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IT blooper #44: The rules of attraction

A technician's ability to think outside the box kept this computer workstation from an untimely death in the blooper zone.

Several years ago Ronnie Repel* worked as a technician, building and fixing computers. A customer came in, complaining that his computer, "just didn't boot up." Ronnie pressed him for more information, but the customer could see no reason why the machine wasn't working.

Later, when Ronnie settled in to fix the machine, he started from the beginning: he hooked up the monitor, keyboard and mouse and pressed the power button. The computer began to hum. Soon the machine was fully booted up. Although it didn't show any signs of being defective, Ronnie, ever the conscientious technician, ran through all the usual diagnostics just in case, but the machine was functioning beautifully. Ronnie called the customer and told him that he could come pick up his computer.

When the customer arrived Ronnie told him that the PC seemed to be in fine working order. The perplexed customer left with his computer.

Two hours later, Ronnie received a phone call -- it was the same customer complaining that the computer still was not booting up. Ronnie had the customer bring back the PC and this time, he had the customer stand at his desk, to witness that it did indeed work. The customer could not deny that the machine did seem to work well and he took his computer back home again.

The following morning, Ronnie and his boss received an irate phone call from the same man -- now quite angry that his computer was still not booting up. Ronnie's boss stepped in to subdue the customer and sent Ronnie to the customer's house to assess the situation.

At the house, Ronnie was lead to a computer sitting on a steel cabinet, looking very different from the one he received for repair -- the PC was completely covered in refrigerator magnets. Instantly, Ronnie realized the problem was the magnets -- they were creating a magnetic field around the steel cabinet and hard drive, thereby distorting the data so that the computer could not interpret it.

Still, the customer did not believe the magnets could be the source of all this frustration. "Just humor me and take off the magnets," said Ronnie to his still angry customer. Voila...once the magnets were removed, the PC booted up in no time. The red-faced customer apologized profusely to both Ronnie and Ronnie's boss. Ronnie says that he and boss had a good laugh about it and learned to "think outside the box -- literally."

*Names changed to protect the innocent...and the guilty.

Share your bloopers with us. E-mail them to Read more of our past IT Blooper Series, which originially appeared at, part of the TechTarget network.

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