Esoteric knowledge doesn’t often apply in the technology field. Since you can learn many basic skills in my sub-discipline through studying and job training, technical support is closer to a blue-collar job like electrical or plumbing because there are finite ways to complete the same task, especially as the field becomes more generic. Companies are standardizing their operations and quirky outliers are either replaced or streamlined in that process. Sometimes though, there’s certain knowledge you learned once that can help once again.
One task at one job was programming these barcode scanners made by Honeywell to specific customer requests. Their default mode is where you press a button and it beeps loudly if it successfully scans a barcode, probably designed for a warehouse where the beep confirms you can go onto the next pallet, and not really for scanning hundreds of barcodes in a cube farm office.
There are myriad barcodes you can scan into the barcode scanner’s memory to program it to act in all sorts of creative ways: no beeps, scanning only certain types of barcodes, and scanner behavior. (Bad scanner! Go to your room!) Just search for “3800g/3800gHD/3800gPDF General Purpose Handheld Linear Imager User’s Guide.”
For some of the requests that were much more difficult than just a no beep setting, I’d reach out to Honeywell themselves. I think they knew the technology wasn’t exoteric, because not only were they more than willing to share their nerdy knowledge, they even offered software to legitimately program the scanners in some esoteric programming language. I would have went that route and spent a few hours to learn that process if I found myself spending 40 billable hours per week troubleshooting these scanners rather than just 30 billable minutes per month.
As it goes, I moved on and no longer had to program these scanners.
I was talking with a colleague about a process this past week, where they used similar looking barcode scanners to scan multiple barcodes sequentially, and I realized these were just rebranded Honeywell 3600gs. They’d scan barcodes as part of a proprietary process, and after explaining I used to program these things, I was reminded of an annoying part of the process: you’d have to hit Enter after scanning a barcode.
I did something like this once before. After some research, I remembered that part of memory that I’d offloaded for years.
The request was for a Carriage Return Suffix!
To translate the technical jargon, when you scan a barcode, it will take all those numbers and place them into the computer, then go somewhere, typically to the right. If you think of a “carriage return” as returning to the starting position, and recalling prefix (before a word) and suffix (after a word) from English class, then you’re telling the scanner to “return to start.”
I tested this theory out on one computer and then another, since the barcode scanners have memory, and felt proud at that moment for streamlining a process and exercising esoteric knowledge.