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RMA's

In the mid-eighties I consulted for Yellow Newspaper Weekly. That's a made-up name, because I have to protect the guilty. The actual paper has been bought out by Fidelity, and the original owners are long gone.

I was working with Dick, who was one of the owners, helping him install a few new computers. In the course of putting in a network card, Dick dropped a screw, and it fell into the open case of the hard drive.

For those of you too young to have seen hard drives you could actually drop something into, you should also know that in those days hard drives were very fragile. You could crash the heads just by moving a running system an inch or two on your desk. Nowadays you could probably toss a hard drive down a flight of stairs and have a pretty good chance of it working, but not then. In fact, very soon after the time I'm talking about here, manufacturers added shock watch indicators so that they could tell if a drive had been bounced around, and they'd refuse to honor the warranty if it had been. They were just issuing too many RMA's (Return Material Authorizations) for badly treated equipment, and didn't want to keep replacing them.

But these drives had no shock indicators, so the only shock was on my face as Dick picked up the system, turned it upside down and shook it to get the screw out. The screw didn't budge, so Dick shook the machine harder, and finally banged it on the table, at which point the screw finally re-appeared.

"You know, that drive is never going to boot now", I offered.

Dick looked and me and shrugged. "That's what they make RMA's for", he said.

I looked at him and shook my head. "Remind me never to sell you any computers, Dick". And though I consulted and did programming for them for many years, I never did sell them any computers. The computer in question did not boot, and in due time was replaced by the manufacturer as a warranty issue. That's what they make RMA's for, right?



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