Zenith had one of the very earliest battery powered portable IBM compatible computers, the Zenith Z-171, jointly developed with Morrow (and sold by them as the Morrow Pivot) (stories differ. I've also heard it said it was a Morrow design that Zenith bought). This machine was an 8088 based system, and it was probably the ONLY battery operated portable computer with 5.25" floppy drives (virtually all other battery operated computers used 3.5" floppies).
That was more than just one of my uninteresting historical rambles. It is relevant to the story.
A customer brought one in for repair, a machine which had just recently been purchased (this is probably around 1986 or 1985 or so). He was very irate that this brand new computer had failed so soon after purchase, and gave the write-up person hell.
(Hint: Don't ever give the write-up person hell. Talk about an innocent by-stander! They didn't sell you the product, they didn't build the product, they don't repair the product, but they to talk a lot to the techs.)
This was the very first Z-171 we had come in for repair, so in spite of his attitude with the write-up person, we dove into it pretty quickly, we'd all been itching to see the insides of the Z-171. The complaint was the system would not boot. We could hear the floppy drive spinning until the door was closed, at which point, the drive suddenly quit spinning. Very weird.
To get to the floppy, we had to pull the main board, and remove the B: drive to get to the troublesome A: drive. Screws didn't want to extract, all kinds of nightmares getting to this point. When we got down to the floppy, the problem became obvious. There was a note card stuck in the floppy drive. With a pair of tweezers, we extracted the note card,
We called the customer, to let him know that his computer was repaired, and that the bill would be $150.
"$150! What do you mean $150? IT IS UNDER WARRANTY!"
"Warranty, sir, covers only manufacturing defects, not user damage"
"I didn't break the computer! IT BROKE ON ITS OWN!" (Don't ever yell at the techs, either. We don't loose too often).
"We found a note card stuffed in the drive."
"I DIDN'T PUT IT THERE!"
"Does the number 555-5555 mean anything to you?"
Long quiet pause, and finally, very quietly, he says "I'll be right in to pick it up".
He came in. He picked up the laptop, and paid the $150 cash (which
was REALLY odd, as it was a WORK computer!). It seems this number
was the number of someone whom he had no interest in his wife or his employer
knowing about. Apparently, this person had called, the computer owner's
secretary took the message, and wrote it on the note card. To make
sure it he saw it, she stuck it in the floppy drive of his new computer.
It got pushed in too far.
(c)opyright 2000, Nick Holland
Return to War Stories
Return to Nick Holland's Home Page