back to article Douglas Adams was right: Telephone sanitizers are terrible human beings

Welcome once again to On Call, in which The Register connects readers with your peers to share stories of shocking support SNAFUs. This week, meet a chap we’ll Regomize as "Walt" – because that's the Regonym we used on the previous occasion he submitted a story. This time Walt told us of an experience in the mid-1980s when he …

  1. Kjm35

    I had pretty much the same when dealing with a BT engineer. Disconnected our Kilostream lines as there was no dial tone!

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Your BT engineer checked for dial tone??? Around here they just lop it off regardless.

      Notes say that pair x not in use, but some previous contractor had wired something wrongly or not updated notes or whatever.

      1. Andy A

        At one place I worked some manglement type decided to "tidy up" the phone lines they were paying for.

        A couple of lines had no outgoing calls, so the accounts were chopped.

        Come the end of the month and we got calls from the official regulator. Why could they not access the special monitoring kit? It was the first we had heard about it.

        What's more, the line needed to be able to dial out with an alarm condition during a power outage, so could not be routed through the PBX.

        Manglement had to try and pacify the Regulator while they waited for the line to be re-provisioned.

      2. Andy A

        My mum's neighbour had trouble with his ADSL connection. He works for the tax office so can't be arsed to go in to the office. Therefore WFH is ESSENTIAL to him.

        Cue an Openreach chap at the top of the pole across the road.

        I took a quick trip out to do some shopping and on return checked for dial tone. Zilch.

        Openreach chaps further up the road denied knowing anything about this.

        So I walked back down the hill and confiscated the Openreach ladder still leaning against the pole. Back inside and logged the fault using my mobile.

        It was fixed within the hour. The neighbour lost his ADSL again.

        1. Adrian 4

          > So I walked back down the hill and confiscated the Openreach ladder still leaning against the pole.

          Extra points if he's still up the pole

      3. Martin-73 Silver badge

        To be fair to BT, openreach guys these days don't do that.... Kelly comms on the other hand, always do it. They're cretins

        1. Nitromoors

          BT v Kelly

          No, BT staff don't make mistakes like that anymore as they don't exist. They all work for Kelly's. Who know what will happen when FTTP is the norm. You cant test that with a lineman's phone.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: BT v Kelly

            "They all work for Kelly's"

            Not quite all of them. There are Openreach tiger teams still in existence

          2. zapgadget

            Re: BT v Kelly

            Here in France we can already tell you what happens when fibre is the norm. A technician comes along to the cabinet to connect a new subscriber, sees there are no ports free and so disconnects one at random and plugs the new subscriber in.

            Rinse and repeat.

      4. Groo The Wanderer

        My favourite encounter to date was with a TV cable repair tech deciding to just "push aside" all the phone wiring in the closet to make room for his new cable. Downed internet and phones all through the building, he took off, and no apology was ever made to the customers. However, I'm sure the telephone company sent a nice legal "request" for compensation for all their tech's time repairing the mess.

        1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

          To which the cable company responded,

          - We don't service that address

          - It was like that when we arrived onsite

          - Your charge for recabling the customer cabinet is 3200 dollars for 8 hours of Helping Hands time, 400 dollars a hour

          - We don't service that address

    2. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      AT&T did the same thing to me back when I was new on U-verse (VHDSL w/out dial tone) starting in April 2008. Full outage for no reason because someone yanked the line at the cabinet. Maybe they checked for dial tone, but they certainly didn't check the customer/address list, if such a thing existed.

      Happened three or four times -- supposedly labeled after the second or third time but I know there was minimum one incident post-labeling -- until they finally figured it out.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        french telco and fiber

        In France, Orange cut the contract with its main fiber installer, sending the company in the wall, basically.

        Why ? They discovered that whenever (often) the number of fiber connection points was not enough in the block, and since this provider would only be paid if/when new customer confirms the new line is working, those bozos were doing something smart: cut a random other line and use the free point for the new customer !

    3. swm

      One day the college radio station went down. Sure enough a telephone repair man was in the basement disconnecting our wires to the transmitter. He was using an extremely old diagram and figured that the best way to proceed was to disconnect everything and then wire things up according to his outdated diagram. Physically pulling him away from the terminal block and reconnecting the stations wires fixed the problem.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Question is: Why did no-one ever issue the tech with an updated diagram? Was one ever issued to the phone company?

    4. rcxb Silver badge

      It's worse these days. Carriers are trying to cut costs by consolidating and replacing old lines with fibre. And the workers they are hiring to do this are just 3rd party contractors, so when there's a few lines out of a bundle that they can't easily reroute, they just cut them anyhow and leave it for others to fix, and deal with the customer fallout.

      Had exactly this happen a year ago on a few important phone lines at the office. Just went dead, no notice or warning. Called for service but took a few days to get technicians out, and they had to scramble to find some way to fix them.

      The contractors even had it in their work log that lines X, Y, Z were active, but they went ahead with the work regardless. Insisted on a decent amount of money off our bill, because they (the contractors they hired, who weren't adequately supervised) knowingly and intentionally severed our service and left it disabled.

  2. Haff

    Real Sanitizers

    We had a similar issue just after lockdown. Users were encouraged to clean their desk areas with anti viral products between users. In one site they used rather too much alcohol based hand gel to clean the reception telephone, it managed to dissolve components of the ear piece and internal circuitry.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Real Sanitizers

      That stuff is vicious.

      1. Ken G Silver badge

        Re: Real Sanitizers

        I never drink it unless branded alcohol is unavailable.

      2. Martin Howe

        Re: Real Sanitizers

        We use it to get rid of the outer layer of melting rubber surfaces of very old feature phones or melting rubber foot pads on 2007 era PCs :)

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Real Sanitizers

      Several jobs ago the big boss decided getting a telephone sanitizer company in might be a good idea so arranged a demo (he obviously didn't watch Hitchhikers).

      The sales droid duly arrived complete with swabs, fancy meter and cleaning kit. He proceeded to swab one of the phones all over, very thoroughly, loaded the swab into the meter and pointed out the very high reading for "contamination".

      He then cleaned the phone with their "special" processes and formulas, gave it a cursory wipe with a swab and, <sarcastic mode>wow</sarcastic mode>, the contamination reading was very low.

      For some reason he seemed very reluctant to repeat the test with comparable levels of swabbing before and after, and with us just giving the phone a quick swipe with a duster (as our regular cleaners would do).

      The result, of course, was one sales droid ejected from the building and the big boss gave up the whole idea.

      1. Killfalcon Silver badge

        Re: Real Sanitizers

        I'd long wondered what Adams had against telephone sanitisers - I guess it was a popular grift back in the day.

        1. fandom

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          Nothing at all, in fact he documented how a lack of telephone sanitasers doomed a whole planet to extinction.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Real Sanitizers

        Blimey, it never occurred to me that someone's first experience of Hitch Hiker's would be to have watched it. I'd read the book before I watched the TV series, having been too young when the radio show was broadcast. I think I must have only been aged about 6 or 7 at the time the TV show was broadcast in the UK though....

        Don't watch the film, its version of Zaphod Beeblebrox was *completely* wrong...

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          My order of experience was...TV series, books, re-run of radio series, avoid the movie like the plague

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Real Sanitizers

            Aw, now the movie isn't that bad. Just watch Zooey Deschanel and don't pay much attention to the plot. In fact just paste together all the Zooey bits and discard the rest...

          2. dak

            Re: Real Sanitizers

            For me: radio, books, LP, cassettes, 2 episodes of TV, never seen the film.

            Don't listen to the Hexagonal Phase - it's rubbish.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Real Sanitizers

              My wife has been clearing out various bookshelves around the house, along with DVDs and CDs, and I’ve noticed she’s found my set of H2GTTG cassettes (just hoping I can intercept them before they end up in the charity shop box)! The books are safely back on a bookcase but I might struggle with the tapes (as we no longer have a cassette player)…

              1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

                Re: Real Sanitizers

                Are they the bought ones, or recorded from the radio? With original music!

          3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Re: Real Sanitizers

            Radio, books, LP, TV series, and (unfortunately) the film.

            With some respect for the attempts, by Eoin Colfer and Dirk Mags, the follow up radio series' (after the Secondary Phase) were just a pastiche of the original, even the ones penned by Douglas himself.

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: Real Sanitizers

              For the radio reason.... Journey of the Sorcerer is a favourite tune of mine now

              1. Just an old bloke

                Re: Real Sanitizers

                A very un-Eagles Eagles song. Brilliant stuff.

        2. nintendoeats Silver badge

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          The miniseries is excellent, and also closely models the book + radio show + chili con carne recipe.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Real Sanitizers

            I feel old now. I remember listening to it on my bedroom radio alarm clock well after lights out. Our science teacher at boarding school, a few months later, managed to get cassette tape copies of the whole series and played them at lunch time to the pupils she thought might be interested and amused by it.

            1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

              Re: Real Sanitizers

              I feel old now. I remember listening to it on my bedroom radio alarm clock well after lights out.

              Ignore me, I'm just quietly crumbling into dust over here.

              [I was a University postdoc when it first broadcast on the radio.]

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: Real Sanitizers

                Seven and a half million years old in fact.

                And THAT'S just from waiting for it to complete booting to the Windows 11 desktop.

                1. Martin-73 Silver badge

                  Re: Real Sanitizers

                  Installing updates, please keep your computer on....

          2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Real Sanitizers

            LP's, Book(s) TV (followed by a special* repeat of Fit The Tenth on Radio 4 after the first broadcast episode of the TV series), the stage show at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth while I waited for a suitable repeat of the radio series**. 1986 Saw me buying the towel in Forbidden Planet London***.

            * Like Slartibartfast it had won an award, just not for Norway.

            ** Much to my imperial irritation.

            *** Yes off course I still have it & it's possibly in a similar state of disrepair**** to Roosta's.

            **** Yes I have washed it.

            1. that one in the corner Silver badge

              Re: Real Sanitizers

              Someone else bought the towel!

              Mine is still unused, in what is left of the original plastic bag - but at least I know where it is!

              1. David 132 Silver badge

                Re: Real Sanitizers

                You are indeed a hoopy frood.

        3. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          I was on a kibbutz, for the Summer vacation. My dad taped it off the radio for me and sent me the tapes, with a message from the family of course.

          (That's what we had to do before the interwebby thing, kiddies)

        4. Martin Gregorie

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          Apart from the radio version of the Hitch Hiker';s Guide to the Galaxy, by far the best version was the live-on-stage version in the Rainbow Theater: you knew the Vogons were bad because they jumped off the stage and beat up the audience. Too bad, though, that the interval bar no longer sold Pan-galactic Gargleblasters by the time I got to see the show.

          1. WonkoTheSane

            Re: Real Sanitizers

            I saw the Theatr Clwyd production, as mentioned here:- Link

          2. Ian Tunnacliffe

            Re: Real Sanitizers

            And the show overran so long that we had to leave or there would have been no more tube trains.

        5. WonkoTheSane

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          For me it was:-

          * TV

          * LPs of the first 2 radio series

          * Books of first 2 radio series

          * Theatr Clwyd's stage production

          * Rest of radio series

          * Rest of books as they came out

          * Film (Notable only for its cameos of Adams & several of the TV cast)

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Real Sanitizers

            I can't remember whether it was radio > books > TV, or books > TV > (recorded) radio. What I do know is that all my Douglas Adams books were destroyed whilst in storage during the most recent move, and I haven't the heart to replace them with ones that don't have the history. I am, though, working a quotation from TRATEOTU into an interview later today!

            1. David 132 Silver badge

              Re: Real Sanitizers

              > I am, though, working a quotation from TRATEOTU into an interview later today!

              Ah but which one? Please tell me it’s one of..:

              “Go Stick Your Head In A Pig”?

              “I am so hip I have difficulty seeing over my pelvis.” ?

              “Great to see you big boy, how’s the noise? You’re looking great, really very, very fat and unwell. Amazing.”

              or perhaps…

              “Good evening, I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in parts of my body?”

        6. Throgmorton Horatio III

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          There is NOTHING about telephone santitsers in either the BBC series or the movie. The person commenting has never read the books, and the Golgafrichams don't appear until the end of The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Real Sanitizers

            You mean The BBC TV Series? The radio series was a BBC series.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Real Sanitizers

              And telephone sanitisers are mentioned in episode 6 of the TV series. There's a "dead" one in the first hibernation pod that Ford and Arthur come across.

        7. TheBruce

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          Listening to the radio series on NPR in the late 70s. I swear no Thai sticks were harmed during the listening.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Real Sanitizers

            You could always, you know, fashion a pair of Thai sticks into curling tongs or something.

        8. Stevie

          Re: completely wrong

          Unlike the SFX tour de force that was the TV show’s version?

          Imagined convo:

          “How will we convince the audience the fake head is alive? It looks like a mardi-gras head!”

          “We’ll have it asleep for the entire show!”

          “Great idea! Make it so!”


          “Every time the actor moves the fake head bounces around enough to give it a concussion!”

          “Hence why it is asleep all the time … ?”

          1. that one in the corner Silver badge

            Re: completely wrong

            Hey, that head was cutting edge at the time!

            It even had a segment on "Tomorrow's World".

            Unfortunately, it couldn't stand up to the rigours of filming for, um, any time at all.

            The on-going costs of making a couple of throw away jokes ("Take your hand off me, Zaphod; and that one; and that one" - "hey, I grew it specially for you, babe") on a radio series and forgetting to plan for the whole thing to become a cult success in the days before CGI.

        9. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          Somewhere around here I have a copy of the American comic book version (which is, of course, not *quite* the same as any other version; thankfully, it long predates the movie so hasn't suffered from the weird idea of what Marvin looks like).

          The preface recalls the American artist telling Adams that this was a great idea and had he ever considered making it into a radio programme?

          BTW don't bother with the comics (unless you are a completist and feel compelled): Adams was never happy with them - especially because DC refused to allow British spellings to be used. Quite right to, Mr Adams.

          Oh, and:

          Radio, LPs, book, radio, book, TV, books, comic (meh), bit more radio (not as good but what can you do?), book, movie (why did I do that?), stage show "radio play".

        10. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          > I think I must have only been aged about 6 or 7 at the time the TV show was broadcast in the UK though....

          Ditto! I remember watching it with my dad one bright summer evening (?... memory is fuzzy at 40+ years' distance) and what gave me nightmares for weeks was, of all things, the virulent blue/green food that Ford encourages Arthur to eat when they first arrive on the Vogon ship. Brrrrr. Scarred me for ages, that did, even if it was just sausages & mash with lots of food colouring. Heaven only knows what I'd have made of the Vogons themselves if my dad had let me keep watching. Yes, I was a sensitive child.

        11. Not Yb Bronze badge

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          Many people in the US saw the HHGTTG TV show first. I think I read the books later, long enough ago I'm not sure. Then some of the radio version.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Real Sanitizers

            This Yank first heard it on Radio 4 in England in '78. I recorded it on cassette, including the xmas special (gawd/ess knows why), and still have those cassettes (again, gawd/ess knows why). My friends and I heard about it a couple days in advance when John Peel plugged it on his radio show after somehow accidentally managing to be allowed to sit in on a rehearsal.

            Over here on the left side of the pond, and a trifle later (1980?), It ran on NPR as part of their Playhouse series. (That's National Public Radio, for you Brits.) I listened to that broadcast, too, turned all my friends onto it. It became a bit of a cult hit on the Stanford and Berkeley campuses. There were actually old-fashioned "listen to the radio show" parties.

            The books (1981? '82?) and TV show ('83ish?) crossed the pond later.

        12. Jonathan Richards 1
          Thumb Up

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          I clicked on Upvote, but as I did so I saw that you had 42 upvotes already. Can't break that total, sorry.

        13. Richard Pennington 1

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          I am now retired, which means that I am old enough that he original radio series of HHGTTG was broadcast when I was a student. And I dutifully recorded it onto cassette tape (since superseded by a legitimately-purchased box-set of CDs, and expanded with the later series).

          One of my student colleagues (JM) - now a prominent astrophysicist in the USA - also recorded a set of cassette tapes, and took it along to an event where Douglas Adams (of blessed memory) was speaking at the university's SF society. Having asked Douglas Adams for his autograph, JM became the proud possessor of a set of pirate cassette tapes autographed with the legend "What about my mortgage repayments then? - Douglas Adams".

          I should also point out that both JM and I are the proud possessors of a degree in maths and another in astrophysics...

        14. xeroks

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          The new Zaphod configuration was one of DNA's contributions, He was never concerned with tweaking stuff until it was right, and hadn't been happy with Zaphod being able to pass as human on Earth unnoticed.

    3. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Real Sanitizers

      I sometimes use epoxy casting resin to make little trinkets. The Covid precautionary hand gel ( from COSTCO if it makes a difference) gets the residue off my hands, or nearby surfaces, brilliantly. The gel sort of sets the resin and the resulting gunge just peels off.

    4. Barry Rueger

      Re: Real Sanitizers

      My sister, caring for elderly mother over COVID, drowned every light switch in the house with disinfectant every day.

      I got the job of replacing them all ..

      1. Richard Pennington 1

        Re: Real Sanitizers

        With the alcohol-based sanitisers, operating the light-switch could cause a spark and ignite the switch. Fun times ...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Real Sanitizers

          Quick trick if you need to erase thermal labels for whatever reason (for example not wanting to leave your name and address visible when you throw the trash)- alcohol hand sanitizer.

          A small amount turns the label completely blank in a second.

          Handy, if like me, you lived with a hypochondriac during Covid and have more sanitizer gel than you'll need or know what to do with for several years.

    5. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: Real Sanitizers

      Had an attack of the telephone sanitizers at a place I worked longtime sinceupon. The stench when you tried to use a phone!

      Some very earthy comments were made and the trick was never repeated.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Real Sanitizers

        I never understood why telephone sanitizer, as used by the contractors, had that particular aroma.

    6. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

      Re: Real Sanitizers

      Back around the time of the incident of this article (aka mid 80's) I worked in a large office block - about 700 folks, and had our own PBX.

      One monday morning we got about 50 folks calling to say their phones were all muzzled and no-one could hear them talk. Took our building maintenance man all day to go round with new phones to fix them, and almost depleted the stores of new phones.,

      Next Monday morning, same again, dozens more complaints of fuzzy phones. Cue more replacements and urgent order for new stocks.

      And again next Monday.

      Cue heated manglement discussions about failure rates, etc, as all the handsets had been replaced when the PBX had been upgraded a couple of years earlier. Conversations started with PBX supplier as they had supplied the handsets......

      Turns out....... Cleaning contract company had been given new contract. Every Friday night, after hours, c. 8 pm or something, cleaning staff were going round with some telephone sanitizer spray, and vigourously squirting it into the mouthpiece and earpiece of each handset and giving it a good wipe, all ready for the workforce to return on Monday morning to a nice hygienically clean phone with suitably bunged up and and wet mouthpiece.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Real Sanitizers

        And being the mid 80's, I'd not be surprised if the mouthpiece was still using granulated carbon mics, which really don't like moisture. :-)

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Proof if needed

    No good turn goes unpunished.

    1. ralphh

      Re: Proof if needed

      Or unpunched.

  4. b0llchit Silver badge

    But putting the telephone techs on the B-ark might not be the best of ideas. You might miss that one last important call telling you to "hide" because the phone was out...

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      According to THHGTTG...

      The other two thirds of Golgafrincham society lived full, rich and happy lives until they were all suddenly killed off by a raging disease contracted from a dirty telephone.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge

        Re: According to THHGTTG...

        Like I said,... not to be put on the B-ark if you want to survive...

        1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Re: According to THHGTTG...

          The B-ark travellers outlived the society that sent them. In the book's universe they are our ancestors and Galgofrincham is uninhabited.

          1. MOH

            Re: According to THHGTTG...

            I think the point is that if the telephone sanitizers weren't on the B ark the new society wouldn't have died out

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: According to THHGTTG...

            In the book's universe they are our ancestors and Galgofrincham is uninhabited.

            Looking at the current state of the majority of humanity, I would not be remotely surprised if that is true of the real universe too...

            1. cmdrklarg

              Re: According to THHGTTG...

              “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

              There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” - Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

  5. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Not entirely the fault of the phone tech. If you're going to be lazy and bodge terminal data links onto phone circuits in the phone wiring closet, then putting up a clear notice right at the start is the minimal sensible step.

    The same thing could have happened in the 2000s if someone had decided to run 10baseT ethernet over 'convenient' phone wiring.

    1. Danny 14

      dont know what you mean, im running a 100mb connection at home using old telephone extensio wiring that just happened to go to the shed. 100mb is perfectly fine for a 40mb internet access point....

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        CAT3 works fine for [short runs of] GigE

        I'd post a pic if I could.

        Built my home in 1993, and had 2 runs of CAT3 put in, from the basement to each room. I got the CAT3 for free, we had used reels for testing something. Terminated on 66 blocks, two for phone, two for data (they're wired identically, phone is the top jack, data is the bottom.) Both are RJ-45.

        Fast forward to the current era -- still in use, but instead of 10BASE-T, they're quite happy carrying GigE. During COVID, I built myself a basement workroom and wired it with the same CAT3 and some CAT5 I had picked up. Since they're very short runs, GigE is no problem. These terminate on an RJ patch panel I pulled out of the recycle at work, when they were updating their wiring closet.

        The home switch is an HP ProCurve 3500yl-48G...again, free from work when they updated the wiring closet.

        When 80x24 terminals were the rage, using 66 blocks and CAT3 was the standard. That's where my punchdown blocks came from -- work, when they ripped out all the terminal wiring and installed the brand new yellow coax. If you want to keep the phone guys out of your data wiring, there were clear plastic overlays you could slide over the 66 blocks:

      2. that one in the corner Silver badge

        The point is, not whether the electrons can dance suitably down those wires, but whether you labelled the non-standard usage to avoid surprising the next person along.

      3. tinman

        I don't think the tech is the issue, and lazy is a bit harsh, but not labelling the repurposed lines was setting things up to fail. Though hindsight is 20/20 vision I suppose

    2. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

      I had the opposite experience; a telephone line extension patched into the master socket using CAT-6e cable (well, at least SOME of the pairs) which worked fine for a number of years.

      The ADSL running over it (Talk Talk) started to get flaky (due to a problem with the street cabinet), and Talk Talk wouldn't get someone to investigate that until they'd sent an "engineer" to check for faults in the property (with a £50 charge to me if they found something wrong). I demonstrated that the modem wasn't connecting properly, and offered to plug it directly into the master socket to demonstrate that the extension was not at fault, but that the fault was outside the property. The "engineer" proceeded to unscrew the face plate and pull out the neatly spliced extension despite my request to not do so.

      The fault was then proven to be outside the property, and I was left with having to work out which colours I'd spliced in before and re-splice them, AND the fuckers tried to charge me the £50, which it took me 20 minutes to argue over with their call-centre-operator in India, before they finally agreed it was their fault, and refunded me the charge.

      Just one of MANY reasons I'd never again touch that company with a barge pole. Other reasons include a shitty connection speed, massive data breaches which they didn't bother to tell anyone about, and Dido Harding.

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        That's pretty standard though, if you have anything outside of "plug in our equipment here" you have to prove it's not your fault if something is broken.

        Like my "home emergency" insurance that refused to pay out after my oil water-boiler failed. Their engineer was going to take a week to arrive (some "emergency" cover), therefore I spoke to the manufacturer, obtained a part and easily fitted it. But since I had touched it, all bets were off.

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Personally, I haven't heard of "home emergency" insurance EVER paying out in any circumstance, short of involving lawyers.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            I had to get the ombudsman involved.

            Then they suddenly fixed it.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      “ The same thing could have happened in the 2000s1980s if someone had decided to run 10baseT ethernet over 'convenient' phone wiring.”


      Ethernet over pre-existing RJ-45 circuits as used throughout the US was a primary motivation for 10Base-T.

      Whilst IEEE 802.3 10Base-T wasn’t ratified until 1990, there were implementations of Ethernet over (telco) twisted pair such as Starlan which predate this…

      Obviously, as data rates increased Cat3 didn’t cut it…

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As noted by a previous poster, whether it works or not is irrelevant. The issue is that by using standard phone wiring to carry a data link, without labelling the non-standard use, you're creating a bear trap. It's not the fault of the later tech for falling in.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Trouble is, it wasn’t non-standard use in the 80’s.

          Structured cable from when I encountered it in the early 80s covered use of the same cable infrastructure for both data and telephone.

          The problem was probably an old school telco engineer who hadn’t kept up with the changing uses of twisted pair cabling and who didn’t refer to the documentation…

  6. HMcG

    Repurposing telephone cables without clearly labelling what you have done and why. Then blaming the telephone engineer for your own fuck-ip. Great work, Walt.

    If it’s not labelled, you haven’t finished the job yet.

    1. Bebu Silver badge

      Agree but...

      《If it’s not labelled, you haven’t finished the job yet.》

      l have noticed the worst offenders are wilfully illiterate or just plain illegitimate.

      A notice just seems to be a challenge.

      A log splitter with a "DANGER: Do not place head in mechanism" warning is almost a guarantee of a decapitation before the paint dries.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: Agree but...

        Something has to thin the herd to keep the mouthbreathers from procreating.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Agree but...

          "the mouthbreathers"

          I've never really understood that as an insult. What does it mean and why is it an insult since it seems to include many people who for all sort of reason might breath through their mouth, which of course is also one of it's primary functions, otherwise there'd be no need a connection to the windpipe.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Agree but...

            I'm currently getting over COVID and have been breathing through my mouth extensively over the past few days (plugged nose). Hasn't had any negative impact on my shell scripting skills, for instance. I, too, really wonder why "mouthbreather" is supposed to be an insult.

            Better than repeatedly exhaling from an orifice that's rather lower...

          2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Agree but...

            It's not just me, then! I've never been able to work out the putative link between the term and the meaning ascribed.

      2. David Robinson 1

        Re: Agree but...

        "Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry." -- Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

        GNU Terry Pratchett

        1. gryphon

          Re: Agree but...

          Paging Father Dougal, paging Father Dougal

        2. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

          Re: Agree but...

          Or, if you had built a device whose chance of incinerating the planet was only almost zero ... Would you test the device?

          The answer, of course, was yes.

      3. Martin J Hooper

        Re: Agree but...

        That last line reminds me of this quote...

        “Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.”

        ― Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Agree but...

          Great minds quote alike :-)

          Both upvoted - you can't be too Terry.

          GNU Pterry

          GNU DNA

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Agree but...

            >Great minds quote alike :-)

            I was just about to say that.........

        2. fandom

          Re: Agree but...

          Yeah, I never could take the ending of "The Stars my destination" seriously becouse of this.

      4. My-Handle Silver badge

        Re: Agree but...

        We once had something similar. A network repeater was placed in a boiler room in the corner of one building, connecting it to another building. It was plugged in to a socket with a label saying "DO NOT TURN OFF".

        Boiler repair guy came in and unplugged it so he'd have somewhere to charge his screw driver. Half the site suddenly dropped off the network. The IT director shot out of his office and ripped the bodger a new one.

        I'm not sure whether the guy thought "I didn't turn it off, so that's OK. I just changed plugs", or whether he didn't think at all.

        1. HMcG

          Re: Agree but...

          Honestly, that's as much the fault of whoever installed the router as the boiler engineer. If it's critical to the companies function, it should have had a dedicated connection or socket installed, not just lazily commandeering the only mains socket and expecting everything to be fine.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Agree but...

            Quite right.

            Should have changed it to a specialist plug and socket, walled that socket off, got in some ravening guard dogs, possibly some barbed wire and searchlights. Definitely should have had the boilerman supervised by at least one network tech and handcuffed to a security officer who will have to agree to his every hand motion.

            All definitely cost-effective against the risk.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Agree but...

              "Should have changed it to a specialist plug and socket"

              You mean the sort that look like ordinary plugs & sockets until you unplug them & find the pins are at different angles?

              1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

                Re: Agree but...

                Except that if your device uses a wall-wart, it won't fit a non-standard socket anyway.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Agree but...

                You mean the sort that look like ordinary plugs & sockets until you unplug them & find the pins are at different angles?

                Walsall guage. Beloved of the BBC for many years and great for playing a trick on friends.

            2. Malcolm Weir

              Re: Agree but...

              You forgot the sign saying "Beware of the Leopard!", which is obligatory under the circumstances.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Agree but...

                I think that's reserved for disused toilets, not still-in-use boiler rooms.

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Agree but...

            Some sympathy for the workman here. He has to do his job. That's his imperative. He needs a socket. The location has a socket. He needs to use that socket. He has no idea how important that socket might be to you, but maybe it's important to him. So he used that socket.

            You've appropriated the socket because that was your imperative. But it hasn't given him an alternative.

            Was there a second socket for general use installed? Apparently not.

            Was there a reason to think a socket might be needed for general use? Well there was one already, so apparently it's a yes.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Agree but...

              "Some sympathy for the workman here. He has to do his job. That's his imperative."

              No. He's on customer's premises. Their imperative comes first. If he has been so careless as to roll up without a fully charged screwdriver and the only socket available says "Do not switch off" then he should ask where he can plug in. He had no idea what damage he might cause by unplugging it.

              1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

                You'll never stop them

                We had a breaker board for one unit of t'factory

                We also had some techs in doing electrical work

                Then the factory unit goes down..... traced back to the techs who turned off the feed to the breakers.

                When questioned "Did you not see the sign saying "Do not turn off without informing staff/manglement first"?"

                They said no because they took off the cover with the sign on before pulling the plug..............

              2. tiggity Silver badge

                Re: Agree but...

                And electric screwdriver use is not mandatory - there's such a thing as a manual screwdriver (really don't understand the mania for electric screwdriver use (unless you have some muscle or other health problems that prevent manual screwdriver use ), I personally prefer the fine control you get with a "manual" screwdriver - e.g. far less likely to shear a "stubborn" screw head than with an electric, similarly for over tightening etc.)

            2. gotes

              Re: Agree but...

              If he couldn't find a free socket, he should have asked someone. Maybe he was advised to just go ahead and unplug anything.

            3. David Nash Silver badge

              Re: Agree but...

              and every socket in the world is yours for the taking? what kind of stupid entitled attitude is that?

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: Agree but...

                I wrote some ...

                Outside of the world of the techie an electrical socket is just that. And in a boiler room too. Only some sympathy though, because it's bloody arrogant to pull out a plug without finding out what's at the other end. Just you wouldn't expect a significant part of the business to be it.

                1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: Agree but...

                  In anybody's world a socket with something lugged into it is just that - a socket in use. When you're on somebody else's premises unless you know that it's OK to unplug it you should assume it isn't. He had a flat battery in his screwdriver - his fault, of course - so why not use an ordinary one? Unless that was his only screwdriver he didn't have to plug it in. He certainly didn't have to plug it in without asking.

                2. My-Handle Silver badge

                  Re: Agree but...

                  "Outside of the world of the techie an electrical socket is just that."

                  Except this one was labelled with a warning not to turn it off.

            4. My-Handle Silver badge

              Re: Agree but...

              It was one of four sockets on that wall. Two were even empty, but probably not so conveniently placed.

              On the opposite side of the space there was also an office, with plug sockets aplenty.

          3. SCP

            Re: Agree but...

            Did you not see the memo from Finance - do you not realize how much a ha'p'orth of tar costs.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Re: Agree but...

              Five pence, with margin

              1. SCP

                Re: Agree but...

                50p if you want it MIL-spec - Tar, Black, Caulking for the use of.

          4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Agree but...

            "it should have had a dedicated connection or socket installed,"

            I'm sure that was the plan, but you know, a standard mains plug will do as a temporary fix :-)

    2. DougMac

      There are little red caps you are supposed to use on 66 blocks for data lines, especially things like 56k DDS and T1 lines. To prevent this very thing.

      Of course most techs (especially any of the crews in the last 25 years) didn't know what the red caps signified, and once the data line is dead, it just sits there taking up room anyway.

      I've been in closets that have many many dozens of T1 NIU cabinets without a single lit line in them. Because who gets a T1 any more (for voice or data).

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      >” If it’s not labelled, you haven’t finished the job yet.”

      The structured cabling convention is to label the circuit with a “number” which a competent engineer will look up to find out the usage. Ie. The cable number is a cross reference to documentation, which should be maintained…

      In older UK premises, it is easy to tell the difference between the Cat3 cable generally used for telephony and alarms and the Cat5/Cat6 which gets used for various data comms (ie. Not exclusive to Ethernet).

      Aside when adding a new Cat6 infrastructure, I deliberately used non-grey Cat6, so it would be easy to identify when the (grey) Cat5, (grey) Cat3 and (grey) RS-232 was removed, obviously the (grey) power cables were to remain….

  7. jake Silver badge

    Since when ...

    ... does any telephone tech do this kind of work of his own accord, without an official work order?

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      Re: Since when ...

      Maybe they were new, and hadn't had the initiative beaten out of them yet.

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Since when ...

      Where's your 27b/6?

  8. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    An old technician friend of mine had just started his job. He noticed that some of the patch rooms (the patch panels are generally in their own dedicated rooms) had got messy. So, being the enthusiastic newbie he was, he pointed this out to his boss, and volunteered to come into work on Saturday to tidy some of the rooms..

    He got in bright and early on Saturday, and proceeded to rip out cables and placing them tidily, This went well, for the computers..

    The problem was the old, analogue, switchboard. To save money, the company had used the same RJ45 sockets, with each phone extension connected via an adaptor. What my friend did not realise was that for the switchboard, each extension was assigned to a specific socket on the telephony panel in the patch room, so to maintain the same extension number, the socket in the room had to be patch to exactly the same socket in the patch room it had been before. My friend did not know this, and so didn't keep a note of what had been plugged in where.

    Of course, because the phones had been installed by external contractors, there was no labelling in any of the patch rooms. The sockets on the telephony panel were not even labelled.

    So, of course, when he'd finished re connecting all the phones, the extensions were in the wrong offices. He spent the entire weekend ringing all the extensions from his mobile, working out what office the phone was ringing in, and re-patching.

    He learned his lesson though. Anytime he did anything like that in the future, he didn't touch the phones. The cables were easily identifiable even if what they were connected to wasn't. They were bright red.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "They were bright red"

      Coated with the blood of all the previous techs who'd made the same mistake in the past and worked their fingers to the bone, pulling and patching in panic.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      He learned his lesson though.

      Did he.

      Had he learned the lesson that says "Never volunteer"

    3. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

      To save money, the company had used the same RJ45 sockets

      The way you write that, you make it sound like that was a cheapskate effort rather than a positive technology choice.

      Using the same structured cabling for "everything"* is actually quite common amongst educated people. Unfortunately, there are a LOT people who still (after a couple of decades of it being a mainstream tech) are clueless - hence why I see structured cabling, with junction box and sockets convenient to the central rack, but a newly run phone cable to a phone socket screwed to the wall next to an existing structured cabling point. It makes future office moves a lot simpler and cheaper, as well as tech changes - when I first started with it, we had lots of serial terminals, over time they went and everyone had networked computers - but it does cost a little more up-front.

      The most stupid install I saw was where they'd put in "structured cabling", but the sockets were labelled "V", "D", and something else I can't remember. The sockets labelled V went to a different patch panel the other side of the room from the others, hence adding all the costs of using structured cabling, while negating one of the main benefits. That same site also had a UPS to keep the comms kit and phone system up - but the BT NTE wasn't connected to it so would have gone done with a mains failure.

      * I can count ethernet, RS232serial, analogue telephones, (proprietary) digital telephones, ISDN, Transputer links**, and I think I've stuff I can't recall. Generally it only needs the right adapters/cables.

      ** We had some serial adapters for our unix system that used a Transputer, and used the 4 high-speed links for host-adapter or adapter-adapter links.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Uncle (Doctor) Derek - Lab IT & Site IT

        I had a good working relationship with Doctor Derek at GSK Dartford.

        Among many reciperical favours, he would bring his computers etc for disposal to me & I would patch in our data closet, wall ports to wall ports in his lab(s) so he could network via peer to peer his various bits of lab equipment.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So, of course, when he'd finished re connecting all the phones, the extensions were in the wrong offices. He spent the entire weekend ringing all the extensions from his mobile, working out what office the phone was ringing in, and re-patching."

      Similar story for me. We were entirely re-doing all the site cabling. The patching was shared between IT and analog phones. Everything was going to plan, all IT kit were re-enabled and all the LAN was working OK.

      Except ... it was very different for phone lines. 5% of them were working !

      We realized the phone company techs were not giving a shit about their work, and were not cabling according to colour standards. They were using whatever cable colour they had. All cabling was messed up and we had to go through every single phone to fix them !

  9. morningtea

    I was helping out with recabling the light fixtures in a mid-size department store once.

    They were also doing some other renovation work besides the lights, and one work team was tasked with removing old unused cabling.

    At some point, an announcement came on, ordering a building evacuation. They hadn't close the store completely, only cordoned off there areas where work was being done, so there were lots of customers in the building as well.

    I was quite impressed how calm and quick the evacuation went. We spent the rest of the morning in a cafe across the road until they let us back in.

    Turns out the colleagues ripping out cables were a bit too thorough: They cut off a bunch of sensors from the building's alarm system, and that had triggered the evacuation automatically.

    I don't know what happened to those colleagues afterwards, but I'm sure the shop owners weren't happy about their lost sales.

  10. Kurgan

    This happened for years on Italian telephone network

    Same story, not dial tone, yank the line out. And this was not from private techs, this was from national phone company techs.

    Sadly, there happened to exist DSL lines without a phone signal on them. Happened to me at least 3 times in 5 years.

    Then somehow the phone techs have learned that no dial tone does not mean unused pair. Also because as of today, most of the copper lines are DSL only.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: This happened for years on Italian telephone network

      "today, most of the copper lines are DSL only"

      Soon they'll all be. Allegedly. Whether the target is hit remains to be seen.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: This happened for years on Italian telephone network

        "Soon they'll all be."

        In your jurisdiction, maybe.

        Not here in Sonoma, California. Friends in low places assure me that existing analog POTS lines will not be removed into the foreseeable future. It's difficult, but not impossible, to get a new line installed ... Just tell $TELCO that you need it for an alarm system, analog modem and FAX machine. If the flunky on the line tells you it's impossible, simply hang up and try again. Eventually you'll find a cooperative so-called "customer service" representative. I did this for our house in town about two months ago. Recommended.

        AT&T will probably now hunt me down and reprogram me for divulging this info.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I was regomized as Walt in a story I submitted and was used. I had to think for a second whether I'd submitted another one (which is rather worrying for my brain). I think your machine is bust!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Walt?

      One of you is Walternate.

      Quick, without looking, what colour is the Statue of Liberty?

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Ace2 Silver badge
    1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Made me think of this

      Yes, but which ones do you cut? The tech is sent out with a work order to add a line. Is the old one coming down (a replacement) or is this a second service? Ask the homeowner? If they are in, they may not be aware of the dedicated service drop that the alarm company requested.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Made me think of this

      Single pole?

      Obviously never visited Tokyo..

      I have photos taken in the mid 1990s of whole streets with overhead cabling like this…

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Made me think of this

      "Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in your country. We are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to your market. We continue to identify technical compliance solutions that will provide all readers with our award-winning journalism."

      I guess they find putting a cookie notice up too technical :-)

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Made me think of this

        The author has some information here, which I assume is just a slightly different version of the newspaper article.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Made me think of this

          Thanks! It's pretty much what i expected to see :-)

      2. JulieM Silver badge

        Re: Made me think of this

        It may be the case that they are doing things that GDPR simply does not allow.

        (Although GDPR is pretty explicit that just saying "This content is not available in your jurisdiction" is not allowed, either; but that's impossible to enforce.)

  14. Nematode

    Metaphorical crossed wires, but...

    The section I worked in in nineteen seventy blurk had to move office. This was well planned with instructions to box up our gear on Friday and go to the new office Monday morning. One guy (read, old codger) was there on Friday and duly boxed his stuff up but told us to leave it boxed on the Monday as he'd be out commissioning for a week or two. When he eventually got back, he unboxed his stuff but then spent several hours clucking away, muttering to himself, looking and re-looking in emptied boxes. Something was obviously missing. We asked if we could help, and what was he looking for and where had it been? He was looking for all his pens pencils, stapler, all the guff you put in your top drawer in the 70's. He swore he'd boxed it up and labelled it with his name. Turns out yes, he had, but not in a box as there were none left. So he'd put his entire top desk drawers in his waste paper bin. Clearly, that evening's cleaner had done the usual with a full bin. Oh how we laughed.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      This is like people who bag their belongings up in rubbish bags, then wonder why the rubbish bags have been disposed of as rubbish with the rubbish.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And Then There Were Others In "The Useless Third"..... I recall, they included "telephone sanitisers, hairdressers, and management consultants".

    What's with the singling out of the "telephone sanitisers"?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: And Then There Were Others In "The Useless Third".....

      Because they are related to the subject of the story? And anyway, hairdressers do actually have a useful function, there's just so many more than any civilised place could ever need! And like hairdressers, there are man, many management consultants, except they don't actually have a useful function other than to help money flow from where it's needed to where its wanted.

  16. Luiz Abdala

    Crosstalk? Not anymore.

    I had an acquaitance that complained his POTS had a crosstalk with another line, and he was being charged through the roof for calls he didn't make. He called the phone sparkies, which found nothing.

    That process was repeated for a month.

    He then got hold of a coil - the kind used to ignite spark plugs -capable of 5 or 6 digit (volts or amps, whatever, this is irrelevant). As soon as he heard the line being used, he turned it on, immediately frying his line, the junction box down the street, and the line of the perp that was stealing his phone, just outside the box, on a carefully dug hole on the sidewalk by a tree root.

    He then called the phone company for "Line not functioning" and everything was magically solved.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Crosstalk? Not anymore.

      That's an...interesting way of identifying a "fault" but I hope he kept quiet or he could have ended up with a charge of vandalism for damaging the phone company's equipment.

  17. darkrookie28

    Maybe I am too American

    But some of the list I found on fandom doesn't make too much sense to me. "The ship was filled with all the middlemen of Golgafrincham, such as the telephone sanitisers, account executives, hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives, and management consultants. "

    Telephone Sanitisers: Seems like a good idea to keep closets tidy. There is one I refuse to go into because of the mess and the spiders in such mess.

    Account Executives: I don't want to talk to clients. Nor should I be allowed.

    Hairdressers: I need a professional to cut my hair. Amateurs do not do a good job.

    Tired TV Producers: Seems like a good idea.

    Insurance Salesmen: Why stop at just insurance.

    Personnel Officers: What are these? HR in UK English?

    Security Guards: Seem useful in the right context. Prolly not a normal office building.

    Public Relations Executives: Seems like a good idea.

    Management Consultants: Seems like a good idea.

    1. Andy A
      Thumb Up

      Re: Maybe I am too American

      Unfortunately the "Personnel Department" has been rebadged "HR" in most UK organisations.

      "Tired TV Producers" was actually a typo for "Tri-D TV Producers", but seemed to fit so D.A. left it in.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Maybe I am too American

      "Personnel Officers: What are these? HR in UK English?"

      Yes. Also in American English if you go back further in time. The US invented "Human Resources" to replace the Personal Department. It just took a little while to spread outside of the USA.

      1. ChoHag Silver badge

        Re: Maybe I am too American

        A rare case of corporate honesty.

      2. Anon

        Re: Maybe I am too American

        "Human resources" sounds too much like a supplier to the Soylent Corporation.

    3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Maybe I am too American

      I think this is a list of a certain person's personal grievances. But the "telephone sanitisers" mentioned in the source are people who are paid to wipe clean the telephones on desks in an office.

      The sort of thing that a person can do on their own. Or in science fiction, you can get a robot for. Hairdressers... well, you need to cut long hair shorter, but a lot happens apart from that, that we could do without.

      I think the "A" ark was supposed to be for leaders and thinkers, and the "C" ark for people who do practical work. These are the people who wanted the "B" ark people to leave them alone. By flying off into outer space and then getting killed - that seems to have been the intention.

      Meanwhile, the A and C people, who may have been law abiding enough to not need security guards, all caught a telephone disease and died.

  18. Gordon 8

    Strange wiring plan…

    I have to admit I should have checked…

    During COVID the company I used to work for decided to open a new facility in Clark the Philippines.

    I was supporting the setup from Singapore, but could not travel.

    One of my staff realised that the 48 port switch had cables in blocks of 12 in two rows of 6. The patch panel had cables in blocks of 8…..

    So he decided to number the cables in the first block in the patch panel 1-6 then skip the next two with 7-12 in the next block …. The left over ports ‘spares’ got numbered after the blocks of six were finished….

    I know I told him to number from 1 to 300 and something…. I just expected some logic, but this was not what I expected..

    His explanation was he wanted to keep the cable numbers the same as the port numbers on the switch….

    Sorry J.B. If you read this, but it was a classic…

  19. DS999 Silver badge

    The problem is obvious

    The tech said "a tenant had vacated".

    This was not a building Walt's company had exclusive access to, meaning the wiring in the closets was not their property to do with as they please and expect no one else would touch it.

    Even labeling it might not have been sufficient. The building at the time was set up with a certain amount of wiring between floors based on the expected use for telephones. Walt using a bunch of it for data terminals is effectively doubling up the expected amount of usage as everyone with a terminal also still has a phone. Instead of a tenant vacating and the tech being sent to disconnect their phones, what if he was sent to connect a new tenant and found there wasn't enough wiring to go round?

    Even if Walt had labeled it, if the tech tells the building owner/management "hey I went to connect the phones for your new tenant but there wasn't enough wiring because according to these labels I found on wiring without a dialtone, one of your other tenants has wired it up to their minicomputer on the 5th floor". I expect he'd be told "well rip out whatever you need to get the new tenant connected and I'll notify that other tenant that they'll need to run their own wire, as the lease says they will be provided wiring for telephones not for minicomputers!"

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: The problem is obvious

      You're assuming they did it without notifying the building management.

      More likely, they were renting that bundle or had otherwise paid for it to be installed down the existing cable ducting.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: The problem is obvious

      I saw that, I decided this was an instance of where the company previously owned/leased the entire block and hence could do stuff in the wiring closets, however, since work was done they had let out floors to tenants…

  20. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Had exactly the same with Virgin's predecessor's predecessor's predecessor. When Yorkshire Cable was putting in my new phone lines, the installer said "I'll put these out...." pointing to my networking cables. Noooooo...... (leaps through air....)

  21. NITS

    Recent telephone sanitiser gig

    I recently had a gig as a telephone sanitiser. A lumber yard had built a new showroom, moved their computers and IP phones to the new place, and their boss was not happy about the dusty/dirty condition of the equipment, including the server cabinet. So yours truly got paid to come in and clean things up. When I phoned the client on arrival to clarify the scope of work, after some back-and-forth I said "so... basically, janitorial work." And he agreed.

    I did find a phone that wasn't working, and narrowed it down to a switch port that wasn't delivering PoE. But most of my day was spent wielding paper towels, Windex, Velcro, and electrician's scissors.

    The pay's the same. It was less taxing than listening to music-on-hold, interspersed with reminders about "your call is important to us", as happens far too often.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Recent telephone sanitiser gig

      "so... basically, janitorial work." And he agreed.

      I've also been to jobs like that. But, would you trust your average janitorial staff to clean up something like that? For the same reason that contracted cleaning staff are generally banned from cleaning desks or computers.

  22. NITS

    tone and tag

    Did a recent gig where a mall anchor store in City A had lost the POTS line to its intrusion alarm. The place has been around for a few decades and has lots of copper pairs installed. Lots of 66 blocks. 200 pairs, to be exact, of which maybe 12 pair are still in use. They must have had Centrex back in the day.

    Management, located it another state, gave me the list of numbers that they thought were in use for their various burglar and fire alarms at this store. I was to tone and test all of them, and report any issues found. I did find one that was not working, and reported it so they could have the Local Exchange Carrier (LEC), fancy word for what we used to call "the phone company", fix it.

    I could not for the life of me find the line that manglement said was for the burg alarm, anywhere on the backboard in the store. Funny thing is, when I dialed the number in question (call it $DN), it rang with no answer and my mobile said I was calling a number in City C, same area code but 3 hours' drive away. I rigged up something temporary so the burglar alarm could use one of the fire alarm's lines to phone home when the fire alarm wasn't using it. Manglement said they'd have another vendor (call them Basalt Telecom) come out to test-and-tag the line in question.

    A couple of weeks later I got a call back to City A, this time for a vendor meet with a tech for the alarm company. Turns out that the store had had difficulty arming the alarm because its tamper switch had gone faulty, which the alarm tech mitigated. But to my surprise, the burglar alarm telephone wiring was untouched from my previous visit, and there was no sign of a freshly-tagged $DN on the backboard. I escalated with manglement, who showed me an email from Basalt Telecom saying that they had done a vendor meet with AT&T (the LEC), and they had run a new cable to bring $DN to the store's burglar alarm. Upon further escalation within Basalt, eventually I was given the mobile number for the Basalt tech who'd done the work. I asked him "This was in City A, right?" and he said no, it was in City C, where the phone exchange for $DN is located. I thanked him for confirming my suspicions.

    I reported back to manglement that apparently they had some incorrect data in their database, the line in question was in fact located in City C. The alarms in the City A store are still sharing a phone line.


    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: tone and tag

      With one client, I’m looking forward to the UK POTS switch off;.

      Currently moving the alarms to 4G and fixed line Internet. The phones are also moving to digital. Once completed all the ancient Cat3 can be removed. The offices being ancient once had lots of telephone lines, with redecorating, change of owners etc. labels got lost so it was easier to either use known working circuits or add new ones.

  23. henryd

    Phonotas ladies

    I thought from the headline that we were talking about Phonotas.

    For those too young to know what I'm talking about Phonotas was a company, oh 70 years ago, that employed people to come to your office and clean phone handsets, wiping spit from the mouthpiece and earwax/brylcream from the earpiece.

    Who does this essential service now?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back in the mists of time, when 64Kbit leased lines were a thing(the 90s... ) one of the locations I was irresponsible for went off the net, and a panicked user at that site called. He was doing an online exam, and really, really, really needed the line back up and working NOW!

    All the other locations were good. he could ping stuff at his location, but not out.

    I had a bad feeling, and asked if he saw a 'Telenor' car nearby. I exped them to be maybe messing about in one of those cabinets along the road...

    ' There's one in the parking lot, I think he's working in the server room'

    I got him to run and catch the blaggard before he could escape.

    The user got to him as he was about to exit, and because he was a bit like a ton of bricks stacked carefully, the tech agreed to follow him to the phone.

    I asked him exactly what he had been doing. Did he touch ANYTHING else?

    'no, nothing really. Just removed an unused pair of wires from the demarc because they were in his way. And he really should be going, he as getting to be late for his next appointment'...

    I explained to him exactly what I was going to let the user do to him if he didn't unfuck my 64Kbit line right there and then.

  25. Agincourt and Crecy!

    I was working for a major UK High Street bank who had an online share dealing offering for their customers. I was one of the lucky team tasked with keeping this up and running. We replaced some aging hardware with shiny new HP PA-RISC N Class servers and I set up MC Serviceguard to pair them as a HA cluster with lots of resiliency. All good for the first couple of months.

    Then the day came we got an alter that one of the N classes had gone down and this was quickly followed by the second one. The shouting from the sharedealing arm of the bank got very loud very quickly and I set off out of the office block to the data halls to see what was going on. As I approached the racks, there were barriers round several floor tiles that were up and there were bundles of cables hanging out of the holes. The head of the data centre management team popped out of one of the holes holding more cables and he looked at me, at first with puzzlement and then with increasing horror. He was removing redundant cables from the racks where the old servers had been racked but had traced the wrong cables back to the core switches and pulled all the new live system cabling.

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