Thinnet cables are no match for director's morning workout

Leftover bits of wire where PC used to be? Really ties the office together


On Call There was a time in IT when "brute force" meant something other than guessing at passwords while wearing a favorite hoodie. Welcome to an edition of On Call that really pulls out some memories.

Today's tale comes from the era of coaxial cables and thinnet. "Ben" (most definitely not his name) was working on the campus of an educational institution. "We got a call that the network in a building out on the edge of campus was 'flaky'," he recalled.

"Some machines were working, some weren't, especially the department director's."

A big cheese bereft of connectivity would never do, and so Ben and a chum grabbed some cable testers and headed to the afflicted location.

"When we got to the building we started testing adjacent to the thinnet to the fiber converter that fed the building. Worked fine. The further we got from the headend, the more performance degraded, until we got to the director's office...

"...where the problem was discovered."

For those who never experienced the joy of thinnet (aka Thin Ethernet or Cheapernet), it consisted of thin coaxial cables replete with BNC-T connectors, usually plugged into network cards. Before Category 5 cables became all the rage, networks frequently (and, in some cases, still do) consisted of lengths of RG-58 cables.

The thin cable and BNC connectors are significant to our story.

"Seems the director wanted to rearrange his office," said Ben, "but didn't bother to call Physical Plant to do the heavy lifting."

Helpful. Sort of.

"Evidently, when it came time to moving that big tower PC under his desk, he just hauled it out and set it over next to where the desk was moving to," remembered Ben. "Of course, he didn't bother to check to see if anything was plugged INTO that machine other than the power and video cables…"

Thus the connectors of both pieces of RG-58 cable plugged into the BNC-T connector were ripped off. The director only realized something was wrong when he moved his desk and saw the two sad bits of wire where his PC had been. What to do? Tie them in a neat bow and hide them behind a sideboard, of course.

Sorted! Right up until he realized that connectivity was now sadly absent and placed the call.

Ben and pal dutifully replaced the ripped-off connectors and reconnected the cable with a barrel connector. The computer was back on the network.

"All was once again right with the world. We headed back to the office wondering how People Like That™ managed to score tenured faculty slots. Ah well."

Ever been called out to deal with an incident that could only have been the result of brute force and ignorance? Or were you the person applying unnecessary force to an innocent bit of cable? Confess all with an email to On Call. ®

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