The healing hands of customer support get an acronym: Do YOU have 'tallah-toe-big'?

My computer's crashed! I've lost everythi… oh, never mind, it's working again

Something for the Weekend, Sir? "I have something to show you," she purrs, reclining suggestively across the sofa. "Come and have a peek."

This invitation from Mme D is irresistible. But just as soon as I kick off my slippers, don my welding goggles and settle down beside my wife, she sits up abruptly and exclaims: "Sorry, no, it's not there any more!"

Such is middle age. Regretfully, I slip back out of the radiation suit and sorrowfully return the spanners to their kitchen drawer.

On the other hand, I may have misread the situation. It turns out my wife wanted me to witness the curious behaviour of the web browser on her smartphone. By the time I had brought myself within the requisite witnessing distance and field of vision, the problem somehow went away by itself.

This is good news. It means my innate ability to solve software issues simply by bringing my aura within the proximity of an offending device has returned after a year-long hiatus.

Loyal readers of this column – welcome back and Happy New Year, by the way – will remember that my presence normally, or should I say paranormally, has a calming effect on other people's machines. While many unfortunate humans endure all kinds of electronics going haywire as soon as they touch the ON switch, I have the opposite effect as soon as I step over to take a look.

I do not even need to lay my healing hands on the kit. I only have to stand listlessly nearby for everything to sort itself out – completely, instantly and always before I have even had the chance to see what the problem was.

On occasions when I go away on business, I'll switch on my mobile in the Arrivals hall to be welcomed by a string of alarming texts and voicemails from home to tell me the broadband router isn't working, the drains have blocked up and the gas boiler has broken down. The moment I step through my front door a couple of days later, the router spontaneously springs back into life, the toilet clears itself with a satisfying gurgle, and when I go to take a shower, the hot water takes my skin off.

This skill has set me in good stead during periods of customer support: it doesn't matter whether or not I know a system inside out, all that's required to solve glitches or get it up and running after an inexplicable freeze is to walk over to the panicked user's desk. Before I have even bent down to look over the user's shoulder, he or she cries out: "It's not doing it now!"

Admittedly, it has proved a little frustrating when I conduct software training, as it means I never get to see what's going wrong on trainees' screens before it spookily rights itself as soon as it senses my presence. And it has rendered me less than useful when working in a team of beta testers running through UAT scripts as nothing ever seems to fail on their computers for very long unless I promise not to stand up or walk about the office.

My talent left me a year ago. It has been a difficult 12 months, as you can imagine. Throughout 2017, my training courses were replete with catastrophic freezes and crashes, undocumented dialogue windows, error messages fonted in Cyrillic, OS language switching spontaneously to Cantonese, and display performance visuals reminiscent of T-Rex on Top Of The Pops.

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This last year I have witnessed software problems I never imagined possible. Emails would appear, vanish and then re-appear, jumping between various folders and labels with shameless abandon. On one user's machine, a virus checker contrived to put itself into quarantine. On another, every click on a program menu would launch iTunes in the background and immediately begin streaming a random song by Justin Bieber.

I've seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. Time to die? Not quite, but I did see a pink screen of death.

You can imagine my delight on breaking this hoodoo at last. I knew things were looking up for 2018 when I noted that the value of my Bitcoin wallet, ignored and untouched since its creation in December 2013 with a grudging initial commitment of one penny (£0.01), has risen in exchange value to the giddy heights of 22p (£0.22).

I look forward to spending this small fortune on my next waste collection. Rubbish bins, trash cans – call them what you like, they're what Bitcoin was always destined for.

Anyway, since New Year's Day, I have repeatedly found myself being called over to look at mischievous gadgets, computers, thermostats, toggles, switches and taps, only to be told "Don't worry, it's working again!" before I get the slightest peek.

It is annoying and satisfying in equal measure. But surely I can't be the only IT professional (of sorts) to experience being called over by a user to investigate an issue and then told not to bother just as you present yourself at their desk.

Clearly, this phenomenon needs a name. Indeed, as I'm sure loyal readers agree, it needs a proper Dabbsy acronym.

Here we go: TALATOBIG. Or if you prefer lower case with intercaps, try 'TalaTobig'. The stress should be pronounced on the first and third syllables, as in TAH-lah-TOE-big.

TALATOBIG stands for "Take A Look At This Oh Bugger It's Gone".

Come on, it's no worse than the Linux kernel team's FUCKWIT (the woefully contrived "Forcefully Unmap Complete Kernel With Interrupt Trampolines") and still marginally better than Joe 90's Dad's BIG RAT ("Brain Impulse Galvanoscope Record And Transfer").

I dare say it's even catchier than my Lovecraftian "Ikabai-Sital", which is an easy claim to make as this acronym never actually caught on. Ah well. Time for a revival, perhaps? Or maybe I should compile a lexicon of SftWS acronyms for reference. ["SftWS" itself is obviously a pretty terrible example of an acronym and difficult to pronounce as a word without sounding like you're trying to blow out a piece of lettuce caught between your front teeth.]

Anyway, I hope that 2018 brings you more TALATOBIGs than FUCKWITs, and may BIG RAT never be invented for real otherwise my training gig's heading down the pan. On the other hand, I suppose Joe 90's Dad (Mr 90?) could always hire me for my TALATOBIG and Ikabai-Sital skills to keep BIG RAT running smoothly.

If all else fails, there are other methods to train Joe 90 into a fighter pilot, circus acrobat, rocket scientist, brain surgeon or kung fu expert. Judging by modern professional standards, I understand you can achieve this by WAFVOYT*. ®

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*WAFVOYT [waff-voyt]: Watching A Few Videos On YouTube

The quintessential TALATOBIG, Alistair Dabbs
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He had originally planned to write this column about how hardware manufacturers always squirm out of getting any blame for security loopholes but got gazumped by this week's news. He is determined not to write any more columns about oh-so-funny acronyms, until the next time.

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