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To make this computer work, users had to press a button. Why didn't it work? Guess

We'd say this was a clear case of RTFM but this rig was so simple it didn't have a manual

On Call After a week of global chaos, put it all behind you with another instalment of On Call, The Register's weekly tale of readers who were asked to tackle IT turmoil and emerged triumphant.

This week, meet "Karl" who wrote to tell us his experience working for a large pharmaceutical firm in the 1980s.

"I had written a program for a small computer that was really a glorified calculator," he opened. Said program interfaced with a blood testing machine and produced results on a paper tape.

Test labs were the target market for this rig and Karl's job was to visit those facilities and connect their computers to the blood testing machinery.

On one such visit, Karl flew to the customer site, installed the machine, and trained the owners on how to operate their new kit.

"I emphasized to the local staff that one of two buttons on the front of the machine must be pressed in," Karl told On Call. He left the site feeling that they understood the importance of pressing that button, and were ready to operate the machine without assistance.

Karl returned to the airport, handed in his rental car … and was told by the clerk that an emergency call had been placed in the hope of finding him before he left.

That call was from the client, who said their blood testing computer wasn't working.

"Is the button pushed in?" Karl asked.

A definitive "yes" was the answer. Clearly, something else had gone wrong. Karl cancelled his flight, re-rented a car, returned to the site, and found … the button had not been pressed.

Karl pressed the button.

After which everything started working.

Karl then checked into a hotel and flew home the next day, safe in the knowledge that the client had not just been told they needed to press the button – but seen an actual live in-person hands-on practical demo. Of pressing a button.

Have your instructions ever been ignored, causing an extra site visit? If so, click here to send On Call an email and we may well feature your tale in a future column. ®

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