Support chap put PC into 'drying mode' and users believed it was real

Who annoys auditors? It's like picking on alligators – it won't end well

Who, Me? How delightful it is, dear reader, to meet with you once again on the confessional couch we call Who, Me? upon which Reg readers unburden themselves by sharing tales of things they probably ought not to have done.

This week, we again hear from semi-regular contributor and raconteur "Bernard" from rural Middle England. You may remember his tussle with a local fire station which we described a few weeks ago.

This time Bernard has a tale of a more mischievous nature.

Back in the 1980s, when PCs were newish, the local authority for which Bernard plied his trade was based in a somewhat upgraded Victorian-era building that was not entirely fit for purpose. For one thing, the roof frequently leaked.

One damp Tuesday morning, Bernard received a call from the Internal Audit department (one of the few departments that had its very own PC) complaining that the roof had leaked (as was its wont).

The resident PC had therefore become somewhat damp. Could anything be done?

Bernard rushed to assess the damage, and realised that in fact the water had not penetrated the interior of the machine (oh they built them tough back then) and application of a towel sufficed to ensure it was fit to resume operations.

Then an imp whispered naughtiness into Bernard's ear: wouldn't it be fun to have a jolly jape at the expense of the auditors?

Now, for a bit of context, the auditors were not known for their receptiveness to japes, jolly or otherwise. As Bernard puts it: "These ogres were feared by all. Fierce, unbending, implacable, stern and humorless. Their word was law."

So sure, why not play a joke on them?

As it happened, Bernard had with him a floppy disk containing some prank shareware programs (this was before the internet, mind you). "I'll just install some test software," he said, inserting his 5¼-inch weapon of choice. A few adjustments to autoexec.bat later, the deed was done.

What he had installed was a utility that would spin the floppy drive motor up and down, making a sound not unlike a washing machine on a spin cycle. It had a delay so that it wouldn't run until five minutes after booting, to allow Bernard to make his escape.

Sure enough, shortly after returning to his desk, he received a panicked phone call from an auditor: "The PC sounds like a washing machine! What's going on?"

"Oh, it's just drying itself out – no problem" replied Bernard, hanging up as fast as he could before losing composure.

Naturally, the prank software was eventually uninstalled and explained to its victims. Much to Bernard's relief, they said they were not actually mad about it. Just … curious.

Just as The Register is curious about how those fearsome auditors retaliated when Bernard's affairs next came beneath their withering gaze.

If you have a tale of technical tomfoolery you've been dying to share with the world, share it with us here in the form of an email to Who, Me? and we'll make you (anonymously) famous. ®

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