Downtime: floppy discs and fridge magnets don't mix

The wacky world of IT

Floppy discs and fridge magnets don't mix

When Downtime asked for your stories from years gone by about floppy discs, we hardly expected the deluge of tales we received. But it was not all teary-eyed sentimentality. No, perhaps the key theme was, as ever, the mind-boggling stupidity of your nearest and dearest work colleagues.

"I always remember the call I took on our IT helpdesk in the late 1980s," began one all-too-typical account of spell-binding dimness in action. "One of our users had looked at the amount of space free on both 5.25in and 3.5in floppies and had rung to tell me of a 'mistake' since the 3.5in floppy had the greater capacity.

"I spent a long time attempting to explain that size was not all, and that newer technology enabled higher data density. It was only after hanging up that I pondered how I could have explained the greater capacity in the 3.5in floppy by the fact that it was thicker."

Another reader, Dai Hazleden, recalled working for a firm that made the fatal mistake of asking staff at its branches to send in staff data on 5.25in floppy discs "together with an attached form detailing what files are on the disc".

However, the missive neglected to suggest precisely how the document should be attached. It was only when discs started arriving with the form stapled to the floppy that IT realised the error of its ways. "The bill for floppy discs during the first few months ate up nearly all of the IT budget," said Hazleden ruefully.

Those two may be good, but we humbly suggest that Eddie Wright's story is the best of those that doggedly stuck to the users-are-idiots refrain. Eddie remembered how he once got a helpdesk call from a user whose machine would not boot up. "I asked him to send a copy of the disc," said Eddie.

"The next day I received a photocopy of the disc in the post. So I patiently rang the user and explained that I needed an actual copy of the disc rather than a photocopy. The next day I received the disc neatly folded to fit in a standard envelope."

At this point Eddie was told to visit the office to sort out the problem. On arrival he asked the user where he stored his discs and was merrily shown them - held onto a metal filing cabinet with powerful fridge magnets.

And the lesson is, keep smiling.

Look out for floppy tales part two next week.

Please don't hurt watchdogs or bears

As if all this interaction with Downtime's ever-loyal readership were not enough, dozens of you were good enough to point out the deliberate mistake contained in our story on the BBC's forthcoming ID cards drama.

Our thanks go out to Scott Doughty, Stuart Lymath, Warren Wright, Bill Fuller, Andrew Neilson and plenty of others for delicately ribbing us about the murders in the planned series being "grizzly" rather than "grisly".

As you might imagine, this led most of you to poke fun at our preparedness to promote cruelty to bears on the same page as "we proposed to investigate an attack on a dog", as one of you pointed out.

"How can you lick your lips in anticipation of a programme depicting the slaying of bears? Isn't it enough that these magnificent creatures have been hunted to the point of extinction without you promoting TV dramas that promise to show the carnage for entertainment?" asked one reader.

We have taken all this in the right spirit, rest assured. We can only hope that you are all paying similarly close attention to the rest of the magazine. That is where the really important stuff is, so we are told.

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