Posted by: BrentSheets
Contests, Data Center Contest Entries, DataCenter, ITKE
We’re gathering stories and photos for a cool contest sponsored by American Power Conversion (APC). First place in our Data Center Contest wins a Nintendo Wii game system. And we’re giving away twenty (20) copies of System Specifications and Project Manual for Data Centers (a $250 value!) to members just for entering the contest with a valid entry. Enjoy the contest entry below — and feel free to comment.
Shava submitted this entry:
I was the manager of tech support for a Data General OEM back in the very early 80′s. One day, our only customer in Montana opened his call with, “I want you to get [undisclosed] from Data General tech support FIRED!”
He had a one Eclipse computer shop. The Eclipse was, essentially, a
DEC PDP-11 knock off. It was entirely held in one 19″ rack mount, and still had a switch bank to manually boot the system in case of boot sector corruption. We’re talking ancient of days, here.
The CPU unit was mounted above a 5MB fixed/removable disk. This is to say, the whole computer ran off a 5MB fixed platter (pre-Winchester sealed drives) and to back it up, you opened the drawer and put in another 5MB removable cartridge. This wasn’t a floppy – it was a 24″ round, 4-5″ deep, maybe 12# assembly, with a handle in the center to heft it out when you had to remove it.
The gentleman with the complaint had set his accounting data to back up and gone to the movies. Coming back to the office from the movies, he placed the remnant of his extra large tub of buttered, salted popcorn atop the 19″ rack. Removing the backup cartridge, in preparation for inserting the transaction logging removable cartridge, he swung the backup cartridge to set it on top of the rack.
His popcorn dumped into the disk drive, salt and butter and all. Remember, these drives are not sealed.
So, knowing the drive enclosure was supposed to be kept very clean and free of dust, he went to the men’s room and grabbed a wad of coarse (linty) paper towels and tried to wipe out the salt, butter, and popcorn as well as he could – probably shoving a good deal of it into the chamber where the ceramic read heads were recessed during cartridge change.
By this point, I had the guy on speakerphone, and my crew of about a dozen was just about DYING trying to suppress raucous laughter.
Having done “what he could” to clean up the mess, he put in the transaction disk, and spun up the drive. At this point, the drive started to scream and wail – no doubt, a massive head crash. We could all imagine the heads shaving oxide off of those big brown platters like a Dremel tool.
He tried spinning the drive down, but the noise didn’t stop right away, so he tried spinning it back up – and then in panic, he cut the power to the machine. He could smell smoke
He then opened the drawer to look inside.
Now, these disks weren’t *sealed* but they tried to keep air out when they were running, so there was a *pop* as the removable cartridge came out. But that was a minor effect as, heated probably over 500 degrees F, some bits of popcorn and the atomized butter ignited, causing a Flash Paper-like burst of flame, singeing the guy’s eyebrows a bit.
Everyone in my office listening to this guy was completely losing it by this point.
“Thank God this didn’t happen in a couple weeks when we’re putting the sprinklers into the computer room!” he puffed.
“Yes, sir,” I said calmly, “and this is when you called Data General?”
“I hate calling field service,” the guy admitted, “And they never get here fast – we’re a couple hours from the nearest tech. But I called him up and you know what the jerk told me?”
“Uh, no sir.”
“He told me my contract didn’t cover me for errors of gross stupidity! I want that man *fired*!”
Well, weeks later, the man did get his computer and drive replaced (the CPU had fried from the heat or some effect of atomized grease on the insulation, who knows?). Although it’s not clear how much of the damage his contract should have covered, DG covered it all, including (I think) three site visits in all. We always speculated that they thought they got value back in the hilariousness of this man’s story.
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