Printers

Expect the unexpected

When you think you've seen it all from the help desk, life has a way of letting you know different.

There was a ripple of consternation around my team this week. I was dispatched to look at a printer that was apparently freezing up after just a few pages. The type of printer was one that doesn't normally give us much trouble, apart from wearing out after a very long life, so I am not terribly expert in fixing its problems. The added problem was that the customer was on the Isle of Wight, which to those who don't know is the small diamond-shaped island that can be seen on a map of Britain just offshore, roughly halfway along the southern coast of this Sceptered Isle.

Although I can see the island from where I live, getting there involved an 80-mile drive to Portsmouth to board a ferry, then an anxious 30-minute drive along impossibly narrow roads once on the island. I got there and could not make the printer talk to a PC at all, neither the customer's nor my own laptop. It is a fairly old design, having a choice of parallel or serial interfaces. I tried a new parallel cable with no improvement, so I resigned myself to pulling off the covers to see what I could see.

Imagine my surprise on removing the cover to the main board to see the image of our dear old queen staring up at me from the bottom of the machine. There was a £1 coin there. I loosened the circuit board and heard a clatter as more coins rolled down to the bottom of the case, in all, seven coins with a total value of £1.28p, that's nearly $3US. Having reduced the monetary value of the printer and put it back together I tried again and it worked. It seemed that the coins had shorted some of the connector pins for the parallel interface on the board. This printer has a slot that can be used to add cards to the system, should you wish to add system fonts. It would appear that the owner's two-year-old toddler, who often accompanies her to work and seems to have a good habit when it come to being thrift, had seen the slot and decided that the printer was a large and complicated money box.

It took an entire day and two sea voyages to get there and back, an hour or so to strip and rebuild the printer, all because the original designer failed to notice the similarity between a high-speed ink jet printer and a piggy bank.

Just when you think you have seen all there is to see in User World, something new comes up to prove that there is still a lot to learn.

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