back to article How to get a computer get stuck in a lift? Ask an 'illegal engineer'

Welcome once again to On Call, The Register's regular Friday frolic through readers' memories of tech tasks that turned terrifying before trending towards triumph. This week meet "Tyler" who wrote to inform us he once worked as an illegal engineer. A word of explanation is perhaps in order. Tyler's actual title was "Customer …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "he never saw the manager responsible [..] after the day of its fateful move"

    Of course not. The manager was promoted to another position in a different branch of the company.

    Which he left to get into Government.

    He was obviously highly qualified.

    1. Rich 11

      Re: "he never saw the manager responsible [..] after the day of its fateful move"

      Dan Quayle.

      So that all turned out for the best.

  2. Wanting more

    We had a similar incident

    At my old work, when someone was getting a PC an admin person would set it up, then wheel it to your desk on a trolley (big CRT monitors were heavy!).

    They'd use the lift if it was to another floor. The incident happened when the power cord fell off the trolley and inbetween the doors. The doors closed on it and the lift ascended for a bit without issue then the UK plug on the end of the cord pulled between the doors but wasn't able to get through and acted as an anchor so the lift couldn't move any more and hit a safety cut out.

    So the poor admin lady was stuck in the lift which wouldn't now respond to any commands and had to be rescued 30 minutes later. In this case they just had to lower the lift and open the doors and reset the electronics.

    But from then on she refused to deliver PCs and people had to collect the trolley themselves and maybe risk the lift.

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: We had a similar incident

      A colleague at a prior employer had moved offices from a single to a joint office that had recently been vacated. There was a desirable view from one desk but not the other and my mate had had his computer set up on the non viewing desk. The other occupant wasn’t due in for a day and he put a ticket into IT support to have the computers swapped round. Except that at 5pm no one from IT had visited and although he thought he might be able to move his own PC he’d chickened out. The other one scared him because it was an “all in one” where the network cable needed you to open something difficult on the PC case to unplug it.

      So he calls me, I said no problem and did the deed at 6pm once the place was empty and we’d both finished for the night. I told him to drop the IT ticket or they might switch them back which would screw up his plan. He assures me he will and then took me for a quick thank you drink. He didn’t cancel anything when he got home (alcohol related amnesia I believe) and got lucky in that the IT bloke who came up looked at the setup and left it alone as it was already set up as per the result requested on the ticket.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: We had a similar incident

        An IT bod that bothered to look at what was supposed to happen?? And a helldesk ticket that actually contained the relevant info needed to do the job (or not do as the case may be)?

        What alternate reality do you come from? Must be blissful.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We had a similar incident

      I'm rather surprised the power cord could stop an elevator. Even if both ends of the cord are perfectly secured, it seems like an elevator should be able to break the cord.

      On this side of the Atlantic, power cords are often built with three 18AWG wires (about 0.82 mm²). Typical breaking force for a single 18 AWG is 47 pounds. Times 3 wires and add in the insulation, you're still probably well under 200 pounds required to break the cable.

      Older computers may have had bigger wire, but since this was in the UK and would be running 230v, it probably wasn't a massive cord.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We had a similar incident

        ...'triggered a safety'...

        Probably a smart idea. Seems I saw a security camera video like that once where a dog's leash got hung up in the elevator door when the lift started. Weakest link would have broken first, which would have been bad for the canine.

        1. TheRealRoland

          Re: We had a similar incident

          In the 80s a documentary was made about what can go wrong with lifts...

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: We had a similar incident

            And now I am watching it... thank you, bay of ... redistributors of wealth :)

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: We had a similar incident

        I'm guessing that cable sustained some damage, possibly sufficient for it not to work anymore. Still, the insulation on a thick cable can be surprisingly strong. While I didn't calculate it, I had a damaged but quite thick cable which, being bored, I decided to use as a rope attached to heavy objects which I then dropped to see if it could really be used that way. The only failure was when I had undone my knot to add more weight and made a bad replacement, allowing one of the weights to fall off and complete its drop. The cable withstood the pressure. I wouldn't want to use that for anything safety-sensitive, but if the cable just has to keep being in one piece rather than being able to deliver sufficient power to the right place and nowhere else, it can take some stress.

        1. quxinot

          Re: We had a similar incident

          I'd wonder honestly if the plug itself took the load. Rather than the cable trying to get stretched, if the plug got wedged in the works, it could bind the mechanism and provide a tremendous load for the motor.

      3. dl1

        Re: We had a similar incident

        I would estimate that a UK computer lead, 13A oplug n one end IEC on the other, both moulded on, could snag a fair few kN, for a short time at least.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: We had a similar incident

          And back in the days of CRT screens, especially the earlier days of PCs, it wasn't completely unheard of for either or both the PC and screen to have fixed power leads at the device end, not a plug/socket arrangement, adding to the "boat anchor" effect rather than an IEC plug just flying loose.

      4. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: We had a similar incident

        There's usually a safety trip switch either on the lip of the lift car or on each level/platform that will cut power if an object is detected between the platform and lift car doors. So an errant cable might well stop a lift car.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: We had a similar incident

          Not to mention the sudden change in load which, between floors, shouldn't happen. In some designs of lift it's possible to stop it between floors just by a couple of people (or one hefty person) jumping simultaneously up in the air and landing heavily. Well within the total tolerance etc but the RAMP is what's important.

    3. hoola Silver badge

      Re: We had a similar incident

      Years ago we needed to move a rack from the 9th floor of one office to another building a short distance away.

      This all appears straight forward. We roughly new the weight of the rack and equipment and it was well under the limit on the lift.

      On the set day we unplugged the 42U rack, wheeled it out of the room and into the lift. The lift now decided it was over specified load however it had dropped slightly and we could not get the rack back out of the lift...........

      We now had to start removing equipment from the rack until we could manhandle it over the step. The lift would not reset until all the load had been removed!

      The lift was rated at something like 750Kg and we were nowhere near that so who knows what was going on.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We had a similar incident

      there is a video doing the rounds of something similar involving a cleaner and a large vacuum cleaner in a lift and the same thing happens. I nearly soiled myself when I watched it one of the funniest things ever!

  3. Bebu Silver badge

    How was "Pig Iron" originally installed?

    I would have imagined running the installation in reverse would have worked a liitle better.

    I assume the building was neither constructed around the 402 nor that it materialized tardis-like nor Mr Scott beamed it down.

    Might have been cheaper for IBM to leave it where it was and de-license it with an inbuilt thermite facility.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: How was "Pig Iron" originally installed?

      Well the building might not have been constructed around the 402, but I've seen situations where the computer was lifted in through an unfinished wall. Once the wall was done, it's not (easily) going anywhere.

      Disclaimer: my mum worked on 402s/403s/419s and I still have her manuals.

      They were "programmed" with jumpers on a 18" (or so) plugboard. She told stories of people laying the plugboards flat, pushing the jumpers out and undoing all that work. I have some of her used worksheets showing the jumper wiring.

      Even after 40 years in the business myself, I still can't grok what she did or how that worked. I really wish she was still around to answer questions about it.

      1. krf

        Re: How was "Pig Iron" originally installed?

        It really was programming, except rather than with an editor and compiler, it was done with wires. And just like today, there were beginners, programmers, and gurus. Many of the large card munching boxes had plugboards and some were like 2x2 feet in size with the potential of thousands of wires and an infinite number of connections. (Long time ago, and memory is hazy)

        The boards were usually kept in a slanted horizontal rack next to the machine (special built for the task), and would be exchanged to do whatever task was needed. Payroll, accounting, inventory, etc.

        And just like today, a plugboard (i.e. app) that had been used over the months or years and had been gradually debugged was protected just as much as any important software today. In fact, making any unauthorized changes without permission of whoever was in charge, was usually a firing offense.

        Some of the plugboards were unbelievably complex, understood only by the person(s) who had programmed it. One pulled or broken wire could be a disaster, especially if the programmer was no longer around.

        I never was in need of learning such copper programming, but just like my experiences in the early days of C, I saw boards that were worked on for weeks on end, trying to get the program right or finding a particular bug.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: How was "Pig Iron" originally installed?

      I suspect cost will have been a factor. Paying out say $100k to have a new $1m system installed is one thing, paying out another $100k to have system moved to another floor…

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: How was "Pig Iron" originally installed?

        " Paying out say $100k to have a new $1m system installed is one thing, paying out another $100k to have system moved to another floor…"

        Most of the time the $1M included installation. Decommissioning/moving was chargeable

  4. Anonymous Anti-ANC South African Coward Bronze badge

    Pig iron?

    Angry Bird iron incoming!

  5. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    I used to work in a 3 storey building. Only one lift. This only went as far as the 2nd floor, and was at the other end of the building. The reason the lift only went to the 2nd floor was because the building was originally designed with 2 floors, and they added bits of a 3rd floor where they needed extra rooms. So, parts of the building had 3 floors, but most if it had two.

    My then boss was working in the office when printer turned up. This was a Laserjet 5Si, a rather large and heavy network printer. We had also ordered the 2000 sheet paper drawer. There were three techs working in the office. Me, my boss, and a third tech. No idea where the third tech was, but I was at lunch. We had some colleagues in an office on the 2nd floor. What the boss should have done was asked the driver to deliver the printer there (it had a coded lock, but we all had the code), and waited for everyone to get back from where they were.

    Even if that weren't an option, his boss's wife was one of the secretaries, and she worked in a large office with the other secretaries on the 2nd floor. He could have put it there. He didn't do either. He decided to help the driver carry the printer up the stairs.

    Not saying they were linked, but within a few months, he took a couple of days off for back pain. When it didn't subside, he went to the hospital, and they said there was a prolapsed disk. He was off for months..

    1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

      I'm not surprised. Those 5Sis were beasts. IIRC, a place I used to work had one with a duplexing unit and a stack of feed trays that would take a whole box (five reams) of A4 paper, as well as one that would take a ream of A3. A box of paper weighs around 12 kg give-or-take; I don't think it added a significant percentage to the weight of the printer to fill all the feed trays.

      1. Number6

        I had a 5Si once. Bought it for £250 used. Had to refurbish some of the rollers, but it had the duplex unit and the 2000 sheet feeder. Built to last, it was. Unfortunately I had to part company with it when I moved from somewhere with proper electricity at 50Hz to somewhere else because as far as I could tell, I'd have to swap out some parts to work at 60Hz. I vaguely remember being able to lift the printer off the sheet feeder, although because it was high up, it was easier to pick up than if it started on the floor. I was younger and fitter back then, too, although I can still lift 100lb if I'm careful.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          I was doing some printer installs a while back. Just the set up and commissioning, fortunately. I arrived at one site and the delivery guys had just arrived. I took one look at the tiny narrow staircase with a 180 turn half way up the early/mid 1800's building, asked if they'd already delivered to the other site, turned around and left them to it!

          It was a replacement printer, so clearly it was possible to get it up there and they did have an electric stair crawler, but a) no way was I getting involved and b) I very much doubt there was room for three people at the same time even if they felt they needed my help. To this day i don't know how they managed it, I'd estimate they barely had a an inch or two of leeway. Hats most definitely off to those delivery guys! They certainly knew their job.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            You could stand there helpfully shouting PIVOT! at random intervals as they try to get it up the stairs.

            Or alternatively materialise, say, a professor's office on a landing part way up the returning staircase and open the door so they could make the first turn before dematerialising again, leaving some poor chump to create a 3D computer simulation model to work out how to either get the now stuck object all the way up or how to get it back down again without cutting it up into smaller pieces.

            1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

              I think that only works with Chesterfield sofas.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "I'd have to swap out some parts to work at 60Hz...."

          The Fuser. That's all

      2. JC runner

        Ahhh The 5si.. That brings back memories.. I was the head of IT, and the powers that be had ordered one. Don't know why, The HP 4/4000s were doing quite well thank you. So we get this beast in, (with all of the available options) and I and my crew are expected to set it up.. I had never seen so many paper drawers on a Laser printer before in my life. This was before office copiers. BTW, I and my Crew was Me and whoever I could commandeer…

        What a machine.

  6. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    I remember a similar incident when a VAX 11/780 was being delivered to our office. Not quite in the same class as "pig iron", but it still weighed a respectable 3/4 ton. No-one wanted to hire & wait for a stair crawler, which might have been be problematic anyway given all the corners in the stairwell. The installation crew realised that if they uncrated the system in the lobby it would just fit sideways through the doors of the lift car, with about 1/2 inch to spare all round. They did check the weight, and found that they would exceed the lift's maximum capacity by about 50%, but assuming that it had at least a 2x safety factor decided it should be OK. No-one wanted to be in the lift with the beast, of course, and there wasn't room anyway unless they crouched on top, so they reached through the doors, pushed the button for the desired floor, and sprinted up the stairs to meet it.

    The lift did make it to the floor OK, but what they hadn't allowed for was that the lift's position sensors were calibrated for normal loads. With the overload (and presumably a slight cable stretch) the car stopped about 1" below the floor level, leaving them with the problem of how to lift 3/4 ton of computer up 1", when they couldn't get to anything except the side panel that was facing them...

    They did eventually get it out, to the great entertainment of all passing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Presumably the lift failed its next inspection.

      Unrelated, of course

    2. I Am Spartacus

      This sounds familiar

      I recall the same problem when we installed an 11/780 in 1980, Trafford Park, Manchester. Sadly, the VAX, the factory and the whole company have now gone.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: This sounds familiar

        Good lord. I worked on one of those in a factory in Trafford Park in 1982 as a youth doing a one week work experience. The factory wasn't by any chance making tasty meat products was it?

    3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      "they reached through the doors, pushed the button for the desired floor, and sprinted up the stairs to meet it"

      I've repeatedly seen neighbours do this while moving in and out of apartments. Every time I have asked why they didn't just walk to the destination floor and call the lift, I've been met by silent glares.

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

        Depending on the system, it's quite possible that the lift call button would call whatever lift is closest, which might not be the one with your furniture. If you're taking that approach, you'd do best to hit the call button on successive floors on your way up/down the stairs.

        But presumably the reason for rushing is to ensure that their possessions don't go walkabouts, in which case having a friend at the other end might be much safer.

        1. stiine Silver badge

          That really only works if the lift only has doors on one side...

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "But presumably the reason for rushing is to ensure that their possessions don't go walkabouts, in which case having a friend at the other end might be much safer."

          I'm not sure of the benefit. If you push the button and race up 4 floors, whose to know if someone two floors up that you just raced past didn't press the call button there and so the lift stops on it's way up anyway where said stranger might help themselves to anything "interesting"?

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Every time I have asked why they didn't just walk to the destination floor and call the lift"

        And while they're walking somebody on some other floor calls the lift and finds it full of furniture when i arrives.

        1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge
        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Alternatively you put the lift into service mode and avoid that kind of issue in the first place (There's usually a service call option at each floor, normally keylocked)

    4. Zack Mollusc

      possible fix...

      If you encounter this problem, and there is another floor above to which the lift can be sent, send the overloaded lift up above the desired floor, then call it to the desired floor. Often the lift can halt level from a descent when it is a few inches short when halting from ascent.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Safety Factor

      No IT connection but the comment about safety factors reminds me of a time (almost 40 years ago) when I was tasked with inspecting and signing off some offshore riser pipes for a semi-submersible production platform in the North Sea. They were each about 40' long and around 12" bore, with a coupling welded on each end. I had some doubts about the welding (the radiographs were OK but my gut wasn't happy) and did some hardness checks on the weld area. My gut was right and it was clear that the post-weld heat treatment had gone awry. The manufacturer claimed the welds were still good enough but I asked to see calculations for what was now a reduced material yield strength. I also asked my own engineering department to run some calculations but they declined as we didn't have sufficient computing power for the dynamic loading (and this was one one the world's largest oil & gas companies at the time). The supplier presented me with 3 pages of hand calculations - that I immediately challenged. Their response was that the risers had originally been designed with a large safety factor. I didn't bother asking why, if the original design warranted such a large SF, why a manufacturing error removed the need for it. I rejected the whole batch and got them remade.

      It wasn't the only time that the safety factor was suggested to me as justification for working beyond the design load of a piece of kit - and it wasn't the only time I suggested where they might like to store it...

      As I said, no IT connection, but I've enjoyed reminiscing :)

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Safety Factor

        Safety factors keep people alive

        If people aren't in the splash zone, then catastrophically breaking something results in expense and embarrasment but no injuries

        (In the case of lifts, there's at least a 3:1 safety factor and they're derated for "live" vs "dead" loads (Anything moving around adds shock stresses to the load which may exceed the stress margins. The "jumping up and down in the lift" stunt can cause shock loadings well in excess of safety margin maximums (at which point Mr Otis's safety system deploys pawls into the shaft notches and the lift is LOCKED into position)

  7. Gene Cash Silver badge

    With apologies to Phil Collins

    I have no fear

    Being an illegal engineer

    1. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

      Don't apologise to Phil Collins, after everything he's inflicted upon humanity!

      1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

        Re: With apologies to Jam "OH YEAH" Tronik

        Pffft, worrying about Phil Collins? First world problems...

        Oh, think twice.

        'Cause it's another day for you and me in paradise.

        Oh, OH YEAH, think twice

        Oh, think twice, 'cause it's another day for you

        You and me in paradise.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

        Only slightly redeemed by providing the soundtrack to the classic gorilla drumming chocolate ad!

    2. Paul Cooper

      Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

      And stupidly, I, being qualified to be a Senior Member of the IEEE (I was one but let my membership lapse on retirement), would be a legal engineer, despite not having any engineering-related qualification!

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

        being qualified to be a Senior Member of the IEEE (I was one but let my membership lapse on retirement)

        After you get to 65, if the total of your age + membership years exceeds 100, you will automatically become a life member, free.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

          ...and then years later they find that their internal processes for deceased engineers doesn't kick in.

          Most estates won't bother contacting such an organisation to inform them of the passing of a member.

          Most organisations work on the basis that they won't be told either, but if the direct debit is rejected then the membership will cease. Direct debits tend to be rejected when bank accounts are closed.

          End result? A collection of members well over 100+ years old

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

            Possibly a disadvantage of switching to electronic distribution of magazines, they no longer get printed ones returned marked "deceased"?

            I still prefer the printed ones, although not for that reason:-)

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

            "End result? A collection of members well over 100+ years old"

            ...or The House of Lords, as they are more commonly known

        2. Tony Mudd

          Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

          The IET don't do this - their "retirement" rate isn't that cheap. Fortunately, my employer didn't notice/care that I renounced my membership long before I retired.

    3. chivo243 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

      I thought that Illegal Alien bit came from Cheech Marin, but the first cuppa is telling me Cheech did Born in East L.A.

      +1 for the wake me up!

    4. Xalran

      Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

      well technically I'm an Illegal Engineer... and have been so for about two decades.

      While I don't know the Texas thing, here in France Engineer is a Title ( technically ) only people with an Engineer Diploma can have.

      And they ( technically ) are the only ones allowed to be employed in engineer roles.

      That's the Letter of the thing, now it's been shrugged off by the whole industry and people that have what we call a DUT or a BTS ( university technology diploma or superior technician diploma ) or ( more lrarely ) lower diplomas with enough skills and experience are given engineer unofficial titles so that they can be employed in engineer roles.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

        "all persons called Engineers actually have to be both graduated and accredited."

        The most sensible thing I've heard come out of Texas

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

        given engineer unofficial titles so that they can be employed in engineer roles.

        That there is the problem.

        Its all well and good having laws and regulations and governing bodies maintaining the integrity and value of the title Engineer ,

        but then if they have to downgrade those principles because employers are choosing to call the guy who builds workstations by booting from a floppy disk an Engineer then it sort of defeats the object

        ... and those employers , or the people who fill those roles offered , should be fined!

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: With apologies to Phil Collins

        There's nothing _wrong_ with being a technician and "Engineer" has been degraded by wanton usage

        When an "engineer" sent out could be anything from a barely trained script monkey to someone with a couple of degrees and 30 years experience under his belt you're in a position where every car is a "Toyota" regardless of who made it

        Texas has the right idea, but it's really too late to rescue the term

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

    It's Friday, after hours. Our IT office is on the 3rd floor and normally I take the stairs because the lift is one of those hydraulic things and thus rather slow. In those days I was quite fit and could steam up the stairs from the basement to the top floor in the time the lift took to get just past ground level as personnel (who established that measurement) had learned to stay well out of my way when I did one of those runs because You Do Not Impair The IT Manager :). How long ago "in those days" was will become clear in a moment.

    This time, my father in law came to pick me up as he was in the area, so, not thinking (also partly because it never had a problem before) we take the lift down. Which gets stuck a short while later. This is a basic lift, so no phone, and an alarm that only sounds in the building. It's Friday after hours, so the building is otherwise empty. Uh oh. It's weekend..

    This was in 1991 or so, so mobiles were not that ubiquitous, 2.5G and WiFi had not even been invented yet, analogue and in general as unwieldy as a brick but I had just bought my own first, a NEC P3, which was far nicer and could invisibly fit inside a jacket, even with its long range antenna fitted, which was my habit as cell phone towers were not that widespread in London yet and signal at home was not great.

    This office was in Craven Street (since then all converted into residential premises), which due to being next to Trafalgar Square and Whitehall had at least decent signal, so even in what is theoretically a metal Faraday cage I could thankfully get a signal and thus managed to call the fire brigade. Nervously, because in those days the batteries already didn't last a whole day so it had only 25% left (I'd already used my spare that day). They took half an hour to get to the building, somehow got through the front door without breaking anything (I assume they have good lock picks?) and located us. After that it was a matter of going to the pump in the basement and manually vent the oil back into the reservoir until we got to a level where we could exit.

    It would have been a rather long weekend otherwise, and even that short time convinced me I'd not get into that situation again. I don't care about heights, but being in a closed box with no exit makes me nervous (for instance, you would not have been able to get me into that Titan submersible).

    Since I've made a habit of automatically checking lifts for fitted communication if I'm in an empty building. I still prefer the stairs anyway, but if you're on the 22nd floor it gets a tad harder upwards, and due to knee surgery it's no longer as much fun..

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

      The fire service will have a plan for access which will either be documented access codes or use of "fire brigade keys" (normally to access an external cabinet with plans and sometimes keys, but could be on a door)

      It's quite comforting to know how prepared they are and how everything fits together.

      1. Great Southern Land

        Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

        Either that, or they'll just use the Universal Master Key that opens any door..... An Axe (As told to me by a building manager in Newcastle NSW)

        1. Stork Silver badge

          Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

          At the fire brigade responsible for my uni the universal key weighed 12kg and ran on oil mixture.

      2. Spanners Silver badge

        "fire brigade keys"

        Are they like the big red keys I have seen used by the police for early morning visits?

        1. TimMaher Silver badge

          Re: "fire brigade keys"

          Well, they’re not Spanners are they?

      3. swm

        Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

        I knew someone who was a volunteer fireman. He said they once got a fire alarm at a bank. Using a fire axe he had no trouble getting into the building.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

          Getting in/out of the building is the easy part when it's empty. The hard part is where the valuables are kept (See: Hatton Gardens)

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

      The allegedly brick-like Motorola was one of the smaller phones available at the time. A fewmodels had lead-acid batteries, especially those for BT System 4* although that might have been shut down by then. I remember one BT Mobile product, the Steel came in two varieties, Light Steel and Heavy Steel depending on the size of the attached battery but the names were only relative. This was the time when portable computers were referred to as "luggables" and mobility for many phones depended on them being installed in a car.

      *Talk of 2G, 3G, 4G & 5G always amuses me. If the pre-cellular was 4, TACS, the analogue cellular system, was 5 & GSM started at 6.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

        I can recall getting the first data cable for a phone, it was for a Nokia It was dreadfully slow, but it worked so that was the first time I had almost mobile communication (you still needed a laptop to do something with the serial data coming out of the DB9 plug so it wasn't as portable as you'd think).

        I was later sent to Vodafone when they were planning to change from 2.5G to 3G because that also heralded a shift from out of band platform control to inband signalling and that came with all sorts of fun issues like convincing OEMs not to put plain RJ45 network jacks on the front panel of field units so someone couldn't wander into some remote meadow and start messing around with the core controls while surrounded by cows (no, the cows were not the problem). As a result, the first units deployed had those jacks filled with epoxy glue before they were shipped to location, not sure what they did with later units. It was a very interesting job getting that all of that properly secure during a significant change of the control model.

        Fun times :)

        1. Ace2 Silver badge

          Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

          “(no, the cows were not the problem)”

          That’s what they want you to think, at least!

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

            Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

            The more terrifying thing is when it's a herd of cows stalking you.

            I was following a footpath through one of the several interconnected fields on my then normal evening walk (While Ex Mrs Scorn was left watching the recordings of Corry\Brookside on her return from work), when the cows started moving en-mass at high speed from the corner of the field I was currently in to a position in another corner & then stop to chew the grass & stare at me. A few minutes later they did it again.

            As a kid I hung around the nearby cattle market & armed with that knowledge & experience, thought that this was unusual behaviour for cows & perhaps instead of following my more normal walk through the rest of the fields to the pub I was aiming for, I should opt for the shorter route out of the field & towards the stile nearest to me.

            I was about 100 yards away, when I heard the hooves again & glanced to see what they were doing now & discovered they were bearing down on me at speed, my legs instantly went into overdrive & I ran like fuck for the stile & near enough vaulted over it, then coming to a panting sweating stop, I turned around to see that the cows had stopped & were as tightly packed as they could manage at the other side of the style, huffing & mooing at me.

            I had always preferred my cows well done on a plate or as furniture, footwear (or any other garment or furnishing), since then it's become a vengeful lifestyle.

            Icon because of the damn lucky escape I had.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

              Upvote for the well done. You don't want them getting up off the plate.

              1. DJV Silver badge

                Re: You don't want them getting up off the plate

                Reminds me of when I was a kid (of probably no more than 4 or 5) and the family were staying with my grandmother in Hastings. As the tide was out it was decided that my father and I should go down to the beach and pick some winkles off the rocks. This we did, returning not long afterwards with a decent bucketful. Gran boiled these up and we got ready with our pins. But, as soon as they were offloaded onto some plates for consumption, a few of them poked their heads out of their shells and slowly tried to make a bid for freedom, hardy little sods that they were!

                I really can't remember now if they were reboiled or set free!

              2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

                Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

                I'm more for the medium rare version. I know of some people who want it so raw that a decent vet could still save it, but I do like things to be at least cooked.

            2. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

              The cows thought you were the farmer, come to feed them.

              Not that it's not scary when a bunch of cows turn up, and you realise that while they're 'just' herbivores, they can seriously injure you just by stepping on you, and you stop feeling so secure at the top of the food chain.

              You'd probably have been fine though, as long as they didn't have calves around.

              1. Richard Pennington 1

                Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

                At the top of the food chain ... Mosquitos and midges might care to dispute that claim.

            3. Intractable Potsherd

              Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

              I think figures show that cows are the most dangerous (to humans) mammal in the British Isles.

              1. Emjay111

                Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

                Correct. More people are killed or seriously injured by cattle then any other animal in the UK, according the figures released by the HSE in 2015.


              2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

                The most dangerous apart from other humns.

            4. imanidiot Silver badge

              Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

              A normal herd of cows usually only has 2 trains of thought. One is "hmmmm, what is that??". The other is "AHHHHH, WHAT IS THAT!!!???". Cows can be rather destructive in either mode, simply from their sheer bulk and rather clumsy nature as they stomp about.

              When a herd also contains calves however, there's third mode of operation which is summed up by "You'll f&#k off now!!!". Generally you'll want to avoid cows when they have this particular thought. It generally doesn't end well. Even farmers they know well sometimes fall foul of this.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

          Nokia 6310i and Psion 5mx linked by infrared!

          That was pre 2005

        3. jmch Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

          "I can recall getting the first data cable for a phone..."

          I recall the first data link I ever used to get mobile internet onto my laptop. It was a Sagem mobile which had an infrared communication module, something matched in my laptop (Clevo or HP). I have never before or after had any mobile or laptop that had infrared comms so it must have been a short-lived fad. The 'mobile internet' was extremely primitive / slow (2G I guess though I can't really remember), but the fact that it worked at all seemed miraculous to me at the time (2002 or 03 I would guess)

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

        For mobile purposes, AMPS and NMPS are gen1 (everything before then is a fancy form of landmobile) and GSM is gen2

        My first cellular phone didn't quite have lead-acid batteries but it weighed 6kg and was the size of a couple of housebricks. Before that we were using modified rural telephony phone systems (single channel duplex 150MHz - powered by lead acid batteries and connected to type 100 telephones complete with dial), originally setup for Civil Defence to use in an emergency

    3. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: Getting stuck in a lift is no fun

      Just imagine being stuck the whole weekend with you mom-in-law...

  9. Giles C Silver badge

    Not a lift but…..

    We engaged a company to move a populated san between two locations - well we engaged the contractors who subbed out the moving to some “professionals”.

    The building was a normal office building and they turned up in a box van without a tail lift, they somehow loaded the 1/4 tonne weight (I think we had a forklift at that building) into the back of the van and set off off the other site to unload.

    Now the destination hadn’t got a forklift (we had assumed whoever would be doing the moving would have a vehicle with a tail lift) and at 9pm on a Saturday night it isn’t that easy to borrow something like that. So what did they do….

    They were parked about 20 feet from the glass fronted office.

    They got some planks and laid them from the truck to the ground so about a 20 degree angle and then somehow got the rack onto these bits of wood, at this point it started accelerating down the ramp (wonder why) and myself and a colleague made a run for safety, they somehow got it under control and it didn’t tip over and stopped a couple of feet from the glass doors.

    After that the installation in the comms room was relatively painless….. the disk array not being bothered by the moving trauma.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not a lift but…..

      Punting is a popular activity with tourists in Cambridge (UK). Some of the colleges have their own docks for their own punts for use by college members.

      One time some bods needed to move a server rack between two colleges.

      Yes, you've already worked out the punchline: They moved a server rack down the river on a punt.

      1. Red Ted

        Re: Not a lift but…..

        "Yes, you've already worked out the punchline: They moved a server rack down the river on a punt."

        I was rather hoping that the punchline was that the punt sank!

        1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

          Re: Not a lift but…..

          <mumble mumble> stupid punts

          1. Zarno

            Re: Not a lift but…..

            Here, have a Pint.

            That will hopefully help punt the punts from your mind.

        2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Not a lift but…..

          Punts just don't sink. And they are even more fun on a lake with sail.

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: Not a lift but…..

            Punts just don't sink.

            Can confirm. Inexperienced punters can though.

          2. BenDwire Silver badge

            Re: Not a lift but…..

            Punts are even better in Cambridge (UK) where there are lots of stone bridges over the river at regular intervals. I spent many a sunny afternoon watching the blokes on the back showing off to their filly on their just-rented punt - only to see them leave the quant (the punt pole) leaning on the top of the arch as they glided through underneath. Laugh? We nearly wet outselves.

            Essential training for the toffs perhaps? Not for the first time would they be a posh bloke stuck up a creek without a paddle ...

            (No, I didn't go to a posh university, but Cambridge was a cheap day out for us)

            1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

              Re: Not a lift but…..

              only to see them leave the quant (the punt pole) leaning on the top of the arch as they glided through underneath

              Those were the insufficiently experienced punters. The true novices spend all their time going back and forth across the Cam to everybody else's annoyance, because they haven't got the hang of steering. This can be seen best from Garret Hostel bridge.

              1. Number6

                Re: Not a lift but…..

                I "helped" one once - broadside across the river, blocking my path, so I just shouted for everyone to keep hands inside the punts, and to brace for impact, and ran the front of my punt into his, which turned him parallel with the bank and got him out of my way. Then I retrieved his quant and brought it back to him (lack of if was partly why he was stuck). I miss punting.

                1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

                  Re: Not a lift but…..

                  I "helped" one once … and ran the front of my punt into his

                  It's pretty much standard for Scudamore's staff to do that. It may seem a bit brutal but it actually helps everybody.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Not a lift but…..

                  A few years ago I persuaded the now SWMBO to go with me when I went down to Oxford for a reunion dinner. The weather turns out quite nice for the time of year, and we enjoyed a stroll round Christ Church Meadows. On our way back I observed that the Cherwell Bridge boat house was still open and we went down. When asked which end I wished to punt from (which of course sets the order of embarcation when moored end-on), I replied "The Oxford end of course". We both enjoyed a leisurely punt down the lower reaches of the Cherwell - somewhere I'd not been before as my alma mater used the Cherwell boathouse well upstream. Though I say it myself, I think I got back into the swing of things quite quickly.

                  Sadly, SWMBO had her knees done since and they haven't turned out well. So while she could sit in a punt, she couldn't get up again afterwards :(

                  But I have an abiding memory from my former student days, [cough] decades ago. Was walking along the riverbank observing a punt going round in circles through lack of driving skill. A rowing eight came along and had to stop. The cox shouted "Punt, which way are you going ?", and got the reply "I don't know" - which seemed a very honest answer.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Not a lift but…..

              leave the quant (the punt pole) leaning on the top of the arch as they glided through underneath

              Or they get the lower end stuck in the river bed, leaving them with a last minute choice of letting go, or hanging on and being left dangling. Unwilling to pick the least-worst option, they fall in.

              1. Ozumo

                Re: Not a lift but…..

                The trick is to give the pole a little twist as you pull it up to break the suction.

                Fnarr, fnarr, etc

            3. Number6

              Re: Not a lift but…..

              I learned early on, fortunately by observation, that when faced with the choice, it is better to let go of the pole than the punt. I think I only lost the pole once, and it was on a deserted stretch of the Cam so only the other occupant of the punt was witness. I'd gotten the thing to move quite fast and the pole hit a patch of sticky silt on the bottom and resisted just long enough that I had to make the call.

              As for the chaos on the Backs, I remember following one of the "professionals" (as in they got paid to do it and generally knew what they were doing) as she approached a mass of punts all over the place and managed to keep about 10ft behind as she threaded a path through the mess and we both emerged unscathed out the other side with our passengers.

            4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

              Re: Not a lift but…..


              Surely this calls for a spare quant for emergency use? Could it be a telescopic type to be extended prior to use? Something that the Engineering students at Cambridge should be able to figure out?

              1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                Re: Not a lift but…..

                A proper engineering student would have a small battery-powered outboard in their picnic hamper for such an emergency.

              2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

                Re: Not a lift but…..

                Surely this calls for a spare quant for emergency use?

                That's what the paddle is for.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Stories like these

      Make me wish camera phones had been a thing longer than they have. No one would pull something crazy like that now when they have the paying customer's employees recording it to show to their bosses next Monday, who will show it to their bosses etc. until someone near the top sees it and shows it to someone near the top of that "contractor" company when the invoice for that "service" arrives.

      Even if the SAN still worked I would be very worried that we'd be seeing drive failures at a much higher rate going forward.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Not a lift but…..

      "They got some planks and laid them from the truck to the ground so about a 20 degree angle and then somehow got the rack onto these bits of wood"

      We ended up doing that with a new liquid scintillation counter for the Balfast Carbon Dating Lab. The final step of delivery saw it arriving in the back of a van with no tail list. They must have used a fork lift to load it but never thought to ask how it could be unloaded.

      It was about the same height as a rack, maybe a tad wider and a tad slimmer. The driver's idea was just to drop it off the back. That idea went down as if it had been dropped off the back and he went very quiet when we stripped the packing case off it and so the item. A good part of it was a complex paternoster sample handling mechanism.

      Once it had been slid off the van it still had to be squeezed through a narrow door and along an only slightly less narrow passage way. Knowing the people involved I'm pretty sure it would all have been measured up before hand so no surprises about actually fitting through.

      You'd think delivery firms must have had enough problems to make enquiries routine, but no, they keep doing these things.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Not a lift but…..

        I owned a bar/restaurant in the past and dealt with that "no tail lift" when heavy stuff was delivered a few times. They said "you're supposed to have a loading dock" and I said, how many restaurants do you know that have a loading dock? In some cases I was able to recruit enough guys to help us lift it down, but at least once when that wasn't feasible I made them return to their depot and come back in a proper truck.

      2. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

        Re: Not a lift but…..

        I recall in a previous job buying a new UPS - and not of the "runs a single server for half an hour" size. We were charged extra for a van with a tail lift - but the driver refused to use it. I was all for simply phoning the company number helpfully written on the side of the van and let the driver discuss it with them, but my colleagues were happy to hand-ball it off - it wasn't actually too heavy when the individual boxes (and there were a lot of separate bits) were taken off the pallets.

      3. Workshy researcher

        Re: Not a lift but…..

        That reminds me of having to pick up a scintillation counter from the University of Surrey (or was it Sussex?) and bring it back to Essex University in a Mazda pickup truck in the mid 1980's.

        It was very easy to load as the university had a loading bay with a ramp of the right height. A couple of chaps pushed it onto the bed of the pickup and then it was down to me.

        It was very tall and extremely heavy due to the lead lining making the handling of the truck quite difficult. When I got back to Essex, no such loading bay existed at the destination, so a number of burly technicians were tasked with physically lifting it off the truck. Having done my bit, I beat a hasty retreat....

        As a young tyro I was surprised that the truck was charged as a car when we crossed the Dartford tunnel unloaded, but as a commercial vehicle when we made the return journey.

        1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

          Re: Not a lift but…..

          Don't know about the Dartford crossing, but the M6 Toll measures the height of the bonnet above the front axle. A Land Rover Defender is a car, unless you have a spare wheel on the bonnet which turns it into a van. While it's not perfect, it's probably the easiest way (short of checking your registration number with DVLA) to determine vehicle type.

    4. G.Y.

      rope Re: Not a lift but…..

      Hebrew U CS got a PFDP11/55 delivered. It came Friday afternoon to TLV, and nobody wanted to risk it vanishing into customs' bottomless pit; so to Jerusalem it went.

      No U staff around; so we tied the half-ton box to the floor upstairs (place looked like a castle gate), drove the truck forward, stopped teh box's swing by a table (which duly splintered), pushed it to a corner, left the rest for Sunday morning.

  10. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

    Such a nice story!

    So different from the usual, never had the stuck elevator variant with a server.

  11. Joe W Silver badge

    A magnet....

    In my lab (waaay back, when dirt was invented) we had a huge (normally conducting, none of this cryostuff needed) electromagnets. Those were beasts. Almost man high the big one (called Fred, the smaller one was Wilma). About 1.soemthing T in the air gap. Water cooled. One of them (or the third one, size just between them, cannot remember) was donated to another university and needed to be moved. Which we did (on one of them transporting contraptions).

    The university caretaker had said he'd come and help, but by the time he was there we were done. Turns out he had organised some steel plates to distribute the weight of the magnet better in one of the hallways, as they were not designed to handle that load.... he was 1. surprised, 2. impressed and 3. very upset. Fortunately nothing bad happened (that we know of).

  12. Wyrdness

    Still in use?

    Wikipedia reports that one of these 1940's behemoths was still in use by a company in Texas in 2022. I wonder if it's the same one.

  13. Dave.C

    Not quite pig iron, but a rather bulky SAN but only a decade or so back. Someone had consulted the plaque in the lift and found that if the discs where removed it should just make the magic number. Lift was loaded, buttons pushed and instead of hopping out and ascending the stairway, the lift driver/device shifter chose to ride up with the hardware and thus overload the lift. Cue calls to lift maintenance, building management and those lovely lads in their red lorries.

  14. Paul Cooper

    Nominative determinism

    By chance, my latest dog is called Tyler, following a trend set by my first dog, Jack - both are named after the leaders of the Peasant's Revolution of 1381, Jack Straw and Wat Tyler. Of course, they are revolting little animals!

    Perhaps the Regomizer has a tendency to allocate "appropriate" names? The original "Tyler" caused a great deal of confusion and damage!

    1. mdubash

      Re: Nominative determinism

      Tyler is guilty....

      1. Paul Cooper

        Re: Nominative determinism

        Yes - Jack is smarter and manages to be elsewhere looking innocent when I discover evidence of revolting behaviour!

    2. Anonymous IV

      Re: Nominative determinism

      Which Tyler was the leader of the Pedants' Revolt.

      [Ba-boom, tish!]

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a failure but I do remember doing a 15 hour stint while we had new air-con units and a UPS fitted to our building that required the whole street be sealed off two weekends in a row and a huge crane driven in, lifting these massive units from ground to top of an 8 storey building. We even had coppers outside at one point where a tourist group started kicking off about getting passed the crane workers, the crane workers simply called the cops who were there in 5 mins and told the tourists to piss off and stop being stupid unless they wanted a half ton air-con unit on their heads! Then a week later we had another 15 hour stint while the power was pulled on an off as they fitted them, we had to be there in case they took more than the 40 mins the UPS would give, we skated pretty close to the 35 min danger mark where we would have to begin manually shutting off all the servers in the comms room.

    1. Marty McFly Silver badge

      We built out a data center that needed 80t of air conditioning. The pointy-haired boss smartly ordered 2x 50t units to be installed for plenty of reserve capacity.

      Everything was little birdies flying over the rainbow leading up to the install... Until one of the techies asked the question, "So where do we get the extra 30t of AC when one of the units is off-line for maintenance?"

      That caused a minor (ahem) 50% budget overrun as a 3rd unit was hastily added to the plan.

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      I wasn't there but in a previous life engineers in the company were tasked with the installation of kit in a lovely, quaint Spanish (may have been French or Italian, a while ago now) town where there was absolutely no way in hell that the tail lift lorry could get to the site. Mostly due to windy narrow cobbled streets which was barely suitable for any form of wheeled transport and definitely not motor vehicles.

      In the end they delivered the parts to a car park outside the town and many, many locals were hired to carry everything onto site.

  16. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

    There's never enough staff...

    We had to put a large standby generator into an old building which had no inside lifting capability. The genset, container-sized and weighing about 20 tonnes, was off-loaded by a crane into the doorway of the building and we were to 'skate' the set into position. It's a fit-once activity, normally, not too difficult with machine-skates, rollers, levers, pullers and wedges.

    "Exactly as the Egyptians" said one educated young wag on our small team.

    "No it bloody isn't" replied Wally, long in the tooth and short on words.

    "Why's that, Mr Walter, Sir."

    "They had a thousand slaves to 'elp them."

    Well, we earned the refreshment at the end of the exercise. ------>

    1. Ace2 Silver badge

      Re: There's never enough staff...

      Not a historian, but read this somewhere:

      The ancient Egyptians weren’t “slaves” per se, any more than anybody else in an absolute monarchy. The whole place was based on floodplain agriculture which was so easy that the peasants had many months of the year with no work to do. All of the monumental buildings were (in part) a way to keep the peasants out of trouble.

      1. Ignazio

        Re: There's never enough staff...

        Or that's what the pharaoh wrote on the wall, anyway.

      2. Paul Cooper

        Re: There's never enough staff...

        And what's more, they took great pride in their work on the Pyramids. I thoroughly recommend The Red Sea Scrolls (; an excellent account of the latest discoveries about the way the labour was organized in the time of the Pyramids, based on recently discovered papyri at an ephemeral port on the Red Sea.

      3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: There's never enough staff...

        Not only were they not slaves but entire families, generations of them, lived to build pyramids and other monuments. These people were well fed, well educated and well protected and it's a testament to the wealth of Egyptian society that they had such capacity to dedicate to supporting such operations.

        The crappy "they were slaves" came about from the usual Victorian(ish) derision about ancient peoples, particularly those having different coloured skin and not being subject to their favoured religion and therefore were stupid, thuggish barbarians and not capable of managing such a sophisticated society. That they built such enduring monuments needed to be downplayed somehow.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: There's never enough staff...

          The various teams were highly competitive, too.

          There's plenty of graffiti along the lines of "my team moved more blocks this week than your team, so nyah"

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: There's never enough staff...

            Yep, the whole sub-society of the pyramid builders is an entire subject on its own. In some periods it feels like they were an entirely different culture to that of the rest of Egypt.

    2. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Re: There's never enough staff...

      Ironically, I was thinking about the last time I was an observer of improvised moving systems and lifts that can't do the job... I and and a colleague were doing a retrofit on a rack-mounted airborne payload. Obviously, the thing wasn't unduly heavy, weighing in at about 250lbs or so, but it was big and there was some political delicacy involved (i.e. although the things were built to survive shock, the politics were such that no-one wanted any signs of impact!). Getting them from their normal homes to the retrofit site was easy enough, but they were too big to fit in the elevator, and we were on the 6th floor.

      So they were hand-carried up the stairs (with the requisite 4 corners per floor).

      ... exactly as the Egyptians.

      [ As we were in Cairo. And the Egyptians doing the carrying wore uniforms of some kind. ]

  17. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    "Customer Engineer"

    The problem with being a customer engineer is that you can never find the manual for the model of customer you have to deal with.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Customer Engineer"

      No self-respecting engineer reads the manual. Ever.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: "Customer Engineer"

        Until the self-respecting engineer becomes an experienced engineer. Experience throws the switch on self-respecting engineers so they begin to read manuals, specifications, layouts, maintenance guides, errata lists...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Customer Engineer"

          And if there isn't one, they write it!

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: "Customer Engineer"

            And if there isn't one, they write it!

            Thinking of some customers I've known, the only people capable of writing a manual for them would be a cooperative of Laurence Sterne, James Joyce and Dante, possibly with Thomas Pynchon as consultant.(*)

            (*) Others, on the other hand, could be dealt with by Stephen King solo.

            1. imanidiot Silver badge

              Re: "Customer Engineer"

              Don't forget Kafka on that list of writers.

  18. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

    Lift emergency panels

    A few years ago I was working on the design and procurement of telecoms for a new hospital. One of the jobs was liaising with the lift company to connect phone lines to the call panels - these were analogue ports off our shiny new PBX. The possibility of putting on-hold music on the channels came up over a cuppa, with us trying to think of the best / worst possibilities. I suggested "Free Falling" by the now legendary Tom Petty.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Lift emergency panels

      Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines.

      1. Evil Scot

        Re: Lift emergency panels

        Thank you for that link.

        I now suffer from random flashbacks of the first outing of Madam Misfit's flying school.

        The last pilot crashed and burned and it was not a pretty sight.

        Hence warning Icon.

    2. Andy A

      Re: Lift emergency panels

      I was once on the phone to HP regarding a warranty job on a failed all-in-one printer/fax/scanner. Not an uncommon occurrence.

      Cue the hold music. Bob Marley.

      "We're jamming..."

    3. PRR Bronze badge

      Re: Lift emergency panels

      > possibility of putting on-hold music .... I suggested "Free Falling" by the now legendary Tom Petty.

      Remarkable coincidence: Today's xkcd:

  19. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    We had some

    high tech gear while working for HM government

    It was a bloody great <redacted> that came in several large steel panels about 10 foot by 12 foot (I fitted out the electronic gubbins while everyone else welded/machined all the bits).

    Of course we needed to make sure everything fitted together before sending it to be abused by HM armed services (and 2 grubby civvies who had to show said armed services howto put the thing together)

    So...... out comes our trusty forklift and we adjurn to the carpark..... and we managed to get 5 of the 6 panels upright and bolted together.. however the last one has to be lifted high in order to drop it in position..

    So the forklift driver (lets call him george) decides to attatch the strops and lift up said panel really quickly using the forklift.

    And george has forgotten a few things.

    Such as when the forklift hits the top of its lifting range, it stops....... however a loosly attached steel panel does'nt... so it carries on upward although decelerating due to gravity... it then decends at 9.81m/s squared until it runs out of slack on the strops. the impact of the added weight breaks one of the strops.. however the other strop is made of sterner stuff(we're not... we all started running at this point) which point we have 300 lbs of weight on one side of the forklift.... and the old saying of "give me a lever and a place to stand and I'll move the world" comes into play. or at least did until the extended forklift crashed into to deputy managers car. (we knew the carpark was the wrong place to do this).

    Cue the cries of 'oh george!" (in our best rainbow voices)

    Deputy mangler was not too pleased "How am I going to explain this to the hire company?"

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: We had some

      Gerard Hoffnung would have loved it.

    2. Zack Mollusc

      Re: We had some

      You had a forklift to lift 300 lbs? Every firm I have worked for would have had four lads on stepladders. Not joking.

    3. Ivan Headache

      Re: We had some

      Oh that was a proper Bungle.

  20. Mark 85

    Not a computer but a large safe

    I was just out of the military and working as the maintenance guy of a large 12 story office building while going to uni clases at night. We had manufacturing jeweler on the 8th floor who was moving to a new building. They had a very large safe to store their gold, silver, jewels, etc. The move was scheduled for the evening after the building shut down.

    Comes the day of the move, the movers showed up with security guards, etc., and a tech from the elevator company. He had spent the previous day inspecting and adjusting the elevator. I got tasked to operate the elevator.

    The safe was pushed into the elevator, then one of the security guys got in on one side of the safe and I on the other. The beast barely fit in through the doors and as it went into place, the cabling and elevator creaked and groaned and sank about 1 inch or so. I pushed the button and door closed and we went to the basement with the elevator groaning and creaking and my finger on the emergency stop button. In the basement the elevator mech made some adjustments and then went back up to the ground floor. When the doors opened, the elevator floor and hallway floor lined up. The crew pulled the beast out and halfway out, the elevator rose up about 1 inch or so. Might have been more but I couldn't tell from where I was. Finally it was out and we got out of the elevator. A very scary ride but ended well. They got the safe moved and the elevator tech and I spent some time readjusting it. The head security guy, gave both the tech and myself $100 as a bonus. Good times.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Someone from rhymes with Sock-deed should send you the story about the entire data center floor collapsing because a hardware delivery coincided with a under-floor cable job.

  22. R Soul Silver badge


    I'm reminded of an epic fail in the early 80s. An insurance company (Scottish Amicable?) wanted to install a shiny new mainfame on the 6th/7th floor of its office in Glasgow city centre. It was far too big and heavy for the building's lifts. So the plan was to remove one of the big plate glass windows on that floor, close off the street and get a huge telescopic crane to lift the mainframe and ease it through the removed window. Things didn't go to plan. When the mainframe reached the window ~20m above street level, something slipped or broke and a few million quid's worth of IBM iron ended up as a pile of scrap metal on the pavement.

    Nobody was hurt - apart from the reputation of a bunch of IT staff, PMs, account managers, etc.

    I don't know which company's insurers paid for this or if anyone got sacked.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oops!

      Hi tech jigsaw!

  23. Zarno

    One might expect an invoice for the trouble.

    Error 402; Payment Required.

    A pint, for everyone must have required one after that.

  24. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

    402 story

    When I were a youth...I actually took a course in "programming" a 402, which my school used to tally attendance for all the schools in town. It was available for a course taught in the business department. Once I saw the monster, I knew it was not long for this world, so I jumped at the chance.

    For those who have never seen is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle of the 70s. It includes a large, powerful and quite weighty motor, many gears and mechanisms, a vast array of plug-in relays, a card reader and a set of typebars which print your results on fanfold paper. You program it by plugging jumper wires into a bakelite panel. It was an experience.

    IBM rented them, and you were charged based on how much you could accomplish per unit time. By pulling a particular relay, you could double the speed of the machine (at the cost of disabling a seldom used function, I would assume). This was done when jobs were run close to quitting time, and needed to run faster.

    It left the school the next year, replaced by a somewhat disappointing IBM 1130 computer, which was equipped with so little memory, that it couldn't even compile its own programs.

    1. swm

      Re: 402 story

      The "S2" relay? Probably because you didn't pay for a full-speed machine and this relay was part of the slow down "fix" to make the machine run at the speed you paid for.

  25. Xalran


    Remember the day I did a Site Survey in a $TELCO operator building ( built in the Stroger/rotary era ) where said $TELCO wanted to locate it's main bunch of Network operation datacenter....

    On the top floor, just under the roof.

    The main issue was not the lack of HVAC ( it was in the building and you could clearly see the external part on the roof of the more recent part of the site. ), nor the 10cm high raised floor ( we had 6m of ceiling clearance ), not even that fact that an uninsulated zinc ( Paris favorite ) roof was going to be a PITA to deal with for the HVAC...

    Nah, the main issue was the hoist anchor, that couldn't handle more than 500Kg and it was going to be more or less impossible use a crane, because of the trees between the street and the building, to lift all those Heavy SUN racks to the 7th Floor. ( stairs and lift were not an option, the last set of stairs was barely large enough for one person and worthy of any medieval dungeon for it's rotation )

    In the end they chose another location that only involved pushing them around on their rollers.

  26. Duncan Macdonald

    Similar problem

    The computer had to be moved from goods in (in the basement) to the 4th floor - unfortunately the goods lift only went up to the 2nd floor so the personnel lift had to be used. The computer itself would not have been a problem (a PDP 11/34 with 2 RK05 disk drives and a CAMAC crate) but it was in a CEGB electronic equipment rack.

    The CEGB (UK Central Electricity Generating Board) had had a number of nasty incidents at power stations under construction where racks full of expensive equipment were damaged or destroyed by bad construction drivers. So the CEGB made a requirement for all power station electronic equipment racks that they should be strong enough to protect the equipment if they were rammed by a jeep doing 20mph !!

    Needless to say such racks were HEAVY - the lift refused to move with the rack inside!

    After removing the front and read access doors the lift would travel to the 4th floor - but it stopped about 6 inches short making it impossible to get the rack out.

    After a few curses a hack was tried - the lift was taken back to the basement then taken to the 5th floor then down to the 4th floor and pushed out as soon as the doors started to open - thankfully that worked.

    (For any ex-CEGB workers who are interested - this was the Dinorwig development computer system and the incident happened at Laud House in the 1970s.)

    Unfortunately there is no heavy weight icon !!!

  27. spold Silver badge

    I have to say...

    The first time I worked at IBM I learned IBM CEs were the best... they were excellent at problem solving in totally whacky situations.

    With ref to the situation described, best I came to was a similar piece of old iron was removed from an office block in the service lift... fitting in service lift... no problem. The exit was in the car park from where it would be lugged away.... only problem the building had recently built a system of bollards around the car park lift entrance (for collision safety or something) - would it fit past them? of course not. After consideration of getting in a big hoist they just decided to disassemble it where it was.

  28. Far out man

    Lift Engineer

    I worked as a Lift Installation Engineer for a while. The first job was in some ways the best as it involved installing a goods lift in Boddingtons Brewery. Not everyones favourite Beer, however the fact that there was free beer three times a day made up for it.

    Saturday overtime was an added bonus, time and a half plus free beer. How times change

  29. Herby

    402s and Elevators (oh my!!)

    Back in the dark ages (I believe they were called the 60's), The nearby university "Comp Center" was open to everyone. Even open to young impressionable high school students (who, me?). While they didn't have a 402 machine, but rather its older brother a 407. Instead of linear typebars that went vertical, the 407 used a drum to hold the characters. Yes, it was all "programmed" by a huge plugboard. I did run a few decks through it, but it was retired a few (maybe less than 1) years later. On the other hand they also haf a 557 interpreter (print characters on an IBM card), and a 519 reproducering punch. Both of these were also programmed with plugboards, and I played around with both of them. One thing that was nice about the 519 was that it had an inp printer that could print card numbers on the end of the card (It had two positions to print). You had to enable it by opening up the front door to reposition it. It (the 619) I believe had something in the plugboard that would add sequence numbers in columns you specified with the plugboard. My memory is fading on this. Both machines were retried due to their consumption of blank cards since everyone wanted a "backup". Interesting times.

    Fast forward around 5 years later, and I am employed by said educational facility (with computers, but not at the "comp cengter"). The building we had "just" moved into (freshly built) and the year before there protest(s) in the building next door (I guess they didn't like things the military did). We wanted to "protect out building, and did things like shine lasers around the building. The significant thing that we did was wire one of the elevator cars "for sound" There was a complete remote control that could be plugged into the top of the elevator car (you got there by pushing to one side a light diffuser and going through the hatch in the cieling). The control had also an "emergency top override", as well as a separate phone line that a suitable relay would switch to a private intercom. It was a wonderful contraption, but it was never used for its intended use, such a pity. Of course it probably qualifies as a BOFH item.

    Wonderful times!

  30. Richard Pennington 1

    Not strictly IT but .....

    Big and heavy servers aren't the only things which can be accident-prone while being moved. This BBC News story from 2007 illustrates the point: .

  31. -maniax-

    Why did someone need to be in the lift?

    > "Once the pig iron was firmly sitting on the floor of the lift, a man climbed on top of the machine to 'pilot' it – his task to push the proper button then wait until the doors reopened to the proper floor."

    Couldn't someone have just pushed the call button on the desired floor thereby negating the need for someone to be in the lift and also removing their weight from the equation?

    Ok, it may not have made the load light enough for the lift to handle but then again maybe it would have

    Having said that, the fact that they didn't take the max capacity of the lift into account suggests they may not have been thinking things through sufficiently in the first place

  32. Spanners Silver badge

    Change over time

    I was just telling a younger colleague about how things had shrunk over the years. When I started where I am now, it was CRT monitors and tower PCs but they still had plenty of bigger stuff.

    In a previous job, customers had "minicomputers" that now the uninformed take one look and ask if that's a mainframe! PCs have gone down to objects not that differently sized to a nice block of cheese (a new Reg measurement?). Screens shrank when they went flat but we are now using such big screens for wall displays that they must be nearly as heavy.

    Server sizes seem to have stabilised at 19" rack ones but the 4-6U or bigger units seem rarer.

    I can now happily carry a desktop PC, screen, mouse, KB, etc but these dinky toy computers now need a power block as well. Still a lot less for my ageing back...

  33. aurum79

    Electron microscope goes out of focus

    I was a contractor in the '80s at an unnamed Federal research facility. I briefly acted as PM for the asbestos lab years after these events transpired.

    At some considerable expense, and with much fanfare, a new, top of the line electron microscope was purchased for the examination of asbestos samples.

    Being too large for the elevator cage, the car was brought to the service position in the roof housing, and the very heavy electron microscope was put in the elevator shaft suspended on a cable with the lens facing down, for the trip up five floors to the lab. It would have of course made more sense to simply relocate the lab to the ground floor.

    The rest as they say is history. Now that's what I call zooming in on your target!

    The story, and the pieces, were quietly swept under the rug.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Electron microscope goes out of focus

      If the lab moved, I can see difficulty getting people to work in what was formerly the asbestos lab... Unless that was the "safe" end of the business.

      Safe in a fire, I suppose.

  34. martinusher Silver badge

    Quaint practice in some US states

    Some US states mandate that the only engineers that can call themselves by such a designation are state licensed ones. Hence the weird 'illegal' appellation --- you call yourself and engineer in those states and you're breaking the law. (....and there are state agencies to deal with this)

    So much for "The Land Of The Free". Worth thinking about if you're contemplating relocating -- only go to states that are 'free'.

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: Quaint practice in some US states

      I am on the other side of this: Anyone being able to call themself a profession they know nothing about it is dangerous. And engineer is among them. Some calculations off, and it can cost quite a number of lives. "Land Of The Free" does not give anyone the right to call themself a pro in a field they have no knowledge about. Easiest example especially for you: Engineering in handling explosive stuff for demolition.

    2. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: Quaint practice in some US states

      Not only that -- there are similar quaint restrictions on describing yourself as a 'Doctor' or 'Lawyer'

      Another country I lived also had quaint restrictions on calling yourself "Sir" or "Lord" --- I'm not aware of any American States with matching restrictions.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Quaint practice in some US states

        You are mixing up "Title of nobility" with "Title of profession".

  35. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Initial City Link

    I'm normally very scathing about the above not-lamented company aka Sh*tty Link, but I took my proverbial hat off to whoever the following driver was...

    One of my clients had the job of demolishing a building in Chelsea and replacing it with a block of flats. They rented an office immediately opposite the site on the top floor of a shop. The first two floors were conventional stairs but their office was accessed by a rickety spiral staircase. So they wanted an all singing all dancing Colour A3 Laser MFD. To give you an idea, the printer is delivered in a box where you do not lift it out of the packaging.

    Everyone was warned when delivery was to be effected, and amazingly it turned up on the correct day, the correct month and the correct year. WTF?

    The delivery driver cheerfully put it out onto the pavement and said "where do you want it?"


    Amazingly he didn't back out when he saw where it had to go, and between us "we" (him mainly, but the construction industry is not short of plenty of grunt manpower, which helped here) managed to get it into the office without any undue problem.

  36. bigtreeman

    home workshop bench

    My Dad's workshop bench was made from the very sturdy frame of an IBM 402, centre of the workshop for decades.

  37. Diogenes

    What about the monorail?

    Was the silly question I asked when one of IBMs 3800-3 lasers was due to be delivered. There was a large cargo door on our floor together with a heavy-duty crane on the roof to allow delivery of heavy kit straight into the floor.

    Since the last delivery of kit, a monorail had been gifted to the people of Sydney to mark the bicentenary of settlement, and construction had been finished for several months. They though to test for radio interference when they were testing the monorail, but nobody looked at the position of the track and the door.

    I have no idea how it ended up being delivered.

  38. Daedalus

    The 402 was 404

    I'll get my coat.

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