Claim: IBM field service memo details the procedure for replacing mouse balls.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2002]
Re: Replacement of Mouse Balls.
If a mouse fails to operate or should it perform erratically, it may need a ball replacement. Mouse balls are now available as FRU (Field Replacement Units). Because of the delicate nature of this procedure, replacement of mouse balls should only be attempted by properly trained personnel.
Before proceeding, determine the type of mouse balls by examining the underside of the mouse. Domestic balls will be larger and harder than foreign balls. Ball removal procedures differ depending upon the manufacturer of the mouse. Foreign balls can be replaced using the pop off method. Domestic balls are replaced by using the twist off method. Mouse balls are not usually static sensitive. However, excessive handling can result in sudden discharge. Upon completion of ball replacement, the mouse may be used immediately.
It is recommended that each person have a pair of spare balls for maintaining optimum customer satisfaction. Any customer missing his balls should contact the local personnel in charge of removing and replacing these necessary items.
Please keep in mind that a customer without properly working balls is an unhappy customer.
Origins: The IBM "mouse balls" memo is one of the oldest bits of
Internet jokelore. Examples of it show up in USENET archives as far back as 1989, and scarcely anyone who had an
receiving this in his inbox more than once, which certainly drops it into the long-beard category with a loud thud.
Was this a real memo? "Real" in the sense that someone at IBM actually wrote it and distributed it to field service techs, perhaps, but it was always intended as an occupational in-joke; it wasn't a "serious" memo that some hapless supervisor inadvertently worded as a hilarious tour de force of double entendres.
The memo has remained remarkably unchanged through the years. As the piece has been passed from hand to hand through cyberspace, a few alterations have been made to the text (the "Please keep in mind that a customer without properly working balls is an unhappy customer" zinger wasn't in the original, and today's "Any customer missing his balls should contact the local personnel in charge of removing and replacing these necessary items" used to be "Any customer missing his balls should suspect local personnel of removing these necessary functional items"), but for the most part what turns up in inboxes now is fairly close to what was being circulated more than a decade ago.
Barbara "Big Blue's clues" Mikkelson
Last updated: 15 March 2014