Electrifying

A little can be a lot.

It’s the 1980s, and the company that pilot fish works for gets its backup power from a system that uses multiple motorcycle batteries. It can provide power to the company’s computers for hours.

Which is certainly great, but there’s a design flaw: An important switch panel is mounted on the inside of the battery’s frame, and can be reached only by carefully sliding a narrow tool past the exposed terminals.

Comes a day when everyone in the office hears a loud “ZAP!” coming from the tech room, followed by an equally loud screech. They all run to see what has happened, and fish arrives on the scene just in time to hear the recently hired tech guy say to the company’s experienced tech guru, “I thought you said the batteries didn’t have any power left in them!”

“No,” answers the tech guru, “I said they had just a little power left in them.”

At which the new guy points to a partly disassembled battery on the workbench and the two-foot-long screwdriver that’s spot-welded to a battery terminal at one end and the steel frame near the other end.

That happened with ‘just a little power’?”

“Yup.” 

Fortunately, the new guy is unhurt, and years later he becomes the company’s experienced tech guru — one with a teaching tool the old tech guru never had. Whenever he has to show new techs how to work on battery backups, he brandishes the screwdriver with the two deep pits burned into its shaft to illustrate what “just a little power” is capable of doing.

Sharky is tingling with anticipation for your true tales of IT life. Send them to me at sharky@computerworld.com. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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