Have you tried turning it off and turning it on again?

When I started working with computers, I didn’t spend much time with them directly. Most of my day was spent in front of a dumb terminal. The dumb terminal would then interact with the bigger computers in another room. In the 90s, smaller computers appeared on my desk and I’d use them to interact with the bigger computers in another room.

Even though I worked with the bigger computers, the folks who managed the smaller computers would slap my hands if I tried to fix the smaller computers.

Instead of fixing the smaller computers myself, I was supposed to ask the folks on the help desk to fix them for me. Whenever I called the help desk, the first step  was always to reboot the computer. I found this to be professionally distasteful – my career was spent diagnosing and fixing computer errors and never, ever IPLing (mainframe-speak for rebooting). However, rebooting these smaller computers did fix an awful lot of problems. I learned to put my distaste aside and reboot the things whenever they misbehaved.

In fact, rebooting became the standard first step of server diagnosis. As Windows and Unix computers replaced the mainframe, it became more acceptable to reboot servers when they misbehaved. The Unix admins deny this rabidly but that’s more religion than science talking.

At that time, I was watching a lot of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. On that show, whenever they discussed faulty equipment, they always ran a level one diagnostic. I stole this for work – whenever I needed to reboot a computer, I’d call it a level one diagnostic.

Over the years, my teammates have picked that up and I still get a bit of a thrill whenever I hear a coworker use the term “level one diagnostic” for a reboot.

Since watching “The IT Crowd” I’ve taken to asking “Have you tried turning it off and turning it on again?” with an Irish accent. That gets the occasional chuckle but it’s apparent that more folks have seen “Star Trek: The Next Generation” than “The IT Crowd”.

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