The mighty IBM 3800

IBM 3800 Model 6 Printer Laser printers use two types of fusion to fuse toner to paper, hot fusion, and cold fusion.

I’ve only seen cold fusion used once.  StorageTek used to make mainframe printers with cold fusion technology.  You’d take paper off the printer, and it would be icy cold.  Cold enough to burn you.

On the other hand, the first commercial laser printer, the IBM 3800 used hot fusion.

I had the privilege of working with one of those beasts.  The things I remember about them:

  • Speed.  they were capable of printing 20,040 lines per minute.
  • Keeping them filled with paper was a constant chore.
    IBM claimed they could produce 1.7 miles of paper every hour.  I’d believe it.
  • Toner.  They used 5 litre (guessimate) bins, and we’d go though 1.5 bins on an eight hour shift.
    In comparison, the StorageTek had a toner hopper.  You’d pour toner into the hopper, and then watch the cloud of toner form above you.
  • At the backup site, the IBM 3800 generated so much heat, it would trigger the fire alarm.
    The root cause?  Don’t put a big printer in a small room.
    The fix?  We’d leave the computer room doors open when we ran it.

Bookmark and Share

Everything goes in circles: Cash Dye Bombs

dye stained bank notes Back when I was a spotty faced bank teller, banks in Australia had stopped using cash dye bombs.

“Spoil the prize, and you spoil the crime.” was the theory with dye bombs.

How cash dye bombs were used was fairly simple:

  • bank robber demands the cash from the bank teller.
  • teller scoops cash out of cash draw, along with dye bomb, which has automatically armed; into the robbers bag.
  • robber runs out the door with the loot.
  • dye bomb explodes in robbers bag, denying the robber the cash prize.

That’s what happened in a robbery.

But during a normal day, bank tellers were accidently arming the dye bombs.  Which would then explode, covering the bank’s cash, and possibly the teller, in indelible dye.

This would leave the cash unusable.

The bank’s would then ship the “faulty” bank notes along to the Reserve Bank of Australia for replacement.

The Reserve Bank eventually had enough of these accidental discharges, and said “Enough.  We’ll not accept dye covered notes for replacement.”

Which killed the use of dye bombs.

Proving everything goes in circles, I was reading the Reserve Bank’s Annual Report 2009, and see that the Reserve Bank is once-again accepted dye-stained notes.

What next?  The re-arming of Bank Managers?

Bookmark and Share

No games for you!

DX-Ball screenshot courtesy of Softpedia There is an line of thinking, which quite a few companies follow, that you can’t have games on a company PC because “employees may play games all day”.(1)

I’m sure that the management teams who think these things up, have never heard of people taking breaks.  Or, in one decision I was involved in, have ever worked a graveyard shift.

When the clock ticks past 3:00am, your whole body just wants to shut down, and fall asleep.  Heck, if you’re lucky, all your systems are alarmed, and you might get that sleep.  If you’re not lucky, you need something to keep you awake, such a PC game.(2)

Continue reading

“We can’t contact the Emergency Disaster Centre on the radio”

Imagine this, a scene in a Government Cyclone Shelter.

“We can’t contact the Emergency Disaster Centre on the radio”

This particular shelter was built to withstand a Category 5+ cyclone.

Government Cyclone Shelter, courtesy of Google Streetview And it looked it.  “Built like brick *cough* outhouse.”

It was as if the designers were given the brief “Make it ugly”.

So they did.

Did you know that radio waves have a hard time going though concrete?  If you do, then you know more that the people who put the radio antenna in.

They put the antenna on the side of the building to protect it from Cyclone debris. The Emergency Disaster Centre was located 5kms away, on the other side of the Government Cyclone Shelter.  The fix was to move the antenna to the correct side of the building.

Cost?  $20,000 I heard.  They had to re-run all the radio cabling.

Bookmark and Share

“No, I don’t have a crystal ball”

crystal-ball You’d be mistaken if you thought I could read minds.

I do understand why you might think that, when you log a support call with the problem description “Computer doesn’t work.”.

I don’t have a crystal ball either.

Actually I do.  Smee brought me one, a good 10 years ago.  I think it was for house-minding or something similar.

What a thoughtful little present. 🙂  But I’m angling for a FIGJAM mug now.

Bookmark and Share

Ball juggling

Sheepie Back in October 2006, one of the CSC Australia sales reps rocks up to my desk
“That price quote Wayne gave us for support 4 different versions of SheepBotherer, is unacceptable, the customer won’t wear it AND I want you to change it!”

Who’s doing the work?
“Ah, Wayne’s team.”

Wayne has a fair idea of the cost to do it, his team has been doing that type work for the last year.
“Ah, but the customer thinks it’s too expensive”

Perhaps the customer needs to realise that juggling 4 balls is more difficult than one ball.

Now go away.

It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled, or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat, and dust, and n blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
– Theodore Roosevelt

Bookmark and Share

Staff problems

Note: this was a post from 2008, when I was working for CSC Australia.


I’m having all the joys of, not only leading my band of Merry Men, but another group while their manager is away.

And it’s been a painful time.

Issues I’ve dealt with so far:

  1. recalcitrant off-shore Delhi-based IT workers not taking any responsibility for making things happen.
  2. recalcitrant on-shore IT workers not taking any responsibility for making things happen.
  3. a couple of “Health and Safety” issues.
  4. a contractor thinking that we subsidise his 2 hour lunches.
  5. customers complaining that work is delayed (see points 1, 2 & 3).
  6. staff complaining that “we don’t provide any training”, but when I organise funding for training, they can’t be stuffed registering for it until all the training places are gone.

It’s rather like cat herding, which EDS demonstrates below:

Bookmark and Share

“Quick, to the Government Bat Camry, Boy Wonder”

sparc-10-speaker-box “… the Minister has just misled Parliament.”

Back in the day, senior public servants would have Parliamentary Broadcast boxes in their offices.  You can tell someone’s importance by whether they had one of not.

Not, you might think, as some sort of punishment, or even sleep therapy; but to listen to what their Minister was saying.

These days, it’s cheaper to stream parliamentary broadcasts direct to their office PCs.

Bookmark and Share

A resistor is an …

WarningSign electrical component which reduces the flow of electrical current.

Plain old wire has a built-in resistance, which is why gold is preferred for some wiring applications.  Darn expensive though.

If you think the world has problems with thieves taking the copper from overhead electrical wires, and telephone cables; think what would happen if gold was used!  Not that we can afford gold wiring in the State of Victoria, where a transport ticketing system project has proven more expensive than landing a rover on the surface of Mars.  And where a “”new”” rail line is going to cost $108,300,000 per kilometre.

Once heard a story about an electrician working down a mine, who needed a replacement resistor.  Not having one handy, and realising it would take time to get back to the surface to get one, grabbed a coil of wire.  And used that instead.

Urban myth???

Maybe, but electric fencing wire is advertised with a resistance rating, so the story could be true.

Bookmark and Share

A price to pay

Note: I wrote this in March 2007, but didn’t publish it at the time.  As far as I know “George” is still working for my previous employer.  There was a price in saving George.


The day started at 6am, with me speaking with a USA based co-worker.
The day finished at 9pm with me speaking with a UK-based co-worker.

I love working for a Global IT company, NOT.

I do have a couple of work practices that I try and live by:

  • always try and have a "win" on Fridays.
  • avoid those people who schedule meetings on Friday afternoons, they are a waste of space
  • OA5, which was something I picked up from a Dilbert book.
    Out at 5, where all staff should be out the door, and on the way home to their families.
  • POETS day is Friday.
  • Never give bad news on a Friday.

So when my boss rang Friday and said "We can’t afford George anymore, we need to let him go", I was p*ssed.

George is one of the nicest guys I’ve worked with. He’s a fine, righteous gentleman who’s nearing retirement. A quiet achiever.

"Bugger that", I thought.

After having a think about George, I suggested that it would be poor form to sack George, as he’s:

  • one of us, and we should look after our own.
  • working on a sledload of customer issues.
  • we recently gave him an award for outstanding customer service.

Boss advises today (Tuesday) that George has been saved.

I’m happy, (but it’s not a Friday.)

And there will be a price to pay for saving him, I wonder what it will be.

Bookmark and Share