Unable to use that printer? Not you. That’s cablin cooking …. oh good job cabling that, boss • The Registration

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On Call There are few things worse than if someone nicks your chips, be they different potatoes or silicon as our latest discovery in the annals of On Call disclosed.

“Ben”, called Regomiser contributed today, was discussed supporting a network consisting of a pair of a decade-old HP1000 minicomputers. The devices run the Real Time Executive (RTE) operating system (RTE6, according to Ben) and the software his company uses is written in Fortran.

The application itself was to analyze oil wells and used a Versatec plotter to spit out a curve showing data versus depth. Ben told us he wrote an extension to find places where water is extracted instead of oil; he hoped to call it “Well Analysis – New Knowledge” but his nerves failed and the potential for acronym error sadly disappeared with time.

Back in the mid -1980s, however, everything went well. A satellite office is keen to get their hands on the application. Ben received the call, and a second-hand minicomputer was the source. Our hero went to the office to fix the gear.

At first things were swimming. Until it’s time to plug in the printer. There’s no second -hand cast -off required here – the device is still available off the shelf. But, alas, it didn’t work. Sure, it passed all the self-checks and Ben checked the driver configuration against a known good system, “but I didn’t enable it,” he told us.

The usual round of phone ping pong began as Ben and the vendor support engineer tried everything possible to solve the problem.

“The engineer took the blame on our cabling,” Ben told us, “Unfortunately, he expressed his theory to the newly-supported supervisor, who was hurt and said,‘ I installed the cabling. That’s it and I believe it’s right. You can change the cabling. If it fixes the problem, I’ll pay for it. If it doesn’t fix the problem, you’ll pay. ‘”

Not surprisingly, the engineer had no authority to agree to the plan, and so the problem unfolded over and over again.

The printer is connected to the computer via a heavy interface card “something like 20x30cm, which contains a lot of discrete electronic components,” Ben recalls. Since everything else was checked out, it was decided that on his next visit he would return the card to the head office and exchange it for one from a working system, thus cutting off another branch in the fault tree.

Back at base, Ben turned off the power on one of the working machines and wiped the card. As he prepares to insert the new card “I felt like they were different.”

“I looked again, and the new card had a whole row of nine discrete integrated circuit chips missing, the only empty spaces where they were supposed to be soldered …”

No wonder it didn’t work. The printer seller did not comment on exactly how the unfinished hardware was shipped but quietly sent something containing the necessary chippery and, surprise, surprise, the printer came to life.

“Maybe on budget,” Ben said, “but certainly not on time.”

In these times of screaming at recalcitrant Wi-Fi printers, it’s safe to know that devices are always capable of mysteriously not working, even before everyone is wireless.

Have you ever found yourself accepting the stingy end of a vendor’s silicon or resolved the seemingly insurmountable? An email to On Call is all that is needed for your go to Regomiser. ®

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