The bridge on the Starship Enterprise = Office Depot HQ server room.

The bridge on the Starship Enterprise = Office Depot HQ server room.

I worked for a company called MicroAge in South Florida around 1999. Yes, just before the computer millennium catastrophe. MicroAge was one of those national franchise computer service companies. I was hired as a computer repair contractor and then I was sent out to work for other companies, like Office Depot Headquarters and also the Clerk of Courts courthouse in West Palm Beach. The Palm Beach gig was funny because I had to sit in a server room all day, every day for 2 weeks and my only job was to watch 1 of the laserdisc servers and reboot if needed. This task only happened 2-4 times per day, so the other 90% of my time was spent surfing the Internet and studying for my MCSE (microsoft certified systems engineer). One day, my boss comes in the server room and says that I need to be paying attention to the server screen all day, and not doing anything else, not even studying. l:>

MicroAge used me as their ace-in-the-hole onsite repairman. I got sent out to these giant corporations to fix laptops, servers & printers. It was funny trying to pack all of those CRT monitor boxes into the back of my 300zx. The 2-month gig at Office Depot HQ in Boca Raton was cool. I got to see the workings of a 4000 employee headquarters with 4 buildings. I was assigned to building 3. Each building had 4 floors. The Help Desk took care of everything Level 1 and 2. Level 3 was me.  The Help Desk produced tickets for mice not working, the screen is frozen, etc. and 90% of the fixes were just rebooting the computer.

The network switch rooms were amazing. The neat bundles of wires ran into all of those glowing switches. It was a sterile, beautiful, ventilated closet of humming machines.

I visited the backup room, which housed 3 HP tape backup silos. It backed up 10-15 terabyte’s a day. There were 3 shifts of one worker. All they did was put, pull and pack tapes into cardboard boxes. There was 4 servers controlling this room and the tape drive looked something like this. (does this remind you of The Matrix)

In the Lobby building, there was a server room and a server control room. The group of Network Engineers was also in this building and one of them had a job to watch a monitor with a bunch of lines in the shape of the United States. He was basically monitoring this cobweb of lines that were the network signals between all of the stores, at that moment. 3 colors of lines. Green, Yellow & Red. Cool job. I felt like someone was going to beam me out of there.

I got to work in the server room for a couple of weeks, but it was 90% empty. This was a 5,000 sq. ft. room that had 100’s of racks. The United States had just finished putting in the first circular pipeline of optic fiber around the country. This was called the Trunk line. (thanks to Fiberlight for use of their image. )

Most of the servers had been moved up to a new warehouse in Charlotte, NC, that was located right next to the trunk line. The reason was to make sure that their massive servers had the fastest access in the country as moving 100’s of terabytes of data every 24 hours was pretty massive then. The fastest connection they had in Boca Raton was a DS-3. My job was to start moving all of the straggling server’s that were left randomly around the server room, to the corner of the room to place them all together. This small, raised tile floor, server farm was going to become the testing servers for the programming team. Every server was mounted to drawer slides so that they could be pulled out easily to open the top and switch parts. I was moving them all around this area, re-stacking, moving parts between them, setting them in the drawer slides and then wiring them neatly on the other side of the rack. Each server had redundant components. One server would have 2 network cards with 2 different cables that went to 2 different switches. They had 2 power supplies with 2 power cords going to 2 different electrical circuit breakers. You get the idea. I was honored with this job, as the Office Depot employees said I was the only contractor they’ve ever allowed in the server room, ALONE.

I loved hanging out at the Office Depot headquarters, and having lunch in that giant cafeteria with my other co-workers from MicroAge. It was about this time that MicroAge was doing some reorganization and was going to be hiring us contractors on to a full time position. We knew this was coming, which was why most of us got our MCSE’s immediately. It only took me 6 months of self-study with the Dummies books to pass my 6 tests. It took most of the others a year with instructor led boot camp. MicroAge passed on hiring me. I’m glad they did.

Cheers, Steve

Disclaimer: All posts are based upon my perceptions. If any of the parties in the post have a different viewpoint, please contact me or comment below. These are just my memories.


About steve@genzplay

Based in Sonoma Valley, California, GenZplay was founded in August 2011 by Steve Calhoun to make video games a physically active part of his son’s outdoor life. The company is focused on integrating gaming mechanics with everyday activities, especially those that need a mixture of fun and adventure to motivate and inspire. Follow GenZPlay at or Twitter @genzplay.

Posted on October 19, 2012, in Personal. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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