Waiting for the electrician (or someone like him)

It's a few years back, and this pilot fish is working at a manufacturing plant as an entry-level programmer, with a little PC-tech work on the side.

"We got a lightning strike very close to an overhead LAN cable run between two buildings -- close enough to blow holes in the motherboards and smoke the power supplies of several units," says fish.

"I was tasked with finding something affordable to prevent, or at least reduce the chance of, this happening again."

So fish starts looking for something to serve as lightning arrestors or surge suppressors for the data line. The cable between buildings is already in a grounded piece of conduit and shows no signs of being hit directly, so that's already covered.

After a bit of searching, fish finds some small devices designed to sit between the network interface and the BNC 'T' connectors that the plant's network uses. All he has to do is screw the little protective devices into place, then hook the green pig-tails to ground to protect the network.

Fish orders the two dozen units he needs, then sets about putting these devices on the PCs. But as he's hooking the green wires to the chassis of each PC to make sure they're grounded, a union electrician happens to be passing by -- and he goes ballistic.

Stop hooking up those ground wires, he demands -- that's electrical work! You can install the anti-surge devices, but that's all.

"I told the electrician, my direct supervisor and the plant manager that those grounds had to be hooked up or the devices were useless and left it at that," fish says.

"Three months later, we got another near hit -- and popped an additional 14 three-month-old PCs. I was called in, I reminded them of what transpired and my warning, and that was the end of my involvement in the mess. I never did hear if anything happened to the electrician."

Sharky's union has simple rules: You send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com, and 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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