PCs

Computer bloopers and blunders from the technically clueless

Not-so-cool PC case mod

This is one of those half-size cases. Wanting an add-on (full-size) sound card, this ingenious owner decided to do a little "modification" on the case. Still can't use the game port, though! Try ARC-welding it next time.

Credit: Reprinted with permission from Rod Shelley

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

223 comments
butkus
butkus

I worked at a college from "85 to '98. In '86 I had a computer lab and found one of those suitcase computers.. think I finally threw it out in 1990... worth a few bucks now ! Slow as could be with 5 1/4 disks.

butkus
butkus

Yea.. keep installing it.. Anyone remember when you could get software that allowed two modems to connect to your service provider and split the downloads. I think one modem did text and the other images ? I would believe this was way before 56K connections and when service providers could limit your connections. I think I tried it but you needed two telephone lines. I had a separate modem line as well as a phone line. I was on, some times, for 10 hours straight back in the late '90s. I had a good company then. I still have the E-Mail address from them, 15 years.

Gardinerda
Gardinerda

When I went to grad school, we were presented with a VERY BIG "portable" Compaq computer, the size of a small suitcase. The software included Lotus 1,2,3. We were tol to bring the thing home and install Lotus 1,2,3. I could not understand the directions, and asked a self proclaimed computer expert. "Well, he said, first yo put each disc in and FORMAT it" Are you sure I asked? Oh yes, he said, that gets it ready to install. He then provided me with complete directions for formatting each disc, and I did as directed. I then tried again and again to install the program, with no luck. Finally, I brought the whole thing back to class, and announced that there was "something wrong" with MY program. The instructor, could not stop laughing when I told him what I had done, and I learned it is better to NEVER accept everything from a self proclaimed expert without proof of his expertise!

cbigham
cbigham

Back in the 70's my company sold systems with floppy drives to tire stores. The computer with floppy drives were installed on a shelf under the counter. At night (do to the energy crisis) the store thermostats were set to 80 degrees or more. Also I think the shelf doors were closed but the computers left on. The heat continued to recirculate within the cabinets. Saw one of the drives brought in with the floppy actually melted in the drive. Wow. We had to reengineer the fan cages so they stayed further away from the back of the cabinet and I think have grills put in the cabinet doors. Fixed the problem but an unhappy customer.

robertori
robertori

Oh the memories. Back when life was simple. But, no dead mice? The four legged ones.

dlgicu
dlgicu

...didn't look so funny to me, as it brought back painful memories. the screen of my Toshiba Satellite laptop got a big crack just from opening and closing, no big shocks. the cheap plastic encasing of the 17" widescreen may have helped adding to the daily stress on the screen. the starting point of the crack was located somewhere near the bottom left corner of the screen and was already two-branched (1-2 in each branch) right after it happened. it quickly grew to a full screen coverage before the new screen I ordered came. at least mine was done after 6 months of use. when i started reading reviews I found about a similar case happening after 1 month of just regular use. try to explain this for warranty refund...

LDICK
LDICK

I actually got a service call on this one, back in the day. It was 5.25" diskettes as well. As I recall, she said the machine was eating her floppies. I opened it up and there were five or six of them inside.

nick
nick

For example the multiple US Robotics Modems. I saw Windows do that sort of trick many times. No technically clueless involved at all. That stuff kept me and my peers in a job. And still does. The Multiple Folders - I have also seen Windows do that type of thing. I should point out that I am talking Windows in it's original incarnation not the fluffed up over engineered monster that is currently sold as Windows. The Autoexec.bat file with a Deltree command.? If it worked would also have deleted the autoexec.bat file so there would be no record. Suspect this is a recreation of actual events. However I used to support some one who periodically used to issue the following command to free up disk space. del C:\*.* This person kept forgetting to put in the path to the temp directory. We are talking DOS 3.0 days.

Chuck L
Chuck L

Isn't that how dual-layer discs came to be?

Chuck L
Chuck L

The "CD in the wrong slot" blooper happened to me once with a 5.25" diskette (remember those?). I was working on an IBM RT server that was standing on the floor under the table where I was sitting. I had been feeding it diskettes for a while, and had the whole "unlatch drive, remove diskette, insert diskette, latch drive, press Enter" down pat. I was doing all this without ever looking down at the machine. Well, one time I inserted a diskette in the drive, but the drive wouldn't latch. When I looked down at the machine, there was no diskette in the drive. It had disappeared! I had managed to insert it through an opening between the top of the drive and the blank faceplate above it. Retrieving the diskette wasn't a big deal -- I just popped out the blank faceplate. But the diskette had been slid over the top of a very dusty diskette drive, and had to be discarded.

bhaven23
bhaven23

I got the job of cleaning a bunch of PC's that had not been covered with plastic before a remodeling project. DRY WALL DUST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was told a couple cans of air should do it. HA! Used my small air compressor and a vacuum. 5 HOURS.

bhaven23
bhaven23

The more cd's the better. I have a slot feed player that holds four disca. THis person must have seen me load up.

bhaven23
bhaven23

That's where I was hiding my cards............... Forgot to remove them.

jayohem
jayohem

A lot of these odd happenings (not counting grandpa's beard, of course) happen either at the hands (literally) of children or because no one ever 'splained the basics to the end user. Sometimes that could be the end user's fault. People hate to start out looking dumb so they don't ask for help, and what happens? They get to pay good money to look dumb. As the generation that teethed on computer chips hits its stride this sort of thing probably doesn't happen as often -- except, of course for grandpa's beard, and as the PC's get off the floor or replaced by laptops and tablets even that probably doesn't happen so much any more. :-)

Jeff Dray
Jeff Dray

I was sent to look at a printer that would not communicate with the PC. On arrival I found an old style printer with a font card slot and a parallel port. a test showed that it powered up OK but could not communicate, so I tried another cable. No luck there so I pulled the covers off and peered inside. The card slot in the case lined up with the back of the main board and I could see something shiny lodged down the back. I loosened the board and tilted the machine. A total of ??1.86 in various denominations of loose change spilled out and rolled across the table. There was a 50p coin wedged on the back of the parallel connector, effectively shorting it out. Having halved the value of the printer I replaced the covers and it worked fine. The owner was delighted to be re-united with her fortune and explained that her two year old son had recently been given a money box and was getting into the habit of 'finding' coins and putting them into any slot he could find.

megisthus
megisthus

In the old days of floppy disks I gave a teaching colleague some learning materials I'd saved to disk. She rang to say the disk was empty, useless, or so faulty the computer wouldn't even read it. I was puzzled until I discovered she was putting it into the disk drive SIDEWAYS. And this woman was teaching word-processing at the time!

p35f1r
p35f1r

RE: Insert into drive D and a half - perhaps they thought it was like the Harry Potter Hogwart's railway station at #9 3/4? Otherwise I would wonder if they can see that well, or couldn't find the Open button? Lots of ummmm good? explanations for this one. Maybe they thought it was like the CD player in their car.

WxManII
WxManII

Back in the day of local UG's (User Groups) and caddy-loading CD-ROM players, we had a user bring her computer to our UG meeting. She complained that her CD-ROM player had quit working and wondered if we would look at it. My pal Jim said sure and peeked inside. He audibly groaned and said "Ray, grab my needle noses out of my tool bag." I handed him the pliers and Jim proceeded to extract a 3.5" floppy disk a la picture 1 from the drive. He then proceeded to extract TWO more diskettes. In over 16 years, I've seen nearly every example of what these pictures depiect.

tomv
tomv

'make a copy of the disk before you install the software'.. In the early 80's I ran a small computer company that made hardware for PC's. We sent the software out on 5.25" floppy disks, and an instruction manual I had written. (I said small company). I also did some of the tech support. One customer called a few times, and seemed to be having a lot of trouble with the software installation. I went through the steps, and he confirmed that he had done each correctly. 1) Make a copy of the software disk 2) Insert the copy of the disk into the computer 3) Run the setup.bat file (Opps no files on the disk Hmmm) After 3 retries and recalls of making the copy, I had him tell me the steps he took in detail (figuring he was making a backup with the wrong commands or the like). He replied: 1) I make a copy if the disk 2) I trim off the excess so it will fit in the drive (Opps why is there excess? because the photo copier only makes 8.5 by 11 copies... Here's your sign! (for both of us, I rewrote the manual that afternoon) Tom

asyousay
asyousay

While smirkingly laughing at the picture, I instinctively tried to drag the window of the device manager down! Argggh! (Bet the radio buttons don't work either. Better ring help desk) There for the grace of god etc. Shame shame. Tch tch.

fairportfan
fairportfan

..(about the time of Dennis' divorce), one of the other techs had a husband who did field service for a vendor (a reseller, i think). She relayed his stories about floppies magneted to the sides file cabinets and the woman who filled in the labels on 5.25" floppies with her typewriter - after the labels were on the disks, and so on. But my favourite was the office that had a recurring problem with outright system crashes and occasional random reboots - a problem that neither he nor the other techs who worked for the company could duplicate, much less figure out how to fix. So, one day (another in the long string of calls), he arrives at the customer site, and the receptionist tells him that the person he needs to work with is in a part of the offices he hasn't been to yet, and she'll guide him back there. And she stands up, and picks up a pair of scissors from her desk, and starts out. "Why," he said, still all unsuspecting, "Why do you have those scissors in your hand?" "Oh," says she, reaching out toward the door with the scissors, "so it doesn't hurt when I do *this*..." And a static spark he could see and hear from several feet away popped from the tip of the scissors to the doorknob... A little anti-static spray on the polyester carpets, and...

naz0455
naz0455

Really enjoyed this. I work at a university where students need to use a money loader to top up their printing account. Someone folded a 10 pound note and stuck it inside the coin slot, ignoring the note feeder!

shaunsweb
shaunsweb

That is nothing... I do a lot of home computer repairs virus removals. I had a customer complain about some whining noises from the computer and random shutdowns/BSODs. I open the tower and there is about 3 inches high worth of dust in the bottom of the machine, spider webs, and other dead bugs. The dust was so thick I could actually pick it out in huge clumps. Most of the fans were dead, the whining was the CPU fan hitting the dust that had built up in the CPU Cooler fins. Amazing after I cleaned it out replaced some bad fans ran some tests the computer still worked and stopped overheating causing it to crash. I have to wonder what people like that do to create that much dust in a room.

Roberto
Roberto

OMG im ROFL! I attended a server once and inside i found this marvelous trick of the trade... and IDE HDD (the main server HDD were SCSI). It was "taped" upside down, under the FDD cage (since no visible HDD cage was available)...

fairportfan
fairportfan

A friend and i both worked phone support for NEC desktop machines - my first day on live phones was the day Win95 went live, Bill started a few weeks later. Remember Microsoft BOB? Bill took a call from a French-Canadian customer. he asked what the main symptoms were. "The little dog - his tail don't wag no more!"

rhine
rhine

I laughed my Ass Off; just when you think that you've seen it all. LOL;LMAO

Master of Nerdology
Master of Nerdology

The picture of the dust does not impress me. In Las Vegas that would be a normal amount of dust.

nwallette
nwallette

I worked with a guy at a computer store back when the P4s came out. Bright guy, actually. Except once. He decides to upgrade his Pentium III to a P4, so he buys a motherboard and a CPU, then walks over the memory bins. As some of you will remember, RAMBUS memory had to be installed in pairs, so he picks out a 128MB stick and a 256MB stick. "Whatcha doing?" "Picking up some memory." "One of each?" "Yeah, it has to be installed in pairs." "Yeeaahh... I'll admit I've never tried it, but I'm pretty sure they have to match..." "No, I don't think so. I've never heard that. You just can't leave a slot empty." "Hm. Well, why not just get 2x 256MB anyway?" "I don't need 512MB, and 256MB isn't enough. 384MB would be about perfect." Fast forward 12 hours, when I added a 128MB stick back into inventory and sold a 256MB stick to my red-faced coworker. We had made a hockey jersey with "RAMBUS #384" printed on it.

bhaven23
bhaven23

I was called in to "clean" some 'puters. Seems that the drywallers did not cover any of the equipment prior to working. One person said all I'd need was a can of air. Used an air compressor and a vacuum! One case I opened revealed the poor thing completely filled with drywall dust. A one hour job turned into a five hour one and a lot more pay!

duane
duane

Here is one.. Had a customer that had a remote access server for their customers to log into and download software and patches. They moved into an older building downtown without dedicated server rooms. Their customers were complaining that the server wasn't available. After many calls and remote logins, I couldn't find the problem. When I went out to physically inspect the server, the customer took me to a closet and flipped on the light switch. Yes, they turned off the light at night when they left and yes the switch controlled the wall plug. Nobody realized the "beep" they were hearing was the server booting up every morning when they turned the light on.

2rs
2rs

I've only read half the comments & need to go home! My boss's computer was running fine one day & wouldn't boot up the next. (It has taken at least 3 years for everyone to stop suspecting that I screw around with their computers) & he says Were you working on my computer last night? Me: Nope, I'll take a look at it when you go to lunch. I found a sheaf of papers attached to the side of the case at about hard drive height - with a big fat magnet. I really had to be diplomatic when I told him why his machine crashed. But I sure got a good laugh out of it.

wendygoerl
wendygoerl

This doesn't really require technical cluelessness, just a brain fart. Back in the day, we had Acers with two 5.25" drives--you wouldn't believe how often a floppy ended up between them when someone was trying to change disks in a hurry. And nowadays, if you're used to a slot-loading CD drive, and you end up working with a tray loader...

brad
brad

I once worked in a rural PC repair shop. We had a new customer come in with a PC that "just stopped working". I opened the case and cockroaches started crawling out from under the motherboard. One of the roaches was dead, stuck to the motherboard. It had apparently short-circuited part of the motherboard. The PC was dead, and I spent the rest of the day with a can of roach spray and the "heebie-jeebies". Yuck!

lrdcemb
lrdcemb

The worst are computers from people that smoke, the insides of their computers were horrifying to work on, the dust is all yellow, stinks, and 5 times as much as a normal computer. gah!

digital
digital

I had a client wake me out of a deep sleep asking for guidance on creating a layout in a graphics app. After politely leading him to the help menu. When he asked "why won't you just walk me through this?" I reminded him of the late hour he called ( I had been asleep for hours), then I fired him. -yes I have been known to "fire" my headache/no profit clients. I would really rather that they spread that kind "joy" out to the competition.

banzairunner
banzairunner

User holds up an unplugged keyboard and asks me, "Why doesn't this keyboard work?" I answer "Because it's unplugged." She says, "I know but why doesn't it work?" She then mentioned that it needed cleaning so she'll take it home and put it in the dishwasher as another tech recommended to her. I gave up after that. Despite recommending against that she was persistent that this is the way to clean a keyboard. Since she had a current working keyboard already on her PC there's nothing to lose so I told her to go for it.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

Oh that's easy a stuffed Hinge caused the Substandard Monitor to break. ;) Col

Temos
Temos

That's Cute, and Yes I still have a legitmate copy of BOB. The Interesting thing is Tandy came out with their own version DeskMate Home Organizer Program (MS-DOS Based) for their Tandy PC's. Both do many of the same or similar functions. I found a great use for my BOB program; I installed it onto my Car's Carputer. As for the Deskmate program, my Wife still uses it in the Kitchen. I just wish "Bill" had made the Dog "Bark", it would have made a great "Car Burglar Alarm".

Temos
Temos

I had a customer (a Grocery Store), who's ATM/Credit Cards would go down at roughly the same time every night. It was also the same time the owner of the store would go home. Apparently, no one checked to see that the Credit Card Processor was plugged into an outlet that was controlled by the same light switch as the owners office lights.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

The case of a hard drive is specifically designed to provide a magnetic shield that excludes external magnetic fields from the interior and the disc surfaces. When I was in the Air Force, I helped in a demonstration of this. We used a magnet taken from a klystron (a high power microwave amplifier tube) to pick up a 20kg weight. We then brought a hard drive into contact with it. After we pried the drive from the magnet, we reinstalled it in the PC and booted from it with no problems. Floppies, on the other hand, didn't survive. That your boss's hard drive chose that night to crash was most likely a coincidence; the magnet only gave you a convenient excuse. edit: clarify

seanferd
seanferd

Yeah, I never understood why people put things with magnets in them next to electronic items. "My TV was fine, now it has this weird rainbow spot in the top of the picture."

rblevitt1
rblevitt1

An ex-boss of mine sent me a photo of a computer opened up with a dead snake found inside. If that isn't creepy, I don't know what is! ]:-)

joanne.carr
joanne.carr

This is why I exiled my roomate outside the house to smoke. I got tired of rebuilding and cleaning her computer.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

I have read that putting a keyboard in a dishwasher will work if the proper setup is followed. No soap, gentle cycle, and air dry until completely dry. I have never been brave enough to try it though. Bill

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

Even if they are pointless Service Calls to fix things like this. Many years ago I had Fridge Magnets made up for the business but I've since stopped using them ever since I found then stuck to the side Covers of the Computers with some explanation that they needed them there so that they would know who to call for Service when things went wrong. :^0 Col

Temos
Temos

My wife came across that same picture. Someone had put it into a Presentation File with all the pictures the tech had taken of the incident. The snake had somehow made it's way into the power supply. He/She was WELL DONE. The Power supply must have been Toast too. One interesting note, I noticed on the pictures the Power Supply was set for 220-240. Must have occurred in Europe some place.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

We used to do this back before keyboards became expendables, with about a 50% success rate. We would wait until we had 15-20 to do, then one guy would take them home. Tie the cables in a small loop (4-6"). Set the keyboards upright on the front edge, don't add soap and set the dishwasher for warm water, gentle cycle, and air dry. After the wash, air dry for a week. You could also oven-dry you were in a hurry: lay 2 keyboards side-by-side on each of the two racks, set the oven to warm (

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

To clean them out ASAP after the water goes down. If you can not get to them fast you should keep them submerged till you can get to them. Then clean them out and good old Tap Water is still one of the best and cheapest things possible to clean things out with after they have been submerged and then dry them out completely. If you do that properly most things will work quite well for a long time. The only problem is that you are unable to guarantee just how long or reliable the unit will be, Col

garyb_z
garyb_z

A little off topic !! I have seen TVs recovered from the roadside after being fully submersed in flood waters, hosed out with a garden hose, left in the sun for a week, then had critical components totally dried with a hair dryer. 1 in 10 failed to be fully operational !!

ddomian
ddomian

May be off topic, and obviously a little late, but I used to oven dry the distributor cap in my '66 VW. Worked every time ;)