What's brown and sticky and broke this PC?

Nothing, according to its user. But the techie who tried to fix it found a sweet solution

On Call As another week ebbs away, The Register hopes that readers have a nice warm cup of whatever they fancy beside them as we present another instalment of On Call, our weekly reader-contributed tale of the trials and tribulations of tech support.

This week, meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Giuseppe" who told us about a quiet morning on the help desk in the early 1990s.

As his thoughts turned to lunch, one of Giuseppe's colleagues popped into the IT department seeking assistance as her PC wasn't working.

"Has anything happened to it recently?" Giuseppe asked, and was told that it had just stopped working.

He retrieved the machine – a slimline desktop that despite its modest size was still too large for the stricken worker's desk and had therefore been placed on the floor with its ventilation slots pointing skywards.

Giuseppe cracked it open, and was immediately surprised to find its interior was sticky and smelled rather sweet.

So he asked again: had anything happened to the PC to create this state of affairs?

At which point he was told that his colleague had spilled a mug of hot chocolate on her desk that very morning – some of which had presumably trickled into those upwards-facing vents.

Giuseppe's colleague allowed that this scenario could maybe, just maybe, have led to her PC's problems.

While this confession meant Giuseppe understood the PC's immediate issue, he didn’t understand why his colleague had initially told him no incident had occurred.

"Well, nothing had happened to it since first thing this morning when I knocked my hot chocolate off the desk," he was told. "It kept on working so I didn't mention it."

Until it didn't, so they did.

Our hero took two positives from this incident.

One was a lesson that help desk operatives need to ask very specific questions.

The other was that this PC – a Compaq – was admirably resilient. Not only did it survive its encounter with a hot chocolate, it bounced back after his work to fix it.

"We disassembled it, washed it in the sink, dried it all, reassembled it, and the only thing that never recovered was the BIOS battery," Giuseppe told On Call.

The user was left to set the time on her PC every day – fair punishment for her failure to 'fess up the first time.

Have your users failed to disclose the true cause of a problem and made a sticky situation worse? If so, click here to send On Call an email to share your story and we may give it a run on a future Friday. ®

More about

More about

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like