.

        One interview was so good, and funny, I actually asked the operator to put me back in the queue, so I could hear the end of it!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Imperrfect

          I managed to get my team 'executive' phones with speakers so they could listen to Wordperfect, Cisco etc music on hold for the 2 hours it could take to get through to the support desks while they got on with other work.

          There was a constant battle as middle managers in the department tried to steal them which did actually get as far as me asking one if he wanted to take the conversation out into the car park

      3. Fred Daggy Silver badge

        Re: Imperrfect

        I do remember a few codes still, "home home up" and "home home down". And then there was the little plastic thing that sat above your function keys with cheats printed on it. Black ones were unmodified function keys, red was alt-function keys? Green and Blue.

        Then there was carrying a floppy disk with documents and your custom key mappings. I think that help was F3. Even then, it was customary to have F1 has help. So that was weird.

        Brilliant for undergraduate essays, hoping you had the right dot matrix print driver.

      4. Ikoth

        Re: Imperrfect

        The first place I worked had a typing pool. It was fascinating to watch the typists transcribing the audio tapes that arrived regularly in the internal mail, while simultaneously holding group conversation with the rest of the room.

        Unfortunately, their other pastime was trying to embarrass the hell out of the callow youth who’d been sent over to deliver / collect something from the admin office. They were bloody good at it. Simpler days, before HR was invented.

        1. sgj100

          Re: Imperrfect

          I worked for a council in the South of England in the late eighties. The housing department had a central typing pool using a Wang word processing system which was unlike any other system I'd seen. Sorting out problems was made worse by the typists (all women) being chain smokers!

      5. Jimbo94

        Re: Imperrfect

        WP5.1 was great, you only needed two hands. For me it was just like playing on a piano.

        And I can't even play the piano.

      6. NATTtrash

        Re: Imperrfect

        I started with WP 4.1/4.2. Still have it somewhere I think. Thinking about it nowadays, it's kind of funny that we were "seriously worried" at the time when WP5.1 was introduced. We found that WP5.1 used "shockingly" more system resources (4.2 ran of a 360kB 5¼ floppy! With still room for your document!), and there was this "unnecessary, new newfangled thing" (somewhere under F3 if I remember well) that gave you this WYSIWYG display. Which was rubbish of course. Everybody started to fiddle with fonts, layouts, almost exclusively before getting one letter of the bloody text done.

        Not sure but this must also have been around the time that these time management courses became really popular...

      7. Allan George Dyer

        Re: Imperrfect

        Not just typists. I always thought the left side of the original PC keyboard was perfect for WP: Ctrl Alt Shift stacked above each other, with the F keys all within easy reach of one hand in two vertical columns. Forty functions instantly available (once you'd memorised the combinations). Moving the F keys to a single row along the top makes every function a stretch, or for both hands.

        The right side of the AT keyboard, though, was a great improvement, but why not just drop the Numlock key?

        Yes, this does make the keyboard a bit wider. So what, you've see a piano, haven't you.

    3. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Imperrfect

      At least you could see those formatting codes and removing problematic ones.

      1. Trixr

        Re: Imperrfect

        And you could search-and-replace the codes, instantly reformatting a document, if you knew what you were doing. It was great, in that sense at least.

    4. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Imperrfect

      We had an advisory teacher come into our school when I was still a class teacher, to get us to start using WP. "Easy as Pie" she'd said.

      Maybe easy if it's what you do all day. But I was very aware that the admins used this stuff, and they kept lists of formatting codes to insert into the text. In the office you'd hear them asking each other "What's the code for...." etc.

      So asking full time teachers to somehow learn these codes, and sit trying to insert them into text so that once or twice a year they could type reports they'd been doing by hand for years was just a total non-starter. But it's the bullshit (these days we'd probably call it Gaslighting) of pretending it was so easy and quick to take up that annoyed me To the best of my knowledge no teacher in any local school was able to use this stuff for real life work.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Imperrfect

        I recently had the pleasure of running a git command that then started to display the contents of a file - using vi! I can only wonder about the mental age of anyone responsible for that.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Imperrfect

          Perforce does that too.

          At least git is configurable

    5. dajames

      Re: Imperrfect

      Still shudder when I see WP formatting codes

      Really? This is a tech site -- people reading here are supposed to LIKE being able to see the codes!

      I certainly did. I hate working with a What You See Is All You Get word processor and being able to see, say, that a word in a paragraph is emboldened, but not knowing whether either of the spaces abutting it is also so enhanced.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Imperrfect

        Ah, LaTex...

    6. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      Re: Imperrfect

      I wrote my PhD thesis in Wordperfect, equations and all. Almost 400 pages. About 20 years later, I was asked to create a pdf of it by someone. I was amazed that the conversion tool built into Microsoft Word (I thimk '97) worked, and converted it to pdf from there,

      1. DrBobK

        Re: Imperrfect

        I wrote my thesis in WP4.2, but I chose the mad hybrid route of typesetting it in TeX (not LaTeX -that's for wimps), really just using WP as a nice editor (and it was nice compared to the other options - I'd used WordPlex on a DG Nova before - the horror, the horror).

    7. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      Re: Imperrfect

      -- Still shudder when I see WP formatting codes --

      Is that because you love Word hiding the formatting and what is a few seconds to sort out in WordPerfect takes ages in Word?

  2. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Oh the dreaded 11th finger...

    Same issue(Ish) for my dear departed father.... He had suffered a stroke and was trying to use his PC in his nursing home. He rang in a rage becasue "the bloody computer" wasn't switching on.

    Whilst he was on the phone I could hear the dulcet chime of the BIOS signalling a problem. I casually asked what, other than his fingers, was on the keyboard... cue shuffling noises as his heap "filing system" was shoved out of the way.

    Yup an 11th finger, holding down the enter key and causing the BIOS to think there was a keyboard fault (rather than PEBUK, which to be fair to keyboards and PCs everywhere, is almost impossible for the hardware to detect)

    That BIOS beep saved a 100 mile round trip.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Oh the dreaded 11th finger...

      "his heap "filing system""

      That's pronounced "piling system".

      A round in memory of dear departed dads everywhere.

    2. Anonymous South African Coward

      Re: Oh the dreaded 11th finger...

      Young uns will not know what BIOS beep codes are.

      Great for diagnosis especially when nothing will show on the screen.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Oh the dreaded 11th finger...

        I set up an Arduino to beep a number of times for various errors at startup. "oh, 4 beeps, the SD card isn't formatted"

        A co-worker asked where I got the idea from...

      2. Tim Prue
        Thumb Down

        Re: Oh the dreaded 11th finger...

        Only yesterday a PC being used remotely sans K&V&M beeped twice at me to tell me it didn't have a keyboard and wasn't happy. What purpose does this setting have exactly???

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Oh the dreaded 11th finger...

        "Great for diagnosis especially when nothing will show on the screen."

        Lenovo have brought them back. Unless you have perfect pitch, don't bother trying to learn them. It;s a musical tune rather than the "Morse-style" long-short monotone beeps. You need to install their app on your phone and play the beep code into that and if you're lucky, it will be an actual code it knows about and tell you what it means. Other times, it just flashes up the code then replaces it with ***'s and says "unknown code". It's a good idea, if poorly implemented. Handily, if you press the Fn key at bottom left, it repeats to error code, this time including the encoded serial number of the device.

      4. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Oh the dreaded 11th finger...

        They used to be! Now you need the motherboard manual and its either on a CD or online and the bios is beeping...

      5. Allan George Dyer

        Re: Oh the dreaded 11th finger...

        Anonymous South African Coward - "Great for diagnosis especially when nothing will show on the screen."

        If you happen to have the manual that matches the BIOS to hand...

        icon - the one with Beethoven's Greatest Hits in the pocket.

  3. hitmouse

    My late father would allow anyone to install anything on his work computer.... leading to me having to diagnose problem from faxed printouts of config.sys and autoexec.bat

    Ah the days of malware only arriving on a floppy disc.

  4. DarkwavePunk

    The joy...

    Being in a pub and getting a panicked technical support call as their team had run out of ideas. Trying to visualise the screen they're on and the system involved from memory whilst slightly sloshed (I wasn't technically on call, honest). Too many times to count. As an aside - why do all these calls seem to start with "Sorry to bother you, but..."?

    1. JeffB

      Re: The joy...

      "Sorry to bother you, but..."

      That runs a close second to my least favourite phrase: "Whilst you're here...."

      1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble?

        Re: The joy...

        "Could you just...."

        Usually followed by a request of equivalent complexity to recoding the entire universe from scratch.

        1. Admiral Grace Hopper

          Re: The joy...

          "Ah! The very woman/man/person!" (delete as appropriate). Usually followed by me turning on my heels and making a run for it.

          1. JeffB

            Re: The joy...

            If I know them well enough, my usual retort is "What have you broken now...??"

            1. Spanners Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: The joy...

              I remember saying that to a hospital consultant and then wondering about the giggling. Turns out he was teaching medical students and had his phone on handsfree.

              (It was them giggling, not him.)

          2. ShadowSystems

            Re: The joy...

            Grace, how do you turn your heels off & on? =-)p

            *Runs away before you hurt me*

            1. Admiral Grace Hopper

              Re: The joy...

              I've been in IT long enough that there's very little that I can't turn off and on again.

        2. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

          Re: The joy...

          Early on in my career I had a customer who bought something (WordPerfect? Works? can't remember) and it came with a demo of a desktop publisher program. They tried it out and rang us up in a fury because it printed "Demo" in big letters on every page.

          They refused to believe it was a demo - after all, they were the original disks, why doesn't it work? - and asked for their money back, but only on the demo part. Eventually my boss managed to explain that it was a freebie, and got them to settle for him visiting them to uninstall it...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The joy...

          The worst is 'before you go'

          especially at 1:30 in the morning with an 80 mile drive home before a return to the office next morning,

          1. irrelevant

            Re: The joy...

            I seem to get a lot of "but before you do that.." when I'm about to go do something. Usually followed by the aforementioned "can you just.."

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The joy...

      "Trying to visualise the screen they're on and the system involved from memory whilst slightly sloshed"

      I had something similar, although I was in the car, not sloshed at all, and about 3/4 of the way driving from London to Glasgow. I spent nearly two hours in a motorway services carpark trying to talk a colleague through a process I had to visualise from memory and the dozy bastard WOULD NOT LISTEN and kept jumping ahead to the next step and getting it wrong, at which stage we have to back out and start again. Eventually, I faked up some excuse to get off the line, called the office and told them what I thought of the tosser and suggested they get someone else to help him as I wanted to get to the hotel in Glasgow before the restaurant shut :-)

  5. GlenP Silver badge

    Lost Document...

    At about the same time we had a student doing work experience at the company I then worked for. She spent all day typing up a long document then exited without saving it. Cue many tears, wailing, etc. and a "Can't you do anything?"

    This was long before any form of autosave or document recovery of course, and nobody had suggested saving her work as she went along, so she was faced with the prospect of retyping it all.

    Norton to the rescue! With only a 10MB HD to worry about I was able to find the first sector of the temporary file on the disk and update the start position on the "deleted" FAT record and rename the file. She at least then had most of the raw text with a few spurious characters added, an hour or so saw it all corrected and reformatted.

    1. dajames

      Re: Lost Document...

      Norton to the rescue! With only a 10MB HD to worry about I was able to find the first sector of the temporary file...

      I recall that in WordStar on DOS Ctrl+C was the code for "Page Down" ... at least: most of the time it was, but very rarely, for no reason I could ever fathom, it was just Ctrl+C and quit the program.

      I became quite adept at loading debug, finding the document data in RAM and saving them to disk. This usually got the most recent version of the most recently changed part of the document, which could with care be merged into the old copy of the document on disk. Saved many hours of retyping that way!

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Lost Document...

        When apple started getting serious about auto save, I had to test it. Waited for an OS update. Created three new TextEdit documents and typed in some text without changing. Then I installed the new oS which involved a reboot. After the reboot, TextEdit opened with thee untitled documents and all the text there.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge

    The binder on the control key!

    I've mentioned this before, had an upset user phone in frantically, her documents were filling up with strange things when she typed, I visited and immediately saw the binder on the keyboard... D'oh!

    1. Potty Professor

      Re: The binder on the control key!

      I've posted this before, but it will bear repeating. When I was a very junior PFY, we had repeated calls from a lady in the typing pool, her green screen terminal kept inserting spurious spaces in her documents. We had the terminal back in our lab several times, but could never find anything wrong with it. After several iterations, I (as the most junior and therefor expendable) was sent down to the typing pool, at great personal peril, to observe when and how these extra spaces were being inserted. The lady in question was rather vertically challenged, but not so horizontally. She would read a sentence from the handwritten notes, type it up, then lean forward and to her right to read the next sentence. As she did so, her left boob came into contact with the space bar, resulting in a string of spaces appearing on the screen while she was not looking at it. I took a brisk walk down the yard to the pattern makers and cut myself four three inch deal blocks, drilled a hole through each, and took them plus an equal number of four inch nails back to the typing pool. I inverted the typist's chair and nailed a block onto each leg, so she was positioned three inches higher relative to the keyboard. No more spurious spaces, problem solved.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: The binder on the control key!

        This actually became fairly common as the typing pool gave way to the departmental secretary with a computer terminal of one kind or another and/or people simply typing up their own reports as the PC became ubiquitous.

        I usually just told 'em "It looks like you are leaning on your keyboard".

        Occasionally, I would turn on audio key-clicks and tell her "This is only for test purposes, I'll turn them off again in a day or so" ... She always managed to figure it out for herself immediately.[0]

        Both options worked well for me, although I had to be careful with the first. Certain women took exception to me even noticing they had a chest, much less what it was doing. On the other hand, the second usually got me a giggly phone call "You're not going to believe what happened ... can you please turn off the clicks now?", thus proving that even the most severe among us can have a sense of humo(u)r if they don't feel threatened.

        [0] Now you know why there are no such reports from the days of the typing pool. It still happened, but went unreported. The Selectric tends to announce itself, no observing techie required.

  7. Roger Kynaston Silver badge

    old kit and wp software

    This is more of a who-me but ...

    Come my final year and dissertation time had come round. I was one of the few with a computer - an Atari ST for the nostalgic. I had completed my dissertation and the lady with whom I was in lust with needed to type hers up so I lent her my shiny tech toy.

    All went well till she was just about to finish and I get a visit to say that it won't save. I got annoyed and guessed that her floppy had got corrupted. I snatched the next floppy and saved dissert.doc. as it was saving I realised with horror that I was just in the process of overwriting my own dissertation with hers. Lots of swearing and panicked bowel lossening pondering on how long an extension I could get till I remembered that the WP software saved a .bak on each disk as well. Sure enough, I opened up the .bak file and mine was there. I hastily saved it to another disk and we plugged in my dot matrix printer to have our eardrums bored out with ages of screaming.

    The lust bit never came to anything though which might be just was well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: old kit and wp software

      Who cares about the lust bit of your story?

      This is an IT forum - allegedly. What printer drivers and fonts were used? Who made the floppies?

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: old kit and wp software

        You new around here then?

      2. Roger Kynaston Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: old kit and wp software

        as someone else has observed below - you look a bit new. Spotty or not so spotty geeks always use their skills when looking for a shag. I met my wife when I fixed her PC at work.

        Anyway, font was courier 12pt and floppy was likely sony.

        1. Down not across

          Re: old kit and wp software

          And the corrupt one was Verbatim "DataLife" ?

          Perhaps I just had few bad batches, but we used to call them (DataLife 5.25" DSDD) DataDeath due their unreliability.

          Yes, your ST would've used 3.5" and I do recall Sony and TDK being amongst the more reliable ones,

        2. TDog

          Re: old kit and wp software

          Viagra will help with a floppy, not around then so you just had to lie back and think of Brigit Bardot.

      3. Victor Ludorum

        Re: old kit and wp software

        Reminds me of a friend's story:

        A colleague of his had just taken delivery of a new digital camera and 'photo' inkjet printer in the early days of said technology. This colleague was showing off the photos he had printed, several of which featured his not unattractive 18 year old daughter's birthday party. One colleague ignores the content of the pics and pipes up 'What photo paper did you use?' Cue much mirth and merriment...

        1. Joe W Silver badge

          Re: old kit and wp software

          The best wife of all once remarked that when I was checking out a girl on a road bike I could tell all sorts of details about the manufacturer, components, etc - but would be hard pressed to say anything about the rider. I leave her under that impression (which is not too far from the mark, admittedly).


          I need the hops, they are antiseptic, have to fend of some sort of pneumonic plague or whatever pestillence the kids brought with them from kindergarten.

      4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: old kit and wp software

        That was the good thing about word perfect for the Atari ST.... or word writer or whatever it was called.

        Figuring out exactly what codes you needed to stick in the printer driver config in order for it to use your bog standard FX-80 dot matrix.

        Of course the driver came with a .cfg file for that printer but it never worked for some stupid reason.

        what were you saying about lust?

  8. Littlefirby

    While the head of IT for a broadcast marketing agency in London I was walking through the office one day and noticed a strange sight (well stranger than normal in that environment at least)... I saw a monitor stand pointing upwards, its flat base standing proud above the monitor which was resting on its top frame on the desk, wedged with an assorted group of things from phone books and pens to ensure that the screen would not topple.

    The display on the screen however was not inverted in the same way and I went to investigate a little further. Asking the user why she had decided to put the monitor upside down, she excitedly explained that the display had suddenly flipped upside down and as she had a deadline to meet that she hadn't wanted to reach out to my team to get the issue resolved and had resorted to turning the screen upside down...

    When asked what she had been doing when the display flipped, she of course said that she had just been typing and nothing strange had happened... except a folder falling over and landing on the keyboard.

    Yes somehow the folder landing on the keyboard had hit the magic keystroke combination which existed on that system which inverted the display (Ctrl+Alt+Up Arrow)

    Cue much laughter when I hit the key combination and the display flipped back to normal and I asked her to put her monitor back how it should be...

    Suffice to say some of the more switched on users in the office did take to using the key combo on some of the new staff as a prank for some time before we decided to block it... but it did provide some merriment!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Had similar problems here with that combo too - or similar ones, can never seem to replicate what the user pressed.

      However, we use remote control software, so it always looks the right way up - easy then to resolve (although you have to ask is it the right way up now? as it never changed on my screen). Then go and disable the hotkey option...

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        The Pharma QA Department

        A team of ladies who used to travel globally to various pharmaceutical sites & come back with reports (& various nasty confectionery to poison me with (Chocolates with cabbage liqueur centers & a chunk of cabbage leaf, a meringue (Urgh) that smelt & tasted of Devon Violets (Just No!), among the more normal offerings was the chocolate with ginseng. The male head of the department with own conference room sized office, frequently shut his office door to silence their inane witterings* & save his sanity.

        Anyway when visiting this department & finding a PC unlocked, a quick keypress & flip the screen, lock it & a advisory issued to the ladies "When Izzy comes back tell her to lock her screen in future, I'm going to be in room xxx & will pop back in the next 20, if she can't work out what I did & needs the PC urgently send her to me to tell me what she did wrong".

        *Witterings - At one place we had our department in back rooms that backed onto the break room, the finance ladies would have various conversations including one memorable one discussing, at what stage in the dating game they would "put out".

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "decades past, when DOS was king and remote access" . .

    Was nothing but a glint in Vint Cerf's mind.

    Debugging by phone still happens. Not all your family members have TeamViewer installed (even today, not everyone in your family is using Zoom), and as for asking them to configure a Windows Remote Connection, forget about it.

    And it's always urgent, isn't it ?

    1. Littlefirby

      Re: "decades past, when DOS was king and remote access" . .

      "And it's always urgent, isn't it ?"

      Indeed... a panic call from my Ex at 11.30pm as she needed to print something urgently for the next morning for our daughters school... after a few minutes of troubleshooting, told her to turn off the printer and wait, a few minutes later told her to switch it back on and lo and behold the printer sprang to life spewing out the multiple copies of the document which she had sent to the printer...

      I should have started with the old faithful "Have you tired turning it off and on again?" right at the start... after 18 years together I thought she would have learned that... but apparently not.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: "decades past, when DOS was king and remote access" . .

      We had remote connectivity before Cerf got involved. DOS came much later.

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "decades past, when DOS was king and remote access" . .

      My daughter (though the fault is really with the damn inkjet printers which I no longer use) would always wait until Sunday night to type a paper due Monday AM. And then, at 10PM, wake me up to tell me the printer wasn't working and she needed to print her paper. This happened up until quite recently.

      She is somehow still alive (and now with two Masters degrees), and I now have a rebuilt (by me) HP Laserjet 5, which I acquired for $0 and rebuilt at the start of WFH in 2020 (on company time but with my own funds). My daughter is out of the house now, but the wife and I love the convenience of the laser. It sits on the network, in standby, drawing 7W, until a job is sent to it. It prints the job, then goes back to standby. For the once-a-week print needs, it's perfect.

      1. Aleph0

        Re: "decades past, when DOS was king and remote access" . .

        Perhaps it's just me, but if I had to print something that seldom I'd accept the minor inconvenience of only turning on the printer as needed, rather than waste 1 kWh a week...

        1. Trixr

          Re: "decades past, when DOS was king and remote access" . .

          I'm not anal about many things, but the most minimal vampire power draw and/or standby lights on devices that go unused for more than a day drive me absolutely bonkers, even if it's mere cents per annum to run. So that'd be my solution too (IRL, I refuse to have a printer in the home - they hate me and I hate them).

  10. big_D Silver badge

    Mad dash...

    A timely one, I was working for a company that "printed the world's money", literally.

    One of their clients, the director of a Russian bank, phoned up in a panic, his daughter was studying at Oxford and had to hand her dissertation in that day, but the computer had corrupted the hard drive! (We had supplied her with an old Olivetti PC as a favour, this was early 90s.)

    The PC was couriered over to us and I had to spend the afternoon trying to recover the document. I managed to get most of it back, but there was a lot of "noise" in the document, queue hours going through the whole document, word for word, replacing hieroglyphics with real text. I also added some formatting and corrected spelling and altered a few sentences to make sense.

    We printed and bound the document and got it couriered back to her an hour before her deadline.

    I was promised a bottle of vodka, but it never turned up...

    On another occasion, I was working for an oil company just outside London. A user called up, her Mac had frozen, mouse didn't move and it didn't respond to keypresses. I gave her the bad news and told her, she'd have to reset the Mac. She didn't like that. I told her, there was nothing we could do. An hour later, she called again, asking why I hadn't visited her... So, of I trot, over to her desk (in another building), waggle the mouse, nothing, mouse pointer didn't move. Usual keypresses, nothing, totally frozen! I reached around the back and turned it off, counted to 10, turned it back on and ensured it booted cleanly.

    By the time I got back to my desk, there was a complaint filed against me, because I had taken so long to get to her, then all I had done was turn it off and on again - which I had told her to do on the phone. Luckily, it was only a short term contract and the helpdesk manager took my side, so no real fallout.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Mad dash...

      What are queue hours?

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Mad dash...

        No idea, brain fart.

        Several hours.

        1. disgruntled yank

          Re: Mad dash...

          Perhaps "cue hours"?

    2. Trixr

      Re: Mad dash...

      I worked in a place in the late 90s where the secretaries knew perfectly well they had to reboot if a machine locked up (memory issues due to awful Word macros after transferring docs from word perfect), but they would lie about having done so.

      So for the more senior ones where it was not worth arguing with them, I had a routine where I would visit, open a dos prompt and run dir /s, let it run though all the file listings, THEN reboot the machine. Some of them subsequently sent notes to my boss praising my "responsive support" and how their machines were "much more reliable" after one of my visits. More than one way to skin a cat. Wish we'd had remote support!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cats do that too

    Funnily enough, the same happened to me this week.

    For the 20+ times in the day, my cat jumped on my knees for some attention, then proceeded the usual dance of "step on the table, scratch himself on the corner of my laptop, move on the table", rinse and repeat.

    Except this time, he stepped on a numerical key and managed to insert 50 '0' in lieu of a complex formula in the very complex excel sheet.

    Grrrr. Fortunately, there is Ctrl-z :)

    1. DexterWard

      Re: Cats do that too

      One of our cats managed to hit the key combo which makes the Mac read out everything on the screen aloud. Of course, had no idea what the combo was to undo it, so had to search while enduring the computer helpfully reading everything out.

    2. PM from Hell

      Dogs dont do that but

      My Labrador pup managed to hit my open laptop so hard wagging his tail that it was thrown from the coffee table onto the floor, thank heavens for SSD's

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Dogs dont do that but

        I deal with multiple IT support departments at different customers. They hear excuses like that every day. Many are far better, more imaginative and more detailed though. You get B for a the attempt :-)

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Dogs don't do that but

        I once had an electric typewriter where the carriage return was so strong the whole machine would jump across the desk.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Dogs don't do that but

          I bought a used one like that once. It came with a skid-proof neoprene pad to place under it.

        2. Potty Professor

          Re: Dogs don't do that but

          When my mother was typing my dissertation up for me on her tiny portable typewriter, she was swiping the carriage return lever so hard that the typewriter kept slipping across the Formica desk surface, so she would have to pull the machine back every half a dozen returns. She was also hitting the keys so hard that it was retreating across the desk towards the pile of correspondence involved in the project. I solved the problem by placing two heavy objects (Ford Escort 1300 cylinder heads) at right angles to each other, which prevented the typewriter from galloping off either away from her or to her right. (The cylinder heads were spares for the engine I was using in my project, a Driver Dynamometer).

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Dogs don't do that but

            My girlfriend of the time was already mad enough about the KZ900 being rebuilt in the living room. A couple cylinder heads on the table would have ended it ... another useful thing the neoprene brought was a level of sound dampening.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: My girlfriend of the time was already mad enough about the KZ900 being rebuilt...

              There are a few users of this forum where I don't have to refer to the top to see who wrote it. I think A Man From Mars tops the list, with Shadow Systems and Bombastic Bob present. Jake, you are in there too. (In the case of CodeJunky I can tell just by looking at the number of downvotes a post has).

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: My girlfriend of the time was already mad enough about the KZ900 being rebuilt...

                What, you've never rebuilt a bike in your living room?

              2. This post has been deleted by its author

                1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                  Re: For shame, Ken. For shame

                  Jake: I very, very rarely downvote. Even if I disagree with something as I believe people are entitled to express their honest opinion without fear of being downvoted. No, it wasn't me guv, honest!

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: For shame, Ken. For shame

                    I'll take your word for it. Just an odd coincidence, then. Sorry for the accusation.

                    Have a beer.

  12. dwodmots

    I've seen something like this multiple times, but it's usually about a physical folder resting on the space bar. The user would then call about how the pages kept scrolling down.

    1. William Towle

      ...ah, that sort of "folder" on the "desktop"

      > I've seen something like this multiple times, but it's usually about a physical folder resting on the space bar.

      Been there, done that -as the offending party- but worked out the cause by myself.

      A document holder was bought in due course so that I could have reference material open at eye level while using the keyboard as usual.

      In $PREVIOUS_JOB admin was told to buy document holders for the software engineers, and we ended up with cereal box shaped baskets. This wasn't what I expected.

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      The best version I've seen of that involved a junior programmer best described as having a very active social life(*). This often left him sleep deprived so he'd take a nap at lunchtime. One day everybody seemed to be congregating quietly around his desk and looking amused so I went over to take a look. He'd managed to fall asleep with his head just on the keyboard and as he snoozed 'Z's gently scrolled across his VDU in an endless stream.

      (*) And a seemingly endless supply of very good looking young women.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or the right shift key, which enables StickyKeys - then I get a call from the service desk to go and deliver a replacement keyboard straight away......

      Troubleshooting? Yeah, heard of it - not interested.......

  13. MiguelC Silver badge

    My wife still jokes about when her father, a mainframe sysop, got his first PC for home use and called her for help - he had gotten to the end of the page he was writing in the WYSIWYG text editor (Word? WordPerfect?) and needed help on how to add a new page - he was looking at it as it was just a fancy typewriter :)

  14. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Rather computers than cars

    Just imagine what our roads would be like if people had he same problems with their cars as with their computers. But for some reason that does not seem to happen. It is not as if cars are idiot-resistant, far from it.

    1. Data Mangler

      Re: Rather computers than cars

      But they do have the same problems. I see lots of drivers unaware of how wide their vehicle is, how to turn off their fog lights, how to operate indicators, how to park entirely within a parking space, even how to steer round junctions properly. The list is, sadly, endless, and driving is far from a pleasure these days as a result. I can only console myself with the thought that I don't have to provide these idiots with IT support.

      1. keith_w

        Re: Rather computers than cars

        While I echo your feelings about fog lights on when it's not foggy, My big complaint is about drivers who fail to turn on their lights at night, presumably because the console lights and daytime running lights (low beams) are on. However, their tail lights are not lit.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: Rather computers than cars

          Or the ancient solitary black Morris Minor, westbound on the M4 that must have had the original bulbs & a wiring harness that had gone high in impedance giving out about 1 lux apeice & was nigh on impossible to see pottering along at 40mph, until I had to swerve around the thing at speed (Yes I was having trouble taking off!) as I came over the hill following the A46 Junction.

          Icon - Lucas Prince of Darkness.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Rather computers than cars

            Ouch. You just brought back the days when part of my job was to assist she who at that stage had not yet become SWMBO on field work. As it was in winter it involved driving back after dark on the tractor infested and hence mud covered roads of north Antrim in the Botany Dept Mini whose headlights, even when clean, looked as if they were powered by a couple of candles.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rather computers than cars

        They also never maintain their vehicles and then are surprised they're left standing on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.

        The number of people at a previous job who didn't know to check tire pressure, change the oil (and I'm not talking how to change the oil, merely the fact it had to be changed at all), how to put in windshield wiper fluid, what squeaky brakes meant...

        My rant always started "you spent $35K on something, and you don't even know how to take care of it...!?"

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Rather computers than cars

        My favourite there is drivers who can't position a car to turn right on a junction-with-traffc-lights. Blocking the junction so that cars wanting to go ahead and all those further back get stuck behind them.

        And then there's the ones too nervous to change lanes on the motorway- often driving along in the middle lane at a gentle speed.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Rather computers than cars

          Two of my biggest bugbears. I speak as someone who averages around 1000 miles per week.

          And it's not just turning right at lights, which really ought to be easy. Worse or those right turns where there's a box in the middle of the road for them to drive into. Most people seem to leave it too late to move over and end up at the end of the box partially turned right, blocking the ongoing traffic, instead of sitting facing straight ahead inside the box. Very few seem to be able to get that one right.

      4. Potty Professor

        Re: Rather computers than cars

        I was once driving along a main road and came across someone waiting to turn right across the oncoming traffic into a side road (in UK). There was plenty of room to his left, so I continued through the gap at undiminished speed (about 40MPH). Just as I cleared the gap, there was a screech of tyres from behind me, someone in a Mondeo had refused to follow me through the gap, even though he had just seem my range Rover clear it easily.

    2. NXM

      Re: Rather computers than cars

      My beef is cars with PWM brake/back lights. As you look in different directions they give you the impression of hundreds of back lights everywhere, making it really difficult to work out where the car in front actually is.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Rather computers than cars

      In addition to there being lots of problems with cars, they also do a lot less than a computer does. Users have so many problems because computers can do a lot of things. If it was as simple as a word processor and no other applications, you'd see a lot fewer support requests. When you demand a box that can run any program that has been written for the OS and processor and run them all at the same time, with the same files, with some level of security between them, and with sufficient options that a technical user can make that box do any number of tasks, you end up with a much more complex system than a car that can go, stop, change speed, and turn.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rather computers than cars

        than a car that can go, stop, change speed, and turn all at the same time. Yes, it was a woman driving a BMW.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rather computers than cars

          @Anonymous Coward

          "Yes, it was a woman driving a BMW"

          Hmmm, I think I can glimpse the reason you are a/c

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Rather computers than cars

        Not so much with the newest cars.

        This very week I tried to connect my Android phone to the car's display (with Android Auto). And it just wouldn't.

        I tried various problem solving things and eventually went back to the dealer- who was puzzled. We sat in the car, turned on the engine. He asked me a few things and then to connect the phone's USB. It connected first time. I thanked him, went home and then tried again. And it wouldn't connect. Removed and replaced the USB lead. Nothing. Tried connecting before I turned the engine on. Nothing. Tried after, still nothing. Unplugged USB again, sat thinking for a minute or two. Had another go. Connected perfectly.

        After several attempts along these lines, sometimes connecting,sometimes not I've concluded that it will only connect after the engine has been switched on and running for a minute or two. As if there was a boot sequence going on.

  15. Terry 6 Silver badge

    School SEN teacher Also 90s

    I had a meeting in a school about a kid they wanted assessing. Most schools knew my time was limited and precious ( so many needy kids so little specialist support). This SENCo kept me waiting outside her office for almost 20 minutes.

    I asked her why. She explained she was in the middle of typing an important confidential document. And she couldn't let me in her office while it was on the screen. Then she added that she'd already had three attempts but each time she'd been called away for an emergency and had to switch off the computer in case anyone went into her office while she was out. And she also mentioned that this kept happening and it took up so much of her time.

    Cue my saying "You don't just save it......."

    You'd have thought with a head and deputy, 4 admins, dozens of staff, Lord knows how many TAs and hundreds of kids in the school all using computers and regularly saving their work there'd have been someone she could have asked how to save - or a least taken a sneaky look while they did.

    (But then she was a known idiot and had to be got rid of after they were inspected.Not before time IMO.)

    1. Kubla Cant

      Re: School SEN teacher Also 90s

      Probably couldn't seek advice about how to save a document because everything she types is secret.

      I can recall a support request from the HR in the next office.

      "No problem, I'll be there in a minute."

      "Oh, you can't look at it. It's confidential."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ICL VME Diagnostician here, 1980's

        We had a constant complaint from an unnamed government agency that we couldn't resolve a repeated system crash.

        They would send redacted system dumps on paper, every hex combination on the dump which looked like it was an alphabetic of numeric character was neatly cut out using a scalpel. They had actually specifically trained a couple of people to match the characters but not understand them (in theory) needless to say we could follow the trail through the dump so far until it reached a hole.

        We did have a couple of people with very high security clearances but apparently this stuff was 'eyes only'

        1. Ken Shabby
          Black Helicopters

          Re: ICL VME Diagnostician here, 1980's

          I had an in depth trace file from a gov defence site, I assumed had been redacted and strings modified, computer names and ip's transmogrified etc by a program.

          I came across a login name, but the format was a bit like strace and double spaced, and assumed they had used some humour on this as it came out as an amusing name referring to what could be taken for building for bowel movements. Let's say it is Bog.

          In my reply, I said the user who was active when the problem occurred, was Bog, can you ask him what he was doing. Anyway resolved the issue and thought nothing more about it.

          A few weeks later I get a visit to our office from that department by two guys, out of the blue, no warnings, a surprise, and their office a quite a few hours away in the capital city. The only time it happened in that place as it was in the sticks miles from anywhere, One guy introduced himself, it was Mr Brian Og. Only the real name in the file was much funnier.

          Last week must be 10 years later an install failed, I asked for the log, nope. Probably not related.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: School SEN teacher Also 90s

        My usual response is borderline BOFH

        "What makes you think that you're that interesting?"

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: School SEN teacher Also 90s

          Mine follows along with "& If I really wanted to read it I could*".

          *Cue the time I saw a interesting document on one of security & fire departments PC, as they stored everything locally on C:.

          Back at my disk, navigate to the PC & the report detailed how dredged up sand for infill on a construction project, was brought on-site of a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant (High pressure tanks, pipelines & lots of nasty chemicals) & contained an impurity that can best be described as a UXB (Icon) from WW2 & was removed & detonated.

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: School SEN teacher Also 90s

        However a SENCo ought to be able to do two things right;

        1) Pre-empt problems

        2) Review events to prevent re-occurence in the future

        In this case find out what to do before the next time she started on a document.

  16. bigphil9009

    Shameless pearoast from a while back...

    Skool Daze

    Back in the mists of time, when I was a young'un and things were still in SD, I was sitting in class one day working away when the headmaster poked his head in the door and said to me those fateful words "your mother is on the phone". As some here will remember, in those pre-mobile days these words were code for "someone you love and care for has died and your life will never be the same again" so it was with a sense of trepidation that I made that long walk through the corridors to his office to pick up the receiver.

    "It's gone! The whole thing is gone and all I have on the screen is a white page! All my bloody work has gone!"

    She had pressed CTRL+N by mistake.

  17. innominatus

    Pen (cap) testing

    In days of yore before Winrunner and such luxuries, testing a DOS text entry system with a BIC biro pen cap jammed in between keys gave it a healthy stress test

  18. cantankerous swineherd

    OH's office got pushed on to wp, cue typists losing their work. can't remember exact details now but iirc there was a poxy little prompt at bottom right saying save y/n and they ended up saving everything to a file called y.

    UI right up there with vi.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Surely file n in directory y.

  19. heyrick Silver badge

    You're lucky

    My poor mother stayed up half the night writing up a Quality Manual for an ISO9001 audit. Being used to a typewriter, so frequently complained about the location of the Ctrl key.

    Towards the end she accidentally did a ^A and the next key pressed replaced the entire document with that one letter.

    The boss, a real gaslighting shit, said "quick, save it before you do any more damage!". I rather suspect that was intentional.

    Talking about it, very upset, the next morning having stayed up all night to do it all again, I asked why he didn't use the undo. My mother may well not have known there was such a thing, but he sure as hell would have.

    He refused to pay her for being there all night (as it "was her fault") and then tried to dock her a day for not being there the following day (as opposed to just not paying for it). Thankfully she quit on the spot. And without a humanity filter between the asshole and the rest of the world, his little shitshow of a company didn't last long.

    But, yeah. ^A. Definitely a keypress to macro out or reassign if possible.

  20. disgruntled yank


    Back at the beginning of the teens, I went off to a meeting as the token IT manager. ("Token" as in, the other IT staff were perfectly competent to manage everything without supervision.) I did a little troubleshooting, and was astonished when a legal secretary complained that a printer did not properly enclose a table from her WordPerfect document. I gently suggested that Microsoft Word might be the better option, but she wasn't having it.

    1. Trixr

      Re: WordPerfect

      Um, why wasn't the printer rendering her document? Why on earth would Word be a better option if the organisation worked with both document types? Especially since WP was apparently on the machine.

      As written, I have to say this sounds like more of a support issue than a user one. Perhaps there was a user issue in that the WP document was in letter size and the printer had A4 paper or something, but that would not have been solved by Word. Or your troubleshooting, as described.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As long as it's WordPerfect and empty pages all is well

    ~12 years and a couple of jobs back. FX trading software on a computer on a trader's desk at a rather large bank. The enraged trader (is there any other kind?) throws a notebook or a legal pad or something similar onto the desk, the corner hits the Enter key. The focus happens to be on the button for a buy order. The default order size is configured to be 2M Euros...

    Luckily the software had a throttle built in, not allowing default orders to be executed too frequently. Still, before the trader noticed "the hardware issue" he had accumulated a EUR82M position that he had to get out of somehow...

    Anonymous, as the trader might blame the software. Again. Customer Support had a hard time before the truth was discovered. I still think the throttling feature saved a part of the trader's anatomy, but then I am biased.

  22. aerogems Silver badge

    Evil Books!

    Back when I was doing on-site hardware support for a University, one time a ticket came in about a computer refusing to boot. I head down to the afflicted machine, which incidentally was in the library, and sure enough there was a BIOS error message about a stuck key because someone left a book on the spacebar. Remove the book, reboot the machine, and all is well with the world. The person who submitted the ticket did have the decency to be appropriately embarrassed about submitting a ticket for something so simple.

    There's a secret war being waged between books and computers, with books refusing to go quietly into the night, and working to sabotage computers at any and every opportunity.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Evil Books!

      Books will win. I can read books printed a century or two before computers were invented. There are plenty of data files from a decade or two go that can't be read for lack of suitable media drives, software to interpret abandoned proprietary formats an the like.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Evil Books!

        I just recently scanned some negatives of me as a baby. Not quite a half century old and in perfect condition, having followed my mother around three different countries and several homes. I'm not sure many of my floppies from the late 80s are useful. Some CD-Rs from just a decade ago would disintegrate if spun up in a modern drive. And that's not even getting to dealing with the various forgotten file formats.

        Sometimes analogue's simplicity is it's strength. Assuming no disaster, those negatives will likely outlive me.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Evil Books!

          "Sometimes analogue's simplicity is it's strength. Assuming no disaster, those negatives will likely outlive me."

          Don't give analogue media the credit when the problem is physical construction. Your CDs don't stop working because they're digital. They stop working because the materials used to manufacture the user-writable disks weren't designed to last a long time, either on purpose or through oversight. There were lots of analogue media types that were similarly fragile, and you're not considering them now because they have mostly been discarded as broken. There is digital media that is designed to last a long time without being copied to something else (which with digital media is easier than analogue).

          1. Trixr

            Re: Evil Books!

            Exactly. Talk to an archivist any time about how many works have been lost over the centuries due to fire, mould, moths, rot, etc etc etc etc. Which recording company was it that recently had all their pre-70s (?) masters go up in flames when a single warehouse burned down? Film on nitrate stock is literally disintegrating as time goes on, where it's not spontaneously combusting.

            A lot of library/archive budgets these days have chunks set aside for digitisation projects, and there are a lot of very good reasons why that's happening.

            These days, at least we've got a better grasp of digital formats, we aren't so reliant on physical storage media (at least not in the sense of the one copy being archived on a laser disk or whatever), and people in the biz understand the importance of transferring files to new formats as required.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Evil Books!

              HP lost their corporate archives in the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa.


      2. Paul Cooper

        Re: Evil Books!

        Indeed. I have at least one book on my shelf that is about 120 years old. I defy you to find ANY digital; media that old! And our present discussion of WP illustrates the problems of old formats. I have quite a few WP files on my machine (my work used it for several years in the early 90s) - most will open in Word, but some won't!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Evil Books!

          "I defy you to find ANY digital; media that old!"

          Your simple paper recording device is subject to rot, fungus, water and insect damage, fire, sun bleaching, acid damage and physical damage from handling, and other catastrophe ... unless stored under optimal conditions and never actually used as intended.

          Cuneiform tablets date to the early bronze age. Tally marks on bone go back over 30,000 years.

          Just as an aside, when my daughter was learning to count (age 4ish), I taught her to count to 15 on four fingers. She added the thumb, and then the other hand, on her own. (Well, you were talking about digital media, right?)

          1. Sherrie Ludwig

            Re: Evil Books!

            Your simple paper recording device is subject to rot, fungus, water and insect damage, fire, sun bleaching, acid damage and physical damage from handling, and other catastrophe ... unless stored under optimal conditions and never actually used as intended.

            Well, true. But they can be read and copied by use of the Mark One human eyeball connected to the same version human hand supplied with a blank surface and material to mark such surface, independent of mechanical devices or electrical power, assuming such transcription is performed during daylight hours.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Evil Books!

              Transcription errors abound. Ever play the child's game "Telephone"?[0] Or read the various translations of the Bible side by side? Or watched gossip spread?

              [0] "Chinese Whispers" to you Brits.

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Evil Books!

          Pianola music and Hollerith cards are pretty much digital, but I don't say I could find any.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lost Document

    When WP5.1 was king, I was working for the UK office of a US company that supplied some specialist safety equipment to the oil industry (actually, most of that is irrelevant to the story, but I've got it out of my system)!

    I was only part-time and, when there, used a spare desk in MD's outer office, shared with his PA/secretary. One day when I arrived she was looking flustered - she'd used the previous board minutes as a template to type up the latest ones, and forgot to "Save As". No backups as everything was considered safe if stored on her PC's hard drive - I'll add that my role was helping to establish a formal management system for the UK division, not an IT one. No problem, I said, as I knew WP5.1 saved a backup copy of every document before each save. Yes problem, as she'd disabled that option because the backup copies were using too much storage space. Luckily I knew that WP still saved a backup, even when the option was disabled, but as a hidden file. A few keyboard clicks to show hidden files, find the backup and rename it, and sanity returned. From then on, whenever I needed an appointment with the MD, I got preferential treatment. I also got a call when her PC HD wouldn't start (a quick dunt on the side and up it fired - and a remind her to update her backups as it might be a sticking head might be a sign of impending doom for it); another call when dBase crashed and AT's support answer was to buy a new copy - that solution was a sector edit on the installation floppy (to allow it to be reinstalled).

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Lost Document

      "Luckily I knew that WP still saved a backup, even when the option was disabled, but as a hidden file."

      The days when software was written with users in mind...

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Lost Document

        While if someone did that today, we'd probably hear lots of complaints about how [insert company of choice] was wasting disk space, providing misleading settings, and not respecting the user's resources. Sometimes there's no way to please everyone.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Lost Document

          Software keeping a secret copy of your document when you specifically told it not to, if this is that, sounds like a breach of GDPR.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do you remember those fun times talking users through problems while guessing what exactly was on the screen?

    My wife once rang me at work. She was working in MSWord and it hadn't done what she expected.

    Paraphrased, but this is what I remember - roughly.

    (Anonymous in case word ever gets to her....)

    me: Is there a box in the middle of the screen?

    she: yes

    me: What does it say?

    she: It says there's been an error

    me: What error does it mention?

    she: It says there's an error and it hasn't saved the file

    me: What exactly. does it say on the screen?

    she: Are you actually going to help me? This is important and I'm in a hurry.

    me: ......

  25. Just an old bloke

    Wordstar was a lot less complicated and nicer to use.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Subjective. It always is.

      Except vi is the one true editor, all others are mere pretenders.

  26. Ignazio

    Windows won't save you there

    Saw the same problem twice on Windows. Menus clicked would close without chance of doing anything. Sometimes a shrill beep would be heard. Book pushing the ESC key both times.

  27. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

    "be called upon by friends ... to demonstrate your IT prowess"

    Oh, such a nice introduction - that indeed happened today. Today's topic was cleaning out GPOs, and how to recognize outdated ADM* templates and outdated GPOs created with those old ADM* templates, and get new templates in without collision with the old ones. But I consider myself lucky for three reasons:

    1. The one calling does know a lot, is among those with very good manners, and we consider each other as friends.

    2. He is interested in working together, he knows combined knowledge is worth a lot.

    3. He let his company pay for it - especially since he knows the time saved outweighs the time that would be wasted otherwise by far.

  28. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    The philosophy of WordPerfect....

    Was to hide away unnecessary complications from users, and to learn needed functionality in baby steps, as and when needed. So if you wanted to write a short memo, you just type it. You then need to save it, so you become acquainted with F10. To Print it you need to know Shift F7. To exit it is F7. For most users in days of yore, that is all they needed to know.

    From there it is an incremental learning process, rather than being overwhelmed by the "in yer face" philosophy of modern applications. Looking at you Microsoft. Wizards were often designed by competitors to attempt to ease that complexity, but that becomes a crutch to be weaned off when trying to make a wizard cope with things it was not designed to cope with. Not so easy when the Wizard uses a separate mechanism to do the explanation. Users then have to relearn the principles, this time using the proper keystrokes.

    Reveal Codes (Alt F3) was only necessary if you needed to look under the bonnet. If you wanted to do things like Bold (F6) or Underline (F8) you didn't need to use Reveal Codes at all, even when using the cursor keys to edit a document. You could judge which side of a Bold: On/Off code you were simply by looking at the bottom right status indicator. But if you really wanted that power then everything, and I mean everything, was there in that troubleshooting window. Everything was properly signposted to, so you could find an offending code by searching back for the relevant code you're currently inheriting from.

    MS Word was excruciatingly non-intuitive when wanting to change a "global" formatting code, you couldn't easily save the default template without having to exit what you are doing and then coming back to a WTFWI scenario (Where Was I).

    I still have clients using WordPerfect: one is an author who originally came to me to learn how to produce a Table of Contents, Footnotes and Index for his latest book. Not a technical man by any stretch, but he was able to save his publisher a big nightmare in having to proof-read what is an intense who's who, where's where and what's what of biblical proportions, encompassing his knowledge of his speciality in the entertainment business.

    A few powerful features of WordPerfect to my mind set it apart from other products, even today. One is the concept of Delay Codes (IIRC this was the subject of the first ever question I answered on Experts Exchange). Instead of formatting continuation sheets of a document at the time they arrive (which may vary if the first page is edited), the codes for the second page are defined at the top of the first page and encapsulated in a Delay Code. Even WP5.1 was capable of this, but WP6 extended the principle for any number of pages after the current page.

    The other features were Styles, Macros, Custom Keyboards and Merge Codes. I worked with some heavyweight companies to implement their corporate identity so that the typing pool did not need to enter any formatting into their documents as it was all defined through Styles. The versatility of these features was such that I wrote a system for a London Special Health Authority whereby their contracts of employment could be easily checked for variations to standard terms, rather than having a lawyer having to wade through the whole contract to spot any differences. A backing sheet additionally summarised all the variations in one place. This would be stored with the contract of employment to provide an "at a glance" synopsis of specially negotiated terms.

    It seems everyone these days thinks that flexibility of being able to change styling from a convenient formatting bar is the dog's bollocks, but does the average user really want this?

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: The philosophy of WordPerfect....

      From there it is an incremental learning process, rather...

      Which makes a lot of sense if someone has the opportunity to learn on the job. Less so if you've been given a short 1 or 2hr training session followed by a pressured, time consuming task- (possibly several weeks later with no time to practice in the interim).

      1. mezrac

        Re: The philosophy of WordPerfect....

        And how do the steeper learning curves of the modern behemoths help with this?

  29. ricardian

    In the early days (1983-ish) of the IBM PC my department bought a copy of Multimate - it came on 7.5 inch floppy disks and there was a very large box full of them. It took the best part of a day to install and it did do what the advert claimed (i.e. everything) it did it very, very badly

    1. jake Silver badge

      7.5 inch? 8 inch, Shirley.

      It did what it did OK. What it did was emulate Wang's system.

  30. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Taking this opportunity to add a printer rant. Have just repacked a new Epson ET 5170. Going back to Costco in the morning.

    It came advertised as having a second(rear) paper feed. Which is something I use to hold A5.

    It does, but on set-up the paper kept running though it all at once. And the settings tabs were ominously short of options for the rear feed. Cue a lot of trouble shooting and eventually delving into some very small print, online in the suplementary instruction documentation. There was a table. Rear feed capacity, it read, 1 sheet!

    There's physically room for about 25 sheets and a paper guide that fits a stack. But it can actually only handle 1 ONE sheet at a time.

    So the rear feeder has almost no use at all. It's not even particularly easy to access or put a single sheet of paper into it either.

    Printer manufacturers are bastards. That hasn't changed.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Clearly the least possible effort in order to be able to write "Rear sheet feed" on the outside of the box.

      Makes you wonder - would it really have been that much harder to make it work, you know, properly?

  31. Winkypop Silver badge

    Multi-Mate WP on an Olivetti 386 in the 80s

    Harrumph thought I

    This computer lark will never become mainstream….

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Multi-Mate WP on an Olivetti 386 in the 80s

      A riff on that thought ... In early-mid 1981[1] I was working for Bigger Blue when the PC-DOS 0.98 beta & original IBM PC came out in pilot build ... everyone in the Glass House looked at each other and said "WTF is IBM thinking? Thank gawd/ess it can't do networking!" ... The rest, of course, is history.

      [1] I can't remember the exact month, but it was raining. Naturally.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Multi-Mate WP on an Olivetti 386 in the 80s

      My grandfather, a WW1 veteran, always sad that TV could never catch on- too expensive for ordinary working people. And I still agree.

      1. Winkypop Silver badge

        Re: Multi-Mate WP on an Olivetti 386 in the 80s

        Re: Your Grandfather.

        Well, he was correct in his day. TVs were very expensive for years. The old HP man was always around for his “never-never” payment.

  32. Binraider Silver badge

    Genius. You could have stared at that for hours and not figured that out!

    As much as we rag on MS and Office; Word (largely) is Wysiwig; and a major factor in why other office suites dried up besides aggressive marketing. Until it's mis-used and mis-conceived formatting tools come into play...

    I still think Wordworth on the Amiga is probably the best writing tool; though a tad long in the tooth at this point. But then again pen and paper has been around a lot longer, and a lot of people swear by that for writing too. (I hate the latter, mostly because my brain outruns my ability to put a pen to paper; and as a result words end up mushing together unintelligibly).

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like