back to article NOBODY PRINT! Selfless hero saves typing pool from carbon catastrophe

"Because that's how we've always done it" is a mantra we've heard all too often. But what happens when you suggest something different? Take a trip back to the days of carbon paper with On Call. Today's story comes from "Dan" and takes us back to the early part of the 1990s. The Hubble Space Telescope had just been launched, …

  1. TonyJ Silver badge

    I used to visit a particular council...

    ...who I won't name and shame because despite their lack of technical nounce they actually had a lot going for them from my perspective, such as:

    Everything was well documented. Amazingly so - they had records of installs going back over a decade so when it came time to upgrade servers, we had ready access to detailed install docs for all of their applications - including any gotchas that had been encountered!

    They were actually incredibly pleasant people to work with (well the IT peeps were - some of the users were... difficult... such as the woman who logged a complaint because someone had deleted her username from the Windows login box and how could she be expected to remember it? Or the one who complained because the roving IT helper moved one of the icons on her desktop an inch to the side and she "couldn't find it" etc) and they had that very unique feature that they knew they had limited knowledge.

    Not that they let that be a barrier to their occasionally randomly trying / changing things.

    And even now, almost 20 years later, that site still features regularly in my anecdotes.

  2. pavel.petrman Silver badge

    With carbon copy mentioned right at the start...

    ... I expected three sheets crammed into the laser printer all at once, including thin black sheet between each pair!

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: With carbon copy mentioned right at the start...

      I visited a firm years ago in the US where the colour of the paper was very important. For stock control Clients were sent white copies of orders, pink was for office retention and blue was for stock moves. The latter meant it wasn’t an external sale just a transfer between sites, departments etc. This was apparently a hangover from the days of 3 ply order forms and no one had wanted to change it. So there were three large printers each filled with a particular colour paper. It worked for them then but I hope they’ve moved on a bit since. Seeing the large number of A4 ring binders stuffed with pink and blue paper was quite a sight.

      Their IT systems were built in house and impressive given they were able to tell me where my order was and when it would arrive at their location for me to pick up.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: With carbon copy mentioned right at the start...

        They are electronic these days. Just don't tint the displayed orders the wrong color or it will be a disaster.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: With carbon copy mentioned right at the start...

          Was reading the story to my partner who works in local government.

          "oh yes we do that" was the surprising reply.

          They have a form, some pages of which must be on different coloured paper. But in today's advanced IT they at least have separate paper drawers and a clever printer setup to do this.

          I suppose they could have gone one better and had a colour printer to do the background

      2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: With carbon copy mentioned right at the start...

        Who got the Goldenrod and the Puce?

    2. Commswonk

      Re: With carbon copy mentioned right at the start...

      Obligatory Dilbert: https://dilbert.com/strip/1993-03-03

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. RobThBay

      Re: With carbon copy mentioned right at the start...

      Exactly what I was thinking LOL

    5. AbortRetryFail
      Facepalm

      Re: With carbon copy mentioned right at the start...

      I confess that I too was wondering how a laser printer could possibly feed 5 sheets at once (the 3 papers + the 2 carbon papers) and how laser printer technology would even work with carbon paper.

  3. mmonroe

    Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

    I have fond memories of Uniplex. The documents were stored as plain text files - very efficient and you could fix problems with vi. It was very easy to generate letters too. I had a shell script that did it. My record/cassette/CD/VHS/DVD database system is all written in bash, using text files. Yes it has been suggested I have "problems".

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

      Yes it has been suggested I have "problems".

      Your problem is that you're smart enough to not only know, but understand, "if it's not broken, don't fix it". This means they can't sell you the latest and greatest (and expensive) new, improved solution they want to sell you. Keep it up!

    2. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
      Windows

      Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

      Ah Uniplex - sadly its licensing system died at the millennium, meaning almost every keypress brought up a licensing dialog. Shame, if it was still going I'd probably still be using it, if only out of sheer stubbornness.

      I did once figure out the format of Uniplex spreadsheets so I could convert them into Excel. Took about four days work and I had a quick Excel macro done to read them in and spit out Excel sheets when management took the decision that out of the hundreds of files, surely they can't all be useful and users should rekey them manually if they actually need the data. I understood it, but my disappointment remains.

      Now, where's the nostalgia/greybeard icon?

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

        I know the feeling, you have an issue, you can automate the task with a day or two of playing around in *scripting language of your preference* & spit out a result in seconds, rather than spending 2-3 days recreating each one.

        Suitably proud of yourself, tell everyone to utter apathy - I've learned to do that stuff for my own benefit & keep quiet about it now.

      2. FeRDNYC

        Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

        Ah Uniplex - sadly its licensing system died at the millennium

        Oooh! An actual Y2K bug!? After we collectively poured so much time, effort, and money through all of 1999 into preemptively fixing those?

        I think that's only the second one I've heard of "in the wild"! (The first being all the Perl-based web templates that rang in the new year by advancing the year from 1999 to 19100.)

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

          I think that's only the second one I've heard of "in the wild"! (The first being all the Perl-based web templates that rang in the new year by advancing the year from 1999 to 19100.)

          It is the third I know of "in the wild", the first being a problem with the computer system of the Norwegian railroad company on the very last day of 2000. They used a Julian date format and had forgotten that 2000 was a leap year, so on day 366 of the year the computer crashed.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

            I'm always amused by reports of code that could cope with the end of most centuries except for the one the code was written in. If they'd been either more or less lazy, they'd have been OK.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

              I'm always amused by reports of code that could cope with the end of most centuries except for the one the code was written in. If they'd been either more or less lazy, they'd have been OK.

              As long as there is no calendar reform, I guarantee my date routines for all dates between 1582-10-15 and 4000-02-28, the latter date because the year 4000 is the next "exception" in the leap year system. If my routines are still in use by that time (very well possible, written in COBOL ;) ) and need updating, they are welcome to recall me.

              1. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

                Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

                Do you correct for locality? For any area controlled by England, the Julian to Gregorian calendar switch took place in 1752. Various other countries made the switch as late as 1923. The Orthodox churches still haven't converted.

                1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                  Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

                  Do you correct for locality? For any area controlled by England, the Julian to Gregorian calendar switch took place in 1752. Various other countries made the switch as late as 1923. The Orthodox churches still haven't converted.

                  You are the first one in over 30 years to even ask the question and the answer is no as it is very rare for a business system to need a date before about 1950.

                  1. derrr

                    Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

                    I started work in 1988, and we very much needed dates prior to 1900.

                    The in house date system started at 1.1.1850 as the customers with life insurance could well be over 100.

                    When the IT was set up in the late '60's/early '70's very few people were 110+

              2. sniperpaddy

                Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

                I'm lazy and stuck it to the next 400 years

              3. gnasher729 Silver badge

                Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

                What exception in the year 4,000? Every 4th year is a leap year, except every 100th year isn’t, except every 400th year is. There are no other exceptions.

                1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                  Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

                  What exception in the year 4,000? Every 4th year is a leap year, except every 100th year isn’t, except every 400th year is. There are no other exceptions.

                  The year 4,000 is not a leap year, the compounded decimals are catching up by that time. It isn't really relevant for those currently active as programmers and it isn't generally taught, but it still is there.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

            Fourth. The accountants refused to cut over to the shiny new Y2K compatible version because they didn't want to take the risk before they'd finished their end of year stuff. About 3 weeks of problems but no risk!

            1. david 12 Silver badge

              Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

              One place I worked with had the opposite problem. The word had come down from on high, that if there were any Y2K problems, people would be fired. So they spent the year checking for Y2K problems, and had only 6 months for the oncoming implementation of a sales tax.

              No Y2K problems, but after 4 weeks their supplier refused further supply until the multi-million-dollar invoices had been paid, which they did by paper while IT desperately rushed to fix the systems.

            2. FeRDNYC

              Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

              The accountants refused to cut over to the shiny new Y2K compatible version...

              Well, that's not really a Y2K bug, it's a Y2K stupidity. PEBKAC "bugs" don't qualify for the Actual Y2K Bug Toteboard. (They remain a featured category on the Schadenfreude Leaderboard, of course.)

              I know, there are a surprising number of rules governing this stuff!

          3. Adrian Harvey

            Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

            “ They used a Julian date format and had forgotten that 2000 was a leap year, so on day 366 of the year the computer crashed.”

            The Julian calendar had all centuries as leap years. Gregorian made centuries not leap years unless divisible by 400. So either way this was just a bug.

            1. Bill Gray

              Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

              Julian date format != Julian calendar.

              Julian date format (in this context) means expressing dates in year and day-of-year format. It is a mangled version of "real" Julian dates, which are a straightforward count of days elapsed since noon -4712 Jan 1. The name is unfortunate; you can have Julian-format dates for the Gregorian calendar, as occurred here.

              The Julian _calendar_ is the one where any year divisible by four, including century years, are leap years. Your note about the Gregorian fix is correct.

            2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

              The Julian calendar had all centuries as leap years. Gregorian made centuries not leap years unless divisible by 400.

              Your statement is absolutely correct. However, I was not reporting about the calendar but about the date format, [year][day number].

          4. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

            Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

            Those sorts of problems usually went the other way by thinking that all "00" years are leap years. It's true for the Julian calendar but not for the Gregorian.

            I went around three times with a programmer that wrote a new set of standard date routines at a company I worked at. On the first pass, 1900 was a leap year. On the second pass, 2000 wasn't. The third try got it right.

            One of my favorite trivia questions is: Could someone have been born on 29 Feb. 1900? It takes an additional bit of data to answer correctly. You have to know *where* they were born, but many, many people don't know that.

          5. Barry Rueger

            Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

            Forget Juluan and Gregorian calendars. Since moving to France we're just happy to escape the North American semi-conventtion of dates written:

            MM/DD/YY

            1. FeRDNYC

              Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

              Anyone who still uses any date format other than ISO-8601 YYYY-MM-DD is a sociopath.

          6. rafff

            Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

            That reminds me of a Cobol job that ran perfectly for a couple of years and then, one Monday morning it crashed. It turned out that it would always crash on the 100th day of the year (2-digit day number), but for the previous two years the 100th day had been on a weekend, so the job was not run on that day.

          7. gnasher729 Silver badge

            Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

            My favourite was a script that was supposed to test if a date was valid that broke on Feb. 2nd, 2000. It turned out that it was never given an invalid date, and the script was totally brain damaged and checked whether the date contained the digit 1.

        2. Dizzy Dwarf

          Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

          automated email ...

          No Y2K bugs have been reported as of 1900-01-01 15:25

        3. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge
          Flame

          Y2K

          Hell, no, Y2K was quite real for us (teaching/research hospital)! The proprietary database+app for experimental drug dosages and patient responses was Y2K tested, and good to go, our vendor told us. Our testing revealed that it deleted all the (test data) patient records on 1 March, 2000.

          We tested everything that was Y2K relevant, hardware, software, and vendor-supplied integrated solutions.

          We spent God (and accounting)-only-knows how much money on Y2K. And it was better to do that and avoid one needless death ... and the consequent lawsuit.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Y2K

            We spent God (and accounting)-only-knows how much money on Y2K.

            I am pretty sure accounting knows, I doubt God cares enough for it to matter.

            And it was better to do that and avoid one needless death

            AMEN! to that.

            ... and the consequent lawsuit.

            That would have upset accounting.

        4. Stork Silver badge

          Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

          I can give you one more. The first days of January 2000, one of the systems used to calculate claims for car insurance insurance in Denmark didn’t work. Probably something about the time from first registration to the damage.

          It was decided not to test the system in advance as the other systems made by Maersk Data were prioritised, the ones that made sure they knew what to do with the containers on the boats

        5. C R Mudgeon

          Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

          Here's another. Toronto used to have a system called Timeline: every bus stop had a phone number, which you could call to get the next 3 scheduled bus arrival times. It disappeared at the turn of the millennium. Not Y2K compliant, and they deemed it too expensive to repair, so instead they discontinued the service. Here's the story, as told by one of the people involved.

          Fast forward a couple of decades, and every bus stop again has a number. But not a phone number; the current system is SMS-based. And (in theory anyway; I have my doubts about how well it works), it doesn't report scheduled times, as Timeline did, but estimated actual times, based on the buses' locations -- they're all fitted with GPS.

          1. gnasher729 Silver badge

            Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

            We have that in London. Costs 12p. And every single time I use it just after I press send I see the bus coming around the corner.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

        "out of the hundreds of files, surely they can't all be useful"

        But they don't know which.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It raises the question of what was done with the different coloured (or otherwise) copies. Did they eventually move to an online filing system to make them unnecessary?

    My local builders' merchant has just moved from NCR pads (one copy for the office, one for the customer to keep and one for the customer to hand to the lads in the yard to tell them what to load. They now print out the two sheets for the customer and yard (I'm not sure if they print a third for the office). However as NCR paper is necessarily flimsy whilst the printer paper isn't and the printed version is A4 whilst the NCR was about A5 they're now using much more paper.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      My first company (80s) used "ping-pongs" - not sure of the real name. An A5 pad for raising project queries with three of those flimsy sheets which copied through without carbon paper. The sheets were yellow, pink and white and there were date, "From" and To" boxes. You wrote your query or logged your fault in a box In the top half, then tore off the the top sheet and popped it in a purpose-made tray on your desk. The remaining two sheets were put in the internal mail and the recipient responded, kept a sheet and sent the bottom sheet back.

      It worked really well - and the office had a proper secretary who you could ask to go through your ping-pongs and chase up people who hadn't responded.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "copied through without carbon paper"

        NCR - No Carbon Required. Alternatively National Cash Registers who made the NCR Tower - 68k-based Unix boxes.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          I learnt how to make those in bulk whilst working as a print technician. It's an art form, and one of those disappearing skills.

          1. jake Silver badge

            It's not all that arty. Simply print them, then once the ink is dry enough not to off-set too badly, jog 'em up all nice & neat a couple hundred sheets at a time, stick 'em in a padding rack, clamp them down, & paint the special "glue" that activates the sticky bit that sticks 'em together properly when dry ... three part, four part, five part, six part NCR, it's all the same.

            The only "hard" part is setting up the numbering machine to crash-number[0] them, if they need individual numbers. A Heidelberg Platen ("Windmill") makes that a cake-walk.

            [0] In crash numbering, ink is only transferred to the top sheet. The image is transferred through all the sheets, just like when you write or type on them. Obviously, this is done after you glue them together.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Indeed. The trainees had to learn EVERY type though. So we ended up with Frankenstein pads that had multiple types of holes, either pressed or drilled, a mix of carbons and NCRs, multiple weight papers, perforated at one end and held together with those little nip self-forming cleats at that end and glued at the other. Every bloody technique under the sun, all on the one or two pads. Mind you, we did turn out very high calibre print (& allied trades) people! They got to keep the pads of course, to go into their portfolio, back in the days when these things used to count when job hunting.

              1. FeRDNYC

                Yeah, making multi-part form pads was nothing compared to spiral- or comb-binding. Those were both fiddly punishments disguised as gainful employment.

          2. Roopee
            Headmaster

            Stop Press...

            Laser printable NCR paper has been available for many years! Until very recently I used it myself to print my own 2-part stationery to use on-site at clients. Some of my NCR documents were even duplex printed (with eg notes and T&Cs on the back faces) and were serially numbered with a macro. :)

            The paper was/is of course expensive, but still a lot cheaper than either buying unsatisfactory off-the -shelf pads and adding sticky labels, or getting custom pads printed...

            1. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge

              Re: Stop Press...

              Every computerized place I've seen using NCR forms used impact printers (typically dot-matrix) to print on them.

        2. jake Silver badge

          National Cash Register made a lot more than niche UNIX boxen ...

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Yes, the clue's in the name. But the Towers were not so niche in their day although they were not without competition - MIPS for one.

        3. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge

          ... and SCSI host bus adaptors.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I remember them but our procedure was you kept the bottom one (pink) and sent the top two. The person replying kept the second one (blue) as their record. You got the top one (white) back (at which time you binned the pink copy). You could keep track of outstanding queries by the colour in the file. It was very efficient and effective - back in the early 1980’s.

        And ISTR that they were even branded “Ping-Pong”.

        1. adam 40 Silver badge

          When I were a lad...

          When I was a contractor I used them for my invoices (when printers were expensive), written out by hand.

          3 copies, so the accountant couldn't lose them and I could still refer to them when the books were being done.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: When I were a lad...

            So did I. Much less faff than setting up some more elaborate IT system. Sometimes simple is best but don't tell anyone because a lot of our successors would be out of a job.

      3. Chris 239

        First place I worked used A4 NCR pads for purchase orders/requests that had 5 copies. You had to write so heavy to get through to the bottom sheet.

        The NCRs came in thick pads and you had to remember to put the card in below the set you were filling in or you would waste the next set below. They were specially printed and each had a preprinted serial number, must have cost a fortune!

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Print two A5 copies on one A4 sheet, and keep scissors by the printer.

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Or, A4 perforated for A5. Maybe a bit more than your standard A4, but no need to worry about wonky cuts (including blood spots from people who never learned {how|not|when} to run with scissors)

  5. Admiral Grace Hopper

    It is always a good idea to talk to the end users

    I once had a very effective visit to the end users as we diagnosed a problem that was only manifesting itself in the wild (described here). We did good work and made many friends, only to see it all undone by a field tech two days later. I've seen things you people would find all too easy to believe.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: It is always a good idea to talk to the end users

      When consulting, ALWAYS ask the secretary about the Boss's computer knowledge. You can save a lot of time and trouble for a lot of people over the long haul.

      I know of several C*-types of Fortune-500s who make a big show of "checking the computer", even though their network cable was "accidentally" never installed.

      I can't count the number of times I've swapped the Boss's top of the line CPU, gathering dust and spiderwebs under his credenza/return, artfully changing screensavers every couple minutes, for his secretary's underpowered kit ... without the Boss noticing.

      After one consulting job, I didn't give a Sr. VP of a Fortune 150 the password to his brand new, triple-headed, US$7,500 desktop PC. This was back in 2007. He never even tried to log into it for the four years that it sat on his credenza, artfully cycling through screensavers. How do I know? Because I'm the only person who ever had the password. He never asked me for it, and his secretary refused when I offered it to her ... Over that four years, about once a quarter he called me up to take a look at it under warranty because "it did something funny". When I checked the logs, the last person to login was myself ... three months earlier. So I closed it down, opened it up, vacuumed it out, buttoned it back up, turned it on, cleared the logs and proclaimed it "fixed", The Boss thanked me every time. The secretary & IT staff also thanked me every time I came out, for keeping him out of their hair. I almost wish that I allowed them to renew the contract after the four years ...

      As always, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions ...

      1. ColinPa Silver badge

        Re: It is always a good idea to talk to the end users

        Once I had a really urgent request to install some software. This involved a courier to got and get the tape etc.

        I installed it over the weekend, and told the users it was available.

        After a week I went round and said "do you want the password?" - cue lots of red faces.

        1. theOtherJT

          Re: It is always a good idea to talk to the end users

          I ran into something this with the Library Self Issue terminal at a college I once worked at. I got an "Urgent!!!" support call from the college librarian saying that it was down and without it no one could use the library at all and we had to get it fixed immediately.

          I went in to check on it and discovered that by "Down" they meant that it had been turned off. Turning it back on and logging into the admin account to check that it was in good health I discovered that it had been gracefully shut down three months earlier and never turned back on again.

          I asked the on site library assistant and they said "Yeah, we always turn it off because it's old and it makes an annoying noise. The students only ever come in here to use the internet and that machine doesn't have internet so no one uses it."

          1. NXM Bronze badge

            Re: It is always a good idea to talk to the end users

            You've obviously translated "Urgent" into English from the original "Oooooook!"

            1. theOtherJT

              Re: It is always a good idea to talk to the end users

              This was a "librarian" which is to say, a tenured professor who had some free time who was given control of the library so it looked like they actually did something other than show up for the free dinners. Definitely not the sort who had earned the right to speak orangutan or been inducted into the secrets of L space.

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: It is always a good idea to talk to the end users

      only to see it all undone by a field tech two days later

      Field circus engineers - always good for a horror story, though preferably at someone else's expense.

      [Icon nearest to an eldritch horror.]

  6. AlanSh

    Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

    Hobnobs - just saying the word conjures up visions of Rowan Atkinson marking the attendance register. Those who know will understand what I mean.

    And chocolate ones are delicious.

    1. 42656e4d203239 Bronze badge

      Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

      >>And chocolate ones are delicious.

      With the caveat that it must be plain chocolate enrobing the oaty goodness. The milk choc ones are an abomination and must be fed to unknowing children.

      Sadly I can no longer eat oats (for the sake of people around me), so the guilty pleasure of devouring an entire packet of plain chocolate hobnobs is forever denied me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

        How about eating a packet for petty minded retaliation purposes?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

        Plain chocolate? Oh my; at work, we have burned people at the stake for less :P

      3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

        Plain chocolate is the only adequate enrobing for pretty much any biscuit, but of biscuits, the plain choc hobnob is the king.

        I haven't found them in Germany yet... the search continues.

        1. adam 40 Silver badge
          Go

          I invented the Plain Chocolate Gingernut

          Mrs Adam 40 was working at Co-op buscuit factory at the time and I asked her to put some gingernuts through the choccy covering line.

          She took some to her supervisor, who said they weren't worth bothering with.

          3 month later, Mc Vities bought them out, and my IPR was worth nothing!!!

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: I invented the Plain Chocolate Gingernut

            Cause and effect at work - not the gingernuts specifically but the attitude.

        2. Irony Deficient Silver badge

          I haven’t found them in Germany yet…

          Use of a search engine might improve your odds.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: I haven’t found them in Germany yet…

            Thank you - I've seen a couple of 'English' shops but the markup, while maybe explainable, offends my grasping Yorkshire soul :)

            1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

              the markup, while maybe explainable, offends my grasping Yorkshire soul :)

              Having had parents who grew up during the Great Depression, and great-grandparents from both Yorkshire and Swabia, I can certainly empathize with t’Überbezahlungschmerz. ;*)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: the markup, while maybe explainable, offends my grasping Yorkshire soul :)

                Is that German for " 'ow much?"

                1. MJB7

                  Re: the markup, while maybe explainable, offends my grasping Yorkshire soul :)

                  Überbezahlungschmerz = Über Bezahlung Schmerz = "above/over" "payment" "pain"

                  1. the Jim bloke Silver badge
                    Thumb Up

                    Re: the markup, while maybe explainable, offends my grasping Yorkshire soul :)

                    I think you have provided the 2022 version of "schadenfreude"

            2. The Northerner Up North

              Re: I haven’t found them in Germany yet…

              A Scottish friend of mine often likes to remind me that Yorkshire people (like my good self) make the Scottish look generous!!

              Personally, I can't see what's wrong with buying the wife a new hoover as a Christmas present, especially as it had 20% off :-)

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

          Sorry but the plain chocolate digestive beats hobnobs as far as I am concerned.

          Never been a fan of hobnobs to be honest,

        4. Tim99 Silver badge

          Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

          Heretic. The one true path is the original McVitie's Digestive biscuit. I've heard that some have been tempted by false prophets who preach the way of chocolate coatings.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

      No, the chocolate ones are mandatory.

    3. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

      I preferred the much shorter lived Jaspers.

      1. dajames Silver badge

        Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

        I preferred the much shorter lived Jaspers.

        Yes, whatever happened to Jaspers?

        Chocolate Jaspers were close to being the ultimate biscuit!

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

          Dunno - don't even remember them. But what happened to Gypsy Creams?

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

            Didn't they just change name to Fox's Golden Crunch Cream? Sometime in the early to mid 2000s? Probably some kind of politically correct language thing, though what's offensive to the Romany / Traveller community about a delicious biscuit is beyond me. I expect no one complained from there.

            Jaspers we're like a fruit hob nob but slightly thinner. The fruit wasn't just raisins and currants though - there was a lot of candied citrus peel in them giving them more than a hint of tang. There were milk and plain chocolate coated and uncoated ones. I preferred the ones without chocolate but the dark chocolate ones were something else. Too rich to crunch through a whole packet whilst coding though.

    4. series_one

      Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

      I once quoted for a project in the USA on the basis of how many packets of hob nobs my colleague and I expected to get through whilst doing the job. My US customer thought we were both barmy but gave us the job anyway!

      1. Miss Config
        Headmaster

        Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

        Presumably the Reg was trying to help Americans by saying :

        Hobnobs (a delightful oaty British biscuit, occasionally covered in chocolate)

        Problem is that Americans are unfamiliar with the word 'biscuit' and say 'cookie' instead.

        1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

          Problem is that Americans are unfamiliar with the word ‘biscuit’ and say ‘cookie’ instead.

          s/\(Americans\)/not all \1/ in this context.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

          Actually they have a their own traditional speciality disk 'biscuits and gravy' which is best described as rusk with sick on.

        3. cmdrklarg

          Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

          Part of the reason I frequent El Reg is to learn more about how things are done over there. I love it when I need to DDG something just to figure out what you guys are going on about. :)

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

            "o learn more about how things are done over there"

            And to find out how far things can drift OT, especially on a Friday. Long may it continue.

          2. innominatus

            Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

            Where are the antipodeans in this chat? A colleague introduced me to the Tim Tam and the Tim Tam Slam. After DDG-ing you can substitute a Penguin or Cadbury Chocolate Fingers. Not in polite company though...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

              yeah Tim Tam is basically a penguin!

          3. rototype

            Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

            For "Biscuits and Gravy" forget DDR, try DDD (Diners, Drive-ins & Dives) - surprising what you can learn.

        4. MJB7

          Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

          I think most Americans (particularly those that read El Reg) can be expected to understand British English, even if they can't speak it. Cultural references like "Hobnobs" though, is rather more of an advanced topic.

        5. the Jim bloke Silver badge

          Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

          Problem is that Americans are unfamiliar with the word 'biscuit' and say have horrible, over sugared, abominations called 'cookie' instead.

          FTFY

    5. FIA Silver badge

      Re: Hobnobs - invented for mans pleasure

      Hobnobs - just saying the word conjures up visions of Rowan Atkinson marking the attendance register. Those who know will understand what I mean.

      Yeah. Thanks. Now in my head I’ve got Chris Tarrent and Rowan Atkinson having a cup of tea whilst discussing the nobbily bobbily bits.

      I expect one or both to become discombobulated fairly soon.

  7. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
    Facepalm

    In the early 90s I worked on a system that produced worksheets for folk going out to do jobs. The system printed two pages per job (something like a general job sheet plus a bill of materials). For reasons lost to the mists of time, one sheet was always printed on white paper, the other on blue. In the office, someone had to load the HP LaserJet 2 printer with alternating sheets of white and blue paper. A very time-consuming exercise.

    All-too-frequently the printer would accidentally grab two sheets at once, meaning that for any subsequent prints the colour-coding of the printouts was reversed which, short of the complete end of the world, was apparently the worst thing that could happen.

    It took far too long and far too many on-site visits to convince them that it'd be cheaper and more efficient to simply get a second printer and so have one for white paper and another for blue. If I recall correctly, the second printer that they introduced was actually a spare that had been sitting unused in the office all that time.

    <sigh>

    1. TRT Silver badge

      We used a multi-tray printer and a custom, "tinkered around with", printer driver.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        We had a printer that had a paper tray labelled "plane".......

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
          Coat

          Was the other one "helicopter"?

          If I'd been able to get my hands on the local Dymo label printer, it would have been...

          1. Flightmode
            Pint

            Ah, like the old classic sign "Stationary Cabinet", with the hand-scribbled addendum "yup, it hasn't moved in at least a week!".

            Have one of these -->

            1. jake Silver badge

              We moved the thing across the room at least once a month when nobody was looking, and added "Not Very" above the original. The woman in charge of office supplies wasn't amused ... but the Boss was.

          2. NXM Bronze badge

            Reminds me of the road crews with big tubs of white and yellow line paint on the lorry marked Mild and Bitter. Still makes me smile.

            1. jake Silver badge
              Pint

              There is a guy who lives in Sonoma who has a Land Rover with a couple of grey-green jerrycans[0] on the back. One is labled GIN, the other TONIC, in lovely armed-forces white stencil.

              [0] That's probably politically incorrect these days ... A round for the house in penance.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            A relative says when he worked for the military, they had a 3-drawer filing cabinet with drawers labeled:

            Top Secret

            Middle Secret

            Bottom Secret

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "We used a multi-tray printer"

        On one contract most print jobs would be sent down the enveloping line but we filtered out those which were too big and had to be envloped by hand. Those went to a 2 tray laser printer with a coloured sheet from the 2nd tray to divide the jobs.

    2. Flightmode

      All-too-frequently the printer would accidentally grab two sheets at once, meaning that for any subsequent prints the colour-coding of the printouts was reversed which, short of the complete end of the world, was apparently the worst thing that could happen.

      Maybe this is just me being too focused on problem-solving, but...

      If you notice that your colours are reversed, couldn't you just swap the order of your pages and place a blank white paper at the top of the paper magazine to save the next guy the headache?

      Or maybe this wasn't that kind of office. God knows I've worked in a couple of those over the years.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Or just add one page of the 'other' colour to the top of the tray, thus resetting the sequence?

        1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Go

          Easier to remove one. Where would you find a free page of the 'other' colour, unless I'd been there first?

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "In the office, someone had to load the HP LaserJet 2 printer with alternating sheets of white and blue paper. A very time-consuming exercise."

      I remember using WordStar running under MS-DOS with a Canon LBP-A1 laser printer, one of the first desktop ones available. Even DOS based Wordstar had the ability to select paper source. Leave the main tray with the white paper in and put the other stuff in the manual tray if you don't have or can't afford a second proper paper tray. We generally used the method when we needed headed paper for the first page and the remainder on plain. Prior to that, I remember a daisy-wheel printer (Possibly a Juki) with a two "tray" feeder so the correct paper could be selected, also "powered" by WordStar. I've no idea which version(s) of WordStar this was, but is definite do-able.

  8. ColinPa Silver badge

    Pottering around not doing much

    I spent a couple of weeks at a customer working on an upgrade.

    Our company had a rep attached to the customer who seemed to spend most of his time wandering around and chatting to people and not doing very much.

    There was a problem with a database which had been going on for about a week. One of our company's database guys came on site, and quickly identified the problem, and spent the rest of the day doing a health check and answering database questions.

    On the last day of my visit, I was having a beer with the rep who told me how he worked. In his wandering around he would hear about problems. He would then have a coffee with the manager of the area and say "I hear you have a problem with ... I can get a specialist in for a day to help at this ... cost" or "It sounds you are getting a bit short of CPU, I can get a salesperson in to discuss upgrades etc".

    He would also quietly coordinate between different departments and say "do you think you could pop over to ... this afternoon, they have a question for you"

    As a result there were few big problems, and the customer said overall it was a cost efficient solution. Our company got additional sales, and on site support contracts.

    He did so well he was promoted to area manager, and hated every minute of it, because he was not working with customers.

    1. Tony Gathercole ...
      Boffin

      Re: Pottering around not doing much

      The role that wasn't to be...

      Shortly after being outsourced to one of the big US IT firms in the early 2000s I was asked would I be interested in a role that basically would have involved spending time hanging around the water coolers (!) with the world-wide pharmaceutical Research and Development centres IT thought leaders and influencers to pick up emerging trends and requirements so that my employer could get involved early and thus ensure that they picked up the business - with appropriate resources and kit bids as and when the project firmed up. NB Pharma R&D IT was almost never the run of the mill off-the-shelf stuff in more commercial situations seen in outsourcing contracts!

      So, basically three months of the year in Sweden, three in the US, three in the UK - and I guess three months recovering, training and holiday - all on the corporate dollar!

      Sadly, family situation meant that this was never a realistic prospect for me, so had to turn it down. But one can always dream of what might have been.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Pottering around not doing much

        My job title at Bigger Blue was "Boffin at Large"; it was even on my business cards (only because they wouldn't let me use my preferred "Chief Cook & Bottle Washer"). My actual position? Floating Senior Member of the Technical Staff. I wandered from department to department, world-wide, putting out fires. Outside of running my own businesses, it was the least boring, most stressful and most satisfying job I have ever had.

        1. Agamemnon

          Re: Pottering around not doing much

          Mine used to say, "Pizza Box and Beer Bottle Removal Engineer" (I was the COO of a Start-Up).

          After we designed the cards I modified the file for my cards when nobody was looking, and when we got the proofs back from the printers while everyone was Aghast, I said, "These are *perfect*" and slipped a few into my wallet (knowing my I.T. Buddy and I would be getting together for pints later that evening).

          Always good to mess with your title, keeps people on their toes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pottering around not doing much

      hated every minute of it, because he was not working with customers.

      This happens, it seems, everywhere. Particularly for good frontline public service staff. For example the Speech Therapist (AC because daughter is one such) who trains for 4 years, spends another year or two gaining relevant "competencies" and duly works at the job they love for three more years. Then, if they're good, when they are fully trained and experienced they get promoted to an office job and never do any clinical work for the next thirty years. Or the teacher who does less and less of the job they love and chose to train for-classroom teaching- as they gain more and more skills and experience. And then they get taken out of the classroom altogether and spend 20+ years juggling budgets and collating reports.

      Partly because every time the government comes up with a scheme of incentives to encourage good staff to doing frontline work a future government sees these incentives as an unnecessary overpayment and cuts them again.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Pottering around not doing much

        And so management is done by those who have not been selected for managerial ability (and hence we refer to them as manglement) and the work is done by those insufficiently experienced or competent to be promoted.

        1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

          Re: Pottering around not doing much

          And thus we find the crux of the problem with most organisations.

          The best staff are constantly chasing promotions and extra duties, so in effect the newbies are doing all the work (but have minimal experience) and all those with 20 years experience are arguing about process documents and budgets.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Pottering around not doing much

            Within education we have a subset of this problem too. There are newly qualified teachers who come into the profession with a game plan for promotion to headship. They aren't too interested in actually teaching . So they jump on to every new bandwagon that comes along. The successful ones also have the knack of knowing when to jump ship to a new best thing.

            They frequently become crap headteachers because they understand f* all about the learning process or indeed about managing relationships in a working team, they've never been team players. And they carry on jumping from one new best thing to the next, so schools are in constant turmoil. Also frequently the inspectors love them- because they're doing what the inspectors want to see, it being the new best thing.......

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Pottering around not doing much

            "The best staff are constantly chasing promotions and extra duties"

            In my experience the best staff are actively avoiding this shit because they already have too much loaded on them. It's the glory seekers you're describing

      2. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: Pottering around not doing much

        Many years ago the Scientific Civil Service MoD grades had "Special Merit" positions. Typically at PSO (Principal = NATO Rank ~Colonel) or SPSO level (between Colonel and Brigadier) The holder carried on doing what they were good at, and avoided the administrative and managerial tasks that were normal at that level.

      3. Denarius Silver badge

        Re: Pottering around not doing much

        A common complaint from engineers in the civil works department I worked in decades ago. Competent engineers or architects got turned into clerks, usually unhappy ones

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Pottering around not doing much

      "He did so well he was promoted to area manager, and hated every minute of it"

      Yup, it's not just "the peter principle" but that mangelement only see things in terms of manglement and assume everyone wants to BE manglement

  9. KittenHuffer Silver badge

    Back whilst incarcerated with the NHS ....

    .... I visited one of our satellite offices to set up some serial terminal remote connection over WAN software, mainly so that that office could still operate during the frequent serial network failures that were out of our control.

    Whilst there I was asked to look at a couple of other issues, and resolved a printer not working (the network lead was missing) and a PC that would crash the network after it was move from one office to another (the make before break thinnet wall socket was upside down). My boss called me in when I got back to the main office to pass on the praise from the manager of the satellite office. Only for me to let loose on the fact that one of my cow-orker and our third party support company had been out to both of these issues on several occasions, and had successfully failed to resolve them.

    1. Clarecats

      Re: Back whilst incarcerated with the NHS ....

      "one of my cow-orker"

      Freudian slip?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Back whilst incarcerated with the NHS ....

        Holdover from the early days of Usenet (late '80s). See The Jargon File for more.

        http://www.catb.org/esr/jargon/html/C/cow-orker.html

  10. jake Silver badge

    Ah, the "good old days" ...

    Anyone but me remember "bursting" mainframe print jobs? How about jobs that included carbon paper copies? Doing this job manually, one would invariably get thoroughly coated in ink/carbon.Worse, I would regularly manage to get fairly bad paper cuts in the web between my left thumb and index finger. To this day, I have a "smudge" tattoo in that location.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

      Yep, but we had an auto burster and collator. Cue endless arguments between ourselves, the machine maintenance people and the paper suppliers about why it didn't work.

      Machine blamed paper, paper blamed machine and they both blamed us for the storage conditions.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        Ah, the circle of blame....

      2. C R Mudgeon

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        You mean one of these?

    2. F. Frederick Skitty

      Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

      First company I worked for had a barrel printer that lived in its own room, since even with its acoustic hood it was phenomenally loud. It was also the size of two photocopiers.

      This was in the mid 1990s, and the beast had been printing monthly invoices for at least ten years, so the more commonly used letters had started to become very indistinct from the repeated battering they took, but I doubt a replacement barrel could be sourced by that point.

      Terrifying to be stood near the thing when it was going - the whole room would shake, but it was incredibly fast at printing each invoice run.

    3. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

      > Anyone but me remember "bursting" mainframe print jobs?

      Oh yes. My brother worked as an AS400 operator for a small financial services company. They also had a 8-way or something ridiculous de-collator but they only used 2 or 3 copy printouts. So he worked out that if you used alternate bins, rather than adjacent, it could run a bit faster than normal.

      One time he set the thing running, slowly turned the speed controller dial up, got steadily faster until the paper was stacking at incredible speed and then ... whammo! ... suddenly it would all go wrong and paper and carbon paper would go everywhere as you raced for the stop button. :-)

      He also experienced that classic: set off a batch job; went home to get something to eat; came back later in the evening to finish the job and burst the printouts only to find the cleaner had unplugged something important.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        .... or you get back to find a "Start batch , are you sure ? (y/n) "

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

          Nah, back then when operators were REAL operators, it was assumed that when you asked the system to do something, you actually meant it. No of this namby pamby Are You Sure question, it just started when you told it to.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        The same gig I mentioned above with the coloured paper job separator. The collator didn't have the throughput needed for the level of business. I ended up making a S/W collator to rearrange the print stream into whatever sequence was needed.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

        "only to find the cleaner had unplugged something important."

        Rule #1 of IT: Get friendly with the cleaning staff. They can be your greatest allies or foes

        Once they understand that unplugging computer equipment is a "really bad idea" they won't do it (especially if they have the idea that it can lead to them looking for another job and you have ways of knowing who unplugged what and when)

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...

          especially if they have the idea that it can lead to them looking for another job

          after an extended stay in a hospital

  11. Gerhard den Hollander

    Walk and talk

    never under estimate the benefit of just spending a day in a client office, nibbling biscuits and just talking (and listening)

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Walk and talk

      It's something I miss with Covid and working from home. Those coffee machine chats that could lead to early warning of upcoming problems.

      1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

        Re: Walk and talk

        At GlenP, re coffee machine chats that forestalled disaster.

        Disasters like an empty coffee carraffe? =-)p

        *Ducks & runs before you fling an empty coffee mug at my head*

        1. GlenP Silver badge

          Re: Walk and talk

          No carafes, kettle or pod in our office.

          I did used to work with an a**hole who refused to refill the carafe machine, believing it was beneath him. We'd see him wander into the kitchen with his mug then wander out again with it still empty if it meant taking the last cup and being obliged to refill the machine.

          1. ColinPa Silver badge

            Re: Walk and talk

            In the the days when we had a tea lady who would bring your usual beverage etc. ( 40 years ago), we all had to work the weekend on a major project. The senior manager came round with the tea trolley and gave us all free tea's and coffees (and biscuits!).

            He said if he asked us to come in - then he should come in. He thought the most useful thing he could do was to provide us with tea and coffee! He said it also gave him a couple of minutes to meet individuals in his department (some of which he had never met). I still remember him in his little pink apron.

            We also had a senior manager who would add more paper to the printer.

            1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Walk and talk

              These are the sort of companies I liked to work in. My last one was like that - and when the company moved into bigger premises - basically an empty shell, the (then retired) older boss came in to do all the office/workshop wiring so the rest of us could get on with the on-site calls.

            2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Walk and talk

              In the the days when we had a tea lady who would bring your usual beverage etc. ( 40 years ago), we all had to work the weekend on a major project. The senior manager came round with the tea trolley and gave us all free tea's and coffees (and biscuits!).

              He said if he asked us to come in - then he should come in. He thought the most useful thing he could do was to provide us with tea and coffee! He said it also gave him a couple of minutes to meet individuals in his department (some of which he had never met). I still remember him in his little pink apron.

              The long gone time of useful management. The only problem with him is that he robbed the tea lady of her overtime payment.

              We also had a senior manager who would add more paper to the printer.

              Not only useful but also capable at a core job.

              1. skswales

                Re: Walk and talk

                My boss used to fill out our timesheets for us each week!

            3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Walk and talk

              NRES (Plymouth) each floor of the call centre staff had a tea lady.

              I'd put a PC in at one end & grab a cuppa as they passed, then do one at the far end in time & grab a fresh one there.

              I have never drunk so much tea in my life over a 5 week period.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Walk and talk

                was that in intercity house? I'm currenlty sat looking at it from the EMdeck building, its shrouded in scaffold being converted in to a new location for training of nurses and midwife's by plymouth Uni

  12. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge

    Ah yes...

    Cargo cult behaviour...

    Come join the modern UK civil service, it's a wonderful world.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah yes...

      Thanks, but I'll pass.

      I did some time working for a certain UK government department and had to work with a lot of Civil Servants. I basically ended up putting them into two categories: the first category were the really good ones who knew what they did not know and did not hesitate to ask for help when appropriate (with "please" and "thank you" bracketing the request); the second category are probably best not mentioned in polite company.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah yes...

        Out of curiosity - what was the ratio between both categories?

        1. UCAP Silver badge

          Re: Ah yes...

          I think it was somewhere between a quarter and a third were in the first category. I try to blank out the rest ....

      2. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: Ah yes...

        A very long time ago there were two main types of Civil Servant: Established and non-established. People in Established grades served at "Her Majesty Pleasure" and were normally considered very difficult to remove (except for things like "Gross moral turpitude"). After about two years I was invited to apply for Establishment and went for an interview at the Commissioners. It was one of the hardest interviews I have ever had. I passed. When I asked my boss why it was so hard, he told me that they were looking for character and not knowledge - "skills can be taught". I realized that one important set of questions that I was asked was to name Capital Cities. I thought it was OK until we got to Mongolia "Ulan Bator", I said; They asked "Inner, or Outer Mongolia?" I told them that I didn't know, but would find out - That was what they were looking for. I believe that if I had obfuscated I would have failed, and if I had known the answer, the questions would have become more obscure until we reached the same point. If anybody cares it was Outer Mongolia (or "Mongolia"), Inner Mongolia is Hohhot.

        If an Established Civil Servant was "difficult" one way of dealing with it was to use "Mobile" grading. Almost all Established positions were Mobile, which mean that you could be transferred anywhere. The story was that if you had spent a winter in a hut on Muckle Roe measuring costal currents, hadn't resigned, and had learnt "a lesson" you would be transferred back...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Ah yes...

          A cousin-in-law worked for the Beeb at transmitters. He blotted his copybook & got exiled to Orkney or Shetland for a while. He quite liked the life style so got shifted back.

  13. Roger Kynaston Silver badge

    carbon

    A university I worked at had a multi part carbon registration form. Every student got one. Every year they redesigned it and every year I had a nightmare trying to get the bloody thing to print from the huge dot matrix printer they spent a fortune maintaining. At a meeting I suggested that it might be better to have a standard A4 and perhaps distribute the form electronically to the relevant parts (registry, exams, teaching department and student). The head a registry exploded on the spot and came close to shouting at me in (the lowly sysadmin) a large meeting. I was even prepared to configure a posh laser printer with multiple trays if they wanted to have different colours.

    Other than that, it was a great gig and I became friends with the head of Registry.

  14. GlenP Silver badge

    When we moved from dedicated fax machines to MFDs the staff were absolutely insistent that, "Faxes must be on green paper!" It took the engineer a while to figure that one out! Fortunately the machines were multi-tray so the default tray on the machine was the one with the green paper, then the white paper tray was set as default in the printer drivers.

    It only really ended when we stopped receiving faxes, except for the bl**dy bank who are unable to supply certain documents any other way - we now have Fax to Email for those.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why do anything?

    I would have simply kept on munching the biscuits and not said anything.

    It's been my experience that any such "interference in business processes" is met by hostility and anger. If it's not costing you anything personally, keep your mouth shut.

    I remember trying to explain word wrap and margins to a secretary that insisted on hitting return at the end of every line in Wordstar. That was a waste of half a day.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Why do anything?

      "I remember trying to explain word wrap and margins to a secretary that insisted on hitting return at the end of every line"

      A few posters here seem to have the same habit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why do anything?

        What's wrong

        with that?

        The old ways

        are usually

        the best!

        Sent from old

        mobile with

        small screen

      2. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: Why do anything?

        I don't

        know

        what you mean!

        EDIT: Damn!

        Beaten

        to

        it!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why do anything?

          S

          o

          r

          r

          y

          K

          i

          t

          t

          e

          n

          H

          u

          f

          f

          e

          r

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Why do anything?

      I've come across a surprising large number of people who type capital letters in the following way:

      1) press Caps Lock

      2) type letter

      3) disengage Caps Lock

      I'm not sure what they did when they needed a symbol like !. Possibly just type 'Exclamation Mark'

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Why do anything?

        "I'm not sure what they did when they needed a symbol like ! ."

        THEY PROBABLY HIT <SHIFT>1, LIKE THIS!

        HTH, HAND!

  16. John Doe 12
    Joke

    Taking the biscuit...

    HOB-NOBody print :-D

  17. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
    Flame

    aaargggh!

    A headline about printing and the first words are "Because that's how we've always done it"

    I'm already "triggered" as the yoof call it

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: aaargggh!

      My god it was worse than i ever thought.

      "Printing in order to scan in" is my pet hate (a far too polite phrase for my feelings on the practice) , but this takes the cake .

      1. Alumoi Silver badge

        Re: aaargggh!

        Ha!

        In a EU country with a law defining and requiring all public offices to use and accept digital signatures, I always receive (via email) a bad scanned copy of the signed and stamped contract which I must print, sign and stamp then scan and digital sign and return to the government office.

        Fun fact: there is also a law that forbids any kind of govrnment office to require a stamp on any form.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: aaargggh!

          When I was a company director (of my own company, staff of one!) in the UK, I had to have a company stamp made for some bank or tax form. It was used exactly once...

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: aaargggh!

            When I worked for Bigger Blue (Satellite Division), one of my jobs included verifying one-off wiring harnesses. Each bird had it's own, and I had a new QA[0] stamp for each one, with the project's logo (mini mission patch) and my QA number. I used each precisely twice ... once when I passed the wire (centered on connector #1, pin 1 side), and again on the paper traveler (where the ink promptly blurred into the paper and became unreadable).

            I have a nice round baker's dozen of these stamps in my trophy case ... Nobody could figure out who I was supposed to return them to, so I took 'em home.

            [0] I wasn't part of QA officially, I got press-ganged into this job when the Boss of the division discovered I was making a wiring harness for my gasser ... Soon after the first one flew and was put into service, I recieved a largish coffee mug with the mission patch surrounded by the phrase "Hotrods in Space!".

      2. theOtherJT

        Re: aaargggh!

        Every time I discover a "Please print and sign" written on anything I start to twitch slightly. How? Print how? I've not owned a printer since the 90s. Also print why? You emailed it to me. I'm going to email it to you. Why are we still pretending that a signature means anything? If this is meant to be some sort of proof of identity how exactly do you think that works? It's not like you have anything to compare it to. God I hate signatures.

        1. Paul Shirley

          Re: aaargggh!

          ...print to PDF?

          1. David Nash Silver badge

            Re: aaargggh!

            and sign?

        2. Killfalcon

          Re: aaargggh!

          HSBC's international banking parts have a copy of my signature on file, so they can compare it when I sign things.

          The _only_ way I sign anything related to them is via their website, with a little 2FA fob thingy... except for the one time I signed a thing so they'd have a copy.

          1. adam 40 Silver badge

            Re: aaargggh! and more aaargggh aaargggh aaargggh

            I dumped HSBC when they froze ALL my company bank accounts.

            Just saying...

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: aaargggh! and more aaargggh aaargggh aaargggh

              I dumped then when they closed my local branch. They rung up to see if they could meet to sort things out. I said OK but the meeting would have to be at the branch they'd just closed. TBH the person I was speaking to wasn't happy about it either.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: aaargggh! and more aaargggh aaargggh aaargggh

                I dumped them when my offshore account was listed in the Panama papers...

            2. ricardian

              Re: aaargggh! and more aaargggh aaargggh aaargggh

              I dumped Santander (had been with them for over 30 years starting with Alliance & Leicester) when they refused to send the OTP via landline phone instead of mobile phone - no mobile signal up here. Transferred the account to TSB who are quite happy to send the OTP via landline phone.

              1. David Nash Silver badge

                Re: aaargggh! and more aaargggh aaargggh aaargggh

                Why would they care? isn't it just a phone number to them?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: aaargggh!

          Some work I do, a few times a year, requires a claim form for the hours. The first year I picked up and filled out a paper sheet each time. In year two I created an Excel page as a template with formulae to count up the slots, saving (my) paper and (my) time doing and checking the Maths, which then gets sent in as an attachment.

          Last year they slightly redesigned the form with a space for a signature and counter signature at the bottom, intended to be printed out, signed, given to the manager to be countersigned and submitted on paper to the finance dept, F* that. I redid my template and added a scanned signature . I assume it's then printed and countersigned etc. So far they haven't noticed that it's a scanned signature. What a stupid waste of trees ( and ink)

        4. stiine Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: aaargggh!

          Do what I do. Sign clearly on paper, scan paper at the highest dpi you can. Save as transparent. Open to-be-signed documents in paint program, paste signature on appropriate line. Save and send back. I've been doing that for so long I no longer remember when I started.

        5. Rattus
          FAIL

          Re: aaargggh! (print and sign)

          The number of times I have digitally signed an email (i.e. PGP clearsign) because I have been asked, only to be told that they want me to print the document, sign it in ink, scan it back in and then email....

          these days they get a low grade jpeg of my monikera, with a "watermark" stating this is a fake signature. strangly they are happy with that...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: aaargggh!

        My missus had a temp job at a legal firm. Half her time was printing out emails. The other half was scanning in paperwork - not sure it was the emails she just printed.....

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: aaargggh!

        I can beat that one- worked for Norwich Union for a while, as a DBAssistant in compliance.

        When a file was created, the sales paperwork was scanned into the document management system, then printed and placed into a paper file.

        All mail that arrived was scanned, and the scan added to the document management system, and the hardcopy added to the paper file.

        Any mails that were sent out were created in the document management system, printed twice, one was sent to the customer and one added to the file (and the original digital one was already in the document management system.)

        When the case was closed and sent to the archive- any documents in the document management system that were not in the paper file were printed. All incoming and outgoing communications in the paper file were photocopied (including anything that had just been printed) and sent to india to be scanned into the document management system...

      5. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: aaargggh!

        Printing, embossing with a rubber stamp, scan in, so another department can print it from their system & stamp\sign & then scan it back in again.

        FTFY.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: aaargggh!

          As suggested above re signatures - scan the image of the stamp with transparent background, overlay on the document & send it to the next in line.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anonymous because I've just left a district council after 18 years but even now, their planning officers feel it's the admin team's role to check their documents for mistakes, and finish of completing the form because that's below a planning officer! I'd blame far too many years having a typing pool but that was gone when I started 18 years ago and most of the planning officers are younger than me!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Tradition" passed on through the generations :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And who will be found at fault for any errors...?

  19. localzuk Silver badge

    That reminds me...

    I must ask why the librarian at one of our schools wants to use 3 ply carbonless paper for something in their school... Especially when we are supposed to be "digital first", and use things like MS Forms etc...

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: That reminds me...

      MS Forms?

      That explain it!

  20. HammerOn1024

    One Can...

    Lead a horse to water...

    1. ColinPa Silver badge

      Re: One Can...

      but a pencil must be lead.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: One Can...

      ... and if thirsty, the horse will drink.

      1. David Hicklin

        Re: One Can...

        ...and if thirsty, the horse will drink.

        Not always true!

        After loading up mine in the box, driving somewhere, unloading, doing a 2.5 hour hack there is no way he will ever drink water from any bucket or trough at the venue

        Always waits until we are back at the ranch and then promptly drains the water trough.........

        Been that way for 11 years now.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: One Can...

          "Always waits until we are back at the ranch and then promptly drains the water trough."

          We have a three-day eventer here at the Ranch who does that when we take him out on one-day training rides off-ranch. When at a venue for an actual 3-day, he starts drinking "normally" late in the evening of the first day out. My Wife (a horse trainer these last 50+ years) says it's a mental issue. If it only happens occasionally, it's because the horse isn't feeling thirsty at that moment ... even if you think he ought to be! Regardless, the horse will drink if you wait long enough.

          I've seen similar with peeing ... We have a horse here who refuses to pee when he's turned out. He'll hold it all day long, but as soon as we put him in his stall for the night he unloads (the Wife calls it "stage fright"). If we leave him out for a week, he re-learns to pee outside ... until we get back into the routine of bringing him in at night again. Within a couple days, he starts holding it until he's indoors.

          All horses have their quirks. Some are quirkier than others.

          ::shrugs::

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One Can...

      "You can lead a man to water, but you can't make him think." -- Sheena Easton.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: One Can...

        "Thinking men don't pay any attention to Sheena Easton." —jake

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    University of Texas procurement process, late 80s: Press very hard, you are making 8 copies.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      We once had a customer who's quite large, quite heavy duty, wide carriage dot matrix printer was jamming up frequently and not always printing properly through the multi-part stationary. After a strip, clean and rebuild and a new print-head, properly calibrated, it didn't work properly with the multi-part but did with everything else. I increased the print-head gap because it was rated and calibrated for maximum 4-part paper and they were printing 7-part. 6 months later, the printhead was knackered again with worn pins A bigger head-gap might have lasted longer on the 7-part, but barely printed on single or 2-part. We told them all future calls on this printer would be "best endeavours" at standard parts and labour, not on the maintenance contract because they were using it "out of spec". They happily paid up.

      Chatting with the people using the printer, it turns out they only needed 5-part paper these days anyway, but still had boxes and boxes of 7-part in stock to be used up as the bosses didn't want to "waste" it.

  22. keith_w
    IT Angle

    Has this changed since last week?

    "IT support," he told us, involved "anything with a plug on it."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Has this changed since last week?

      Not always.....

      I've been asked to change a toilet seat, help a colleague that locked themselves out of a car and asked how to change the roll in a new paper towel dispensor. (Twice - by different people!)

      1. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge

        Re: Has this changed since last week?

        One of my first projects at a new IT job had a file folder with a single sheet of paper, a job request reading merely, "Move computer." When I arrived, I saw it was an eight-foot tall monster-computer in a custom cabinet (not rackmount), with a 240 VAC power cable directly wired in to the PDU and water-cooling pipes still hooked up. The job requestor walked up and said, "I want this thing gone."

        I informed my supervisor of the relevant details not in the job request, and he routed it over to Facilities. Later that day I heard/saw them using a SawzAll on the piping.

  23. aerogems Bronze badge

    Reminds me of an old job

    Ober the course of my career I seem to have developed a reputation for being someone who actually bothers to think through designing a form that someone just slapped together as something of an afterthought.

    Case in point, worked for a now defunct retailer doing PC repairs. Someone had created some real basic form for documenting repairs for the internal billing and everyone filled them out by hand. Trying to find something to write with was a challenge in this particular location, with people frequently stealing everyone else's pens, and it being next to impossible to order office supplies despite the retailer actually selling pens. Even better is that everyone just had a copy of a copy of a copy and so on for several generations. Every time someone ran out of forms they'd just get one from someone else, run off a bunch of copies, and then rinse and repeat the next time someone ran out.

    So, I spent a slow afternoon one day redesigning a form I could fill out on the computer and then print off as-needed since they'd never let the printer run out of toner or paper. As an added bonus it could do things like autosums for me and I could hard code my employee ID and other info that never changed. I was also able to arrange the fields so that they would mimic the system I had to enter them into, meaning I could just move my eyes to the next field to the right instead of hunting all over the page for the info I needed. I was also able to use this to create forms for machines that had liquid damage or something and needed a repair estimate. Multiple people responsible for approving/rejecting the estimates commented on how my forms made things so much easier for them. They just had to look at the total, check either the repair or "crush" box, and sign it.

    At another job I found myself using a form that hadn't been updated for about 2 major ERP updates, and amounted to someone just going through each section of a particular SAP t-code and writing down every field they saw. To make things even more fun it involved a lot of merged cells in Excel making it next to impossible to update and it was using some custom page size that couldn't be printed. I took control of it, ripped out all the fields no one actually used, color coded everything based on who was expected to fill out what bits of data, arranged fields based on how they appeared in SAP, used conditional formatting rules to draw out required fields, made liberal use of combo boxes to keep people from entering in invalid values, and made it so it could be printed since it was technically a document that could be relevant to audits.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reminds me of an old job

      A relative was trying to figure out why shipments of product from country A would take 2-3 weeks to clear customs when entering country B. "Bring me a copy of country B's customs form," he said, and proceeded to change the paper document attached to the shipment to have its information in the same places as the customs form.

      Clearing customs suddenly took 2-3 days instead.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Reminds me of an old job

        I thought it was going to be a question of bribery, but, right-O.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Reminds me of an old job

      Very many years ago at a routine senior scientific officer meeting it was mentioned that we were running low on case submission forms but there'd be no problem just getting them reprinted would there? Challenge accepted - my officemate & self ended up completely redesigning them because they were the main means of getting the information about what we were supposed to be doing.

      This was a completely paper based system with copies going to every section involved. The case envelopes grew fatter and fatter as lab notes, chart recorder output, maybe small snap-fast bags of odd bits, Thin layer chromatography plates, photographs etc. were added.

      I sometimes wonder if it ever became electronic. Possibly not because having that case file to hand in the witness box was essential if only to stop some smart-arse cross-examiner asking* to see something if they thought you couldn't produce it.

      Subsequently I had a contract gig at a business that did such form production work. They kept referring to the document cycle by which they meant simply the design process and print ordering. To me the document cycle meant the whole thing of sending out stocks of documents, receiving the filled in document, the various trips round the lab and its eventual filing as part of a complete case. It did occur to me that they could have added an extra line of business with something like optical marked form reading of completed documents.

      * If they knew you could they wouldn't ask, of course.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    (may have mentioned this one before)

    I remember at an RAF base (not operations, aircraft part stores etc) being talked through part of their stock management system by its 1-man support team.

    "Here is the minicomputer (it was a while back) that does the tracking of items while on site, here is all the documentation, this is our daily/weekly data backup process, here are all the backup tapes for the last 3 years."

    "Hmm; I see from the doc that the backup tapes are written in an ICL mainframe format ?"

    "Thats right, the RAF base in xxxx (the next town) had one of those"

    "Had ?"

    "Oh yes, they closed that place down years ago"

  25. dajames Silver badge

    Copies!!?

    The crazy thing is not that the department were printing copies on different coloured paper, it is that they were printing copies AT ALL.

    Print once, to send out in the post, yes. This was pre-EMail.

    The other copies should remain archived on the computer (where they will be backed up) so that they can be referred to online by the relevant departments ... who do NOT need a paper copy.

    ... what do you mean they didn't have a network?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Copies!!?

      For the last 45 years or so, every time someone suggests that going "paperless" is a good idea, I buy more stock in Boise Cascade, Crown Zellerbach, Georgia-Pacific, Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek Timber and Crane&Co ... I haven't lost a dime yet. Quite the opposite, in fact.

      This is not investment advice, it's just is a testimonial, consult an expert before investing, etc.

    2. Spanners Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Copies!!?

      I remember discussing this with someone. They were printing off all their email "in case I am audited or in court".

      I remember asking them what they thought a printout of their email would prove to a court or investigation board.

      "Are you saying that these will prove nothing then?"

      "No. It will prove you have a printer..."

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Copies!!?

      We print copies for the siomple reason that the "electronic archives" are impossible to search

      Gee thanks, Oracle

  26. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Ah, brings back memories.

    A few jobs back, I did the "if it's vaguely technical, they ask me" gig in a small manufacturing and sales company. They used various letterheads and coloured papers - and the same "nobody use [name of printer]" call out before pulling the tray and adding some fo the paper they were going to use. Not just the one or two sheets, but a few sheets - and no, they didn't take out what they didn't use. So over time, the tray filled up with a stack of random papers.

    When I was sorting out printing from the Unix hosted ERP system, I took the opportunity to utilise the printers' capabilities - those useless features like using multiple trays, or god forbid, manual feed. So all those wanting to print on (for example) letterhead needed to do was select the manual feed printer* right next to the tray feed one* in the list, then stroll over and put the letterhead on the manual feed.

    Yup, you've guessed it, I never managed to persuade the majority to use it.

    * The system didn't have the concept of specifying options in the print dialog - so I had to create multiple virtual printers, so for example there might be "accounts", "accounts-m" (manual feed), "accounts-l" (landscape, handy for doing jobs designed for the old 13" fanfold), "accounts-lm".

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back in my PFY days at a manufacturing company, a yell of "Nobody print!" meant that one of the sales guys was loading letterhead paper into the main tray of the HP5si.

    Even back then, brimming with self-confidence at my IT skills, I knew better than to try and teach them how to select manual feed.

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Except that some printers will preferentially take a sheet from the manual feed, if it detects one.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I remember writing a postscript preamble that could be added to a print job sent to the laser printer that added all the elements of the company letter headed paper to the first page. We then got taken over by a large European company and in adapting it to new logos I ran up against the corporate branding dept as the logo didn't use the correct style of lettering - I asked them which font was used and in reply was told it wasn't typeset but was a one-off design and got sent a large A3 "master definition" of the logo which I managed to "implement" to their satisfaction in PostScript. As a side effect for a year or so after that it seemed that if anyone in the company had a PostScript issue someone would say "... there's someone in the UK who understannds PostScript" and the problem would be forwarded to me.

  28. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
    Holmes

    I definitely remember...

    That at that time there was an expansion for Canon printers that allowed to have up to 6 different types of paper stacked (e.g.: letterhead, white, yellow, pink, blue, ...) to cover the need of identical copies for different purposes, with only the caveat that you had to have a specific word-processing program to handle this feature, or at minimum a printer driver that could handle it.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NCR as a child

    When I was a child, my parents lived in a country in the middle east that the UK was great friends with but is not any more.

    When I went there in the school holidays, I needed my passport, my "vaccine passport" and a ballpoint pen. Half an hour before landing, we were passed the entry request forms. Three sheets of NCR. This was around the early-mid 1970s and I thought these things were really interesting. I never realised how much they were going to be part of my life or how suddenly they would vanish!

  30. Stork Silver badge

    Thumbs up for Dan’s good manners

    See title

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spain

    Just got the last few years docs from the old accountant as we've changed recently.

    Every doc is a printout of the electronically submitted form.

    By law we're told, we have to keep these for seven years.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My first job was a computer operator in a bureau. Runs for different companies often needed different size paper in the line printer. You had to get the paper lined up and tune the hammer pressure - then do test prints until it was right. Very important on on pre-printed paper like cheques.

    One customer supplied their own boxes of carbon paper for a weekly run. It was many layers of thin paper with extremely weak page perforations. If the hammer pressure was a fraction too high the perforations would suddenly break. It took time to get the test prints apparently right - only to have the perforations part during the print run. That meant a total rerun. It was often remarked: "Someone must have had a nice lunch out of the paper salesman".

    Then there was the high-speed decollator to spew out separate streams of the paper copies and carbons. Filthy work handling the pile of carbons waste.

  33. Murphy's Lawyer
    Meh

    Not carbon paper, but possibly weirder

    In the early 90s I was invited to an event to help with their newsletter because they wanted to move away from using a typewriter to bash out a Gestetner master copy to this new fangled Desk Top Publishing whizzywig thing.

    This involved using a 24-pin dot matrix printer to bash out the Gestetner master copy (with the printer ribbon removed so the pins could do what the typewrited did).

    Amazingly, it worked, as did the printer afterwards.

  34. C R Mudgeon

    Carbon paper still has at least one speciallized use

    Or at least, a close relative.

    My dentist calls it "bite paper". After some procedures, he'll have me bite down on a small piece and grind my teeth around. It leaves a mark on any high place that needs to be ground down a bit to let my teeth meet properly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Carbon paper still has at least one speciallized use

      We used "engineer's blue" in metalworking lessons when trying to file something accurately.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Carbon paper still has at least one speciallized use

        My fingers are currently stained with Dykem Blue layout fluid. Making a new instrument panel for a CJ5 turned into a 4wd trencher (think "homemade Ditch Witch").

  35. Snapper Bronze badge

    Anyone remember Kalamazoo Sales Sheets?

    As a rep I had to make a report of any visit to clients on these multi-sheet torture devices. You had a slightly larger than A4 pad that clipped into a special bracket to keep everything aligned.

    Each visit used a strip about 1.5cm high and the width of the paper. In that you had to get the clients name and who you saw, date + time + length of visit.

    Then and only then could you write your report as to any issues, solutions or requests. Obviously our handwriting had to be legible on the lowest form, so tiny capitals and pressing VERY hard were the order of the day.

    I hated my weekly trips to central London to see about 15 clients in a small area of the West End. I'd arrive back home fairly fresh, but doing the reports would leave my arm in a sling.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    5 part stationery

    MOD contract 1990.

    Thou shalt supply an impact printer capable of printing five part forms.

    We did, what a beast it was.

    Mind you so was finding green toner for one laserjet2 printer. Anonymous because...green toner.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 5 part stationery

      I know someone who sourced a Silver toner.

      At his sentencing, they said his fake £10 and £20 notes where the best they had ever seen.

      He ended up being the unofficial IT tech in the prison and got nearly all of the "dead" PCs working again.

  37. sketharaman

    Going by carbon paper catastrophe in title...

    Going by the title, I thought a user had actually inserted a carbon paper into a laser printer and "Dan" removed it just in time before it could gum up the laser printer! This reminds me of a time when we came close to doing exactly that! Until then, purchase orders issued by customers of our IT company were printed on dot matrix printers. Since customers needed multiple copies, they would take three sheets, slip in a carbon paper in between each pair of them, insert the whole bunch into a DMP and print multiple copies at one shot. As sales reps, we'd "help" the customer in this process by hunting around for carbon paper, which was, for some reason, a precious commodity those days. Then came a time in circa 1990 when an MNC bank was going to place an order on our company. Like always, our sales rep went fishing around for carbon paper to help the customer to print multiple copies of the PO. But this customer turned out to use a laser printer - carbon paper not required. For the first time ever, we saw someone enter "3" against "number of copies" on the software's print screen, and three printouts coming out of the printer, one after the other, without any carbon paper! Memory serves, it was our company's first ever PO printed on Laser Priner.

  38. RobDog

    3 copies, yep

    The British defunct retailer I worked at, used to print all manner of stuff on 2 or 3 or 4 part through the IBM tractor feed hammer printer, white green pink and blue (with carbon). These might be 5-10 thousand pages which we then had to run through a Moore-Paragon decollator, to separate the copies and wind up the carbon paper, then EACH COPY through a Moore-Paragon burster. These ancient machines had the propensity to completely transform those carefully aligned pages to scrunched up waste, if not carefully managed which was no small feat at 3am. When all this was transferred to a super fast IBM 3800 laser, yes four mono copies were printed and down the side in small letters each copy had printed the colour it used to be.

  39. The answer is 42

    You could copy?

    What was the year and copier? My first job was translating a quarterly Russian journal into English. Like all languages, what is a word in one becomes a sentence in another,so there was a lot of cut/paste. Off it went to the translators, coming back with a load of instructions like "picture 3 should be on the top left of page 7". Text and pictures went on the first grill tray and the machine dropped black xerox dust on it (no, I thought it was magic as well). the tray, paper and dust on grill then carefully had to be taken out of the machine and put into the next copier slot. If that was done without any trembling hands, a zapper fused the dust onto the paper. There were many trembles, synchronised to the number of girls in the office and the number of open windows. That process had to be done for each sheet. I doubt if the pages had numbers. Back to my question- The year was probably 1965, but what was the copier/fuser?

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