It's round and wobbles, but madam, it's a mouse pad, not a floppy disk

Plus: The forlorn attempt to put four disks into one drive

5.25 in floppy disk

On-call Welcome to festive On-Call, in which we take our regular Friday tales of jobs gone wrong and run lots more of them because there's sod-all news to write in the week before Christmas. And also because we have lots of lovely submissions that deserve a run.

Today: tales of floppy disks.

Let's start with “Steve”, who once took a call from a customer complaining his back-up wouldn't work.

Those of you who remember floppies will remember they came with a tiny switch that could write-protect the media. Steve knew of this switch and as he attempted to sort out this problem told the user to move the disk lock down.

“The user said no,” Steve recalls. “He had to turn it up.”

Which was when Steve figured out that during a recent office move the desktop PCs had been flipped upside-down, which was why the backups wouldn't work!

From “Amanda” came a tale of a newly-minted IT manager who had just graduated from being team leader in a call centre. Said manager asked Amanda to fix a jammed floppy drive.

Amanda peered inside and noticed “a card or piece of plastic jammed in the drive”.

Once armed with tweezers, Amanda was able to extract “one of those credit card shaped CDs.” And not just any CD, but the company's disaster recovery manual.

“I asked the IT manager why it was in the floppy drive and she told me that she didn't know what it was and as it was rectangular rather than round she thought that it was a floppy disk, even though it looked nothing like a 3.5" floppy and had a nice shiny surface.”

Sadly Amanda didn't say if the manager kept the gig for long. On-Call is betting she may have moved on quite quickly.

“Robert” sent a story of an emergency he was asked to fix, after a server admin mistook a spring-loaded power switch for a floppy drive's eject disk button.

The server admin wanted Robert to walk around the office – a trading room - and have all the traders save their work, ASAP. While Robert did that, the server admin would keep his finger on the button, because to release it would turn off the server.

“Nile” offered us a classic floppy f&*kup, after users struggling with backup asked him what to do when confronted with messages like “"No more room on disk. Insert a new disk and press Return …"

When Nile was called in to help, he asked if the users had any empty floppies, and was told that they had a whole box. So Nile asked if they had tried to follow the instructions on the message and put in a new floppy. And was told that yes, they'd done that twice. But there was no way they'd be able to get another disk in there: it was hard enough getting the third one in the slot.

Lastly, “Shane” wrote to tell us he “Once took a call whilst working for the UKs largest mail order PC seller many years ago.”

“The lady at the other end could not find where to put the large floppy disc that came free with her PC.”

The disk wouldn't fit in the floppy drive, so Shane imagined perhaps it was a CD and the caller was a bit confused, so suggested she try the CD-ROM drive.

“No,” said the caller, 'it's too big for that, too.”

At which point Shane checked the spec of the PC the caller had acquired, scratched his head a lot, and then decided he needed to know more about this disk.

“What is written on this floppy disc,” he asked. To which she replied the name of the company, our telephone number and our web site.

“You guessed it,” Shane said. “We had been giving out free mouse mats with every PC. They were round. And yes, they were floppy.”

On-Call will be back tomorrow with another festive season special. The column always welcomes contributions, so keep sending 'em in! ®


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