back to article Psst … Want to buy a used IBM Selectric? No questions asked

Do you know where that computer came from? Or that chair? Or that desk? Today's On Call concerns another brush with the long arm of the law that all started with a simple call for help. Our story takes us back to the 1990s – a time of transition for many companies. The Windows 3.x era was underway, and Windows for Workgroups …

  1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Hot stuff

    Touched a hot laptop once, never again.

    Not worth the hassle and stress.

    Much better to pay that bit extra and have peace of mind.

    Unless the legit vendor is trying to get rid of hot stuff as well...

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Hot stuff

      > Touched a hot laptop once, never again.

      Was the fan broken?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hot stuff

        I'd bet it had too much Pr°n inside...

        Mine is the one with the Pirate Video Deluxe patch on the left sleeve...

    2. UCAP Silver badge

      Re: Hot stuff

      I picked up a second-hand laptop once, but the first time I logged in (I was given the admin password which made me think it was legit) I found a substantial stash of some really nasty, grade A illegal pictures. I did not muck about, but took the laptop down to the plods who took one look, went slightly white and very quite, and promptly impounded the laptop and took a statement (under caution) from me.

      The plods quickly backtraced the laptop to the seller (the idiot had given me a receipt with his name/address/mobile number on it) who it turned out ended up being charged with handling stolen goods. They also traced it back to the original owner, who was overjoyed at getting his stolen laptop back for about 30 seconds, then found himself hauled in front of the beaks facing considerably more serious charges.

      At least I managed to get the money I had spent on the laptop back.

      1. Stumpy

        Re: Hot stuff

        Good on you for following through with plod. I suspect many people would simply have shrugged, wiped the disk and reinstalled.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Good on you for following through with plod

          Except the plod in most places would have just charged you.

          Same cleanup rate / zero hours worked = infinite key performance metric evaluation score

          1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
            Alert

            Re: Good on you for following through with plod

            In the case of the Metropolitan Police Officer who was sent a nasty video on WhatsApp, in order to follow up, which she never watched, the police force threw the book at her for having the video on her phone!

            https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-62307596

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: Good on you for following through with plod

              Was it the POLICE PHONE or was it the PRIVATE PHONE?

              For the former: Correctly sacked, you don't use the company/police phone for private stuff. The latter: Huh, what kind of video must that have been? Child abuse at its worst?

              1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

                Re: Good on you for following through with plod

                There is some further background to the story here...

                https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-50374967

                it was sent to her by her sister, who had come across the video and shared the video with not just her offer relative, but several others, with I guess a well intentioned, but ill advised attempt to trace the man in the video - that should have been left to the Police - perhaps the sister who found it should have discussed it with her officer relative and asked how to proceed/report it.

                1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

                  Re: Good on you for following through with plod

                  The police seemed determined to pursue her. Given we know the met are institutionally racist, ...

                  Or, given the success in the courts strongly suggests she wasn't to blame, one has to ask about the met's motivation.

                  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                    Re: Good on you for following through with plod

                    "one has to ask about the met's motivation"

                    That's been asked for quite a long time.

                    1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

                      Re: Good on you for following through with plod

                      Depending on how the law was written, they may have just been following the law. A lot of them read as you having it on your phone makes you guilty. The plod's job is to enforce the law as written, and let the court decide if there's actual guilt. This is the problem with laws like the ones on child pron, the way they are written can discourage reporting. I know I wouldn't report it because US laws are written this way. You can't report it without being nabbed as a trafficer yourself.

      2. sebacoustic

        Re: Hot stuff

        Good story. How did the thief get the CP scumbag's admin password? Well maybe it was on a PostIt on the laptop, but I guess stashers of illegal pics are more security concious than regular people, no?

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          I'm guessing they're just as stupid as anyone else.

          And honestly, my home desktop doesn't have a password to secure its access.

          If a thief gets there, all is lost anyway.

          1. logicalextreme Silver badge

            You should probably encrypt anything sensitive you've got, at least. The last thing you need after being robbed is to find out you're the victim of identity theft too.

        2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

          Re: Hot stuff

          at a time it was rather easy to remove the admin password with a boot CD (one file to delete if I remember well)

          1. Kobus Botes
            Boffin

            Re: Hot stuff

            @Strahd Ivarius

            "...easy to remove the admin password with a boot CD..."

            Hiren's Boot CD could reset both the admin and user passwords on Windows, at least up to Windows 10. It was a life saver to me when users would forget their passwords and no-one remembered tha admin password (in the days of yore when PC's were mostly not connected to anything except a printer). But tbh, management was fairly relaxed about PC passwords (what was there to protect? It was actually suspicious behaviour).

            Passwords only really came into fashion once domains were created and users could connect to other domains as and when needed.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hot stuff scumbag's admin password

          You boot it into Linux. Someplace I have a bootable Linux DVD with a "Reset the Windows Admin password' utility on it. I got it when I worked at a University where every computer, even PC's bought for labs, had to go through campus IT who would clone their standard Windows Enterprise distribution on it so it would validate users against the domain controller, and they'd put Office on it, but then also put a lot of irrelevant crapware on it. So the first thing we would do is boot the Linux DVD & reset the admin password and remove IT's account.

          Worked there 10 years, and it worked like a charm. Kind of underscored that physical possession is 9 tenths of p0wnage (& ownership).

          1. MattPi

            Re: Hot stuff scumbag's admin password

            This one has worked for me forever. I think I've used it on Windows 10 and Server 2013, but haven't had to bother with it on 11 or newer copies of server. Maybe I'll spin up a test box and see what happens, lol.

            http://www.pogostick.net/~pnh/ntpasswd/

        4. Dog11

          Re: Hot stuff

          Redundant so deleted.

        5. Bill 21

          Re: Hot stuff

          Dell used to ship Windows XP with an interesting behaviour. You would, as normal, set your password when doing the initial setup of the new box and would be admin. However it also had an admin account which was hidden from the pretty XP logon screen and this had a blank password - you got to the login prompt for this by bashing Ctrl-Alt-Del about three times, then hit return to login and you were in.

      3. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Hot stuff

        Excellent work, although no doubt with some... sinking feeling on your part.

        To this day, thankfully, I've never had to deal with stolen goods, especially stolen goods tainted with child pornography!

    3. adam 40 Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Very Hot stuff

      I worked for a company called "CommsCo" back in the '90's.

      They ran an audiotex bureau in North London, (i.e. dodgy porn premium rate lines - but - that's not the hot bit!)

      Anyway one day the directors decided to "but some new kit", which they installed in 19" racks in the premises.

      But - they also sold the kit on, removed it from said premises, put some dummy borken PC's in the rack, and set fire to the lot!

      Then - they never paid the original invoice!

      So - free kit, payout from the insurance, payout from the third party! Trebles all round!

    4. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: Hot stuff

      A lot of perfectly usable computers end being throw away for "reasons". Nowadays? Not being Windows 11 compatible.

      No, I am not joking.

      So if you know were to look, you can get old computets for free and Frankenstein something usable.

      Just... don't use lightning.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Hot stuff

        ...especially when 240\110V is a constant supply.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Hot stuff

        This tale has jogged my memory. A company I slaved for had what was at the time quite large hard drives in their desktop computers. Somebody came back from holiday and found their computer booted up into Windows but was missing any of the expected software and data. Hard drive was the wrong size too (much smaller) which set alarm bells ringing. Then another was found a few days later, same thing had happened to that one too but it wouldn’t boot into Windows. The two “new” hard drives were found to be missing from the IT stores. A targeted theft was suspected, the drives being pinched for their data not the drives themselves.

        However after a day or so of the second theft a local second hand shop had reported to the company they’d been offered two hard drives. They had the drives for testing and hadn’t paid the bloke trying to sell them. Upon examining them the shop realised that they were likely stolen. Once the company was called IT went down identified the drives and cloned them. The police had also been called, who collared the thief when he came back to get his cash.

        It was the cleaner’s soon to be ex-boyfriend who had come in to “help her out” on a few nights. He’d got lucky in that the first one belonged to someone who was on holiday. That theft would have been detected much faster if they hadn’t been. The police found notes on how to replace a hard drive at his flat when it was searched. However he had no idea they would be traceable back to where he’d nicked them by the data on them.

        1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

          ... what was at the time quite large hard drives ...

          40M? Or not that old. :-)

          1. Andrew Beardsley

            Re: ... what was at the time quite large hard drives ...

            5 1/4 inch.

        2. Daedalus

          Re: Hot stuff

          Cleaners always turn out to be the weak point in security. Every day I witness them walking unsupervised into labs that I am not able to enter without an escort. Companies haven't yet realized that "nothing in, nothing out" is the security mantra of the future, alone with "RF proof the building, and to hell with cellphone reception".

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even worse for software

    I worked for a company that regularly got calls from people who wanted their illegally acquired system activated/. Not scruffy warez fans, but CEOs.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Even worse for software

      I once had a colleague that only shopped on Astalavista? claimed the stuff was legit! I got the feeling that was one of the reasons he was shown the door and didn't get a renewed contract.

    2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Even worse for software

      Even worse when IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, etc... want to do software audits. There is nothing that will hack me off more than being acused of not having enough licenses. Being made to run hundreds of stupid programs or scripts (Some were truely terribly written) only to find we were right all along (Or in IBM's case annoy us so much we simply reduced the user licenses to 1 and turn the Lotus Domino Server Off only firing up when required).

      1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        Re: Even worse for software

        Easy money!

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Even worse for software

      "Not scruffy warez fans, but CEOs."

      Sorry, but I find this a bit confusing.

      1. ChoHag Bronze badge

        Re: Even worse for software

        CEOs perform their crimes in a suit and tie.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Even worse for software

          CEOs perform their crimes in a suit and tie.

          That only means they don't look as scruffy as they are.

  3. pavel.petrman Silver badge
    Pint

    Comments to On-Call articles

    It took me some time to recognise the pattern, but there it is: the comment section of all On.Call and Who, me? articles has been a greatest joy to read through and quite often a learning experience, too. Sometimes I even get the feeling that the articles themselves have more purpose in seeding these discussions than anything else.

    So I now take the opportunity to thank you all for your great comments, past and future. Here's a pint for you!

    1. El blissett
      Pint

      Re: Comments to On-Call articles

      Oh, absolutely. If you've been reading the columns since the start, you've probably read about all the possible scenarios by now. But even the most mundane On Call sparks people to chip in underneath with really interesting tangents.

      Cheers!

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Comments to On-Call articles

        Every time you think the Pinnacle of Stupid is reached evolution kicks in and a new more extreme case is described in an article here.

        Keep'm comin'.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Comments to On-Call articles

          It's the age old natural arms race between idiot and idiot-proof...

          1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Comments to On-Call articles

            Quote:

            "It's the age old natural arms race between idiot and idiot-proof..."

            To which the idiot always wins

            We got fed up with the operators loading the trays of parts into the robot machining cells the wrong way round(everything from bent fingers to bits of metal fired out of a now bent fixture).

            So we had a merry afternoon of painting arrows on said trays, making notices and a spot of training.

            this week : spang boing CRASH kerpow tinkle.. yupp operator STILL loaded the tray the wrong way round.

            I fed him to the PFY after noticing she had the cattle prod out.......

            1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

              Re: Comments to On-Call articles

              Betcha the cattle prod went "ominous hummmKZERRRT"

              Apologies to the carbosilicate amorph whose "ominous hummmm" line I stole

              1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
                Devil

                Re: Comments to On-Call articles

                Betcha the cattle prod went "ominous hummmKZERRRT"

                More like "ominous hummmKZERRRTAAAAAAAAAAAAIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeee I'm reporting you to the manglement and I got witnesses"

                To which the rest of the workforce went "We didnt see nuffink" ( although that maybe due to me beaming proudly at the PFY for learning so fast...... and the fact I was lazily flipping a 3lb lump hammer from hand to hand...)

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Comments to On-Call articles

      "Sometimes I even get the feeling that the articles themselves have more purpose in seeding these discussions than anything else."

      This one seems to have been very sparsely seeded. How did they get from looking for a connector to discovering the typewriter and then the rest of the furnishings were hot?

      1. muddysteve

        Re: Comments to On-Call articles

        I'm guessing when she ordered the cable, the typewriter company asked for the serial number to ensure they shipped the right cable and version of the drivers, then checked their database...

      2. Spazturtle

        Re: Comments to On-Call articles

        IBM require you to provide the products serial number in order to order replacement parts. And obviously you need to provide an address when ordering parts.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Comments to On-Call articles

          and they obviously aren't going to share that they have added the address to the ongoing investigation...

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: Comments to On-Call articles

            I recall a OEM (back in the days of yore) I think it was actually Evesham Micros, if not Dell or Gateway, received a phone call needing & asking for fresh copies of the install media, serial number was given & a undertaking to ship to the provided address.

            What they got was Plod turning up instead, the system had been sold about about 5 weeks earlier & & stolen two weeks later. The sales rep had noted that the serial number was too new for the purchaser to have misplaced the install media & the name & address did not match the original invoice.

    3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: Comments to On-Call articles

      I agree! My favourite: The Amiga SCSI problem "which only works when you put the clock in that corner of the monitor at that size" - where some forum members had enough experience to track down why!

      Which shows that the oh-we-love-it-and-miss-it Amiga had its share of weirdness as well :D.

      1. ChrisC Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Comments to On-Call articles

        And in todays installment of "Mysteries of the Modern World", we attempt to answer the question of exactly HOW I managed to not see that article when it was originally posted... Thanks for bringing it to my attention, have a virtual pint on me!

        1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C

          Re: Comments to On-Call articles

          My guess is the date - April 10 2020. We had other things on our minds back then. Like half the world moving to WFH and the other half trying to buy flour so they could learn how to bake banana bread.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Comments to On-Call articles

            In Jamaica and a few other places you can get banana flour which you can make banana bread (obvs) with should you wish!

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: Comments to On-Call articles

              We have a Caribbean food outlet on our local indoor market and I’ve seen such flour in there. Thanks to you they are about to have a new customer for it this morning.

    4. DreamEater

      Re: Comments to On-Call articles

      If you can fight the urge, wait until the Monday evening after On-Call is released, usually everyone who comments has (I realise this is midnight on Friday and I’m breaking my rule, but I’m on holiday and I’ve run out of books) so you get a really nice long read of 100+ comments

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Comments to On-Call articles

        But then you don't get to write in your own story and seed the others even more. That's part of the fun, because you can come back and see what new stories are there. I'd target the comments when there are about 25 of them, but I don't always do so.

  4. ColinPa Silver badge

    Not the same sort of crime

    I remember visiting an all IBM, US customer, about 30 years ago. At lunch time the IT manager showed off his new car to every one (including us). At the same time the IBM tape drives were being removed and some other manufacturer's were being installed. I was told the two events were pure co-incidence.

    We tried to use the tape drives that evening, and they didn't work. They called out the engineer to fix them and were told - he will be there within 3 days!

    The on-site IBM engineer quietly opened the doors, checked the cables and switches and said "it is now working" - and quietly went back to his proper job.

    This was mentioned at the end of week report to the management chain, and a few weeks later the IT manager had moved to a different company.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Not the same sort of crime

      No one ever got fired for ... Oh, wait.

  5. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    Didn't Sarah try to paper over where the typewriters came from?

  6. pavel.petrman Silver badge

    Ebay

    Ever noticed how dome used Dell laptops advertised on Ebay have their service tag blurred out while others not? I have always instinctively tended to preferring the latter over the former. I wouldn't ascribe all of these blurrings to malice, not event the bigger portion of them, but still, one has to wonder...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ebay

      There were a load of laptops the same as the ones my company bought that "appeared" on eBay. The sneaky chap was allegedly pinching them before the tags were registered in our systems.

      AC as it's my current employer

    2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Ebay

      They're blurred out to stop people using them to obtain support, rather than because they're nicked, on the whole. Still malefactors at work, but not necessarily the sellers.

    3. squigbobble

      Re: Ebay

      This is why I only buy electronics off eBay that come with the original box, it's much less likely to have been nicked with the box. A side benefit is that it's much more likely to arrive intact in the original packaging than in a jiffy bag.

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Ebay

        In that case you're one of the people that feeds the fleaBay trade in 'empty' boxes!

        People who buy the brand new 'shiny' have found that instead of throwing the box away they can get £10, £20, £30, or more for the empty box on fleaBay. Unfortunately there is a real chance that the person buying is only doing so to convince people such as yourself that the stolen good they are trying to sell are legit.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Ebay

          So the contents mostly just flow through eBay once whilst teh boxes keep going round and round.

          1. C R Mudgeon

            Not-quite-infinite loop

            "... teh boxes keep going round and round."

            That image reminds me of an early computer crime I read about back in the 70s or 80s. I forget some of the details, but the gist of it went like this.

            The thief opened an account at a New York bank (call it Bank #1) -- I don't remember this part, but presume he used fake ID. He then had counterfeit versions printed of the cheques that Bank #1 had issued him. The human-readable address on these was of Bank #1, but the MICR coding was for a California branch of the same bank (Bank #2).

            He then wrote an NSF cheque, and deposited it into an account created for the purpose (Bank #3).

            The clearing house's sorting machine sent the cheque to bank #2 based on its MICR coding, where somebody looked at it, went "this doesn't belong here!" and sent it to New York -- where it went through the sorter again and got ping-ponged back to California. And so on.

            Meanwhile, Bank #3 had placed its usual N-day hold on the deposit, but that expired and so, even though the cheque hadn't cleared yet, the funds were released. The miscreant withdrew them and vanished.

            The crime was only discovered when the cheque became too badly worn to go through the sorting machine yet again, causing someone to finally take a closer look at it.

        2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: Ebay

          I usually buy a lot of my second hand IT kit from a disposal center that lists on eBay or the Grubberment place 7 mins drive away from the first place, every time I visit the big smoke.

          They used to have a front shop\collection type area, but thanks to Covid that's been closed & we now have to pay $5 local pick up fee instead per sale item..

      2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

        Re: Ebay

        A few days ago in France, a guy bought back to the store a brand new Apple phone, in its original box with the seals not broken.

        When the phone was sold to another customer a few days later, it was discovered that the box contained only a slab of wood of the proper size and weight...

        1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: Ebay

          "with the seals not broken"

          I'm always amazed people will treat sticky labels as inviolable security rather than a very porous single line of defence. They come off fine with an appropriate solvent and small scraping tool, and can then be reapplied as desired.

          Demonstration by lockpickinglawyer: https://youtu.be/xUJtqvYDnkg?t=129

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Ebay

            There ARE labels which demonstrate they've been tampered with in this way - most manufacturers simply don't use them

      3. UCAP Silver badge

        Re: Ebay

        I do remember a report (must have been 15 years ago) about someone who advertised a brand new XBox (box only) for I think it was about £150 or so on EBay. Snapped up so fast you you practically heard the sonic boom. Buyer complained to EBay when their nice shiny new toy tuned out to be an empty box, but EBay shrugged and pointed out that, had they read it properly, they would have discovered that that was what the offer was for.

        Lesson from this: read the small print!

        1. that one in the corner Bronze badge

          Re: Ebay

          Still going on - pretty much every time a new console comes out there is a rash of empty boxes (explicitly described as such, if you bother reading the whole description) going for ludicrous prices.

          1. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

            Re: Ebay

            Will not be surprised if some people actually buy empty boxes just to show someone they "got it" and "returned it due to not liking it" or something.

            Another way of keeping up with the joneses without having to spend a bundle on unneeded stuff.

        2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: Ebay

          "But EBay shrugged and pointed out that, had they read it properly, they would have discovered that that was what the offer was for."

          No, Ebay banned the seller, refunded the money, and sent the details to the police. Your version is an urban myth.

    4. PRR Bronze badge

      Re: Ebay, Dell service tages, Selectrics

      > Dell laptops advertised on Ebay have their service tag blurred out while others not?

      Dell makes SOOO many variations of every model that it is impossible to know exactly what machine is on offer without a item-specific tag. I just bought an off-lease Dell Ultrabook. Actually several, and returned 2 of 3, because they were not what I expected (and the sellers couldn't bother to verify). With the Service Tag in the listing I got original specs from the Dell site, for CPU, SSD, RAM, and software.

      ==================

      Other electric typewriters did not "jam" as stated, not when new. As a typewriter, the Selectric had one killer feature: you could change the typeface in 3 seconds. (Not practical on hammer-key machines-- you 'could' but it took 20-120 minutes before re-alignment and you got all oily.) Others had the idea 60 years earlier but the world was not ready.

      Also very few electric typewriters were really electric typing: the mechanism was mechanical from finger to keyface but a single motor gave the gizmo a KICK along the way so touch was feathery. To drive-by-wire would need a big heap of solenoids (which was done, but no fun).

      The first Selectrics had a lot of mechanical logic, binary coding, and whiffletree linkages. This reduced the number of solenoids needed to type by wire, true. But I do not think this was ever a common option outside of a package like MT/ST. (Of course in our story, the original product functions may have been randomly scrambled by ignorant thieves.)

      However the biz of needing a serial number to even ask about spare or accessory parts is, like Dell, quite valid. And for cars, hearing aids, and IBM Sales/Lease, the serial # entry must first check against thief, loss, and safety-recall lists. So even before checking if a cable was possible, the request was flagged for investigation.

      1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: Ebay, Dell service tages, Selectrics

        Selectric typewriters had the most heavenly keyboard feel.

        Diablo Hy-Type machines were true "type-by-wire" and used Cherry keyboards.

  7. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I remember projects in Practical Electronics (or simla) on wiring up electric typewriters so you could use them as printers for these new-fangled computer thingies.

    I even started an attempt to steampunk my Remington International into a printer for my ZX Spectrum, even wrote the driver, but was stymied trying to find a way to electrically actuate 48 mechanical bash bash bash key levers.

    1. Henry Hallan

      I did something similar to hook up an Amstrad CPC to an ASR33 teletype, back in the early 80s. The hardware interface consisted of a lead to connect the 20mA current loop connection to the cassette relay. After suitable delays were programmed in to account for the difference between relay close and relay open, we could get the relay to clatter away and be answered by the distant thunder of the printer in the attic.

      The output was all-caps but it worked just fine.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Joke

        The output was all-caps but it worked just fine.

        If it was continually shouting like that, no wonder you could hear it from up in the attic... :D

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Happy

          I was about to say, ALL CAPS? …it sounds like you’d inadvertently created the original prototype Bombastic Bob!

          (Just kidding, BB.)

          1. Ozumo

            Nonsense. To properly IMITATE BB, it WOULD have TO capitalize random WORDS.

      2. HPCJohn

        Re: Switching on the "monitor stand"

        I had a similar teletype hooked up to my TRS-80

        Bought teletype from local GPO telephone exchange surplus , fo ra fiver or a tenner.

        It still had the address of the hotel it worked in hard wired in.

        Same electrical setup - cassette output port connected to a mighty big transformer to drive the teletype circuitry.

        Sadly the teletype went to the dump many years ago.

    2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      ambiguous

      "one of the secretaries at the company pulled her aside and asked if there was any way her existing typewriter could be connected to the computer"

      Silly me, I read this as -- use the Selectric as a keyboard! Using it as a printer makes just as much (sic) sense. Maybe the ideal setup would be a sandwich -- two Selectrics with a computer in between.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: ambiguous

        Didn't IBM itself use modified Selectrics as input devices for its mainframes?

        1. C R Mudgeon

          Re: ambiguous

          Yes. The IBM 2741 terminal was essentially a Selectric built into a desk. A room full of them, all going full speed (134.5 bps, IIRC), produced quite the din.

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: ambiguous

        Maybe the ideal setup would be a sandwich -- two Selectrics with a computer in between.

        No, the ideal setup would be one Selectric with a computer in-between.

        Think of the possibilities. Most of the time, this would act as a buffer, and the typewriter would print what you type, as you type it. Occasionally (say, randomly, when a carriage return happens), you could have it insert an extra line of text:

        "Help me, I'm trapped inside the typewriter".

        That sort of thing.

        You could probably achieve this fairly simply, using a Raspberry Pi Pico, a few jumper leads, a soldering iron, and a few hundred lines of Python (or C if you're a "Real Programmer" *).

        *This is entirely to troll the Python programmers, just because it's fun. I'd probably implement this in Python if I could be bothered, and had a Selectric typewriter to hand.

    3. Christoph

      In the mid 70s we had a Wang computer that used an IBM golfball as its printer - they had stuffed a slab of electronics in the base to drive it.

    4. Martin
      Happy

      In one of my early jobs, our company built a box and modification that converted a Brother electric typewriter to a parallel printer. Which meant that you could get, for a fairly reasonable price, a letter-quality parallel printer (rather than a dot-matrix not-quite-so-letter quality).

      (For those who are interested...yhe electric typewriter keyboard was basically an array of push switches on a grid - the hardware was a ribbon cable soldered to the grid, and the hardware was a little multiprocessor that took the parallel printer input and converted it to signals which simulated a key being pressed. It was quite a fun job - writing the microprocessor code and working in parallel with the hardware guy debugging his hardware. Worked very nicely, albeit a bit slow!)

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        > For those who are interested...the electric typewriter keyboard was basically an array of push switches on a grid - the hardware was a ribbon cable soldered to the grid

        Awww... of all the ways to do it, that is the most boring and sensible one to choose.

        I was hoping you'd say your company's product was a Heath-Robinson/Rube-Goldberg assemblage of actuator rods and solenoids that was clamped to the typewriter keyboard to press each key as necessary!

        This world is too dull.

    5. Grinning Bandicoot

      We are dealing with eerie coincidences here. This months Nuts & Volts (2 2022) has an article titled "Turn a Typewriter into a Printer" ; however, the author used a Smith-Corona. Now for Twilight Zone music a few days back I saw a Selectric in use. Had to ask and was told because of the ease in changing to non-Roman lettering for a line or two.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My dad bought a laptop from a car boot sale

    When he turned it on, the Network Rail logo came up. Nope, not having that in my house.

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: My dad bought a laptop from a car boot sale

      What, in case it's actually a rail replacement bus in disguise? Nobody wants one of those.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My dad bought a laptop from a car boot sale

      Don't blame you - I expect it would go on strike just when you needed it the most.....

    3. Aussie Doc
      Trollface

      Re: My dad bought a laptop from a car boot sale

      Wise move.

      Would probably make you forever 35 minutes late each day.

  9. Giles C Silver badge

    Grey market

    A few years back we had a supplier ship used grey market equipment as new. We only found out when I tried to log a call directly with Cisco for support and got told the equipment belonged to someone in Malaysia (I think), Turned out they were faking the support contracts by registering one of an item legitimately and then wanting the customers to go through them for support.

    It did make the news at the time but I can’t remember the company name.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

    We can only wish I suppose.

    But how can it be 11 years since she left?! https://www.theregister.com/2011/06/30/moderatrix_off/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

      Because we're all old bastards.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

        We were old then. Now we're older.

    2. Dabooka

      Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

      ELEVEN YEARS?!

      1. Red Sceptic

        Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

        We live in hope …

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

          Or fear...

          1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
            Gimp

            Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

            Or just tremble in antici......pation

        2. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

          > We live in hope …

          …and die in Caergwle.

          Sorry, niche joke there from my family’s part of Wales. Couldn’t resist.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

            Went to school in Hope, hopefully don't die in Caergwle!

          2. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

            Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

            Caergwrle am byth!

          3. Kazzawozza

            Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

            You sure you don't die in Cefn-y-Bedd instead? It'd feel more appropriate (unless you have a special hatred for Caergwrle).

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

        Yup. Eleven years. And I'm mightily annoyed at that slightly podgy grey haired bastard that has hijacked my mirrors...

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

          My bathroom scales are clearly broken, there's no way the dial should go all the way to 17.

    3. Korev Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

      That article just reminded me how good The Register used to be

    4. that one in the corner Bronze badge

      Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

      She is still haunting El Reg's Javascript: the WiFi doesn't stretch all the way downstairs, so I'll be happily reading and want to upvote some comment here, only to told to alert The Moderatrix that the JS writers need to be whipped again!

      1. that one in the corner Bronze badge

        Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

        for (int i=0; i < 100; ++i) printf("Must check all the comments before posting\n")

  11. trevorde Silver badge

    Anything else we should know about

    Friend of a friend once got some 'warm' laptops and had a visit from the police. They questioned him in his flat for a while, which made him a bit nervous, so he asked to get a drink of water. He was taking a while, so the police went looking for him, only to discover him trying to hide his very large stash of marijuana!

    He ended up doing time for the stolen laptops *and* the drugs!

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Anything else we should know about

      A friend (no really. Only he had actually been in the navy) saw a dummy torpedo at a surplus store, and just had to have it. So he bought it and took it home (no idea how, I would expect his truck to be too small). A day or so later got a call from the store saying he must return it. "No way!" he replied and hung up. Day after that a couple serious looking "men in black" showed up for a conversation. Turns out that it was "dummy" in the sense of "no warhead", but not so "dummy" as to lack the latest, classified, navigation system.

      He didn't mention them paying any attention to the hemp forest...

  12. Pirate Dave Silver badge
    Pirate

    Wow

    Selectrics are still fetching a pretty penny on eBay. Considering how long they've been out of production, that's some impressive hardware IBM built if it's still working.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Wow

      Yeah. That's how things used to be made : built to last.

      Now they're built to fail after the guarantee.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wow

        I know what you mean. The legs of my dining room table are made of glued-together boards that were then turned. The glue is failing, and I've had to glue some pieces back on. Only got a hundred years out of it.

        Not a misprint - my kids are the 5th generation to use this furniture. Try THAT with IKEAware!

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Wow

          Actually, don't slag IKEAware off too quickly. I bought two office chairs from IKEA in 2006 (£49.95 each), and they lasted a damn sight longer (collectively until 2021) than their rather more expensive predecessors (£150 each). So yes, IKEA does do good stuff, if you treat it well. And I have cupboards and shelves from IKEA that after 12-16 years still hold up well too. Although - a century? I don't think that's quite on the cards ;-)

          1. that one in the corner Bronze badge

            Re: Wow

            My theory (which is mine) is that IKEA have been stripping back the IVAR range to a shadow of its former self because they made it *too* good: despite my best efforts (overloading the shelves with books, drilling random holes to hang yet more stuff...) the stuff just works, decade after decade.

            Really wish I had bought more of the large IVAR cabinets when they were available.

          2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Wow

            I have a set of Ikea corner shelves bought some time ago (probably 20+ years), that are made from solid pieces of seasoned beech, laminated together. They're rock solid, you could probably use them as a step-ladder (although I wouldn't advise it from a stability point of view). All their modern stuff (such as the Kallax range) seems to be made not even of fibre or chipboard, but of plastic and cardboard. There is some stuff there that is still reasonably priced and made of proper materials, but you have to examine it carefully to determine whether it is.

            1. grs1961

              Re: Wow

              I've got Billy bookshelves still in use that are 40+ years old.

              Although the new ones aren't as good, they've got cardboard, rather than plywood, backs.

      2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Wow

        "That's how things used to be made : built to last."

        No, that's a classic example of selection bias. We've forgotten all the crap that died right away and we only take note of the few survivors that are still around.

        I recently helped clear a timewarp house that had been kitted out with cheap stuff from Woolies in the seventies and then left basically untouched. Almost all of it was complete junk even by the standards of the cheapest not-even-made-in-China-anymore rubbish available today.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Wow

          Indeed. MFI was much worse than Ikea, which is probably why they are no longer in business.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Wow

            As my father the carpenter used to say it stood for Made For Idiots.

            1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

              Re: Wow

              Ironically, the thing Ikea was (and is) much better at is designing stuff so even idiots can't get the assembly wrong.

              You get the quality level you pay for with Ikea - the gap between cheapest and most expensive is large - but all of it has good, well-printed instructions and usually can only go together the right way around. They don't do stupid stuff like using multiple lengths of the same size screw, which is a classic timewaster (at best) that I see regularly with non-Ikea flatpacks.

              There are some real doozies out there. This is basically the Listener crossword of flatpacks: https://www.regalraum.com/media/pdf/assemblyinstructions/boon.pdf

              1. Not Yb

                Re: Wow

                The bit in that with "hammer in place with fist"... wow.

            2. anothercynic Silver badge

              Re: Wow

              I was terrified of showing my father my IKEA furniture (he's a master carpenter by trade), but much to my surprise he nodded in that inimitable begrudging acknowledgement way and said "Not bad! Not *my* quality, but not bad". If he'd said "WTF is *that*", that would not have surprised me, but him actually acknowledging that IKEA stuff was not all rubbish, that was completely unexpected.

            3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: Wow

              I always thought it stood for "motherfuckers international," but that might just have been because of exactly how annoying their adverts were.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wow

            IIRC MFI bought Hygena kitchens, in the hope that the good reputation Hygena had would rub off on them.

            Instead people assumed that Hygena was now MFI quality, and both brands tanked.

            1. JimboSmith Silver badge

              Re: Wow

              A mate’s parents bought an MFI kitchen and had it installed. It was so badly made and installed that the counter top wasn’t flat. It was sitting at an angle that caused certain kitchen implements to roll off. Shelves were also not completely flat and cupboard doors didn’t close properly. The local branch manager was invited round to their house and given a demonstration of the faults. They managed to get their money back and the kitchen removed.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Wow

          "No, that's a classic example of selection bias. We've forgotten all the crap that died right away and we only take note of the few survivors that are still around."

          Many of us remember the pain of dealing with the low quality of 70s stuff & forget that anything that lasted actually belongs to those times.

          1. Detective Emil

            Re: Wow

            Wanting to relive my youth, I'm just having the caps and rubber bits in my 70s-vintage Yamaha TC-800 cassette deck replaced.

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Wow

      I have one, a dual pitch, 11" carriage, Correcting Selectric II, purchased from Goodwill. Works a treat after some solvent to remove the caked on grease. Love it.

      Note: bog standard Selectrics don't have data terminal capabilities. However, there are "enhanced" Selectric mechanisms with electronics, solenoids and switches installed which do. 2741 is the model we used to use as APL terminals (they can do backspace/overstrike, something with which Teletypes and display terminals usually have difficulty).

      2741s came in two varieties: Correspondence and EBCDIC code. A different typeball was needed for each one. Massively complex and not built for the wear and tear of 24/7 use by university students. They were usually out of action. Model 33 Teletypes, however...it was difficult (but not impossible) to kill them.

      1. Bitsminer Bronze badge

        Re: Wow

        I remember the 2741. On a 300baud modem to the local uni who were sponsoring computer education in our high school.

        I learned to touch-type APL on that thing. Imagine that. To think I used to be able to write write-only code at 40 wpm!

        Can barely open a beer nowadays.....

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Wow

          APL was amazing. Somewhat of an acquired taste, though.

          In another life, I designed Data General's D200/APL terminal. A "glass teletype" that supported all the APL overstruck characters. I think they may even have sold a few...

          1. Not Yb

            Re: Wow

            Obligatory Rick Cook reference, who wrote a book about a wizard using APL to write magic spells.

      2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        ASR-33 Teletype reliability

        The first computer I programmed was a PDP-8e attached to an ASR-33 Teletype, in public school. Some techies and I were using it after school when the paper ran out. There were spare rolls of paper in the "supplies locker", but the teacher with the key had gone home. Inspired, I ran down to the gents' lav, used one of my many keys to jigger the lock open on the paper-towel dispenser, removed the roll of paper towels (which ~just happened~ to be 8.5" wide -- the same width which the ASR-33 needed), ran back to the classroom, and installed it in the Teletype. The TTY printed on it just fine, but the visual quality of the output suffered due to the paper towels being softer and more-absorbant than the hard-finished pulp-paper rolls ordinarily used in Teletypes.

        I'd gotten an ASR-33 of my own at a church sale, taken it home, and interfaced it to my Commodore 64. One evening I was using it and saw that the printing had become quite faint, and I didn't have a replacement ribbon handy. Applying WD-40 to the cloth ribbon on the supply reel got me dark printing again.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

          Re: ASR-33 Teletype reliability

          Can confirm.

          I, too, had my own, a KSR-33. Made my 4 years at college much easier, as I did my assignments from my room, rather than trudging down to the public terminal room. Well I ended up doing that, too, as I wangled my way into being the sevice person for the school-owned 33s! The pay wasn't great, but the job came with an unlimited login to the mainframe.

          I used to tear down, degrease, rebuild and re-lube 20+ machines each summer. They are amazingly well designed and very easy to work on, once you know a few tricks. Built by a subsidiary of Western Electric, which was itself an arm of The Bell System. All gone, now, and it happened almost overnight, as, first, the LA-36 DECwriter, and then cheap CRT terminals appeared.

  13. GlenP Silver badge

    Not Me but...

    Somebody stole an RM480Z from a local school, pretty stupid to start with, and then phoned RM for help. RM suggested they contact the County Education Computer Centre which, even more stupidly, they did. Quick check of the serial number and instead of the expected service engineer they got a visit from the boys in blue.

  14. egbert

    IBM 1403 Print Chain

    In the early 1980s the system manager for an IBM mainframe I used was browsing through the "Barras" in Glasgow's east end (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Barras) when he came across a "print train" for an 1403 line printer for sale on some stall. This is a heavy mechanical lump in which a train of characters rotates at high speed to allow the printer hammers to type text on old fashioned fan fold paper. It probably weighed a good few kilos and was seriously expensive. Not the sort of thing that you expect at a random market. Not only that, but like most IBM hardware of the era, it could not be bought - only leased from IBM.

    Without the surrounding printer it was, of course, completely useless for anything except perhaps tying to bodies being dumped in the Clyde.

    He took a note of the serial number and phoned his local IBM contact who confirmed that, yes, it had been stolen from a mainframe installation somewhere. A call was made to the local police...

  15. myhandler

    I remember the Selectric well. Impressive machines but not as cool as an Olivetti portable.

  16. Dr_N Silver badge

    Read this as Scalextric...

    ... and am now extremely disappointed.

  17. aerogems Silver badge
    FAIL

    At a previous job, I noticed that the company was using the free personal editions of AV software, which are explicitly not licensed only for home/personal use. What made it funny is that this company counted Symantec as a client. What made it doubly funny, is they weren't even using Symantec's AV software. For a whole bunch of other reasons, I didn't stay long at that company, and made a report to the BSA about unlicensed software after I was gone. At the time the BSA was offering rewards for ratting out companies, but aside from a couple of "gathering information" status messages, never heard from an actual person.

  18. logicalextreme Silver badge

    I've worked for one place where the business's Office license key was stored in a file containing ASCII art, which is a very legit look (very small company getting on their feet and started paying for things properly not long afterwards), and another place where I couldn't seem to get details of our SQL Server license out of anybody and eventually extracted the key which I then found all over Google. Good times.

    I've still never seen a licensed version of Beyond Compare, either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've still never seen a licensed version of Beyond Compare, either.

      I've actually got this at work. Licensed and everything. It's actually a decent piece of software.

      1. VerySlowData

        Beyond Compare

        Same here, bought a licence some years back and use it all the time.

        1. logicalextreme Silver badge

          Re: Beyond Compare

          Aye, it's great. I'm just going to get my own personal license cause they've nailed it.

  19. IJD

    We had someone who nicked a laptop from work and tried to flog it on Ebay, complete with pictures.

    He's probably have got away with it if not for the fact that the company asset tag complete with ID code was clearly visible in one of the photos...

  20. Irony Deficient Silver badge

    the Selectric – with its golf-ball type head replacing the basket of type bars –

    was a leap from the jam-prone typewriters that came before.

    The Selectric and its type ball was another version of two late 19th century forerunners in typewriters with user-changeable type — the Hammond and its type shuttles, and the Blickensderfer and its type wheels. The Blickensderfer even offered an electric typewriter starting around 1902, but it wasn’t a market success; it really was too far ahead of its time.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: the Selectric – with its golf-ball type head replacing the basket of type bars –

      1, Invent Electric typewriter

      2, Wait for electricity to be invented

      3, Profit ?

      1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

        Re: the Selectric – with its golf-ball type head replacing the basket of type bars –

        Run bath.

        Sit in bath wearing one's finest underpants.

        Invent electricity.

        Drop electric typewriter in bath.

        Profit unlocked.

  21. Death Boffin
    Flame

    Heavy lifting

    Back in the days of yore, I was the delivery boy for a business machines company. I indeed hauled many Selectrics into office towers. The beast however was the Adler. Weighed about 50% more in the same footprint.

    These were also the days of liquid toner in copiers. The suspension fluid was highly flammable. Many offices used it by the gallon. I'm surprised there weren't more fires.

  22. TonyATS

    IBM Selectric Terminals

    Back in late 70's early 80's I purchased two used IBM Selectric Terminals at a computer show for cheap.

    They couldn't be hooked up to a Personal Computer, but were used by IBM as some kind of dumb terminal, I imagen.

    I had a Radio Shack TRS-80, and needed a printer.

    The typewriter/terminals had solenoids in them so I built an interface that went between my computer and the Selectric.

    Now I had a very slow, letter quality printer. Printing code was a long process, but very beautiful, and you could change the ball/font.

    I wrote an article on the interface and sold it to one of the English UK Radio Electronics magazine for around $400, I think.

    It certainly paid for the Selectric/Terminals.

    Still have one of those terminals in my attic. Maybe I'll visit the interface again; yea, right.

    CU

    Tony Scarpelli

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: IBM Selectric Terminals

      BINGO!

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: IBM Selectric Terminals

        Nice catch! It is good that the Internet indeed sucks up all old data over time...

      2. Tim99 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: IBM Selectric Terminals

        I've just spent/wasted a couple of hours on a trip down memory lane...

        Have one on me >>====================================>

      3. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: IBM Selectric Terminals

        I’ve just taken an overdose of nostalgia and it’s going to take me some time to recover.

        Kettle on.

      4. John PM Chappell

        Re: IBM Selectric Terminals

        You, sir, are a legend! Well done. Good article, too.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

      Re: IBM Selectric Terminals

      Those would have been, relatively early, System 360 console terminals. From before IBM started using 3270 VDTs in that role.

  23. Luiz Abdala
    Go

    IBM typewriters with printer ports are called TELEX.

    Some of those were EXACTLY IBM typewriters with printer drivers. If I recall correctly.

  24. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Speaking of the Moderatrix...

    The El Reg comments system had a lie-down for a couple minutes. The error message was "The coders need whipping, call the Moderatrix"

  25. DS999 Silver badge

    That story took a turn

    When I started reading I expected it to be something like "only a small number of Selectrics had the port to be hooked up as a typewriter and IBM had quit supporting that years ago, but this company had a long standing support contract that would have forced IBM to do so at great expense so they ended up furnishing a free top of the line laser printer in exchange for agreeing to remove that from their support contract" or "that was a prototype product that never should have escaped IBM's labs and we don't know how it got into a customer's hands".

    So I guess it was normal to hook up a Selectric to use as a printer? Anyone ever see one in action? How fast was it able to print?

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: That story took a turn

      14.1 cps

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_2741

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: That story took a turn

        Not very fast, but I guess it was also a lot cheaper than a line printer back in the day!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That story took a turn

      A long time ago, I used a Wang computer along with an IBM Selectric for computer modelling. The Selectric was used to output "graphics". It was at least as fast, if not faster, than a teletype. Beautiful output.

      The Selectrics were made in a factory in Amsterdam and the factory is still there. Still used by IBM but now they do not manufacture anything there.

  26. Bitsminer Bronze badge

    get your Selectric free....from the KGB

    Some might recall the bugged Selectric II typewriters placed into US and allied offices in the 1970s by Soviet intelligence.

    They emitted a 4-bit coded radio signal that was picked up by nearby Soviet receivers. The radio transmission gear was embedded in brushed aluminum plates indistinguishable from the originals....fascinating reading.

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: get your Selectric free....from the KGB

      Yep great book and I’d highly recommend it. When I let my mum borrow it she was messaging me constantly with questions about technical things she didn’t understand in it.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Many years ago I worked in a repair shop, because of the nature of the area the police rocked up occasionally with a list of stolen computer gear to keep an eye out for

    While chatting to the copper one of our regulars butted in and half jokingly asked him to check the PS2/30 he was holding.

    Which turned out to have been stolen from a local primary school 6 months earlier.

  28. Not Yb
    Facepalm

    Company I used to work for, that had their own PCB place and solder line, had a reel or 2 of DRAM chips stolen (back when those weren't cheap).

    They got caught when they tried to sell the reel on to a different PCB manufacturer., who went ahead and bought them, called up the maker of the chips to check the serial number, reported the theft, and sent them back to us. Of course they got the police involved somewhere in this process, so thieves were caught as well.

  29. Spanners Silver badge
    Linux

    Me too!

    I once got a hot laptop. I was getting something for my daughter for her GCSEs so I turned to eBay. This would have been 2004 or so

    Got it delivered to work. At lunchtime, I opened it up with a couple of curious colleagues looking in. Laptop, OK, size OK, starts up OK and even the correct size HDD. Then, a problem. There was a lot less space available than there should be.

    I found a profile that was taking up that space and had a folder on its desktop. In there, I found a University dissertation. The author had put their name, address and phone number!

    Called them. They seemed grateful and we agreed to contact our local police. A word of advice to crims. Don't sell to IT. I did some digging and gave a lot of information to the boys in blue. Bank stuff, possibly their real name and all his previous eBay sales. I suspect if what I got was stolen, so were they.

  30. Ribfeast

    Those audits always bothered me. I worked for an MSP, and it would cost the customer a fortune for us to come in and go through everything for them to satisfy an audit. And I doubt they could bill the vendor wanting the audit for that time.

  31. C R Mudgeon

    Hmmm, rather like Broadcom & VMware?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Return to Sender

    In the mid 1980's I used to teach IT (WP, Spreadsheets, Databases etc.) at an ITEC (think high level skills for unemployed school leavers during a recession). I also taught the paying public in the evenings. One day a chap rolls up in the evening with his new computer wanting to be trained on all the bundled software. Except it was one of our PC's that had been recently stolen! I thought that the particular combination of WordPerfect, Lotus 123 and dBASE II looked familiar...

    Turns out that he was an innocent buyer and it was an inside job...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Room Stolen

    Not IT equipment related but back in the early 80s I stayed at the Taft Hotel in New York and was awoken to a commotion. Police hotel manager cleaning staff the works were all in the hallway shaking their heads in disbelief. I turns out that during the night the entire contents of the room next to mine were stolen. Bed, TV, lamps, furniture and linen. It turned out a couple, of by that time, disgruntled ex employees had stolen the room via the service elevator planning to hold it hostage for money they claimed they were owed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Room Stolen

      I was in a very busy bar in London some years ago and a bunch of punters decided to walk off with a fair-sized sofa. Last I saw of it it was disappearing down the street. Nobody seemed to think it was unusual.

  34. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    I bought a Psion Series 5 from a then friend. I jokingly asked him if I could return it to the manufacturer if it developed a fault. He said, looking very serious, "I wouldn't if I were you".

    Thankfully, that device gave me years of good service, and connected to my phone (via a serial cable), enabled me to do large parts of my job from the pub.

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