Real IT consulting with real people

A techie shares experiences from working at a university's computer consulting office

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It wasn't until I had been there for several months that I learned that he wrote his programs with a Braille typewriter on key-punch cards. While he was sitting across from me, he was "reading" the cards with his fingers under the edge of the desk where I could not see. Apparently, it was a trick he regularly played on the newbies.

"Debugging" has many meanings

Monday morning one summer (I should mention I dislike mornings in general and Mondays in particular), I pulled the early shift. Normally this is pretty dull period, but not this day. I filled my coffee cup and tried to stay awake while I dealt with the numerous people who came by for help.

Then I received a call from a lady wanting to know what she should do to get rid of the silverfish in her basement.

I stopped dead for a minute. What was she talking about? Then it dawned on me that this was obviously some of my colleagues who, knowing my dislike of Monday mornings, were pulling a prank. Well, I could play along.

I asked her to describe the silverfish, what they were doing, where they were -- whatever I could think of, figuring sooner or later they'd have to give up the gag. Nope. She had valid answers all down the line. This seemed to be for real.

Curious, I asked her where she had gotten this phone number. Why, out of the phone book, of course, she said.

I pulled out the new city phone book, turned to the university's pages, and right there in the first column of the first page was our consulting desk phone number, under the heading "Debugging."

As the phone book had just been published, I could see this was going to be a fun year. We all had the direct line to the Department of Entomology memorized in short order.

The biggest lesson I learned from these experiences is that every consultation has a human involved, and all people look at things differently.

This story, "Real IT consulting with real people," was originally published at Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at

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