Windows screensaver left broadcast techie all at sea
A Love Boat story that almost didn't have a happy ending
On Call Welcome once again to On-Call, The Register's Friday morning forum for sharing readers' tales of tech support mishaps and near misses.
This week, meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Merrill," who wrote to tell us he once worked for Royal Caribbean cruise lines as a broadcast technician!
Merrill's job meant he went to sea to make sure ships' passenger TV systems showed the right thing on the right channel at the right time. He also got to capture footage of passengers so they could buy a video souvenir of their voyage.
"Because there were only two broadcast techs on the ship, most of the content on the passenger TV system ran automatically from VHS players, DVD players, and computers running PowerPoint," Merrill told On Call. "We mostly had to keep an eye on things and occasionally restart something that had stopped unexpectedly."
But sometimes the job presented different challenges. Like the time some Windows PCs arrived to drive PowerPoint content displayed around the ship.
"These were just slide shows that ran in a continuous loop, showing the menus in the dining room for that day, or the ship's TV channel lineup, or the activities planned for that day."
On the day the machines docked, Merrill's first mate was on duty making souvenir vids.
"I spent an hour or so setting up the new computers and transferring the PowerPoint presentations into them, but left unfinished the last step of putting them 'on air' because I wanted my fellow broadcast technician to check my work."
Which was, of course, entirely sensible – every techie knows to test before putting anything into production, right?
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But Merrill also did something that wasn't sensible. As he explored the new PCs, he couldn't help but mess with the Windows screensaver.
"I was greatly amused by the option that would allow you to create 3D extruded text that would then bounce around the screen happily with all kinds of cool, at the time, lighting and shading effects."
Merrill thought the screensaver would never be seen outside of his studio. He entered a message expressing affection for his colleague, despite his considerable girth – expressed in very crude terms that we cannot repeat here and which even the gnarliest of sailors might not feel comfortable using at sea.
"I figured my coworker would get a laugh out of it. Then I went to lunch," Merrill said.
Said coworker was impressed by Merrill's work on the PowerPoints, and decided they were ready to go into production.
Without ever looking at the screensaver.
Merrill discovered this when, during lunch in the crew mess, a nearby screen displayed the rude screensaver in all its 3D glory. And if it was visible on that screen, it was also visible on every other screen on the ship – to over 2,600 paying customers …
"A burst of wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued, followed by a mad dash from the crew mess to the broadcast room where we quickly got the offensive phrase off the screen," Merrill told On Call.
"Happily, we never heard a word about it from anyone," he concluded.
Have your internal jokes reached the wrong eyeballs or gone into production? Click here to send On Call an email with your story and we may set sail with your tale on a future Friday. ®