Experts are often rank amateurs...

I was reminded the other day of a saga from the early 1990s. I was the system manager of a microVAX 'mainframe' (with about 20 terminals around the office) in an engineering firm. And I did some programming to fill in the time, creating tools, but that's another story for another blog entry...

Here's the set-up. We were moving offices, about ten miles, and it was up to me to arrange for all the IT equipment to be moved safely. I wanted to put the only fragile bits (mainly the microVAX itself, which was the size of a large suitcase) in my car, wrapped in a duvet, but was told I had to do things officially and the company would pay the experts, in this case DECMove (DEC was a computer company that made the microVAX).

(archive snap of a microVAX, from)

So, I contacted DECMove and everything was booked in, at horrible cost (I think many thousands of pounds, in 1990's money, so tens of thousands today). 

They arrived on time, I'd already disconnected everything (and laid in the cabling in the new office), and I watched with interest as they applied metres of bubble wrap to everything, starting with the cheapest keyboards and working their way up to the terminals. An hour went by, the van was almost full, and all that remained was the microVAX itself.

Having seen the amount of care they were taking over the keyboards, I was curious as to how much extra protection would be used for the delicate computer (days of mechanical hard disks, etc).

They looked like they were done, but I pointed out that they hadn't loaded the microVAX yet. Oh, 'we'll just put it at the back', they said. And they did. Behind all the immaculately bubble-wrapped plastic accessories, they just plonked the microVAX on its wheels with NO BUBBLE WRAP, NOTHING AT ALL. I was appalled and, after my protest, they at least few a few blankets over it.

Fast forward an hour and they had unloaded everything the other end. I plugged in the microVAX and it booted. Phew. Had we dodged a bullet?


A few weeks later, the main hard disk failed (this was when DEC hard disks for Vaxes were thousands of pounds) and I ended up calling DEC, getting cross with them, and eventually convincing them to give us a replacement free of charge because of their lack of care and attention in their moving efforts. 

So... I should have put the microVAX in my car after all and damn the managing director's worries. So much for experts anyway. I'm the geek and I knew best. Harumph!

PS. See my other VAX-related story!

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Frank said…
At least you got the HDD replaced for free. If you had moved it by yourself and the HDD had failed as well - because they don't like to be turned off after running forever - you would have been out of luck...
I could share similar storied but at the end often it's better to pay somebody to do it and can then take advantage of their insurance if needed...
Oh sure. Though in this case it wasn't actually 'insurance' and I had to fight to get it replaced etc. But then maybe that's the nature of insurance, in that insurers hate paying up 8-)

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