OK, just THIS time we'll admit it's not IT's fault

Flashback to the mid-1990s, when this pilot fish working for a small manufacturing company is asked if he knows anything about computers.

And as it happens, he does. "I had messed around with some home-built PCs, so I said yes," fish reports. "I was assigned to work with the gentleman who was in charge of the fledgling computer system.

"He had more experience than I did, but mostly from learning on the job. I did simple installs and troubleshooting and helped him with larger projects as needed."

One morning fish gets a call from the senior computer guy, asking fish to come straight to his office. When fish arrives he sees stacks of PCs sitting outside the office -- all of them new machines that fish has recently installed.

Did I screw something up on the installs? fish wonders. But it turns out there's a bigger problem: It seems the maintenance department was running new power lines into the office over the weekend, and somehow managed to connect a high-voltage line to the panel for all the normal outlets.

So when the maintenance guys threw the main breaker, that extra voltage tripped every single downstream breaker, killing power to the office, senior computer guy tells fish.

And with no idea why that happened, the maintenance guys did the logical thing: They reset every single breaker and gave it another shot.

"I was told they described the sound of the breakers going off as popcorn popping," groans fish. "Whatever they didn't kill the first time met an untimely death the second time around.

"All the new PCs were toast, as were the printers, fax machines and anything else that was plugged in. I remember opening up a label printer that was completely black inside. It took me a minute to realize that the black was chip dust from all the chips blown off the boards."

Send Sharky your high-powered true tales of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt every time I use one. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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