Technology may change, but support stays the same

A reader looks back on how the tech job has remained constant over the last 20 years

I've worked in IT for a couple of decades, and it's interesting that no matter how much technology progresses, the tech support job in large part remains the same -- there are still quirky situations and characters to deal with. A tech team simply can't plan for every possible scenario, so surprises still show up -- those head-scratching moments of confusion, the irritating or amusing cause of a headache uncovered, or the end-user who is memorable for good or bad.

In early 1993, I went to work for hospital that was not quite on the cutting edge of technology, but not in the dark ages either. We had a lot of old PCs, only a few servers, 60 people in the e-mail address book, and lots of modems for access to AOL. In addition, our hospital information system ran on an IBM System/36, so there were lots of terminals and big, bulky line printers.

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Our five-person IT team supported about 2,000 users, and interesting situations and characters kept the IT staff on their toes:

  • Our main login server kept going down. When this happened, everyone connected would get kicked off until we could get the server going again. We would rush down to the server room only to find the power plug pulled out of the server, which sat on the floor. This occurred two or three times until one day, we found a piece of a mop head stuck under the wheel of the server. It seems one of the environmental services technicians would go into the server room and mop the floor, frequently knocking the power cord out. We put a lock on the door.
  • Our data center was on the fifth floor of a seven-story office building. Periodically, water would come pouring out of the ceiling, make a huge mess, and cause serious hardware failures. We searched for the source of the water. It was the telephone operators on the sixth floor stopping up the toilet or leaving the sink faucet running.
  • Our PCs were not locked down, so we found lots of interesting software loaded on them and causing problems. Remember Wolfenstein 3D?
  • One guy smoked cigars in his office (yes, in a hospital). He could not understand why his keyboard would stop working and his PC would overheat (clogged fan).
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