On-Call Welcome once more to On-Call, the column The Register squeezes in before the weekend so you can revel in a fellow reader’s tales of tech support terror.
This week meet “Zac” who told us the story of how “When I started as a computer engineer for a now defunct manufacturer everything was learned on the job (in the 'field'). “
“I'd arrive at a major high street bank computer centre to fix stuff I'd never ever seen,” Zac recalled “I'd have to ask the operators what the problem was, and then to show me what it was doing - surreptitiously watching what they did so I could repeat the procedure until I'd fixed it.”
Zac’s career kicked off in the days of tapes and punched cards, “enormous great vertical fixed disks on 100psi oil bearings” and all manner of mainframe-era monsters.
“Being thrown in at the deep end was the standard – and only - training procedure.’
That carefree attitude eventually caught up with Zac who told us “An experience I still remember to this day occurred at one of Britain's 'intelligence' agencies (I'll say no more).”
“I was sent to look at a mini-computer that wouldn't boot. It was old enough to still be equipped with actual core memory (4KB cards): the sort you could take out - re-insert - and then warm boot straight off (non-volatile).”
After a bit of prodding and testing, Zac figured out that one of the core memory cards was faulty. So he replaced it, re-booted and headed back to base with the broken card about his person.
And then, unexpectedly, “at the gate I was searched.”
Which was where Zac’s troubles began.
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“On finding the memory card, I was hauled off by what I think were military police to the cells. I was accused of trying to steal 'intelligence', and held there for what seemed an eternity while calls were made, repetitive questions asked, and copious apologies given.”
Zac was eventually released.
But to this day he wonders why he wasn’t vetted and briefed on how to work for that kind of client.
“Many people would also have thought the mainframe manufacturer in question would have been expected to train me!” he signed off.
Has your employer skimped on training? If so, what strife did that cause? Tell your story by clicking here to write to On-Call and you might just pop up here on a future Friday. ®