On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, our series in which readers share memories of nasty jobs they've been asked to do. On-Call usually appears on Friday, but Easter means nobody will be around to read it. So here we are on Thursday.
This week, reader “George” tells us, “Many years ago I was a PC repair tech at a small computer store, doing the usual memory upgrades and the occasional whole-system rescue.”
Nothing too stern, then. Until the day when “one of our customers brought his tower in, telling us it had stopped working the day before. Right away I could tell this was going to be an unusual case because the whole tower was a sickly yellow.”
The source? George's nose told him that “the stench coming off the client was that of a chain smoker - of unfiltered cigarettes - who didn't know how to use a washing machine.”
George figured the computer's unnatural tinge could be attributed to “a liberal application of big-tobacco's finest.”
After completing the usual paperwork, George popped the machine's lid and found something unusual, something so horrific it could have featured in an El Reg Ventblockers special (which you can see in all its filthy glory here).
“As soon as I popped the cover off, a gigantic nicotine-tar dust bunny the size of a rugby ball ponderously tumbled out onto the workbench,” George recalls. “It was absolutely awful inside that machine - filthy beyond anything I'd seen before or since, and it was choking the innards to the point that it had destroyed the motherboard.
“Cleaning that up took ages and I used up half a box of surgical gloves in the process.”
George got the machine running again with a new motherboard, memory and a couple of other upgrades, then tested the machine to make sure it was working.
Which was when he wished he was still wearing the rubber gloves. Or something to shield him from the screen-saver, which depicted nothing but hardcore porn.
At least the customer observed good security practices: there was a password on the screen-saver. While that protected the customer's data, it meant George kept seeing the screen-saver every time he checked on the progress of his installation...
What have you found inside a computer? Or on a hard drive? Write to me with your stories and you might find yourself the hero of a future instalment of On-Call. ®