I miss the old green screen terminals. Oh, they weren't always green: some were white screens, and some were a really ugly orange, but they all had the virtue of simplicity. Power cable, serial cable and maybe a printer. There wasn't much you could screw up, and trouble shooting was pretty easy.
Well, there's an exception to every rule. I had a customer just over the border aways in Vermont. It was a four hour trip one way, so I tried to do most of the work by modem, but I had to go up fairly often to install new terminals and so on. To eliminate some of that, I trained the on-site "computer guy" in the magic sequences used to set up Wyse terminals and showed him how to wire RS232 connectors to cables. From that point on I saved a lot of gas and the customer saved a lot of money.
One morning I had a panic call from Steve, the in-house guy. "I need you up here - Today!"
He really sounded frantic. "What's up?", I inquired.
"The new president is moving in tomorrow. I put a new terminal in his office BUT IT'S NOT WORKING." Yeah, he was talking in all caps, really.
I tried to calm him down. "Let me dial in and we'll see what's up", I suggested. So I did, and checked the baud rate and other serial port settings while I had him double check the settings on the terminal itself. We were set for flight, but he still had no display.
"Maybe it's a defective terminal", I ventured.
"Tried a known working one. It's not defective.".
"OK, then your wiring is bad". Doubtful, because I'd given him a cheap little line tester and taught him how to use it.
"Checks out and the little lights flash when I send data", he countered.
"Steve, are you sure everything is plugged in?". I was grasping at straws.
He almost snorted his response. "Of course I'm sure. Can you get here today or not?"
I sighed. Four hours up, four hours back. I did not want to go, but I answered anyway: "Heading for my car now, Steve".
Fortunately it was summer, so the ride up wasn't bad. Steve was outside pacing nervously when I arrived. He immediately led me to the new office. I saw the problem from across the room as we walked in: the serial cable in fact was NOT plugged in.
I walked over, plugged it in, and went around to the front. I pressed Enter and a "Login:" prompt appeared. Steve stood beside me in silence. "Looks OK now", I said.
Steve must have had some initial problem, unplugged the cable to put his tester on it, and had never plugged in back in. He was worrying so much about the new boss that he just wasn't thinking.
Steve had little to say. I had him login and confirm that everything was ready for the president, and then I headed back to my car. Four hours back, and a rather large invoice to send out. I wondered how the new president was going to react to that.
Yes, of course I charge for travel time.
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