back to article Not to dis your diskette, but there are some unexpected sector holes

We take a trip back in time to the era of floppy disks and cabinets of PDP-11 hardware for an On Call where knowing the difference between hard and soft makes all the difference. Our tale comes from a reader Regomised as "Don" who describes himself as "an electrical engineer with credentials dating back to HP 2114 16-bit …

  1. GlenP Silver badge

    LSI11/03

    That takes me back very nearly 40 years - we used those for our "Small Systems" course at uni, which was effectively assembly level programming.

    1. red floyd

      Re: LSI11/03

      Never programmed one, but used Doug Comer's XINU book for an OS class. Original XINU was for the LSI-11.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: LSI11/03

        LOL, this is a great story for on-call ... it reminds me that I still have a "desktop" PDP11/23 ... it sat on the "desktop" and I put the VT100 screen on top of it and the keyboard in front. Yes, I did see this hard-sector vs soft-sector issue very occasionally back then but something that on-call always teaches is that "problems" always result in everyone learning.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: LSI11/03

      "They looked at me like I was welcome to leave immediately... I said my farewell and moved on."

      Must be a British thing.

      The response that they were pissed at the messenger.

      These days I have to travel to one of our UK facilities that makes high-tech components about twice a year. Why my company keeps it open I have no idea, since it's a black hole when it comes to losses. But anytime someone solves one of their problems even if it's one of their internal teams, the hostility generated by the old guard is amazing. You often get the "I've been doing this job for 30 years and no one can tell me how to do it better." Reminds me of all of the "big fish in a small pond" petty intrigue by the staff in Downton Abbey

      They take the problem solving as you were trying to make them look bad. They don't seem to get that they already look bad because their yield consistently is 30%, and only fluctuates to decent territory every once in a while, so screams lack of process control.

      The C-suits just shut down one UK facility due to this lack of willingness to improve. I can only hope they shut down the other so I don't have to go there anymore.

      1. Ian 70

        Re: LSI11/03

        Definitely not just a UK thing. Much more an entrenched this is how we always have worked mindset leads to this. You see it the world over.

      2. sniperpaddy

        Re: LSI11/03

        More like the 1 year, thirty times over, not 30 years growth.

        Most people are unimaginative rote learners, not problem solvers.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I bow before such experience

    I never even knew there was such a thing as a hard-sector discs.

    And I've been using floppies since the IBM PC with double 360kb 5¼" floppies.

    Salute to the master.

    1. TimMaher Silver badge
      Windows

      You were lucky

      I started off with 8”, hard sectored, single sided disks and mag-stripe printer cards.

      Graduated to soft-sector. Then 5 ¼ “... and so on.

      1. I Am Spartacus
        Trollface

        Re: You were lucky

        We used to dream of hard sector floppies. Back in my day, we used paper tape, with lots of holes. Lots and lots of holes. So many that the long tapes used to tear in just the same way that perforated envelopes fail to do today.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You were lucky

          On the Colossus (and the earlier 'Heath Robinson') machines they ran paper tape loops at phenomenal speed (5000 char/s = 27mph) so any flaw in the tape loop would have it explode into a shower of confetti

          1. IJD

            Re: You were lucky

            My father-in-law designed and built the optical tape readers for Colossus (and built and debugged most of the rest of the hardware). When they were trying to see how fast the readers could go he pushed the tape speed up *way* beyond the normal speed, IIRC he got it up to about 80mph before the inevitable happened. They were picking bits of confetti out of everything in the room -- including the Colossus racks -- for several days...

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: You were lucky

            Most tape equipment drove the tape via the sprocket holes. Colossus didn't, it drove it via a roller mechanism & just used the sprocket holes for timing.

            1. swm Silver badge

              Re: You were lucky

              "Most tape equipment drove the tape via the sprocket holes. Colossus didn't, it drove it via a roller mechanism & just used the sprocket holes for timing."

              The LGP-30 high-speed paper tape reader also used a roller mechanism. The tape reader had to be able to stop on a character (stop code) so reading a tape was a little "jerky."

              We had a problem with one paper tape that someone had spliced with scotch tape assuming that the light would go through the holes.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: You were lucky

                Colossus and its predecessor, the [Heath] Robinson kept the tape in continuous motion, read it optically and used the impulses from reading the sprocket holes as what we'd now call the clock.

            2. PeterO

              Re: You were lucky

              One of the popular design of high speed paper tape readers was based on a design from Cambridge University. I think it was originally an EDSAC II peripheral. It uses a continuously rotating capstan above the tape, a free clutch roller under the tape, and a brake pad to stop the tape on a single character even when going at full speed. The clutch and brake are both operated by solenoids. The maximum speeds were 250/500/1000 cps. The 250 cps versions didn't have a brake and relied on tape friction to stop the tape.

              Anyway, the design was licensed to Elliotts, and it appeared on their own 800s/900s/500s/4100s and also later ICL 1900 machines. We have examples at TNMOC fitted to Elliott 803 and 903, and also the Marconi TAC.

              Here is the 500 cps version on our Elliott 803.

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIxZ1i8pvZI

              An example of a variation on the same theme is the Trend UDR 350.

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8P44GCse0s

              PeterO

        2. Ozumo

          Re: You were lucky

          We once ran out of holes. Caused a hell of a kerfuffle until someone found a box of them in the filing cabinet.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: You were lucky

            Until you found out they were metric holes

          2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

            Re: You were lucky

            There's a bin of "not-holes" under every tape or card punch. Perhaps you could use those with inverters until the supply of holes you ordered shows up?

            ACME Industries, of course, makes the best holes.

            1. swm Silver badge

              Re: You were lucky

              No - the holes were used at weddings instead of rice.

              1. TimMaher Silver badge
                Happy

                Re: weddings

                Or as chad bombs in a colleagues desk.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: weddings

                  When I was at Bigger Blue, it was rumo(u)red that being caught with a quantity of chad was a firing offense.

              2. nonpc

                Re: You were lucky

                You had to be careful with using 'chad' as one in the eye could be dodgy. Could be useful for decorating the inside of the wedding card as static made them difficult to remove. Adding some to the air vents meant that the flavour lingered even longer!

                1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                  Re: You were lucky

                  Punched card chad was OK, it was rectangular (cf "hanging chads"), but paper tape chad was round, and slightly concave as a result of the punch operation. It could get stuck to the eyeball, requiring medical intervention.

                  1. Sherrie Ludwig

                    Re: You were lucky

                    When punched cards were the norm at college, one enterprising student made and sold little fabric frogs which used the card chad for stuffing. Still have one, named it Coredump. He sat atop the monitor, and his purpose was to eat bugs, of course.

            2. This post has been deleted by its author

          3. spireite Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: You were lucky

            If you can't find them, are they black holes?

            1. Ken Shabby
              Facepalm

              Re: You were lucky

              No, they are A-holes

              1. ya fishy user name

                Re: You were lucky

                There is seldom trouble FINDING A-holes, the problem is getting rid of them.

          4. that one in the corner

            Re: You were lucky

            We used to get our holes from the supply they kept in the Albert Hall.

            1. bpfh

              Re: You were lucky

              Period correct :) "I love to turn you on" was that time's "start me up" I guess?

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: You were lucky

                As long as you don't touch me there ...

        3. HildyJ Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: You were lucky

          Fortunately there was a paper tape splicer which could be used for tape repair as well as program editing.

        4. el_oscuro

          Re: You were lucky

          At my high school computer class, they had a teletype that connected to the PDP-1170 downtown. You could play Zork all day on that and the teacher was cool with it. But if you spilled the papertape holes, you automatically failed the class.

      2. bpfh

        Re: You were lucky

        I must be in between. I used my mother's "word processor", a Sanyo (iirc) 8086 with just over 100 k of ram, and 2 single side floppy drives (fill up disk side 1, get told to flip the diskette like an old LP to write on side 2. 180k per side.

        I got a box of 8 inch diskettes from the UK CAA. They made brilliant frisbees!

      3. el_oscuro

        Re: You were lucky

        The first computer I ever used was a Heathkit H-89 - with 5 1/4 hard sectored disks.

    2. JeffB

      Re: I bow before such experience

      "I never even knew there was such a thing as a hard-sector discs."

      Neither had I, but the tagline made me think it was going to be some overenthusiastic hole punch work...

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: I bow before such experience

        I've found secretaries filing backup floppies in a ring-back folder before now... iirc you can do that with a 3-1/4 but they had to use a hole-punch to get the 5-1/2 to stay.

        1. Stumpy

          Re: I bow before such experience

          5.25" discs could quite easily be punched in the corner and filed in a ring binder. So long as you were careful as to where you put the hole... far easier to simply get some ring-bound slipcases instead.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: I bow before such experience

            If you punched in the right place you can turn a SS floppy into a DS.

            1. Auntie Dix

              Re: I bow before such experience

              I remember punching holes in the floppy disk to use both sides in my Apple //e.

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: I bow before such experience

        tagline made me think it was going to be some overenthusiastic hole punch work...

        I knew someone who needed hard sectored disks in a hurry and tried to add extra holes to soft sectored disks with an office hole punch. It worked better than I thought it would. (One out of six attempts stored enough data for what he was doing, long enough to get proper disks.)

        1. Mike 16 Silver badge

          Re: I bow before such experience

          Wouldn't a typical office binder hole-punch create a rather oversize hole for hard-sector floppies?

          Or were these floppies more like 16 inch?

          (of course in some areas, the average road-sign has enough holes in it to make at least two such floppies)

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: I bow before such experience

            Wouldn't a typical office binder hole-punch create a rather oversize hole for hard-sector floppies?

            It worked well enough on one out of six. It was an act of desperation on a Saturday afternoon.

            Or were these floppies more like 16 inch?

            8 inch.

      3. DJV Silver badge

        Re: some overenthusiastic hole punch work

        I heard a similar second-hand story about that - programs and data loaded from paper tape kept being corrupted. It took them a while but the problem was eventually tracked down to a clueless newbie in charge of occasional paper tape loading - he was getting bored and poking the occasional extra hole in the tape with the point of a pencil.

      4. Snowy Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: I bow before such experience

        I was thinking stapler :)

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: I bow before such experience

      Same here. I mean... I knew of magtapes and punch cards but I've never seen (or heard of) hard-sectored floppy disks before.

      You never stop learning!

      1. NorthIowan

        Re: I've never seen (or heard of) hard-sectored floppy disks before

        Kids stop it.

        You're making me feel old.

        I Googled it and both 8" and 5 1/4" floppies came in hard or soft sector flavors. I'm guessing IBM PCs and clones all used soft sector.

        1. Dog11
          Boffin

          Re: I've never seen (or heard of) hard-sectored floppy disks before

          By the time of the IBM PC, disks were mostly soft sector. But before (and overlapping) that, there were a zillion disk formats. I had software (UniForm) that could do many of them, and there were a lot of hard-sector formats listed. Before that, I used IBM 8 inch, and those were soft-sectored. Never did run into hard sectors, think by the early 1990s they were not common. There's a list at stackexchange but I remember there being more.

      2. Martin Silver badge

        Re: I bow before such experience

        The point about soft sectoring is that you could pretty well define your own number of sectors per track on your floppy disk. One of the early general operating systems for office desktop computers was CP/M - and every version of CP/M did their soft sectoring differently.

        At the time, I worked at a startup, where one of the services we supplied was the ability to take a disk which had data on it using one version of CP/M and transfer the files to another disc which could used on another version of CP/M. The only time we were ever defeated was when someone wanted us to transfer data to a CP/M system which used hard-sectored floppies.

        Once IBM PCs and their clones came along, it all became a single standard. One of the few things MS-DOS did right compared to CP/M.

  3. Mishak Silver badge

    Closest I've seen...

    Was a user bashing the keyboard and screaming at the PC "why aren't you working"?

    I went over and swapped the keyboard (without unplugging) with the one on the adjacent desk - cleaners had been in...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Closest I've seen...

      I started around ten years ago at a big IT company. It was quite a jovial office, with lots of pranks. For over a year, one of my colleagues complained that his mouse would occasionally move erratically across the screen. His machine was re-imaged and eventually, IMMSMC, replaced, but the issue still happened. One of the japesters had plugged another mouse into his docking station, which was never inspected, and said mouse would occasionally be moved....

      Felt sorry for the poor chap... He was so good about it though...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Closest I've seen...

        A few years back in a large open plan office there were a number of support teams dotted around the place. One team always had their team meeting on a Friday afternoon. One week I went over and put a small piece of Sellotape across the optical sensors on our their mice.

        Que lots of rebooting when they came back as most of them thought their machines had hung.

        Took a few minutes for someone to work out it was Sellotape. And for some reason everyone looked in my direction...

        1. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: Closest I've seen...

          Ah, that one's still a goodie.

          I did it a few years ago to one of our HoDs. After she dragged me into her office, saying that her email wasn't working, it really needed to be working etc... etc... Turned out that it was a new machine and Outlook hadn't been pinned to the task bar. She didn't know how to open it any other way.

          In the circumstance, I feel that mucking with her mouse was entirely justified.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Closest I've seen...

            I had a customer who demanded a callout because her mail wasn't working - not once but on 3 separate occasions - an hour's drive away...

            ...each time because her husband had minimised the clent

            1. My-Handle Silver badge

              Re: Closest I've seen...

              Sounds like a good excuse to raise the callout fee. Or implement some kind of idiot tax.

              1. David Nash

                Re: Closest I've seen...

                What it really shows is that people are put in front of a computer with no training and expected to know how things work, "because everyone does".

                1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

                  That is understandable today.

                  In the 1980's, it was not.

                2. My-Handle Silver badge

                  Re: Closest I've seen...

                  I have absolutely no experience with using a Mac. I'm still called to troubleshoot the resident graphics designer's Mac if / when it goes wrong. Despite the person in question having years (and almost infinite percent) more experience than me, I'm still the one who manages to fix it.

                  I don't expect everyone to exhibit the same level of problem-solving and internet-based research (yes, Google) that I do, but I do expect them to have enough basic skill and intelligence to do their job. The kind of manager who prefers to hand off a problem to someone else before using their own brain earns little respect from me.

                  1. Martin an gof Silver badge
                    Boffin

                    Re: Closest I've seen...

                    I have absolutely no experience with using a Mac. I'm still called to troubleshoot the resident graphics designer's Mac if / when it goes wrong

                    I think most of us have had that kind of experience, particularly in our early careers. As I've mentioned here previously, back in the 1990s I was working at a radio station - officially fixing broadcast kit and keeping the inane drivel on-air. Computers arrived and while most of the office staff had some kind of training or other, I didn't because I "knew about" computers already. Yeah, RiscOS and VMS.

                    The classic example was a secretary who had been on a three-day training course on Excel and ran into some trouble when VAT increased from 15% to 17½%. Of course, muggins - who had never had hands-on with a spreadsheet in his life though he knew the principles - was called in to help. I did wonder if they had taught anything in that class beyond "here is the icon you need to double-click to launch Excel".

                    There are some people who simply don't want to learn. Or even to "think".

                    M.

                3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: Closest I've seen...

                  What it really shows is that people are put in front of a computer with no training and expected to know how things work, "because everyone does".

                  Windows has been telling us during the install for a couple a decades about how "intuitive" it is to use. Why would anyone need training? </sarc>

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: Closest I've seen...

                    "Windows has been telling us during the install for a couple a decades about how "intuitive" it is to use."

                    And Apple started the "ease of use" myth a couple decades before that.

            2. JeffB

              Re: Closest I've seen...

              Was that the 'Minimise to system tray' option? It's caught a few people out over the years

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Closest I've seen...

                An elderly reletive called me this one time saying she could start any programs. "Crap", thinks I, what could this be, so started with the basic diagnostics questioning and it turns out the Task Bar is "missing". It took a while to figure out that at some stage she'd managed to minimise the Task Bar down to about one pixel height. There was still a grey line along the bottom of the screen. If it had merely been "hidden", it should have popped up when moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen, but that wasn't it. I eventually managed to talk her through carefully grabbing the Task Bar and click dragging it back to normal. Phew! That would have a been a 200 mile round trip and no option of remote log-in then.

              2. Rob Daglish Bronze badge

                Re: Closest I've seen...

                My favourite one was the user who insisted her email would disappear overnight. She had her machine re-imaged on multiple occasions, but it was still happening, and our helpdesk were stumped.

                Eventually I agreed to visit one evening and then again the following morning. I sent a test email around 5PM, and it showed in her inbox. Visited the following morning, and she proudly pointed to the fact the email was no longer there. Which it wasn't, as Outlook had helpfully moved it from the "Today" category, which was expanded, to the "Yesterday" category, which wasn't...

                In fairness to the hell-desk, it was a new feature which was only introduced when the machine was updated with a new version of office, and their machines wouldn't get done until at least a year later, but it's a good

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Closest I've seen...

                  I bet there were another round of similar calls when Microsoft rolled out the "focused" inbox. First thing I disable on my new machine, every time I get one.

          2. adam 40 Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: Closest I've seen...

            "In the circumstance, I feel that mucking with her mouse was entirely justified."

            Is that a (1980's only) euphemism?

            1. My-Handle Silver badge

              Re: Closest I've seen...

              *shudder*

              oh god, no.

        2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Closest I've seen...

          One week I went over and put a small piece of Sellotape across the optical sensors on our their mice.

          The Sun optical mice with specially patterned pads were great fun - turn the pad through 90° and they became very unreliable and nobody really thought about pad orientation as a problem (until they'd been had a couple of times).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Closest I've seen...

            My wife got into trouble at her school after she told the students at the end of the class to turn their mouses over and check their balls.

            1. A Nother Handle
              Joke

              Re: Closest I've seen...

              Quite right too. She should have said "mice".

          2. Rob Daglish Bronze badge

            Re: Closest I've seen...

            Optical mice and glass sheets on top of the desk were always good fun...

        3. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          Re: Closest I've seen...

          "for some reason everyone looked in my direction"

          You need to work on that poker-face.

      2. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: Closest I've seen...

        his mouse would occasionally move erratically across the screen

        A couple of roles ago we had a sister company that tended to go their own way. Amongst his other IT purchases*, without asking, the MD bought two identical wireless mice for himself and his finance guy.

        He then complained of erratic mouse movements which we "must sort out". You can probably see where this is going! Their desks were effectively back-to-back, separated by a thin partition wall, and in those days wireless mice (mouses, meeses?) were single channel with no encoding so when the finance person moved his mouse there was just enough signal to cause erratic movement in the MD's mouse.

        *His other one was to buy a Sony Vaio laptop from Dixons without asking. 13 months later we had to scrap it due to driver issues. Dixons weren't interested as it was out of warranty, Sony UK reckoned it was a parts bin special direct from Sony Japan so nothing to do with them,

        1. Roger Lipscombe

          Re: Sony Vaio

          I loved the tiny Sony Vaio SRX87, but -- yeah -- drivers were a massive problem. Don't even *start* with the PITA involved in getting Linux installed on it. I managed it, though -- the posts are still up on my blog from (shudder) 18-ish years ago.

        2. Richard Pennington 1
          Facepalm

          Re: Closest I've seen...

          Many years ago, before I retired, I was working on a project in an outpost in Stevenage. The local IT helpdesk was in the same building, so they could (and did) visit users' desks when needed. They also local ran a display wall, back at base, where the least intelligent calls we displayed for posterity.

          One such was a call from a user who said that his/her mouse was almost completely unresponsive. A visit to the desk elicited the following facts:

          [1] the mouse in question was a promotional mouse from some IT show or other;

          [2] the mouse in question was made entirely out of plastic foam, with no electrical functionality whatsoever;

          [3] the only reason that the user observed any response at all was that sometimes in moving the promotional mouse, the user had accidentally bumped the desk, causing the real mouse to move at random.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: Closest I've seen...

            But, wireless? And useless.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: his mouse would occasionally move erratically across the screen

        I remember when I got our first HD TV in 2004(?). I was checking out the local stations and found one had a full time radar feed of our area. It was apparently the weatherman's computer as there was a mouse pointer going across the screen at the time.

        My kids saw the moving mouse pointer and wanted me to give them the remote so they could play with it. They were disappointed that it wasn't a game.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: his mouse would occasionally move erratically across the screen

          I wondered where your story was going. https://www.snopes.com/ap/2021/03/18/tv-anchors-storms-video/ is a now-abbreviated copy of a news report of a TV studio whose weather presenter got to report that a storm with tornado flavoring was about to hit THEM. Or to come way too close, anyway.

          You "just" had a giant arrow flying across the sky. :-)

          For a while, BBC1 television had idents where a hot air balloon with a world globe design flew over various parts of the country, including the famous Forth Bridge. So any other time that I saw the bridge, I had the urge to look around for the balloon.

      4. bartsmit
        Facepalm

        Re: Closest I've seen...

        First generation optical mice needed a reflective pad with a grid of black lines to read movement data. One colleague was used to the mechanical type and took the mouse without the pad to work from home. When she came back she complained that the mouse would only work on a scratched frying pan and even then, not that well. I can't imagine what surfaces she tried before settling on the cooking utensils but I suspect that her WFH was from the kitchen in lieu of a proper study.

    2. F. Frederick Skitty

      Re: Closest I've seen...

      Ah, the joys of cleaners moving or unplugging things. At one job I used to leave my memory deficient Sun workstation compiling overnight, and often found it had been brutally turned off by the cleaner yanking the plug out to use the socket for their vacuum cleaner. The cleaner only spoke Spanish, and this being before Google Translate or similar, I had to ask a Spanish speaking friend to help me write a polite sign that I put above the plug sockets. The sign suggested they use the sockets at the other end of the room. The sockets that our hated manager had his PC plugged into...

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Closest I've seen...

        ahh, cleaners.....

        I had a linux PC used as a router in a museum. It died 3 days short of 3 years uptime. Guess why?

        1. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: Closest I've seen...

          I think I've recounted this story here before, but in my current place of work we have several buildings. In one room (part warehouse storage and part plant) of this building, we have a network device that links to the factory building. It's plugged into the wall, with a label on it saying "Do not turn off".

          One day, a gentleman comes in to service the boiler. And shortly after the network goes down. The factory is cut off from the site's internet connection, and from a few of our servers. Guess what had happened. Yep, the pipe-basher had unplugged the bloody thing so he could plug in his drill. The IT director, not usually a shouty man, was on him in seconds and tore him a new one.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Closest I've seen...

            The red sockets at work were connected to a large UPS.

            Note the "were".

            It didn't survive the power requirements of trying to start up an industrial vacuum cleaner. It was intended to run three or four PCs (but not the monitors) for a while in case of short power cuts. If was not intended for a sudden dump of far more power that it was designed for. The sudden load (that briefly dims the lights in normal use) destroyed the thing before any overload protection had a hope of rescuing the situation.

          2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: Closest I've seen...

            It didn't say "Do not unplug", did it? ;-)

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Closest I've seen...

        If anybody ever has this problem, I solved it by getting the cleaners sockets and machines changed to use a different type of socket by our site sparky.

        This was the last time we had a problem with this again. The users couldn't plug things into the cleaners sockets so they were always free, and the cleaners couldn't use any of the other sockets even if they did unplug something.

        1. Red Or Zed

          Re: Closest I've seen...

          Type K looks so friendly! Those happy Danes.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Closest I've seen...

            Avoid type I.

          2. vistisen

            Re: Closest I've seen...

            We actually have a K subtype for computers. The two round holes are changed to two diagonal slots to stop people putting other electrical devices in.

            At one om the places I was a supporter. There was an engineer who wanted to plug a radio in. So he changed the plug to one with the diagonal slots. As the signal strength was not that good. He scraped some paint off a metal radiator pipe, and soldered a wire from the antenna to it…. One thunderstorm later, we replaced all 12 of the PC’s in the department, and he found a new job.

            1. keithpeter Silver badge
              Windows

              Re: Closest I've seen...

              I'm slightly confused (quite common these days).

              Was the radiator metalwork not earth bonded?

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Closest I've seen...

                Might not matter with a nearby lightning strike.

                I've seen a ground-strike take out all the plugged in electronics in three properly wired houses[0] surrounding the strike point ... strangely enough, an identically wired fourth house was closest to the strike by about 20 feet, and yet remained untouched.

                Lightning is funny stuff. The afore mentioned Engineer might have been a scapegoat.

                [0] Post-Korea tract housing in Santa Rosa, California.

            2. khjohansen

              K subtype ...

              https://images.app.goo.gl/G1p7afMSBcRhWKnk8

              Having Monitors connected to standard K, PCs to modified K can get ... interesting!

              ( destroy all extension cables from modified to standard K! )

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Closest I've seen...

          "and the cleaners couldn't use any of the other sockets even if they did unplug something."

          That wouldn't stop them unplugging something to find out.

        3. Mog_X

          Re: Closest I've seen...

          Type G are the best in the world! - https://youtu.be/UEfP1OKKz_Q

        4. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Closest I've seen...

          Couple of decent types missing from that list. We used a lot of Electrak at the radio station for similar reasons, and the UK type ("G") comes in variants with rotated pins (either the earth or the live pins or both) and with differently-shaped earth pins.

          M.

        5. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: Closest I've seen...

          That site is wrong about Type E (France). That is 3 pin, with the earth pin actually being on the socket. The picture of the plug is wrong, that's a Type F (Schuko). A real type E has no earth contacts on the body, just the receptacle on the face. This makes it UNSAFELY compatible with F, as an E plug goes into an F socket, but does not connect the earth.

      3. JohnGrantNineTiles

        Re: Closest I've seen...

        Cleaners moving things -- one of the lads got so annoyed he wrote a program, named after the cleaner, that placed all your windows one on top of another in the middle of the screen.

    3. JeffB

      Re: Closest I've seen...

      I work in a college, our students sometimes do that to one another, or plug 2 keyboards/mice into one PC...

    4. innominatus

      Re: Closest I've seen...

      For the oldies amongst us swapping telephone handsets between two adjacent telephone cradles caused temporary confusion

  4. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Gotta love his kind

    Well, there's your problem.... Jamie Hyneman anyone?

    1. JimmyPage
      Happy

      When in doubt

      C4

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: When in doubt

        Say Hello to my little pop gun!

    2. Gort99

      When in doubt

      lube?

  5. Return To Sender
    Happy

    Such memories...

    Ah, the joy of the diskette. Figuring out which manufacturer's media worked most reliably in which manufacturer's drives. Explaining to users why diskettes shouldn't be used as coffee cup mats. Carefully extracting the (usually 5.25") diskette from its jacket, rinsing it under a tap, drying off and replacing the diskette in the jacket of another sacrificial one, because the user (accountant's secretary) ignored the bit about cup mats. Explaining to a customer who was having trouble with reading diskettes that folding them in 4 to fit your shirt pocket really isn't a good idea. Turning single-sided diskettes in to dodgy double-sided by cutting the notch on the other edge of the jacket (it was an emergency, game state needed saving). Trying to get some sort of recognisable tune out of ACT Sirius (Victor 9000) diskette drives - which had variable speed zones across the disk. Attaching 8" drives ("Big D", I think?) to PCs for data transfer (EBCDIC to ASCII, anybody?).

    Them were the days :-)

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Such memories...

      I remember how amazingly fast discs seemed compared to loading from tape on the BBC Micros at school.

      Greybeard -->

      1. FirstTangoInParis

        Re: Such memories...

        > I remember how amazingly fast discs seemed compared to loading from tape on BBC micros

        And then I got a 512k RAM disc … instant, and I mean instant, access to files. Something my current corporate laptop has clearly never aspired to.

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Such memories...

        I remember how amazingly fast discs seemed compared to loading from tape on the BBC Micros at school.

        When I was 17 I won a Commodore PET for my school in a competition. They already had one of those, but they didn't have the disk drive which I also won. My maths teacher, who ran the school computing club, was so excited that she kissed me. I've never seen a middle aged woman look so embarrassed so quickly.

        1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          Re: Such memories...

          "so excited that she kissed me"

          A woman excited by tech is the best kind.

        2. ricardian

          Re: Such memories...

          I first encountered the Commodore PET in the mid 1980s when I worked for a large Government organisation and the head tech manager bought a couple for us "to play with". We didn't get very far until we bought a copy of Raeto West's invaluable handbook. I still have my copy in the attic but I might just put it on the market to see what price it will fetch! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Programming-PET-Raeto-Collin-West/dp/0950765007

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Re: Such memories...

            Oh, lucky! https://archive.org/details/Programming_The_PET_CBM_197x_West_Raeto

        3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Such memories...

          I wonder what she'd do for no you're right. Sorry. :-)

      3. mdubash

        Re: Such memories...

        I was never so excited as the day I brought home a twin floppy disk drive box, plugged it into the BBC Micro and could load stuff in seconds rather than minutes - reliably too. <sigh>

      4. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Such memories...

        We used to frisbee the discs across the classroom. Did Steve want the disc with Repton on? Pluck it out of the disc box and fris it over.

        Sadly, while the Master Compact filing system was much more advanced (the A in ADFS!), it just wasn't quite the same with 3.5" rigid discs.

      5. FIA Silver badge

        Re: Such memories...

        I remember how amazingly fast discs seemed compared to loading from tape on the BBC Micros at school.

        My first disk drive was a CBM-1541, so me not so much... :)

        It did have it's own CPU though.

        And it was super reliable so there was never really any need to VERIFY after you'd waited 30 seconds for your program to save..... :)

        1. Paul Shirley

          Re: Such memories...

          I was only slightly surprised when my C64 tape loader tested as faster than the 1541 drive...

    2. WonkoTheSane

      Re: Such memories...

      You missed diskettes stapled into reports, and sticking the floppy to a filing cabinet with a fridge magnet.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Such memories...

        and sending a photocopy of the disk when asked to send a copy

      2. wiggers

        Re: Such memories...

        Also, sending out a batch of floppies to customers only to find that the post room had stapled the disks to the letters before putting them in the envelopes!

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Such memories...

      "There are eight ways of inserting a diskette into a drive. Only one is interesting."

      Ancient proverb.

      1. agurney

        Re: Such memories...

        When I ran out of floppies and cash I used to punch extra index holes and notches in the sleeve and insert them in the drive upside down - I was able to convert many single sided floppies to double that way.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Such memories...

          When I ran out of floppies and cash I used to punch extra index holes and notches in the sleeve and insert them in the drive upside down - I was able to convert many single sided floppies to double that way.

          On the Apple ][ there was no need for an extra index hole, just that extra notch was sufficient.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Such memories...

          You could have cut notches into the other sides to give yourself more opportunities.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Such memories...

          "When I ran out of floppies and cash I used to punch extra index holes and notches in the sleeve and insert them in the drive upside down - I was able to convert many single sided floppies to double that way."

          I remember a friend telling how that was such a waste of time and money because it didn't work. It turned out he was punching the new index hole right through the sleeve and disk and therefore adding a second index hole in some random position.

      2. adam 40 Silver badge

        Re: Such memories...

        With two discs, 16 ways....

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: Such memories...

          Isn't 8² = 64 ?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Such memories...

        I think I've met people who could devise a ninth way.

      4. 9Rune5

        Re: Such memories...

        I don't recall ever having a problem inserting a diskette the right way.

        USB OTOH...

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Such memories...

          "I don't recall ever having a problem inserting a diskette the right way."

          You never used a DEC Rainbow?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Such memories...

      I needed some longer fibre cables and found a dusty jiffy bag (bad sign) at the back of the stores. Opened the jiffy bag to discover the packer had obviously discovered it was too small and had folded the fibres in half to get them to fit in the pouch.

      Bad enough they had decided to use a soft squishy jiffy bag, but to then compound the error by ignoring the minimum bending radius!

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Such memories...

        I needed 15 metres of 25mm power cable for a remote supply feed. I went to the local wholesalers, paid the horrifying amount of money required, and the server then proceeded to start FOLDING IT INTO ONE METRE LENGTHS!!!!!!!!!!!

        I've never moved so fast as I reached over the counter to grab it from his hands. NO!!!!!!! I NEED 15 METRES OF POWER CABLE, NOT 15 ONE-METRE POWER CABLES!!!!!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Such memories...

      I can recommend the YouTube videos of the Floppotron, built by Paweł Zadrożniak if you want some serious Nerd oriented music.

  6. original_rwg
    FAIL

    Density

    Many many years ago, we had a mix of 3.5 inch HD and DD floppies at our place. We also had a number if IBM PS/2's that were quite lax at checking what type of floppy disk was in the drive and would happily format DD disks (720KB) to HD capacity (1.44MB). Given that the DD media was manufactured as HD but failed to make the grade, this was mostly fine. Until of course the incorrectly formatted disk was taken to a machine that did check the disk type properly....

    1. milliemoo83

      Re: Density

      "We also had a number if IBM PS/2's that were quite lax at checking what type of floppy disk was in the drive"

      'quite lax' is an understatement. PS/2 floppy drives were physically incapable of sensing the difference.

    2. Ordinary Donkey

      Re: Density

      I have vague memories of someone bypassing the check for whether floppies were DD or HD by providing their own HD hole with a soldering iron.

      Needs must in the devil's drives.

    3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Density

      "Given that the DD media was manufactured as HD but failed to make the grade"

      That's not how that works. HD media has a completelty different surface coating than DD media. The grains are a different size, the magnetic coercivity is different. DD disks are *NOT* "failed" HD disks. A failed HD disk is a failed HD disk. It's like saying a 24" bicycle tyre is a failed 48" tyre.

      1. Dog11

        Re: Density

        Could be. But a DD disk could be formatted and used at 4D, if you had an appropriate disk drive and software. Granted, that's still short of HD capacity.

  7. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    I still have an 8" hard sectored floppy knocking about somewhere, with a collection of documents I wrote on a Philips WP system in the mid 80s. I wonder if anyone, anywhere can still read that?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Somewhere I probably still have a 5*-track ICL tape with the source code of CLUSTAN on it. I wonder if that could be read somewhere. Actually, I probably have the same on floppies somewhere; same thing applies.

      * IIRC

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        I remember 7 and 9 track ICL tapes, but not 5.

        1. Rtbcomp

          Some teleprinters used 5 bit Baudot code.

          I found this very useful when I interfaced a ZX80 to a Creed 7B - one 8 bit byte gave you 1 start bit, 5 data bits and 2 stop bits.

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            I'm interpreting tape in this case as magnetic tape because N-track usually (in my experience) means mag tape as opposed to N-hole for paper tape.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Doubly correct - probably 7. And if it was a reel of paper tape big enough to fit that much FORTRAN source I wouldn't be wondering where it was, it would be impossible to miss.

              1. jake Silver badge

                I think Ferranti was the only outfit out your way that fiddled about with 5-bit tape ... and that was paper tape. But only briefly, in the early '60s.

                I can probably read your old ICL tape, and I'm hardly unique. Anybody who has one or three of these things squirreled away can ask at a Uni with a well established computing program. They will be able to point you to a place that'll probably be happy to recover it for free, partially as a learning tool for the current crop of youngsters.

                1. Andy A Bronze badge

                  I remember the Ferranti Sirius - 5-track paper tape, and delay-line main store. One of its opcodes was "Branch if Approximately Equal", which sounds insane until you are dealing with floating point numbers.

                  One of our lecturers wrote a FORTRAN compiler for it, just to prove it could be done.

                  Another Sirius (AKA Victor 9000) squeezed 1.2MB on the same floppy media that IBM put 360KB, by using more sectors on the outer tracks. A stepper motor was used for the variable rotation speed.

                  IIRC, IBM 3274 terminal controllers used 8" hard-sectored floppies.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    The 3274 control unit diskette drive is soft sectored, I do not believe that IBM ever made a hard sectored diskette drive.

                2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  I doubt c50 years of print-through will have done it any good. Because QUB computing access was card-based in those days* I got the tape transferred to boxes of cards as a special job. It eventually got transferred onto floppies via VAX and Kermit.

                  *There was an individual HD allocation of 100k ICL 24bit words available.

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        My honours and MSc projects are on VAX backup save sets on 2400' of 1/2" tape. I've occasionally thought of having them retrieved, but it costs a fair bit and I don't actually need them.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          I had to buy one of those click of death type drives to retrieve my daughter's Hons. thesis. It was the only time it was ever used.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Those things still terrify me ... I believe DriveSavers will recover them for a fee, in a worst-case scenario.

            drivesaversdatarecovery.com ... recommended when you absolutely, positively have to recover it.

            Not affiliated, don't own stock, no friends on the Board, yadda, just a happy customer.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Find a Uni that still runs, or can run, vaxen. Chances are they will happily recover your tape for free as a learning exercise ... this is ESPECIALLY true if the tape contains the individual's academic records.

        3. Mike 16 Silver badge

          recovery from tapes

          @Ian Johnston

          You may be able get the recovery done by a computer history museum. They often have access to the needed equipment and want to preserve a variety of material. (A friend managed to recover an academic experimental OS for the CDC 3200 (IIRC) and some ALWAC code this way.

          1. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge

            Re: recovery from tapes

            @Ian Johnston: our uni developed a home-grown timeharing OS on the CDC 3300L; it was called "OS-3". It was more popular with users than CDC's offering ("SCOPE", IIRC), and we took to running the 3300 solely on OS-3. Sadly, I have no media of any sort with the OS source (or even binaries), but would love to find it!

            We had discs, 7-track mag tapes, card reader, card punch, line printer, a Calcomp plotter, a few CRT terminals, some modems, and scads of Teletype ASR-33s. A DEC PDP-8 acted as a front-end processor for the Teletypes and modems.

        4. Stoneshop Silver badge

          but it costs a fair bit

          Well no, just a bit of time until we've got ours set up again, and postage to the Netherlands.

          For getting it back to you we can probably use that newfangled Internet thingie.

          (El Reg, how about a cobwebs icon? Suggestion here: https://hack42.nl/mediawiki/images/thumb/8/8f/Warnung-cobwebs.png/100px-Warnung-cobwebs.png )

      3. Charlie van Becelaere

        Closest I come

        is a stack of punch cards with an inventory control system written in COBOL.

        I did lend a local government agency a 5.25" floppy drive a few years ago so they could read old records that were somehow necessary despite their having been inaccessible for ages.

        No tax rebate was forthcoming, the ingrates.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Closest I come

          I don't lend the local .govs my old kit in order to fix their failures to plan for the future.

          Rather I charge them for it. Charge them a LOT for it.

          Made over $30,000 a couple months ago ... to pull property records off just over four boxes of punch cards. Added up to four bucks per card ... and they were happy to pay it.

          The guy who signed them out to me asked if I was coming back for the rest ... seems there are another 200 or 250 boxes stacked in one corner of County Records, dated from the late '40s through the mid '70s. He seemed genuinely sad when I returned them and requested a receipt for same.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Data on old media is probably "known unto God" if that's your belief. I've got loads... that won't, even if I was going to try.

  8. Workshy researcher

    Alignment

    Not to mention the disk drives that were so misaligned that they could only read or write their own disks.

    I used to use an old 8" floppy drive as a doorstop. They were certainly built to last.

  9. RobThBay
    Happy

    One of our sales guys used to tell customers to handle 8" floppies very carefully. The info on the disk might get scrambled if the disk was dropped or mishandled. The data "bits" could slide out of place with any sudden movement.

    LOL

    The good old days.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Probably one of the engineers had told him that.

      I wonder - if that's not a Dilbert Scott Adams has missed a trick.

      1. Stumpy

        He did a similar one on networking back in '96: https://dilbert.com/strip/1996-05-02

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Yes, that's a classic that ranks alongside Etch-A-Sketch. And look at the date! It's over quarter of a century old!

    2. Sequin

      We were able to get permission to take taxis around London when visiting our HQ as "the motors on the tube will corrupt our important floppies". This lasted a good while until the BBC Microlive program showed that it was BS

      1. jake Silver badge

        So you're the bastards who started that foul rumo(u)r ... I'm still dealing with the fallout.

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        We were able to get permission to take taxis around London when visiting our HQ as "the motors on the tube will corrupt our important floppies".

        The earlier version, and the reason(*) I got taxis between London rail stations, was that tube train motors would corrupt 12 inch "washing machine" disk packs.

        (*) To be pedantic, it was the excuse - the reason was that lugging 12" disk packs on the Tube, especially in the rush hour, was a bugger to do.

        1. Medieval Research Council

          3 Mb Pertec removable packs were (and the one in my kitchen still is) 15". I knew of the rumour that taking them on the Underground would corrupt them but I had no option well before dawn on the day of the

          formal announcement & demonstration of version 1.0 of a big new product. This was occasioned by the project leader (and later co-founder of at least 3 companies AtC has worked for...) turning up with a 1/2" tape of the latest version to install on a Pr1me computer that had no tape drive as delivered. I don't recollect the size of the CDC 80 Mb "washing machine" packs but I'm sure they were more than 12".

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            I don't recollect the size of the CDC 80 Mb "washing machine" packs but I'm sure they were more than 12".

            You're right. I just measured the souvenir platter I kept from a crashed drive and it's 14" across, so the packs must have been 15-16" with the outer casing.

      3. G.Y.

        old trick:

        Gilbert's "De Magnete" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Magnete says navigators would claim the compass misbehaves if a garlic-eater enters the room. He did an experiment to check

    3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Sounds like Dave from eevblog... "The contacts are upside down, all the electrons are falling out"

  10. AlGodet

    Reminds me of my old Zenith Z89

    5"1/4, 100Ko hard sectored. I at that time feared I was the only one in the world to need to use these…

    1. l8gravely

      Re: Reminds me of my old Zenith Z89

      Not only have I used the Z89, I've taken it apart in High School to add more memory, along with a companion Z100 upgrade system. Ah... fond memories (stockholm syndrome?) of using Magic Text, Peach Text and the like to do mailmerge mailing of marketing dosh.

  11. I should coco
    Alert

    Don't the 'mericans still use these for Nuclear missile stuff?

    I wonder who still manufactures them?

    Huawei probably... I'm going to check on Amazon

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Don't the 'mericans still use these for Nuclear missile stuff?

      8" floppies were last used by the US Defense Department in June of 2019.

      The last new 8" floppies were made in 2015ish.

      IBM still has tons of the silly things, should you need one ... or you can purchase NOS[0] on places like fleabay.

      A couple of weekends from now I will be doing the annual cleaning & adjusting (if needed) of a couple of 8" floppy drives that have been in near daily use since the late 1970s. They are attached to a couple pieces of equipment at a machine shop located in SillyConValley. I've replaced the read/write heads & the motors a couple times each with NOS parts that I squirreled away in the '90s .... sometimes being a packrat pays the bills.

      [0] New Old Stock ... brand new product that's been on the shelf for a while.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Don't the 'mericans still use these for Nuclear missile stuff?

        A couple of weekends from now I will be doing the annual cleaning & adjusting (if needed) of a couple of 8" floppy drives that have been in near daily use since the late 1970s. They are attached to a couple pieces of equipment at a machine shop located in SillyConValley. I've replaced the read/write heads & the motors a couple times each with NOS parts that I squirreled away in the '90s .... sometimes being a packrat pays the bills.

        A definite tip of the hat for that, but depending on how much old stock you've got stashed away, have you considered wiring up an Arduino or an RP 2040 to emulate the drives? I'd have expected the floppies to start wearing out.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Don't the 'mericans still use these for Nuclear missile stuff?

          I have fall-overs tested and ready (yes, Arduino), but the machinists hate the idea. They don't feel/sound/smell right, and the timing is wrong (it's not), so we stick to the floppies. And half inch, 9-track tape. We have a climate controlled closet with NOS media for all the machines, plus a couple shelves of my rebuild kit. It's probably enough to continue for over a century. It'll certainly outlive me :-)

          In this day and age, the care and feeding of half a dozen genuine tool and die makers (and about the same number of up and coming apprentices) is far more important than being modern. Machines quite simply can not reproduce the magic they do on a daily basis.

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: Don't the 'mericans still use these for Nuclear missile stuff?

            Nice to hear they can get apprentices. All too often youngsters aren't interested in older technologies.

  12. Plest Silver badge
    Pint

    Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

    Nothing beats you brain into submission and never forgetting something like a "Duh!" momemnt. Coding is the best way to find lots of them, 3 hours staring a piece of code, keep running it hoping the solution will magically appear, get a coffee, come back and...WTF! Why is there an extra semi-colon right there and how the hell haven't I spotted it for the last 3 hours?!! FFS!!

    Better still, a colleague on the brink of a nervous breakdown begs you to help them scan 10 lines of code that won't run, you spot the problem in 2 secs. Gratitude and much swearing ensure!

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

      You need a cardboard colleague. Often the simple act of calling a colleague over explaining the problem to them provides sufficient space and time to reorganise your thinking enough to see what you need to do to fix it. You could just as usefully used a cardboard cutout rather than an actual colleague. One benefit of a human colleague over the cardboard one is that you can then suggest going for a coffee to celebrate your progress.

      1. My-Handle Silver badge

        Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

        Also known in this office as the "rubber duck" method of problem solving.

        My colleague, now departed for greener pastures, would quite often just reply "quack" when I explained a problem to him, and then solved it immediately with no input. I returned the favour frequently.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

        Also referred to as "talking to the dog". The act of trying to explain something that way means you have to revisit assumptions, one of which is your problem.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

          Exactly. When stuck, I explain in great detail exactly what I am doing and why to whichever cat or dog is nearby. They appreciate the attention, and going into enough detail to teach a canid or feline how Berkeley Sockets work at a ones and zeros level usually points out the obvious fairly quickly.

          Somewhat strangely, talking to the damn fool b0rken equipment itself doesn't seem to work ... My wife says it's because the kit is afraid of me (I have tools, and I'm not afraid to use them), whereas the critters are not.

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

            My wife used to talk to a bean bag frog. Or if it wasn't about, me.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

        When I was starting out QUB had a couple of support staff (PhD students probably) who provided a couple of hours support a day. Several time I'd solved a problem by explaining it them. That was a more useful lesson to learn than solving the actual problems.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

      I've always said (since when I used to type in the "free" code from the early versions of the Amstrad 464 magazine) that you need to have a new pair of eyes to spot the mistakes.

      You have typed it, so it must be correct...

      1. molletts

        Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

        I can't remember whether it was Amstrad Action or one (or more) of the books I had that used it but I seem to remember having a program that echoed a 16-bit checksum (I think it was literally just a sum of the bytes, not anything fancy like a CRC) every time you entered a line of code or after every line when LISTing a program. You could then quickly cross-check that against the one printed in the mag/book.

        Very useful when entering a long listing.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

          On the rare occasion that I wanted such a listing, I just downloaded it via UUCP from the unofficial DECUS archive at Stanford. There was all kinds of interesting "not DECUS" code available on that machine.

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

          That, or you type in the program data bytes and also the checksum byte, line by line.

        3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

          ...and recently I had so much trouble finding a recording device (or a colleague) that I could make read out a list of place names to check against the version that I'd typed. My PC has one but it doesn't work. Then I tried to leave a voice message to myself on Microsoft Teams. Nope.

          It's only just occurred to me that I could have got a machine to read out what I'd typed, to compare to what I should have typed. But I'm in Scotland, so that would be something of an auchtermuchty for me and for the computer.

    3. wub

      Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

      My first real introduction to programming came from a Jeff Duntemann book. Somewhere in there was a list of rules for working programmers. Among them was one that said explaining your problem to colleagues was so important, that if necessary you should be prepared to lure them in with food to get them to listen. That one was fairly easy to follow.

      The one that said mistakes should be framed, and hung on the wall was a bit harder to follow...

    4. jake Silver badge

      Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

      I find it quite amusing that most people (self included) can read their own writing a dozen times, and still manage to overlook the most obvious of typos ... and yet any idiot can (and usually does!) spot the typo instantly, and with malice aforethought.

      If it's important to you, get a trusted non-brown-nosing friend or three to proof read it for you.

      1. Jon Bar

        Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

        Can't remember where I first saw it, could have been SKB or GLS, but one of the absolute laws of programming is that it takes two people to debug any program, only one of whom needs to know what it does.

      2. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

        It doesn’t have to be techie stuff, I run a car club and produce the monthly newsletter, after writing each issue and proof checking it, I then hand it over to someone else to read (and usually find a couple of errors) before I go and print it.

        Nobody can proof their own writing accurately it is why oublications employ sub editors

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

          "it is why oublications employ sub editors"

          Lest we forget, they are called sub-editors because they live in pits in the basement.

          1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

            Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

            Next to the BoFH's failed robot/cattleprod projects? well I say failed..... we just dont know if he was lying or not

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

        "If it's important to you, get a trusted non-brown-nosing friend or three to proof read it for you."

        One of the first jobs I was given as a research assistant was checking the proofs - page proofs - of a paper for the Irish equivalent of Proc. Roy Soc. This was in the days if physical type so if it got to page proofs corrections were almost forbidden because of the risk of changing the pagination.

        The paper was about sea level changes so it contained a god number of elevations which had been surveyed in imperial measure with the metric equivalents in brackets. I checked a conversion. I was wrong. I checked another. That was wrong. The whole lot were wrong.

        This was from one of the authors' PhD thesis. To get to that stage it had got past his supervisor (my new boss and the co-author), his external examiner, the rewriting as a paper, the journal editors, the journal's referees and the proof-reading of the galleys.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

          "I was wrong."

          Oops. "It was wrong."

          Point proven.

    5. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Love "Duh!" moments! It's the techie life that chose me!

      For me, the equivalent is usually opening a vendor support ticket. As I work through the specifics of the issue, a solution will often suggest itself.

  13. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    my guess

    I havent read it yet , but I'm going to guess

    "Holepunch used to file floppy disk in binder"

    {edit}

    Fail! nothing so simple.

  14. msobkow Silver badge

    Idiots hate it when you make them LOOK like idiots. Especially when they are overpaid idiots in charge of something. :P

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Boss, is that you?

      1. msobkow Silver badge

        If you work for me, you have the worst boss in the world. I guarantee to slough off every distasteful task on you, worse than any PFY has ever dealt with since the end of the slave trade... :)

  15. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    floppies

    Many years ago, my boss and a co-worker returned from a site visit saying "You'll love Robert Smith". When I got to the site, I learned what they meant. Robert Smith sat behind a desk and smiled. The smile did not vary with what one told him, that I could see, good news, bad news, or mere indifferent information. As far as I could tell he did nothing but smile. However, the powers that were had given Robert an assistant, Roberta, who did not smile, and who did respond to the environment, and who did accomplish things.

    For certain work, they needed hard-sectored 8.5" floppies, and had come up with floppies of the correct size, but soft-sectored. I explained that these would not work. Roberta tested every floppy in the box to be sure that I wasn't bluffing them.

    (Names regomized, but they were of that pattern.)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Many years later this type of On Call is still happening, albeit not 'floppy' disks, just incompatible or out of date media. Such as Zip disks, DVD-Ram (thanks Panasonic for the worm drive that you couldn't actually use to write video DVDs ). Today it'll be memory stick, SD card or compact flash that was used by every team in a company, and we all have those stories about those !

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "thanks Panasonic for the worm drive that you couldn't actually use to write video DVDs"

      Thanks also for the DVD player that wrote in a proprietary format until "finalised" - and that then died leaving an unusable disk with an unreadable several minutes of video of my new granddaughter.

  17. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Meh

    Why was I expecting to hear about a ring binder full of floppy disks, neatly hole punched... straight through the media

    (Where's the "shudders in fear" icon when you need it?)

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