Beta driver turned heads in the hospital

A portrait of one medico's contorted digital landscape

On Call "I hope you are well" is a standard but hopeless way to open an email – who, save for a few sociopaths, wishes illness and misery upon their correspondents? Silly question – every Reg reader knows that users and managers often seem to wish only the worst for their IT colleagues. Which is why every Friday we deliver a cathartic instalment of On Call, the column in which we feature your tales of making sure all's well that ends well when it comes to tech support.

This week, meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Kew" who told us a tale from the time he worked in tech support at a major university hospital.

"We had a large installed base of Macintosh desktops for the surgeons and staff," Kew explained – adding that this tale took place just as Apple introduced the PowerPC CPU to the Mac, meaning the tale took place in the mid-1990s.

When Cupertino's new kit went on sale "all of the high paid doctors were clamoring for the latest and greatest for their offices."

And were humored.

But one of the especially clever and prominent doctors wasn't happy. This medico had a Radius Pivot monitor – a then-astounding device that could rotate through 90 degrees to go from landscape to portrait mode, with the Mac re-orienting its output as the screen shifted. This doctor loved to write research papers in portrait mode and revert to landscape for other chores.

Your correspondent recalls the Pivot and how it made working in ancient desktop publishing tool QuarkXPress rather lovely. Or as lovely as QuarkXPress could ever be.

Which is a digression for another day. Or perhaps days.

Back to Kew's story, which gets into tricky territory with his revelation that at the time the shiny new Macs arrived in his hospital, Radius was yet to port its driver to PowerPC. So the new Mac that adorned this particular doctor's desk was not fully functional!

"The monitor worked fine as a landscape-oriented monitor, but it wouldn't do its party trick, and that made the doctor very upset," Kew reported.

Kew and his colleagues let Radius know that the university they worked at was Very Important, so the monitor-maker needed to sort things out.

Which it did, by delivering an early release driver.

"And it worked –" Kew told On Call, before adding an apologetic "sort of."

That qualification was necessary because the monitor's default setting was landscape orientation. "Every time the computer was booted up it would show the startup screen at 90° clockwise, then about halfway through booting it would load the driver and re-orient itself to portrait mode," he explained.

That regime meant that every morning Kew was treated to the sight of "A doctor powering up his computer with his head tilted on the side like a confused dog, then snapping back to vertical when the driver finished loading."

Have your efforts tied users in knots? Click here to send On Call an email so we can unpick your story on a future Friday.

Keep the stories coming, dear reader. We can always use more tales to consider. ®

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