A thump with the pointy end of a screwdriver will fix this server! What could possibly go wrong?

No, nothing’s broken. I’m just working under this desk for … reasons

Who, Me? As a fresh working week commences, The Register understands that many readers may feel like giving the kit they tend to a good thump. Which is why each week we offer a fresh and hopefully cathartic instalment of Who, Me? so you can take heart from fellow readers' tales of tech support agonies rather than letting irritation overwhelm you and create your own.

This week, meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Mel" who told us about his time as a field engineer for machines that ran Pick OS – a relic that our sibling site The Next Platform recently reminisced about because it integrated an OS and a database.

Mel's employer had written software for the OS, even though he described it as "rare as rocking horse excrement."

At least Mel's client ran those rare wares on good hardware: an NEC machine that Mel described to us as "bulletproof-solid … seriously good gear, the likes of which I've not seen before or since."

That "since" refers to the time elapsed since 1994 – when the box Mel worked on contained a 300MB 5.25″ ESDI full-height hard drive, an EISA caching DPT controller and a 33MHz 80486 processor.

"It was heavy iron for the time and serious iron for smallish businesses, supporting 32–60 users," Mel explained.

But it still needed an upgrade – in this case to a board packing a '486 DX/50 processor.

"This board really rocked for the time, not only carrying a blistering-fast 50MHz '486 CPU, but also a nice phat 128K cache as well to make it really sing," Mel wrote.

The techie arrived at his client around lunchtime and found the NEC machine on a shelf under a desk.

He then did a backup of the hardware config – EISA was good like that – before starting on the card replacement chore.

Suffice to say that this ancient machine had a lot of components inside – all packed close and cabled together. Mel was able to get the old processor card out, but the new one wouldn't quite sit in place. A many-pinned connector sitting at an odd angle appeared to be the culprit.

He decided a kinetic approach was the way to sort things out.

"I grabbed the nearest screwdriver, stuck the blade on the connector – and gave it a hearty whack."

Bad move.

"The connector collapsed, and the pointy end of the Philips head screwdriver skewered through it and mangled the machine's innards into a tangled, shorted mess," Mel confessed.

Remember our mention of the machine's location under a desk? That was the good news – it meant nobody saw Mel skewer the machine. It also meant he could stay down there and try to fix it without being observed.

Mel therefore scuttled off to his van to retrieve a torch, soldering iron, and a pair of tweezers, then spent the next two hours under the desk attempting to revive the machine.

When asked, he deflected that the situation was "just a technical issue with the card." In reality he was scared to let anyone see either the mess he'd made or his salvage efforts.

Miraculously, he was able to stitch the machine back together, and when he pressed the power button it returned to life. The backup worked, the new processor kicked in, and the job was done!

Nobody ever knew how close Mel came to stabbing the server to death with his screwdriver.

Years later, after he had retired, Mel was approached by the customer – not, thankfully, to be confronted about the awkward innards of the box. "I was asked to help migrate this same customer's machine to a new environment. I accepted and was paid handsomely for my work."

Mel wrapped his mail to Who Me by revealing "I've never told a soul of the near disaster that befell their system. Until today."

What's the worst damage you’ve done with a screwdriver? Click here to send Who, Me? an email to share your story. ®

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