Thursday, June 4, 2015

What’s pushing your buttons? Tales of keyboard troubleshooting

ComputerWorld has a blog called Shark Tank with short stories about information technology (IT) troubleshooting. Their Shark Tank title is much older than the business pitch TV show that began in 2009. They had a bunch about keyboard problems. Some are very brief jokes, but others are longer and more convoluted. 

On May 28th there was one titled Well, you know how wild those library parties get. A high level manager had her laptop connected to a docking station with an external keyboard. When she pushed those keys no input appeared. Instead windows on the external display just kept flying around. So, she asked for help, but their technician found that the keyboard looked ok. Then he opened the laptop and found the real problem. There were lumps of confetti on its keyboard, leftover from a birthday party held the previous day. The lid of the laptop had been pushing the confetti, which kept pushing some keys down.  

On June 7, 2013 they had another longer Sherlock Holmes style story called Aha! where all the keys on a second keyboard were being pushed down and making a personal computer (PC) beep continuously. That was because the had user kept his old PS/2 keyboard flipped upside down to use as a stand, so his newer USB keyboard was at exactly the right height for touch typing. To thoroughly clean his desk he had disconnected and moved his desktop PC. When he put everything back he’d accidentally plugged in both keyboards.

They had several stories about keys sticking because of burrs left on an edge from the plastic molding process. One from  February 23, 2007 was titled Some Trade Secrets Should Remain Secret. The secret was  a “drop test” - dropping the keyboard on the desk from a height of a couple inches usually would pop that key back up. Then that keytop could be popped off with a screwdriver, and the offending plastic protrusion easily sanded off with an emery board. A secretary who he told about the drop test next tried dropping her entire PC, and destroyed the hard drive. Almost the same story was told earlier on March 19, 2004 as The second thing they teach is not to kid users. Another story from December 27, 2012 was titled Luckily, modern keys are too cheap to have springs. It told about back in the 1970s the “drop test” was spread around a manufacturing plant. If two inches didn’t work, they tried four, or six, or even more. They had a rash of keycaps and springs flying around.

There also was one from November 6, 2014 titled Sorta gives ‘know your users‘ a whole new meaning. The IT guy at a small manufacturing plant was busy developing software for order entry. At 12:30 PM he got a very upset phone call from their order entry clerk. Her PC had just begun beeping continuously. He asked her if she was eating lunch, and she said she was. Well then, he said, please take your sandwich off the keyboard.  

The funniest one from back on October 1, 2001 was titled It doesn’t work that way. That user had insisted her PC was asleep and actually snoring. When the technician arrived he saw that there indeed was a long string of Zs on the display. There also was a notebook on the desk with a protruding corner that was sitting on the Z key. He leaned over the front of the case and shouted “Wake up” while surreptitiously nudging the notebook away. Problem solved! 

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