Who, Me? Monday morning can mean only one thing. No, not a general sense of foreboding – it’s Who, Me?, El Reg’s way of easing you into the week ahead with tales of other people’s mistakes.
This week, “Giovanni” writes in to tell us about the time his candour had his bosses fizzing with rage.
“In the early ‘90s – the era where Dot Matrix Printers (DMPs) were common and Color Inkjets a curiosity – I worked as the programmer, analyst, systems engineer and trainer for a small software company,” said Giovanni.
This firm was rolling out a new Windows 3.x piece of 16-bit software to all sales reps for a local biz – but not everyone got their hands on all the tech they fancied.
“All the reps got new shiny IBM PCs, but reps that already had a 24-pin DMP had to keep it,” Giovanni told us. Meanwhile, those with no printer or a 9-pin DMP got a spanking new Lexmark Color InkJet printer.
During one training session, Giovanni recalled, someone asked a very peculiar question.
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“What should I absolutely avoid doing to my 24-pin DMP so I don’t break it?” came the innocent-sounding inquiry from a person we’ll call Pete.
Our trainer shrugged it off and gave a straightforward answer: “IBM DMPs are totally indestructible,” he replied sagely. “Just keep Coca Cola away from them – that would ruin them.”
Of course, the more mischievous among you will have realised this question might was not quite so innocent – and Giovanni was soon to be disillusioned.
Because two weeks later, he was chatting to the IT manager, who relayed some of his own tech woes.
“This is just unreal,” he confided in Giovanni. “This is the second 24-pin DMP I've had to replace in as many weeks – and the reason for the breakdown was the same… Someone spilled Coca Cola all over it!”
To the sound of the penny dropping, Giovanni asked whether the first one belonged to Pete, and if the second was someone in Pete’s group.
“Yes! How did you know?” asked the manager.
Red-faced, Giovanni confessed that he had been the one to provide old sneaky Pete with the skills to break this particular piece of kit.
Five minutes later, an email was winging its way to the entire sales organisation with a single line: “The next idiot who brings me a DMP with Coca Cola spilled in it will have the price of the new InkJet Printer deducted from his/her next sales bonus!”
Funnily enough, Giovanni said, no more DMPs were brought in for replacement until the biz migrated to Windows NT 4.
“By which point, the IT manager was so sick and tired of hearing complaints about kids being woken up by home-office printers late in the night that he put in additional budget to replace all DMPs everywhere.”
Has your trusting nature ever landed you in a fix? Have you ever broken something "accidentally on purpose" to get a quick upgrade? Tell Who, Me? – we promise not to judge. ®