Tech related issues and stories
Some work and tech related issues and stories that have happened over the years.
1985 Perth. Working at Myer Computer and Business Centre logo,
later MyCorp then BS Microcomp, one of my first on-site jobs
was some distance north of Perth. I drove the Myer-labelled van to the site and created and installed a
10m or 15m
RS-232 cable. Returning to Myer after it closed for the day the building was locked and I didn't know how to return the
van. I parked it nearby and went home. The following morning I returned early and took the van inside.
Three years later my last[?] job there before moving into software was to go on site and perform work somewhere. I discovered
I was at that same site, the RS-232 cable now coiled under the bench as the two devices were now only 1m apart.
1987 Perth. I had an IBM XT PC (well, IBM Portable as I moved between Perth and Mandurah every week).
Standard total RAM was 640kB (suspect that was all on the motherboard with the 74LS158 decode chip upgrade).
I had a 64kB RAM card I could map to the address space directly above 640k and a .com
executable* that ran on startup changing the top memory address to 704k giving me that little extra RAM.
The same PC also had a NEC V20 replacing the Intel 8088, an 8087, 5.25" floppy, 20MB hard disk,
the standard parallel port and a couple of serial ports.
* Checked my util directory, I've still got that executable (1987-05-18 18:38 147 bytes MEM704.COM)
~1987 Perth. I was installing and repairing personal computers.
Servicing IBM Model F[?] keyboards we'd usually just remove the keycaps, give them a nice, soapy bath
and reattach them the next day.
The occasional keyboard would be in such a state we'd disassemble it past unscrewing
the plastics and by straightening the metal tabs within and further disassemble it.
We'd then hose it down with a Freon product and reassemble it.
The keyboards would reassemble, look and work a treat but we may not have done the ozone layer any favours.
~1987 Perth. At the 891 Hay St office the sales staff were in one room, us techs in another. One sales guy, let's say Tim,
had a habit of phoning a tech and if their phone was busy he'd phone the adjacent phone which acting like an intercom
would let him call for the person he wanted. I was on a phone call, Tim calls gets a busy signal then intercoms to the
adjacent phone and shouts "Ralph, Ralph, Ralph". The other techs would all shout "He's on the phone." One day I had to call
Tim about an issue, his line was busy so I called the adjacent phone and started "Tim, Tim, Tim". The other sales staff
replied "He's on the phone!". I replied "I know!". Last time he tried that.
~1989 Melbourne. I spent 3 days working on a bug fix, a lot of C string operations where the source and destination
strings are in the order destination source. Went to copy the fix to the source repository and still in C string mode
at the DOS prompt I copied the destination back over the source and lost the fix. Luckily most of the time spent on the
fix was understanding the problem and reproducing the fix didn't take another 3 days.
1990-11-05 Sydney. As a developer on DR-one, an OS/2-based dealing room solution, I was onsite for the first
few weeks as the software went live.
On day one on a raised hand I went to the assistance of a dealer, the screen was all black.
Cue a short panic, on a second look the highlight of the edge of the current control or a cursor was visible.
It turns out the user has decided to see what would happen if he set every system colour to black,
every colour; scrollbar, menu, active title bar, inactive title bar, text, foreground,
background, window border, sizing bar, everything possible.
I had to use an adjacent machine as a reference to keystroke my way back to default colours.
~1993 Luxembourg. My favourite PDR (Product Defect Report) resolution (not mine) -
"For [redacted] drop pages add 1 to the width as THAT STUPID [REDACTED] MOB deliver a
headliner of 81 charcters [sic] long. I'm too fucking lazy and
pissed off to make major changes to the driver to fix this problem this is nice and easy.".
~1994 Luxembourg. Setting up an OS/2 or perhaps Windows machine I had the choice of US English, UK English or
International English. I chose the International option. After the OS was installed I realised that
it had been setup as country numeric code 036; Australia.
~1997 Luxembourg. I had two IBM PS/2 Model 50s on my desk, one on top of the other. I was upgrading RAM on one.
Turned it off, replaced the RAM, replaced the cover, went to turn it on to discover I'd turned off the
wrong machine, I'd replaced the RAM on a powered-up machine. Rebooted it and all was ok, the RAM upgrade worked.
~1997 Luxembourg. A PDR (Product Defect Report) from a major customer complained that whenever an event happened the
software beeped and that was annoying. Locating the code that performed the beep there was a reference to
another PDR. Looking that one up it was a request from the same major customer requesting that
whenever a certain event occurred that the software beeped. Made the beep optional.
1998 Luxembourg. Working on specifications with another department (who were unhelpful)
and the customer, the project specifications had not changed in weeks (months?). At yet
another series of meetings we broke for lunch. I declined the invitation to the restaurant
as I had something to do. Starting the final meeting after lunch I let my boss know I'd
finshed writing the code during lunch time. Excluding testing and documentation the
project was complete.
1998 Luxembourg. Whilst working on a Sweden-based project my Monday morning commute was
Luxembourg - Brussels - Copenhagen - Stockholm.
I discovered the telephones in Copenhagen airport appeared to have Y2K issues; they didn't accept a
credit card expiring in 2001, another card on the same account expiring in 1999 was fine.
1998-06-15 Luxembourg. Started a new job and created a new team.
IT supplied drive space and we dutifully wrote source code and saved it to our drive.
Two years later IT came to me and explained there had been a drive failure and they
discovered that they'd not added my department's drive space to the backup schedule.
Being head of department I'd had my own backup schedule with off-site backups.
Lost nothing. Had most of the QA department's data too.
~2000 Luxembourg. I found a IBM Model M[?] keyboard in the spares and decided to use it.
It had a large, vertical enter key and Swiss-French or other keycaps.
I used it with a US code page and touch-typed.
One day one of the developers had to use my workstation, I found him copy/pasting a character,
a semi-colon or quote maybe,
as that was the only way he could generate the character.
2020 Melbourne. The new food delivery app pickmeup.menu works a treat.
Everything went well on the first day a merchant started taking school lunch orders until they got to the school
and discovered all the thermal tickets on the hot lunches had turned black.
After a lot of facepalming by all involved we swapped the thermal printer out for a dot-matrix unit.
2024 Melbourne. It seems I've led a boring work and tech life since leaving Luxembourg.