Yes, I filed an expense report for a hair dryer, why do you ask?

Raymond Chen

Back in the late 1990’s one of my colleagues (who is now in Office Labs—check it out, they’ve got some pretty cool stuff) filed an expense report for a hair dryer, and it was accepted. But what valid business purpose would there be for a tester to buy a hair dryer?

At the time, my colleague worked as a tester for Windows power management. One of the things that needed to be tested was whether the motherboard accurately reported thermal stress (translation: overheating) to the operating system and whether the operating system responded appropriately to these reports. And when the project started, the most convenient way to get a motherboard to overheat on cue was to blast it with a hair dryer.

Of course, more official equipment arrived later, but it was definitely a cruel (or clever, depending on your point of view) way to introduce new people to the team: “This is your desk, and here is your hair dryer.”

Bonus makeshift testing hardware: During approximately the same era, a joystick tester hooked up the joystick to a series of mechanical linkages, all driven by a record player turntable, in order to stress test the joystick for hours on end. And no, I don’t know whether it ran at 33 rpm or 45.


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