Powerful forces, bodily fluids – it's all in a day's work

Faulty fluoroscopes and malfunctioning monitors make for an On Call two-fer

109 Reg comments Got Tips?

On Call It’s Friday at long last and that means it’s time for On Call, our regular trip down readers’ memory lanes.

But for a bit of a change, this week we’ve got two tales of tech support head-scratchers, where the problem involved thinking outside the box.

First we have Patrick, who told us about an incident that happened during his time working as desktop support at an car manufacturer's research facility.

He received a ticket for a failed monitor, and carried out some basic checks to establish it was plugged in, the video cable was connected at both ends, the power was on, the green light was on, and so on.

Patrick took his own monitor, which was in good working order, and replaced it with the apparently faulty one… but it didn't work. “I then went and opened a box with a brand new monitor, and got the same result,” he said, perplexed.

Button image via Shutterstock

Convenient switch hides an inconvenient truth


“After spending over an hour shuffling monitors around, the research scientist let fly some colourful language and proceeded to apologise,” said Patrick, who was still none the wiser.

“He then explained that he had two very powerful industrial magnets on his desk.”

Once he removed them, the monitor showed some signs of life, and Patrick added, “fortunately someone had a degauss coil, so we were able to bring them all back to a useable state”.

Our next tale also includes materials used in every-day work that interfere with users’ kit – but the issue is more, er, delicate.

Meet Barry, who was running a radiology department in a fairly small hospital in the late ‘80s.

“We were having intermittent strange artefacts and some failures in the fluoroscope under the X-Ray table,” he said.

On standing the table up to assess some “moisture sensitive" components, Barry discovered that the culprit was due to barium getting into the internal vials… via some unfortunate “leakage” from patients who were having barium enemas.

“After some rather unpleasant cleanup of barium and certain bodily fluids, a liberal application of silicone sealant prevented further issues,” he said.

“One would think that the designers might have anticipated the problem,” Barry mused.

“A significant minority of patients undergoing that procedure – most of whom are elderly – often have certain difficulties in holding the barium in, if the study runs (pardon the pun) overly long or is difficult.”

Industrial magnets? Barium? What other materials have caused problems in your line of duty? Tell On Call and we might publish your experiences next week. ®

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020