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BOFH: Step into my office. Now take a deep breath

A veteran of the bore wars proves very hard to kill

Episode 7 "Oh this takes me back to the early days of ST225s!" the Boss burbles.

I am getting a personally tailored lesson in being careful what I wish for.

On one hand, the PFY and myself wanted a new Boss who at least knew which end of a keyboard he could shove up his arse when he asked for the ability to type Norwegian potato language into a Word document without having to stick his tongue out – but on the other hand, we didn't want some tech-savant who can't have a bowel motion without syncing it with Google Drive.

So we played it safe with the slave traders and checked the box on a burnt-out has-been who's less likely to cause waves than an anorexic high diver with a parachute. Someone whose career is so far behind him he needs the Hubble telescope to look back on it. The IT equivalent of an X-Factor judge, in other words.

The downside to our choice is that we'd forgotten how much of a pain in the arse someone who lives in the shadow of their former glories can be. If I hear one more war story about how they used to assemble bytes by hand from a box of 1s and 0s and then hammer them into a 150-baud serial cable with a mallet I'll be tempted to take the mallet to someone myself...

"He's so dated!" the PFY gasps.

"Of course he is – when he started in IT, pound notes still had a picture of Caesar on the back. In fact, when he started it was just I."

"He predates T," the PFY says, shaking his head.

And the worst part of it all is that telling dull stories about the distant past to the uninterested is a contagious disease. Before I know it, I find myself regaling the Director's PA with the intricacies of converting dot matrix printers to scanners. But as I said, it's contagious, so while I'm banging on about how crap shuttle-mounted digitisers used to be, the PFY segues into scanning technology as a whole and how really it owes a debt of gratitude to the massive table top digitisers of yesteryear.

"Where'd she go?" the PFY asks, after what seems like only moments.

"Home," I say. "It's 10 past 5."

That's the other thing about rambly stories – once you get talking, you lose track of time. If it wasn't for the absence of bum pain you'd think you'd been abducted by aliens.

"Did she just leave?" the PFY asks.

"I'm guessing she left sometime after you mentioned how you used to digitise pictures on an A0 digitising table from an image thrown on to it from an overhead projector."

"Did I say that?"

"You did. I may have added something about digitising fonts by hand as well. It's easy to get sucked in."

"Not that easy, surely?" the PFY asks "I once went to fix a desktop machine for a bloke whose hobby was wall finishes. HOBBY! He rambled on about stucco for about half an hour!"


"I know what you're thinking – you're thinking you could learn all you ever wanted to learn about stucco inside of 15 minutes, including the time it took to stuff the body in a roll of carpet. But it was interesting. When I realised that, I knew I had the disease."

"The disease?"

"Yes, the disease. The inability to realise that a topic is deathly boring."

"Boring?" the Boss asks

"Yeah. Sometimes – like when people talk about data indexing – I can actually feel myself contemplating it. Data indexing! obviously not all extremely boring stuff is interesting. That stuff you were saying about your between-job holidays was golden as a control sample. No-one'd find that interesting."

"That's not a disease!" The Boss says.

"Of course it is! You have it, but you just don't realise it. I think we might have a bit of it too."

"Anyway," The PFY says looking me in the eye. "You've... never seen inside the Computer Room have you?"

"No, as a matter of fact I haven't!" the Boss chuckles – while the PFY waits patiently for my assent.

I nod.

"Well come right in. So it's just your basic server room, you've probably seen millions of them in your time..."

About 10 minutes later the PFY returns with a sweat on.

"That was close!" he gasps "He started talking about changes in rack cooling over the years and how in his day they didn't have racks and... I don't know. I think I completely forgot to press the halon release in my rush to get out of there."

"Then it's lucky we have a remote" I say, pushing a button latching the server room doors override into the lockout position.

... ten minutes later...

"Oh" I say to the PFY as I polish the remote discharge button with my handkerchief. "I think there may have been a terrible accident."

"We should render assistance!" the PFY says, as the doors click back into normal access mode.

"The thing about these old Halon systems is that they used to misfire all the time," the Boss burbles. "And on more than one occasion I've found that the hold-off button wasn't even connected to anything – or worse, was connected to the immediate discharge trigger. Now most of these have been decommissioned, but many of those that are still in service have an isolator valve at the first entrance point to the room - like that one over there. So if you turn that anti-clockwise by a quarter turn..."


"Is it morning?" the PFY asks.


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