Hey, if it works, it works!

Flashback to 1996, when this pilot fish is just starting a new job as a tech at a local computer company.

"My boss wanted me to follow him around for the first couple of weeks so I could get to know the customers we had service agreements with," says fish.

"Our first stop was at a printing and die-cutting company that had called with a computer problem that morning. We were led to a cubicle and were told that the PC had been locking up again."

While fish's boss sits down and starts to ask the user how to repeat the error under Windows 3.1, fish notices that the whole side of the computer is covered with magnets.

Turns out this company produces those flat, flexible magnets used for advertising and "magnetic poetry." The users in this office all have samples -- along with other refrigerator magnets -- on the sides of their PCs.

"I pointed out to my boss and the user that it's not really a good idea to create a large magnetic field on the side of a computer that stores information magnetically in its system," fish says.

"They both stopped what they were doing and just stared at me. My boss then slowly turned his head to the gal who used this PC and said, 'You know, that's probably what's been causing all your problems. I think it would be a good idea to find someplace else to put those.'"

User cleans all the magnets off and walks away. Fish's boss hands him a stack of floppies, tells him to reload the system and also walks away.

But a few minutes later, both the user and fish's boss return -- this time with the CIO and her boss in tow.

Fish's boss asks fish to repeat what he said before, which fish does. CIO's boss then announces that he wants every computer in the company checked pronto for magnets, and if any are found, he wants them removed.

"After we left, I told my boss that I didn't know if the magnetic poetry had a strong enough field to actually hurt anything but thought I'd mention it just to see what he thought," says fish. "He told me that it was a good call and that it was always best to err on the side of caution.

"As it turns out, we did start getting a lot fewer service calls from that company after that."

Sharky is calling on you to tell your true tale of IT life. Send it to me at sharky@computerworld.com, and you'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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