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You can't dust-proof a PC with kitchen-grade plastic food wrap

There's a reason the lowest quote for a job isn't always the best quote for a job

ON-CALL Welcome again to On-Call, our Friday feature in which fellow Reg readers share memories of jobs that went wrong.

This week reader “DW” shares a tale that we hope isn't an April 1 joke, because he says the events below were reported to him by colleagues. He sent us his tale a while back, so hopefully we're not the butt of a joke here.

The story takes place back in the 1990s, when DW was in the building trade and he says “PCs began to be used in greater quantities on construction sites.”

Which are nasty places. DW says the temporary offices on building sites feature “endless mud in the winters turning into dust in the summer … and engineers aren't the best at keeping offices clean.”

A project manager colleague of DW's was charged with setting up a new on-site office and decided he could do better than the company's IT team.

“He went with his vast experience of computers - he owned one - and put out a tender himself,” DW recalls. The tender called for computers capable of surviving a dusty office and the project manager went with the lowest bid, from what DW says was “a local firm who normally provided single computers, for whom an order for twenty was a goldmine.”

To complicate matters, “Because the desktops were running proprietary software, the construction company insisted that support had to be by a central systems support team - so the supplier had no continuing liability. Do you see a potential problem?”

DW says the PCs ran nicely during winter, because they put out so much heat the temporary office was toasty warm. But come summer, the crew sweltered and started turning off computers to make the office bearable.

Then the computers started turning themselves off … forever.

At which point the systems support team were called in to fix things up and, DW says, “the air turned blue - and not from the smoke.”

“Apparently the PC supplier hadn't had to protect computers against a dusty environment before, and so came up with a novel method of their own which involved wrapping the dust-sensitive elements of the PCs in several layers of kitchen cling film.” That cunning plan worked during Winter, but once things heated up the plastic melted and coated the machines' innards in a mixture of plastic and dust.

Unsurprisingly, all 20 the PCs quickly died. The supplier was nowhere to be found, having spent its profits and folded.

“Cue much quiet hushing-up of the financial 'meltdown',” says DW, who does his own stunts, and jokes.

DW reckons the moral of this story is that only people who know about computers should be allowed to order computers, and that the lowest bidder is never likely to be the best bidder!

What happened when you engaged “novice” supplier? Click here to write to me and you might feature in a future On-Call! ®

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