back to article Using the datacenter as a dining room destroyed the platters that matter

Welcome yet again to On Call, The Register's Friday folly in which readers share reminiscences of their most redolent rescue jobs. This week, meet a reader we will refer to as "Maurice", who brings us a tale of the Ferranti Argus 500, a computer created to assist one of the UK's early attempts to build surface-to-air missiles …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Something similar, but without the mice.

    I popped into the machine room to check something on one of the HP racks. Opened the back of the cabinet and found someone's shopping in there! I went back out to the office and asked the obvious - who was storing their Tesco shopping in a rack and why? Turns out it was one of my colleagues - they thought it would keep their shopping cool until they went home.

    Yes we had large "No food or drink past this point" signs, just none that said "No shopping past this point"!

    1. Korev Silver badge

      "But this is the cold aisle, not the shopping aisle"

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      I did allow a colleague to put some shopping in the computer room to keep it cool on a very hot day, but well away from any actual equipment.

    3. Rufus McDufus

      With their powerful air conditioning, server rooms can be great places to dry wet clothes.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >With their powerful air conditioning, server rooms can be great places to dry wet clothes.

        Or if you were a startup without fancy air conditioning, the hot racks of servers were a great place to dry wet cycling gear.

        The cloud does not produce toasty socks and warm dry shoes.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          With a bonus that the rank odour of sweaty cyclist would discourage people staying in the room for very long

    4. Tom 38

      Back in the day we'd frequently keep the Friday beers in the server room, however the only people who were permitted to place them in and take them out were the operators - who didn't have to chip in to the beer kitty as compensation.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      worked in a building where the perfectly described 'mess area' had a sign...

      "Vince is not allowed to cook kippers in the microwave"

      (the fridge's tiny icebox compartment burst it's door due to the build up of ice and on defrosting revealed a box of something that was so old it didn't even have a 'use by' date)

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        "Vince is not allowed to cook kippers in the microwave"

        Right. Spray cans everyone. Time to make that as ubiquitous and puzzling as "Kilroy was here.".

        (Hmm. Which SF author was it who wrote the short time-travel story which explained that latter?)

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah, the simpler days of being a DC operator/H&E guy...

      We used to store six packs under the tech floor tiles, just a couple of tiles away from the DC's door. The coolest part of the room, without the inconveniences of having your beverages scattered across racks or aisles. It was almost like lifting the top of a fridge and grabbing a can!

      Plus you could do it when you had one too many drinks, since you were already on your knees...

    7. stiine Silver badge

      A six-pack of beer fit nicely under the raised floor in, actually, both data centers (administrative, and comp sci) at my uni.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        works well until it blocks the airflow

        There's been at least one tech tale in these very columns on that topic

    8. Grimthorpe

      Unexpected item in the racking area

      See title.

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      back of the rack also a favourite spot for drying wet clothes!

      In a lab I sued to work certain boffins had a habit of putting their lunch in lab fridges used to store samples!

      1. Man inna barrel

        I once developed a pottery kiln controller. We had a small portable kiln in the lab to test the controller. These kilns are designed to run at up to 1500 C. They are not cooking ovens. I was rather proud of the fact the control algorithm was so good that I could do baked potatoes in it. A nice stable 200 C, which is probably better than most domestic ovens will do, if you put a thermocouple in to measure the real temperature.

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          My oven in the kitchen has to be set to 150°C to have ~180°C real. Setting 180°C gives you about ~220°C, setting 200°C give you about ~240°C. I measured when some things got darker than expected.

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    Smaller buddies

    I once had the pleasure of assisting a user who wasn't the neatest person. They ate constantly at their desk. One day the keyboard quit working properly. The desk was always cluttered with notebooks, binders and lots of empty food wrappers and empty paper cups with remnants of hot chocolate or coffee. They demonstrated the problematic keyboard, and indeed, it missed the T and the A. I decided to swap the keyboard, and upon clearing some of the debris, and moving the keyboard, I saw a hoard of ants crawling about, in and out of the keyboard! I gave them the oldest crappiest keyboard in storage, and promptly took the keyboard back to the office, a daring colleague opened the keyboard, and we found a whole colony of ants going about their business!

    Icon is self explanatory, I hope!

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Smaller buddies

      I thought everyone had moved off Ant onto Maven?

    2. A____B

      Re: Smaller buddies

      It wasn't Terry Pratchett by any chance -- see his comments on the importance of ants to the working of HEX, the computer, and it's signage "Anthill Inside" :-)

      1. WonkoTheSane

        Re: Smaller buddies

        HEX would have just thrown an "OUT OF CHEESE!" error.

      2. Flightmode

        Re: Smaller buddies

        Maurice... rodents... it all checks out!

        GNU Terry Pratchett

        Edit: Ninja'ed.

      3. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

        Re: Smaller buddies

        Divide by cucumber error. Install new universe and reboot.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smaller buddies

      I came across something similar once in an office shared by some junior doctors twice - 2 successive summers!

      The bugs coming out of the keyboards were a lot smaller than ants though. Without more powerful glasses than mine, they were just a column of tiny (0.1mm or so) dots moving out of the keyboard.

      As it was a hospital, I was able to ask for the nice yellow biohazard bags and, wearing "rubber" gloves, I put all the keyboards and mice in there. Gloves in as well, tied up the bags and handed them to the sister saying that she might want to have them incinerated.

      After 2 such events, it stopped being a junior doctor's office and I think this sort of thing was added to their training!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Smaller buddies

        It might have been an occupational hazard of being a junior doctor. It was of some other professions. De-fleaing oneself was an essential skill in forensic science.

      2. A Nother Handle

        Re: Smaller buddies

        Was the exterior of the building being cleaned over those summers? I had a similar microbug invasion when our office building was being cleaned. The bugs move on and as my desk was by the window...

    4. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: Smaller buddies

      I think I would have pulled the full asshole routine. Of course, exchange keyboard. But zip-lock the ant-board, going to his superior to make the offender pay for the replacement keyboard. This is not how you treat company equipment...

    5. innominatus

      Thanks for the PTSD!

      I worked in a team with someone who peeled a nice big juicy orange at the desk every lunchtime. I had to use that workstation one day and could barely read the screen, while typing was made nigh on impossible as my fingers were sticking to the keys.

    6. Stevie

      Re: Smaller buddies

      I had a “colleague” who was a total slob. I worked in a different room, but was prompted by the filth and squalor to ask why didn’t anyone complain about his filthy, food-and-mouse-turd-strewn desk.

      “That guy’s a genius.”

      When he finally retired they started pulling out the piles of greenbar stacked under his now-cleaned desk and found one stack had embedded in it a nest of mummified dead mice.

      Personally, I don’t tolerate people in close proximity who are so smart they pose a health hazard.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Smaller buddies

        From my experience, which I have NOW: That type is perfect at making others believe they are a genius. But once you get closer to them (er, not physically of course) you notice that issue.

    7. This post has been deleted by its author

    8. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Smaller buddies

      Ants don't need food to make a nuisance of themselves

      I came home one day to find them setting up shop in an electric kettle. It got my attention because they were carrying in younglings past the handle switch as I went to turn it on. In 12 hours they'd managed to setup a sizeable colony and render the electrics unsafe so I let them keep it (outside)

    9. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Smaller buddies

      your computer has bugs in it. Still an ENTIRE ANT COLONY is pretty impressive!

      Similar kind of "bug" story,. working on systems that involve coin counters, one of the newer ones kept malfunctioning. Engineering setups and whatnot are all out in the warehouse area with the tools and mechanical things so occasionally insects fly in through a loading dock. One day boss is checking out coin counter operations and it keeps failing. After opening it up, he found an insect inside that was apparently causing the problems. It probably landed on the loading hopper and fell in and could not get out.

      (silly insects)

  3. Anonymous Custard

    A learning experience?

    So the rodents were more educated than the operators, and it made Maurice look amazing?

    GNU Terry Pratchett, and GNU Queen Elizabeth II

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
      Thumb Up

      Re: A learning experience?

      You beat me to it!

  4. EVP

    Argus 1000?

    Was Argus 500 possibly preceded by Argus 1000? Just wondering.

    1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: Argus 1000?

      Followed by an 500+, 600, 1200, 2000, 3000, 4000 and 4000t before Ferranti finally collapsed?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Argus 1000?

        Why, were they only 12 bit ?

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No explosives in the tech support room

    I managed a tech support team our office was beside the DC in a secure area. I thought I had a team of sensible admins until one of them decided it was perfectly OK to bring in a bag of fireworks into the office one lunchtime as he couldn't be bothered walking home with them (400 meters from the office) after buying them. I had to send him home with the fireworks but he refused to go until I had formally introduced a no fireworks in the office rule.

    A couple of weeks later I idly asked what was in the big box another team member had brought in. "Rocket Motors" he explained. When I asked why they were in the office he explained that they were not 'terribly stable' and he was worried about his car being damaged if they ignited in the summer heat, Cue a shouting match with a 40 year old who held 2 PHD's on why I was not willing to host his rocket motors in our non air conditioned office next to several millions of pounds worth of hardware and the core network supporting several thousand users. He lived a 30 minute drive away so was sent home for the day, bitterly complaining that 'there was no rule against it this morning'

    We then had to have a formal rule that explosives were not allowed in the tech support suite.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: No explosives in the tech support room

      Not IT but back in my much younger days I did a bit of potholing. One of the experienced cavers was also a licensed explosives technician as they occasionally cleared rockfalls in caves.

      He recounted the occasion when there was a fire alarm at the school where he worked so they all evacuated out to the car park - right next to his car which happened to have a few sticks of gelignite (or similar) in the boot ready for the evening's expedition! He kept quiet.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: No explosives in the tech support room

        Bringing explosives to the school where you work sounds... like teaching chemistry, I suppose. You strictly have to do that, to be allowed to blow up a school.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: No explosives in the tech support room

          Student: Hey professor, what you get when you mix this Toluene with this Nitric acid?

          Professor: You get an 'F'.

    2. Little Mouse Silver badge

      Re: No explosives in the tech support room

      "We then had to have a formal rule that explosives were not allowed"

      I'm not sure we've got that one covered where I work - Now I'm going to have check.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No explosives in the tech support room

        It is where I work...

        anonymouse for good reason

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: No explosives in the tech support room

      Goes a long way to demonstrate that having diplomas does not equal having intelligence.

      Also demonstrates why US goods are sold with their weight in warnings about what you shouldn't do with them.

      1. Not Yb Bronze badge

        Re: No explosives in the tech support room

        My personal favorite "overly warned item" is the beach ball. "Warning: Use only under competent supervision" in at least 10 different languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Russian, English....

        Sure, it might float to any of those countries, etc. etc.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: No explosives in the tech support room

        having diplomas does not equal having intelligence

        Most of us understand that all too well. But you can NEVER successfully explain that to an "academic"...

    4. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: No explosives in the tech support room

      Not explosives but one local firm had to introduce a rule saying "no juggling lit fire sticks in the corridors" after various people walked out of their offices and got hit.

      1. that one in the corner Silver badge

        Re: No explosives in the tech support room

        Did you mean to end with "and got lit"?

        After all, as the notice was that specific, presumably everyone was actually quite happy with just being hit, so long as the fire stick wasn't actually alight.

    5. jcoc

      Re: No explosives in the tech support room

      Back in the day worked in a radiation protection department of a large hospital as a physicist. There were all sorts of rules about how waste should be stored, brought into our department and disposed of (as you can imagine).

      One department consisting of a load of chemistry and biology post docs called down one day. The had 5 drums of liquid radiation waste

      (there is a type of detection you can do called scintillation, you dissolve your sample in a powerful organic solvent and other things, and then you can count the beta particle reactions. The little vials this creates are radioactive, chemically hazardous, and potentially biologically hazardous).

      The drums were really thick plastic, and could only be used for (x months - can't remember) to be safe from being dissolved by the solvent.

      We told them to bring them down and we'd dispose.

      Cue hell!

      They weren't storing this stuff in drums, but in red biowaste bags. Not only that, but these bags were stuffed to the top (even though they are never meant to be more than half full to allow for proper closure). They were very heavy, so they DRAGGED these bags through the damn hospital to my department where they sat in a heap leaking fluid.

      I was the junior physicist. I basically had a jaw drop moment as I'm trying to take in what I'm seeing. As it dawns on me that they've just contaminated many meters of corridors, not to mention contaminating a lab room with a number of experiments running.

      At which point big boss man comes in - and I've never seen him give people such a hard time. How was it possible so many chemistry PhDs were unaware of the effect of toluene on thin plastic. How were they unaware of how to deal with such material. And what in the name of holy fuck were they doing dragging a wide swathe of hazardous material through our hospital.

      I was told to clean it up, and he went back with them to have "words" with their supervisor.

      I then spent the next x hours firstly getting the vials into drums (not easy as the bags had basically melted, so I had to gather hundreds of very slippery vials by hand) and then going through their travel route with swabs and decon 90 cleaning up the radioactive pathway.

      A department of very clever people - who were also deeply, deeply dumb. Their reasoning - they though they were saving the cost of the black drums by just using the plastic bags!!!

      1. A Nother Handle

        Re: No explosives in the tech support room

        I have great idea to save the cist of the chemistry department...

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: No explosives in the tech support room

        Why on earth weren't they made to clean up the catastrophe that they caused?

        1. mneimeyer

          Re: No explosives in the tech support room

          Would *you* trust them to actually clean it up right?

  6. Richard Gray 1


    I went to a remote site in Jo'burg. you know the one with just a rack for patching flat networking and possibly a server in the rack.

    I found that the cleaner thought that the bottom of the rack was ideal for storing the mop and bucket in.

    I was there to relocate the "server room" and the local contractor thought it was better to have the servers and stuff at the top and the patch panels at the bottom not thinking about things like .. stability ...

  7. HPCJohn

    Wine cellar

    When I worked in post-production in Soho, one of the engineers was a renowned gourmand. He kept wine in the server room.

    Nice stable temperature.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Wine cellar

      Was this in the days when bubble memory was a promising technology?

    2. TheFifth

      Re: Wine cellar

      That brings back some memories. I did a couple of onlines at Framestore back at the end of the 90s (not sure they were officially in 'Soho' but they were / are right next door). It was great being the client there, you were treated like a king! Big, comfy sofas with beer and food on tap.

      Felt sorry for the runners though who had to attend to your ever whim, especially as I was only recently graduated myself and had lucked into an offline editing job in the South West. I didn't feel I'd earned the right to order anyone around!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wine cellar

      Ah, so you were a Linux shop, but still needed to run some Windows software. Got it!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice temperature for beer

    I worked with a guy who was suddenly retired due to the onset of ill health. When I was clearing out his stuff from the computer room I found a stash of cans of bitter inside an old 19" cabinet. Explains why we'd see very little of him between morning and evening.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Nice temperature for beer

      "Explains why we'd see very little of him between morning and evening."

      And maybe the sudden retirement and ill-health.

  9. NXM Silver badge

    Coffee warmer

    While I was working in Denmark, one of the other engineers was doing some software on a Nixdorf machine - can't remember what type, but it was a 2' high square cabinet on castors. Inside the service door there was a shelf which he found perfect for keeping his coffee warm.

    The same guy had a Citroen with air suspension. He'd plumbed a pressurised air line into the caburettor, which made it go a damn sight faster.

  10. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    When I worked for Network Southeast

    As a young lad, I worked for BR years ago, in one of their Network Southeast offices.

    I had a crap job, with nice people in a then state of the art office. We even had our own dedicated PCs and a network (this was the late 80s, this was nowhere near as commonplace as it is now).

    My office was near a rather large freight lift. One day, I got in to find I could hear loud banging noises coming from the lift. I went and had a look..

    That day, they were installing a new purpose built server room elsewhere in the building, and were moving the servers from the rather makeshift server room on our floor.

    Rather than doing the right thing and carrying them carefully, the so called specialist computer moving team were throwing them in the lift.

    I never found out how many survived, as my job was merely admin, and nothing to do with the provision of the computers, so I'd have politely got told to fuck off if I'd asked..

    1. Wally Dug

      Re: When I worked for Network Southeast

      Many years ago, the "specialist computer moving team" drove from Aberdeen to Glasgow in under two hours during the rush hour. Of the four computers being moved, three of them had disk failures.

      1. Andy A

        Re: When I worked for Network Southeast

        A couple of decades ago two of us moved our site's main rack across the yard to the new location (also railway related).

        Drives removed from servers and labelled. Servers removed and shifted in my car. Drives moved later.

        Rack entrusted to our favourite forklift driver.

        All reassembled and powered up once I had sorted out the mains power (the site sparks had ignored instructions about what outlets were needed).

        One drive failed to spin up, but would probably have failed the power outage anyway. RAID rebuilt and all working inside our downtime window.

        All off to pub ===>

    2. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: When I worked for Network Southeast

      Meanwhile, in the Old South West:

      Years ago, whilst walking slowly up Nine Tree Hill in Bristol (slowly 'cos it is steep, you see) I happened to pass a lorry painted in the livery of a major computer manufacturer (Digital IIRC). At that moment, there was a rumbling noise, as of a pedestal-sized computer rolling downhill inside the lorry, then an almighty crash as the tailgate stood its ground.

      No-one appeared to check on the lorry, at least in the time I stood there, gathering my startled wits before continuing to trudge upwards, looking back every so often until out of sight.

      Don't really know what was in there, but have often hoped to hear of someone in Bristol who received a unit with strange dents but which was pleasantly easy to move around on its castors.

    3. Snapper

      Re: When I worked for Network Southeast

      Specialist Apple Dealership I worked for in the 80's had their offices on the 2nd Floor overlooking the car park and Delivery Bay.

      Cue a pair of delivery drivers throwing 12 boxes of 20-Inch CRT displays from the back of a large lorry onto the concrete 5 feet below.

  11. Kubla Cant

    "big old Winchester-style disk machines, the ones that looked like spin dryers and took platter disk packs, one active and one backup."

    If it has disk packs, it's not a Winchester. I believe Winchester was the name for the first disks that ran in sealed containers.

    1. keith_w

      Winchester drives have the platters and heads in 1 removable unit.

      "The IBM 3340 Direct Access Storage Facility, code-named Winchester, was introduced in March 1973 for use with IBM System/370.[40] Three models were announced, the 3340-A2 with two drives and a controller, the models B2 (two drives) and B1 (one drive). B-units can connect to the model A2 to a maximum of eight drives.

      It uses removable data modules that included the head and arm assembly; an access door of the data module opens or closes during a mechanical load/unload process to connect the data module to the drive; unlike previous disk packs and cartridges there is no cover to remove during the insertion process. "

      1. that one in the corner Silver badge

        Certainly true for the original use of the name, but for better or worse the name was also attached to sealed unit drives that used the swing-arm mechanism that was introduced in the (later models of?) "real" Winchester units and licensed to other manufacturers.

        At least until practically no-one was using (or had even seen) an old removable disc hard drive and everyone referred to the now-common sealed units as just a "hard-drive".

        Although it seems that some places do still refer to hdds as Winchesters, if Wikipedia is to be believed:

        1. Not Yb Bronze badge

          "Founded in 1981, Winchester Systems introduced its first 5 MB disk system for Intel development system users." I don't think they make their own disks any more though.

          This would be why HDDs were commonly known as Winchester disks in the US.

          1. VicMortimer
            Thumb Down

            Somebody didn't read the Wiki article.

            The first drive that was called the Winchester was the IBM 3340, known as Winchester because it was originally going to have 2 30 megabyte modules. The name was a reference to the Winchester .30-.30 rifle. That was in 1973, well before the company named Winchester Systems.

      2. Andy A

        Ah yes. The "storage modules" looked like flying saucers, so were obviously advanced stuff, even to non-techies.

  12. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

    Spiv's stock room

    A fault in the air conditioning led to the pulling of all the false floor panels in the computer where I worked.

    It was then that we discovered one of the operators was running a side-line, knocking out dodgy VHS players.

    Guess where he kept his stock...

  13. aerogems Silver badge

    While this doesn't relate to a datacenter... Once while working as a repair tech for PCs, a unit came in from someone who was obviously a heavy smoker. You could smell the unit from several paces. Upon opening it, the entire inside, and that's not hyperbole BTW it's a literal statement, was coated in this sort of yellow-brown mucus. Beyond the obvious "Well there's your problem" it's amazing the thing worked at all. It was quickly dubbed a biohazard and I was given permission to not work on it and just send it back.

    The picture of the key in the icon gives a reasonably accurate representation of what things looked like inside this unit, though it's still too clean. I don't even want to know what the owner's lungs looked like. Probably enough to make even a doctor gag.

  14. spold Silver badge

    An IBM Customer Engineer I once knew recounted how he had to go to some unnamed African country to do a mainframe upgrade, this involved popping some tiles on the raised floor. At which point they discovered an enormous blue crab (definitely at the mega-bite end of the scale rather than a nibl) had set up home there. There was much commotion among the IT Operators - not so much because of the surprising find but because the crab was apparently delicious and they were "debating" who got to take it home and cook it.

  15. itzumee

    Dining in the datacentre?

    Reminds me of my days as a service engineer, when London Underground rolled out their fancy new computerised ticket machines and entry gates back in the late 1980s and early 90s.

    Each underground station had at least one DEC PDP-11 minicomputer which was responsible for talking to the local ticket machines and gates and gathering data from all of those devices, which would then be sent to the data centre (comprising DEC VAX 11/785s) in Baker Street via a proprietary network specially developed by the supplier (Westinghouse Cubic at the time). Each of these PDP-11s were located in a purpose-built station computer room which was sealed and air-con and only service engineers had a key for the SC room, which on hot days was used by service engineers to cool off and have lunch or even the odd spliff. As far as I recall, there weren't any rodent ingress incidents and miraculously, no spillage of drinks on the PDP-11 cabinet used as a drinks table, though I suspect that was due more to luck than the service engineers being careful.

  16. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I may have mentioned this before. Our resident electronics engineer looked after silent alarms for the police - prerecorded messages broadcast on a police wavelength. Most area were on the new UHF systems but there was at leas one on the old VHF and the TX's for that were valve based. He showed me one that had just been returned with a mummified mouse curled up under a valve base.

    1. Oldgroaner

      Moved into a flat, electric cooker dead. Opened connection box, mummified fried mouse connecting line and neutral.

  17. Martin

    Careful who you're talking to...

    In the days of batch runs, in my first job, a friend of mine told me about an operator on the evening shift in the machine room who was in the habit of taking his evening meal and a couple of beers in there.

    Someone came up to him and said "What do you think you're doing eating in here?"

    He responded "And who the fuck are you?"

    To which the answer came back "I'm the fucking divisional manager. Who the fuck are you?"

  18. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    When I worked in Hong Kong, we had one site I visited several times to replace equipment. They didn't have any air conditioning, that's for sissies. They thought it perfectly fine to have to keep buying replacement computer kit instead of one air conditioner.

    1. ROC

      Reminds me of my boss at a small Virginia college at the time where I was the SysProg for a small IBM 4341. We had set up a student computer lab with about 30 Telex green screen CRT terminals in a "room" built in the old gym with its own large window air conditioner since our weather tended to be hot and humid more often than not, and that old gym still smelled of sweaty athletes.

      As it was the middle of a typical steamy summer when we set this up, opening the door to the lab always let in a surge of that humidity.

      The boss insisted on setting the AC to as cold as it would go which made it downright too cold for comfort after being in there about 30 seconds, so when we finally turned on all the CRT's for an initial checkout, and opened the door to walk in for the testing, the units closest to the door promptly sparked and shut off since the humidity immediately condensed inside on any chilled plastic parts, and then dripped all over the circuits.

      The Telex tech who came out to replace them made it clear to my boss that max coldness in the lab was not advisable...

  19. Oliver Knill

    Deep Thought

    "The life forms that Humans refer to as Mice (singular: Mouse) are, unbeknownst to mankind, the most intelligent species on Earth, and

    not actually native to the planet. They are in fact hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional creatures whose rodent aspect represents merely a

    three-dimensional projection of their actual form. Billions of years ago, they have been responsible for creating the supercomputer known as Deep Thought, and also for hiring the Magratheans to build the planet that would become known as Earth - actually an even more impressive and massive supercomputer designed by Deep Thought."

  20. JeepBoy

    Ah Memories

    I worked on Ferranti Argus years ago too.

    My abiding memory is of my team leader flicking switches from memory to enter the program that allowed the computer to boot from disk instead of paper tape.

    I also witnessed my first head crash. Because of the size of the Winchesters, it was a memorable event. The room was filled with the sound of a buzzsaw and the same team lead leapt up like a startled rabbit and hit the big red button. Too late of course, and we mounted the disk platter, with the silver ring inscribed in the middle, on the wall... alongside the others. It wasn't a rare event I learned!

    Being very junior, my task was to rewind all the paper tapes. One day, I looked down to discover that I'd carelessly rested my finger on the edge of the paper tape and several yards of tape were bright red instead of pale green. My boss wasn't greatly sympathetic when I went to tell him with blood dripping from my finger. He ignored the blood, and complained that I'd ruined that tape and it would have to be re-generated.

  21. SusiW

    Specialist Movers...

    Again not IT-related, but it just shows that 'specialists' are not always what they are supposed to be.

    Back in the late '80s I was working for the MOD. Our branch engineering shop had recently had several new Colchester Student 1800 lathes installed. Two weeks after they were wired in, we got orders to up sticks and move our department to another building. We were located in an old blast area, and it seems the mice were using the cable blast-gullies to get into the computing suites and chomping on the also-new mainframes. Ergo everything had to be ripped-out, de-infested, and moved.

    Eventually the time came to move our precious new lathes.

    Along came the muppets from our on-site "SPECIALIST" crane and forklift department - known as "The Heavy Gang." (Was never really sure if it was due to their equipment lifting capabilities or the size of the huge bellies)

    Anyhoo, if you don't know, this version of the Colchester lathes has no central panel under the lathe bed.

    Enter our forklift hero, who then carefully slides the two forklift forks under the lathe bed and lifts it into the air. Big-Smile-No-problem...

    He then reverses and the incredibly top-heavy (and unsecured!!!) lathe does a perfectly executed somersault off the forks and onto the concrete floor - smashing the speed selectors, switchgear, carriage and cross-slide.

    It was then a HUGE engineering site so it's not like they'd never moved a lathe before! To make matters worse, as the Heavy Gang was also an MOD department, the replacement parts and engineer fees cost **us** almost as much as the bloody lathe did in the first place!!

    Moral: "Specialist Movers" are often just idiots who don't care about your gear as much as you do. If you can, and it's safe to do so, it's often better to DIY. (We dismantled and moved the mainframes ourselves!!)

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