Screwdrivers: is there anything they can't do badly? Maybe not

We're starting to wonder if any of you know what those things are actually for

Who, Me? Welcome once again, to another manic Monday, The Reg's very own fun day, on which we celebrate the less celebrated moments of our readers' careers in a column we call Who, Me?

This week's hero is a reader we'll Regomize as "Sylvester" who once worked for an IT provider in Austria. In the early 1990s Sylvester was project leader on an assignment to install a new system for one of the big banks in Vienna, with a slight complication: the building in which the system would run wasn't ready to host it.

The basement was still in the process of being converted into the IT hub it would become, but the bank needed to begin operations. As a temporary solution, the admin console was installed in the building's long-disused attic. It was dusty and cluttered, but had power and enough room. It would do.

Sylvester installed the machine and its Unix based OS, plus of course an uninterruptible power supply (UPS – because who knows how reliable the power would be in an attic) and before too long had the whole thing up and running.

As is the nature of things, the machine soon needed an update. This meant climbing back into the musty attic and performing an update and reboot on the main console, since remote access was not available. So up Sylvester went.

When the update was completed, however, there was a problem: the UPS would not reboot. Several attempts produced only an arcane three-digit code on its LED display, which Sylvester was ill-equipped to understand.

Since there was no phone in the attic (and this was the days when mobile phones were rare) Sylvester went downstairs into the marble-floored glittering bank and asked to use the phone there. He called the UPS company and told them the code.

"Oh, this is a known bug. You'll need to remove the battery from the main board to clear the corrupted device table. We can get an engineer out there in about six hours."

Six hours? Who has that kind of time? "Don't worry," replied Sylvester, "I'm an engineer myself. I can do it."

This was technically true – the best kind of true. Sylvester did – and indeed does – have an engineering degree. His studies were, however, primarily in pure mathematics. Not in prising batteries out of motherboards.

Anyway, back up to the attic he went, and began exploring the UPS to locate that all-important battery. He removed a plate on the side (thankfully this required no tools) and then found the offending component squeezed into one corner of the board. Removing it would definitely require a tool of some kind. Perhaps something delicate and precise?

Rummaging around in the clutter, Sylvester managed to lay his hands on a large heavy flathead screwdriver. The kind one might use for carpentry.

Assessing that it would provide adequate leverage for the task, he wedged it in under the battery on the board and applied what he hoped would be enough force …

ZZZZZZINGGGGGG! The battery came away from the board and flew from the UPS as if terrified at what had just happened. Sylvester barely caught a glimpse as it dashed across the room but heard a thud and a scrape as it scudded into one of the numerous piles of clutter.

The next little stretch of time was spent searching for the battery – Sylvester was not game to ask for help as it would mean explaining what had happened and maybe also any damage the flying power source had inflicted.

When he finally found the battery, Sylvester replaced it in the board and attempted another reboot. Success! Sweaty, grimy and several hours into what should have been a fairly quick job, he got the system up and running again.

We've had a couple of stories about screwdrivers employed in novel ways recently, which leaves the Who, Me? desk wondering: what other tools have our beloved readers brought to bear in their work? Hammers? Saws? Drills? We're always eager to hear about tech misadventures, so click here to send us an email and we may well immortalize your story one future Monday. ®

More about

More about

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like