For once, calling it a @#$%! keyboard is right

It's a few years ago at this manufacturing plant that makes engines, and a problem is showing up at one of the stations where they're tested, reports a pilot fish on the scene.

"It was a terminal where the keyboard was entering the wrong information," fish says. "I stopped by to investigate, with a new keyboard to replace the one that would type in # instead of F or 5 instead of A or ^ instead of 3 -- basically, nothing that was coherent with what was on the keyboard."

Fish first checks to make sure there are no stuck keys on the programmable keyboard. He also checks the settings on the terminal to make sure that the keyboard is programmed correctly, which it is.

But after 15 minutes of troubleshooting, fish can't find anything wrong. Whatever he types is showing up correctly on the screen. But just to be safe, he replaces the old programmable keyboard with a new one.

Half an hour later, he gets a call with the same problem. Fish brings in additional support and takes his time, trying to figure out what is going on.

"Meanwhile, the engine tester was taking readings down with a pen and paper to enter them in on another terminal," says fish.

"After a couple hours, I tried to investigate yet again -- and the problem had magically disappeared."

A week goes by with no new reports of keyboard problems. Then it crops up again. This time, fish extends his troubleshooting to testing Ethernet lines, changing out terminals and swapping keyboards -- and yet the problem persists.

Finally, the youngest member of the IT support team asks to look at the schedule of the types of engine being tested. Turns out the model that's been scheduled for testing each week when the trouble appears is the same -- and when the engine model is changed over, the problem goes away.

And with a little experimenting, fish figures out that if the terminals are using a basic keyboard and not the fancy programmable kind, that makes the issue with input not matching what's on the screen disappear too.

"The problem was that the RPMs of the engine were interfering with the programmable keyboard," fish sighs. "After that, all engines that tested with that model were flagged to prevent any future data entry errors."

Sharky want§ y0ur §±0®¥. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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