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A Home For The Technologically Inept 131

Having to had provide tech support to many people over the years (One of my favorites: But how do I double-click the mouse?), I found the Assisted Computer Facility living place to be a wonderful idea. Just think - an environment where people could /safetly/ learn about the difference between a drink coaster and the CD-ROM drive.
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A Home For The Technologically Inept

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  • what's wrong with asking what the fuck 'double click' might mean? plenty of people don't spend all day at a computer screen (weird as that might at first appear).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @11:03AM (#250705)
    How about establishing a home for geeks where they can learn basic things like How to be appreciative of others.. How to be polite.. How to be gracious.. How to be humble.. How to be fair-minded.. How to be kind.. How to be magnanimous.. How to be sensitive.. How to be helpful.. How to be sympathetic.. How to be caring..
  • by Wakko Warner ( 324 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:38AM (#250706) Homepage Journal
    ...something like this really *wouldn't* be a bad idea. Some people just aren't as technically adept as your average /.'er, and really could use some help learning basic computing skills. This isn't a put-down or anything; I've met some people who are honest-to-God scared of computers, which, in this day and age, isn't good from a professional standpoint in many jobs. A "training course" in something like Windows 9x and computer terminology and hardware would be very helpful for many people (and would also be a good tax write-off for any company willing to provide it on a gratis basis...)

    - A.P.

    Forget Napster. Why not really break the law?

  • expect electricity to reach their equipment THROUGH THE AIR!!!

    Hey is Telsa can do it, so can they.

  • I was working for a guy and his consulting company doing misc computer work for companies who were too small to have a full time IS person, but big enough to have a handful of PCs. One of our ongoing jokes that he had told me, and I still carry on till this day is when you encounter an I/O error. more specifically: an Idiot/Opperator [error].

    One day we had been doing some major work on thier tiny little network, and my boss and I had been running around to misc machines, using them to test this and that. Logging in to the windows boxes as 'administrator' to handle the old 3.12 novel network wasnt uncommon. So we had pretty much finished up, and as I was cleaning up some of the networking tools while he was talking to the boss, just shootin the breeze. The boss' wife came up to me and my boss (I was right next to them) and mentioned that her computer wasnt working. frustrated, but not showing it (as her machine had been a problem child all day long), I followed her around the corner to figure it out. she sat down to type in her passwd, and lo-and-behold it would not let her log in! I hopped in there, cleared out the 'administrator' username out of the box, put her login name, and told her to try again. amazingly it worked.

    She thanked me and we both walked back over to the bosses (her husband and my boss). My boss asked me what the problem was, and I casually (cleverly, thoguht I) said 'Oh, just an I/O error.' knowing my boss was the /only/ person who would understand that. As the company boss looked at us quisically, my boss stopped, chuckled, looked at the lady whom I had just helped and explained, "Basically, you're an idiot."

    I turned about 5 shades of bright red while everyone else laughed. I didnt quite understand that they had that good of a friendship/business relationship, but man I will never forget that feeling, nor my boss telling someones wife "you're an idiot!"

    If Bill Gates had a nickel for every time Windows crashed...
  • i always thought that was 1/0 (one slash zero) not I/O (eye slash oh).
    It made sense... true is on false is off...
    but I am a geek...
  • Lightbulb??? ;)
    They are all simpler than those new crazy ATX powerbuttons... the ones that don't show which state they are in... and you have to hold them in to shut them off...

    What we need are red levers. One side says "ON"
    the other says "NOT ON".
    and then a note that says "Do not leave lever in middle position."

    I figure if people can remember to start a car, they can figure out how to turn on a machine.

    But then again... I may be oversimplifying things...
  • Yes, my boys both learned how to use at mouse at 18 months. Kids 5 years old can learn anything. The premise of _Ender's Game_ wasn't too farfetched.

    For another point of view, here is a quote from William Mossberg's column. Note that I don't personally agree with everything Mossberg writes, but his point of view is an important one to consider: ml

    "I have long felt that what we need isn't for users to become "computer literate" but for the techie class, especially those who design and maintain computers, to become "human literate." One reason personal computers are of such poor quality is that too many of their designers believe that, when their customers can't use PCs properly, the fault lies with the customers, not with the machines -- or with themselves."

  • by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:53AM (#250712)
    "I could not belive the questions I had.
    "How do I do a right button click" "

    I've done my share of tech support, and received my share of inane questions. But double-clicking a mouse (or using a mouse, for that matter) is by no means an intuitive operation. Like riding a bicycle, once you get it, you get it, but unless someone shows you the odds of figuring it out yourself are about nil.

    There is a saying that only one man ever taught himself to fly a helicopter (Igor Sikorski), and that everyone else learned from someone who learned from him. Along those lines, Apple included with the IIgs a tutorial that booted itself up and taught you to use the mouse assuming no prior knowledge. A work of art IMHO; I wish they had transferred it to other platforms.


  • by Squid ( 3420 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @08:44PM (#250713) Homepage
    I want to rant about how Apple designs power switches. I love Macs, but admit that Apple has pulled more than its share of stupids over the years. I can't understand why Apple doesn't see the irony in being the company that pushes the envelope of human interface design, yet they can't come up with a single, clean, consistent, intuitive way to TURN THE DAMN COMPUTER ON AND OFF.

    Some of their "winners" over the years:
    - You can't turn off most recent Apple monitors without also turning off the Mac it's hooked to.
    - The Color Classic had NO power button at all.
    - Some Macs have "soft power" and can turn themselves off; others say "It is now safe to turn off your Macintosh." There is no rhyme or reason to which Macs do it which way.
    - Some Macs that say "it is now safe to turn off your Mac" have fiddly tiny power switches on the back that ROTATE. Some with soft power have big, easily accessible rocker switches.

    And the all-time worst Mac power switch:
    - The 610/6100 series cases have a power button about half an inch below the floppy drive. PC users instinctively push it to eject disks. Sadder still was that Apple made TWO PC-compatible Macs with this case style - so even if your brain switches easily from "Mac mode" where you drag disks to the trash to eject them and "PC mode" where you hit a button, you'll STILL hit the power button by mistake.

    If computer companies - Apple and everyone else - would just agree to dispense with the symbols, tricky stuff, and I and O, and settle on a big rocker switch on the front that says "on" and "off", we'd be a lot better off. Obviously I have no problem making the master switch "lockable" by key, and I have no problem with making it a soft-switch, so when you press "off" the computer does a soft shutdown. But damn, for companies that pride themselves on easy-to-use computers, "I can't figure out how to turn the damn thing on" is a surprisingly common complaint.

    Note that I'm not addressing the question of whether we WANT people too dumb to figure out the power switch to actually use the computer. I'm talking about purity of design: if you intend the computer to be easy for a CEO to use, the power switch should not be the bottleneck. Either design the machine to be easy to turn on, or design it so only a trained technician can turn it on, either way be honest about your design goals.
  • Oh certainly. The mouse is not an intuitive device in the least. (Star Trek IV even made that point) However, it is at least easy to get used to once you know the basic idea.

    Incidentally, the mouse tails _did_ originally point towards the user. It was probably inconvenient or something b/c a few years later the modern position of the tail at the front had been pretty much established. A picture of the original mouse (1 button no less ;) can be found here: g

    And man, you don't want to know about some of the other alternatives devised for pointing on the screen.... Be grateful that they never got out of the lab.
  • by booch ( 4157 ) <slashdot2010&craigbuchek,com> on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:46AM (#250715) Homepage
    learn abou the difference between a drink coaster and the CD-ROM drive

    Umm, the CDs are the coasters. The CD-ROM drive is the drink holder. Two completely different tech support issues.

  • Ha-Frick'n-larious... I especially like the part about teaching someone to activate the screen saver.
    Once again, we get some great satire from a great bunch of people over at SatireWire.
  • People who use the spacebar instead of the tab key (or, even better, "style" tagging) in MSWord, WordPerfect, or other good wordprocessors, shouldn't be given remedial training: they should be taken out back and shot, to the benefit of all humanity.

    Not that I feel strongly about this.

  • I think there are a couple of key things to remember when providing technical support.

    1) Never provide support to anyone you're related to or love. The stakes are just too high, mainly because of your need for them to do well, lest they fall off their pedestal.

    2) The users are always doing what makes logical sense to them. It's just that their logic is flawed, or based on faulty assumptions. The story in a message below, about the "I"nput and "O"utput switch is a perfect example.

    3) For some people, fear will utterly destroy their ability to learn the new paradigms needed to work with the computer.

    Now, my theory: Using a GUI is learning a new language, one that uses physical movement to communicate. And for many people it's just as difficult to learn GUI as it is to learn a French, Russian, or Japanese. If they're not immersed in it every day, they'll never be any good at it...

  • I think you may have missed my point. Evolution in our careers depend on the food chain. In order for it to work, we need the dummies. These are supported by smarter people who know how to use applications.

    But there is always a superset as long as there is a subset. The market is based on the stupidity, but that doesn't mean that one can't evolve. I am sure that you would agree that people do get with the program eventually and hence must be replaced by new "less knowledgeble" people.

    So yes, you are right but I doubt that you read my incomprehensible and ambiguous English for what I meant it to be. =)
  • by alsta ( 9424 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @10:08AM (#250720)
    Not to be too cynical, but this could just as well be a Bad Thing(tm).

    If we are to de-layer society a little, it is because of the technically inept that I have a job. And all of you that work with technology. If everybody knew how to use nmh/vi/cal (in that order) there wouldn't be a need for Outlook, in which case lots of Responce Center technicians would be out of work. This of course, would apply to several sectors.

    Somebody made a complaint that users are a bit too stupid. Well, yes they are. But remove that stupidity, or just simply raise the bar a little and all of the sudden we would have a myriad of people fairely knowledgeble and a technical elite. This isn't good either, because of market saturation. We need those dummies! Think about that next time you help somebody locate a file in a DOS shell.

    "Knowledge is always good - in moderation." - von Stauffen
  • Look at your email address. Does it end in ""?

    If so, you ARE technologically impaired.

    --weenie NT4 user: bite me!
  • See The Chronicles of George.

    Well, I didn't know about that one... Amazing link...

    I did a bit of support myself about 10 years ago... But if I'd had to work with that George character, I would either have quit within the first week, or spattered the walls with his blood, or..., or something... something nasty anyway.

    It's painful just to imagine having to go through this daily. I'm amazed he hasn't gone postal yet.

  • Your Dad was right to be confused. Any OS that uses the file's name as a typing system is fundamentally broken. Renaming a file should not change the file's behaviour, and having it do so makes absolutely no sense at all.
  • No, no. ACF stands for "Assisted Computing Facility," not "AOL.Com Flamer."

  • My old roommate, Dan, went to get a programming certificate at the local college. All students (whether in computers or not) have to take an "Intro to Desktop Systems," AKA, intro to Windows.
    In the first class, the intructor asked everyone to double-click on some icon to load up the tutorial program.
    The girl beside Dan clicked BOTH mouse buttons once, simultaneously. That's a "double-click," right?

    As for the previous comment about whether or not double-clicking is some evil Mac invention or not, it makes perfect friggin' sense: once to select, twice to activate.
    OTOH, if you're a complete newbie, then NOTHING is intuitive. These really is no such thing. It has to be learned from somewhere.


    Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Strength! Monopolies offer Choice!
  • Of course it makes sense to you. You, like myself and a vast majority of the people reading this, are a geek. We work, live, and think in a world full of 1's, 0's, TRUEs, and FALSEs. Most of us can't even fathom that other people don't think like us. So people like us design and build a switch with a single verticle line on one side and a circle on the other. Those symbols have no intuitive meaning whatsoever. Sure, most people figure it out pretty quickly, but that doesn't make it intuitive. If one side had an empty outline of a lightbulb and the other side had a lightbulb filled in with lines radiating from it, that would be intuitive.


  • My mom went to such a course, back in 1987 or something, when harddisks weren't all that common. On the computers at the community college she needed a 5.25" boot disk, our somewhat more advanced XT had a harddisk however. We tried several times to explain that she wouldn't need a boot floppy on our home machine, but to no avail. Which more or less sums up the effectiveness of that particular course. Funnily enough, she figured out how to get along on a Mac completely on her own.
  • Having to had provide tech support to many people over the years (One of my favorites: But how do I double-click the mouse?), I found the Assisted Computer Facility living place to be a wonderful idea. Just think - an environment where people could /safetly/ learn about the difference between a drink coaster and the CD-ROM drive.

    Having to had communicate with many people over the years, I found the High School living place to be a wonderful idea. Just think - an environment where 'journalist' could /safetly/ learn to spell and form a coherent sentence.

  • it means you aren't trying hard enough.

    When I started out in this business just over 20 years ago, you could walk into any technology organization and get up to speed in no time. If you understood a few basic principles, had a little horse sense (or maybe horse shit) and the ability to use man and info, that was all you needed.

    It isn't the same anymore.

    Take my recent attempts to get my feet wet with XML. I'm prety experienced, and I can sort of see the value of XML especially when combined with technologies like XSL and Java servlets.

    So I started in to gin up a few examples. OK, this sort of feels manageable. I can draw to some degree on my past experiences -- grammars, productions, parsers -- it's familiar territory. But I start running into a few problems. Exactly what is the difference between XSL and XSLT? How do I get those "fo" namespace tags to work? No problem, I'll just go the w3c web site and skim through the specs, right? Wrong. You can't just skim through the specs. What you need to know is dispersed through a number of related and tedious documents that you have to read in detail: XSL, XPATH, XML, DOM etc. etc. If you want to function in this environment, you must drink the cool aid.

    This is not a critique of XML or W3C; for me, this experience has become all too common over the years. In part, I'm older and less clever than I used to be. I'm also a responsible adult who cannot disappear for a few weeks to immerse myself in a technology unless I have a really immediate need for it.

    Apart from my personal shortcomings, I think the nature of competence has changed. There are just so many different people churning out so many different technologies, each with its own idiosynracies and conventions. You have to settle for real expertise a few areas and at best a rough understanding of what most of the popular technologies are good for. Unless you stick to what you know, eventually you're going to be reduced to the cargo-cult method of aping working examples to get by.

  • I helped my mother learn how to use a computer (my brother was conveniently living 1000 miles away) and set her up on my machine. She'd had her first lesson on a visit to my brother and I can't even imagine how painful that must have been for both of them after several episodes like the following:

    She called me over for help when the mouse had reached the edge of the mouse pad. I said, "Pick it up and move it over" so she picked up the mouse pad in her other hand and started moving them together.

    Incidentally, this was on a machine running Linux, proving wrong anyone who says Linux isn't ready for the unwashed masses.

  • Best one I ever got:

    "The stars on my screensaver aren't moving fast enough"....
  • Agree with the above entirely. But what amazes me more (and on a regular basis) is how working in an academic department with people who are supposedly at the height of the intellectual ladder expect electricity to reach their equipment THROUGH THE AIR!!!

    These are the people who are teaching the managers and directors of the country's largest companies, but don't yet grasp the concept of POWER and ON.

    <rant mode off>

    My other favorites are;
    - "my disk won't come out of the floppy drive" because it's already out
    - "my e-mail won't go to my friend" "do you know their e-mail address?" "their what?"
    - "my floppy drive is broken, it's really stiff inserting a disk" - walk across building to see user inserting disk upside-down, but pushing real hard anyway
    - "my computer can't see my CDROM" "are you sure you've put the CDROM in the computer?" "yes of course I am. I can see it right here sitting on this tray thingy"
    - "my mouse has run out of space on the mouse mat and my hand keeps banging against the filing cabinet" "have you tried picking up the mouse?" user picks up mouse and puts down again in same place.

    All above true, but I've only been in tech support for three years - the next thirty are going to be a hoot!
  • by chrisvr ( 41985 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:53AM (#250733)
    See The Chronicles of George []. Not everyone who answers the phone at the tech desk is the technology wunderkind everybody here seems to be :-)
  • When I did a bit of tech support a few years ago, the best term for those who couldn't or wouldn't RTFM was PEBKAC: Problem exists between keyboard and chair.

    That's OK, but "ID-10-T error" (or a variation thereof) is better.

  • I bet quite a lot of us could identify a sewing machine pedal instantly. It is a MACHINE after all!

    All right... Who among us didn't play with mom's sewing machine when we were children? And of course, we busted a few needles and sewed any nearby garments together in the process :-)
  • Now, can you tell an oil filter from the master brake cylinder?

    But of course! I have changed many oil filters on many cars, and have had the pleasure of washing the oil out of freshly cut skin, too.

    Some years back, I had a Datsun roadster (SPL311) that I would drive from time to time. If it had been sitting for too long, I had to pull the master cylinder and rough up the O-rings to get them to seal again (need those brakes!)

    No problem. After all, we are talking about MACHINES here :-)
  • I'm sure all the English majors enjoy reading Slashdot as much as the geeks.

    I can overhear them now:

    Voice 1 : "My personal favorite has to be 'Having to had provide'"

    Voice 2 : "Safetly"

    Voice 1 : "HA HA HA"

    Voice 2 : "HA HA HA I love this site!"
  • by Ted V ( 67691 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:55AM (#250738) Homepage
    I agree that in a real document environment such as Word, it makes sense to use Tab to format tab stops. But when sending email, spaces with a fixed width font is greatly prefered. The rendering of fonts and the width of tabs is fairly non-standard between different email display programs. Courier font with zero tabs is the only email message "standard" there is, really.

    Unless you know that everyone uses the same email program. But even then it's a bad habit to get in. How many times have you gotten an email with an extra "html version" of the email included, with special font formatting information?

  • by Ted V ( 67691 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:45AM (#250739) Homepage
    One of my friends worked in tech support for a while.

    This woman once called him up for help finding a file. My friend was telling her to change directories in a dos prompt:

    "Type this in at the prompt: C - D ..."

    *click* *click*


    *click* *click* *click* *click* *click*

    "Did you just type in S-P-A-C-E?"

    "Space, just like you told me"

    "No, you're supposed to hit the spacebar"


    "But you have to delete the old letters first. Hit backspace" *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click*

    I believe things went downhill from there. She never found her file, needless to say.

  • I have a Braun electric razor... By Gosh! What does it have on the front? Why it's an "I" and an "O".

    Silly Germans!
  • Double clicking, dragging, and the whole concept of the mouse is fairly difficult if you haven't seen it before. In an HCI course I took, we saw videos of people who thought they had to hold the mouse up to the screen, who couldn't drag-select using the mouse, and who held the mouse backwards (so that the 'tail' of the mouse faced the user).

    Sounds pretty stupid now, but you can bet somebody did a little research on the correct way to make the mouse so that users who held it incorrectly were uncomfortable. And if you think about it, why on earth does the mouse's 'tail' not face you? Isn't it more intuitive that moving the mouse's 'head' forward would move the pointer forward? There's the issue of the cord being in the way, but it's in the way no matter how you position it.

  • Along those lines, Apple included with the IIgs a tutorial that booted itself up and taught you to use the mouse assuming no prior knowledge.

    I never saw the IIgs version, but Apple had an animated introduction to fundemental computer use, including how to use the mouse, in some Mac System 7.x versions. It started automatically the first time you booted a freshly installed machine machine.

  • I used to do tech support on Macs several years ago.

    Once a customer brought in an SE/30 complaining that he couldn't eject the diskette. It turned out that he also had managed to cram three in there. These _were_ 3.5" though...

  • A CD-ROM drive can be a coaster. you'd just have to be really, really stupid....
  • I don't liek most non-techie people so why would I want to become 'human literate'? Other human beings have treated me bad for years & only my aparent need for torment by trying to 'fit in' keeps me from ever leaving my room... If they don't want me, then I sure as hell am not going to consider them when I make something...
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @10:08AM (#250746) Homepage Journal
    And asked for the "Book of Dont's" -- "I got the Book of Dos with the computer..."

    And other life classics...

  • how about the fact this is a news for nerds not jokes for nerds?
    How about.... some of us have just finished (yes, not everyone lives in the US) a long day, and want something to make us smile? Viz a joke. Something to make one laugh.

    or how about the fact that it wasnt posted as Satire it was posted as joys of tech support eh?
    Now, that little line in bold after the posting date underneath the "posted by" line is the subject. It is generally a witty one-line quip on the subject of the article (this is not often the case on Slashdot. But that's the theory). Now, move your mouse cursor to the right a few hundred pixels. You will find a picture of a foot (oh, very Monty Python). Hover your mouse over the foot, and, by God! a small rectangle appears with...what's this? Words on it! What does it say?
    It's funny. Laugh

  • Double click is indeed not intuitive.

    Aw, double click is nothing. You should try the spring loaded folders [] feature in MacOS -- it requires one and a half clicks. It's actually a handy tool, although totally outclassed by FinderPop [].

    Unix avoids double clicks in favor of binding events to different mouse buttons.

    And what a mess that can become if different apps use them differently. Two buttons (plus a scroll wheel) is probably optimal for usability, but we'll always get calls like:me: "Right click on the 'My Computer' icon [long explanation deleted], then click on 'Properties'." them: "I don't have Properties. I see 3 1/2 Floppy ..."

  • and who held the mouse backwards
    Yeah.. I knew a girl who _absolutely_ refused to handle the mouse the right way. It did not strike her in the least that it would be more convienient to have her fingers on the buttons and the cord out from under her wrist.
    I get the 'right click'=='double left click' thing all the time. What the hell are they thinking? We specify for a reason, dammit!
  • Everyone who keeps calling their computer the "hard drive"

    I once had someone hold up a 3.5" floppy, point to it and say "there's something wrong with my disk drive."

  • Disclaimer: I have always known what double-click meant. Maybe I was lucky.
    Yeah for someone who has started using their first computer for their first time, it would be perfectly logical to assume that double-click meant to use both buttons. As for the idiocy of taking a job at Dell Tech Support -- What do they pay? Do they have a dental plan? If Dell is good to their employees then I don't see the idiocy for working tech support for them either. Whatever pays for the cable modem and puts food in the microwave, eh?
  • Ok at this point I have to rant. I must admit first that what I am ranting about I am just as guilty of, that is laughing at the expensive of the "technologically inept". I have had an intuitive connection with computers and electronics from my very youth. I used to hack Apple II Basic on the elementary school computers in the fourth grade. (Ok basic really isn't much to brag about, but I'm not bragging I am making a point). The first time I saw a mouse I knew exactly how to use it. When an icon wouldn't open by clicking once on it, I clicked rapidly on it and it would. I taught myself the double-click by trial and error. Later I taught myself how to use DOS by typing "help" at the C:\ prompt and then peering through *all* the helpfiles. I became a whizzer at creating intricate batch files. Then I learned windows 3.1, which was nothing as I had previously learned a mac. *BIG DEAL*. Continuing on this line, I got into muds. I decided to start my own. I paid for a shell account. Somehow, by dumb luck or trial and error I figured out that "man" was the unix equivalent of "help". I read hundreds of man pages. *BIG DEAL*. I write bash and csh scripts in my sleep. I code in C and C++. I *DO NOT* think that I am better or more intelligent than anyone else! I have a talent. Everyone has a talent. Looking down on someone because they have no idea how to program their VCR *let alone* use a mouse, is really pathetic in my humble(?) opinion. (Ok I'm gonna lose a karma point here, but I'm really not trying to troll. I'm just pissed off at the arrogance I see in the technologically adept community here.) That person you may be thumbing your nose at for sounding "stupid" for not having the same talent as you do may be a whiz-bang tailor/seamstress/mechanic/doctor/lawyer/janitor/p atent clerk/astrophysicist/whatever and have a talent in a field that may be totally alien to you. And admit it yourself. There are plenty of things out there you *can not* do, no matter who you are. There is a learning curve in all this. My/our talent for computers is *not* the rule, rather its the exception to the rule. Albert Einstein could not dress or do basic math, as an example. It took me until I was 26 to learn how to drive a car. I still don't know what the hell the difference is between an O-Ring and a Front-head-gasket-widget is, even though I spent years watching my dad work on his car. Sorry about the long-winded post I just felt that I needed to get this off my chest.

  • by Galvatron ( 115029 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @10:02AM (#250753)
    How about an Assisted Spelling and Grammar Facility, for the ./ crew? "Having to had provide tech support..." is just one example of the desperate need for facilities like this.

    Oh wait, we already have them, they're called spelling and grammar check on the word processor...

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

  • The Amiga had a similar tutorial bundled with it (called "Very First" IIRC). I found out more from trying it out in the first couple of evenings than I did in going through the manual, but it is useful to fill in any gaps for stuff you've missed.

  • and of course Hemos failed to mentioned it just like in the other cases involved both SatireWire and BBSpot.
  • Many moons ago, I worked as a lab instructor at NCSU for, amongst other things, ``Introduction to the Computing Environment''. At the time, it was a network of DEC workstations running Ultrix, but it was a lab about how to use the keyboard, mouse, word processor, etc. So it's early in the semester and I'm telling this one freshman how to do something (I don't remember what now), and I tell her to point at a particular button. So she removes her hand from the mouse and physically points to the button on the monitor. So I say ``No. I mean with the mouse.'' To which she responds ``Oh!'', picks up the mouse, and presses it against the glass. I was forced to simply turn around and leave.

    Shortly after I didn't graduate from college, I took a job at a tech support company providing phone support for, amongst other things, monitors. Now monitors are simple devices from a tech support point of view, as they're either broken or not. I had this one customer who I'd been dealing with for ages. I'd already shipped any number of monitors out to her. Initially, she had a problem with focus or some other aesthetic problem, but since then, she was having a problem with the monitor not displaying any video. Now, as with every customer who called about a monitor that wouldn't turn on or had a blank screen, I'd asked her (multiple times, actually) if it was plugged in and if she'd turned it on, if she'd plugged the cables in properly, if the pins on the connector were straight, etc. She responded affirmatively to those questions, so we went on with troubleshooting. After I'd shipped her the fifth monitor or so, she asked me, out of the blue, ``What's the button at the lower right of the monitor do?'' ``You mean the the rectangular one that sits at the bottom of the monitor?'' ``Yes, that one.'' ``That's the power button.'' Apparently the first one that she had recieved had been turned on for her by whoever installed it. I say ``apparently'' because someone else got to take care of the rest of that case.

  • Everyone who keeps calling their computer the "hard drive"
    What do you mean by hard drive? Are you talkin' about the CPU? ; )

  • They have a story about that same subject too. I remember the exact same discussion. It's very funny.

  • Some wife called tech support complaining that her web browser was getting pornographic: the "location" drop-down menu was full of porn-site addresses.

    Oh, man. I had to do this, honestly, about ten times when I worked tech support for an ISP.

    I also liked the ones where it was the caller himself (usually a guy) who had put them there, and wanted desperately to remove them before someone saw them. This was before Netscape had an option to clear those, and editing prefs.js was outside out feeble support boundaries.

  • Voice 1 : "Oh, geeze, our break is over."

    Voice 2 : "Would you like some fries with that?"
  • Spell and Grammar for the ./ crew? sh0w me this ./ thing, if it's anyth!ng like slashdot I'm SO there. /. /. /. /. /., and for clerification, /.!
  • Had my own version. I worked on a tech support line for 1.5 years. The following exhange was a _weekly_ occurence:

    Me: "Type 'dir a:'"
    lUser: "Ok...D-I-R-S-P-A-C-E-A...what's a colon?"

    Once I heard "S" I knew what was coming, and soon found there was no way to get them to stop typing until they got to "what's a colon?"

  • Too true. When on tech support, I was the PC guru...and spent lots of time teaching a political history major how to provide tech support...and when cutbacks came, guess which of us was kept?

    Also, I called Microsoft's paid tech support line to solve a fairly common Win98 problem - the "solution" given was to format the whole drive (nuking 2GB of stuff) and reinstall, when the real solution was to copy one file.

  • by dazedNconfuzed ( 154242 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @10:52AM (#250764)
    how do I change it before my wife gets home?

    Some wife called tech support complaining that her web browser was getting pornographic: the "location" drop-down menu was full of porn-site addresses. The tech guy explained that those only appear if the user has typed them in before. Having a clue, she figured it out and very politely hung up...

  • Mossberg has a point ,kind of, if you are making something new. My point is the mouse (renaming the damned thing would solve half the problem I prefer trackballs myself) is old tech it is something that has been in *very* common use on almost every machine in the world for many years and the basic things that you do, however illconsidered in the first place (and I will grant some of the things are kind of out there if you were building a new UI),are things that people who have been using computers have been doing every day they use a computer for at least several years and some of these people have still not gotten the concept. So Mossberg's comment would apply to those who invented the whole thing but at this point in the game these people should be able to deal with and they can't this is my point.
  • Before the Mac and the advent of Windows 3.1 you might have had a point. But at this point it has been several years since computers with mice have been *very* common in both homes and offices I get this question from people who have been working in offices that have been using windows and/or a *nix with the X window system for years. I still get people who can't double click. At this point in the game there is almost no excuse to not understand the basics of how a mouse works. I mean come on my 5 year old son can work a mouse.
  • ...tell the user that it is a "pre-input processor error."

    That's classic! I'm going to use that on my mother.

  • i have one user that keeps calling it the PCU... i keep correcting her, and i even took the time to walk her through the differences between computer and monitor, but bleh.


    one of my primary responsibilities is to be on call to support a point of sale system. every once in a while, the system goes down and the computers need to be rebooted. not too tough, right? sure. YOU explain to the manager of a pizza store that pushing the button on the monitor is NOT the same as pushing the power on the computer.

    I usually resort to their language- "hit the power button on the hard drive".... but man oh man, do i feel like a gimp when i do that.
  • -A Floppy drive can hold up to 3 floppies.
  • When I did a bit of tech support a few years ago, the best term for those who couldn't or wouldn't RTFM was PEBKAC []: Problem exists between keyboard and chair. True now as ever!
  • Go to rinkworks. The page is run by the brother of one of my friends, a nice guy if you ever met one. You can give him your stories to add to the collection. Computer Stupidities []
    For the goatsex weary,
  • Or people (like my wife) who grew up using typewriters, and so insist on hitting the Enter key at the end of every line when typing a document.

    Oh, and the Enter key is good for spacing down to the start of the next page, too.

    One customer I heard of years ago was having a problem with diskettes becoming unreadable every night. Turns out the swing shift was leaving them for the night shift stuck to the side of a file cabinet with a refrigerator magnet.

    Even some of us professionals who should know better screw up at times. I heard one tale about an operator on a big IBM mainframe at a company I worked for, who had a problem with a disk pack (one of those stacks of 14" platters with a handle on top that you mounted in washing-machine sized drives). Turns out that the pack was damaged, and the disks were colliding with the heads, thereby trashing the drive (with quite a bit of noise). Well, when the first drive failed to read the disk pack, he proceeded to try the pack in five other drives one after the other -- giving the support techs a lot of overtime pay the next few days.

  • Even more scary: my boss (a reasonably tech-savvy guy) once had me update a page on our company website. When I pulled up the new page for his inspection, he asked me how I stopped the WWW to update it!

    "I am not making this up!"

  • For more calls: Tech Tales []

  • My personal favorite, at least this week, has to be famale on the Poll. Somewhere between female and family. Is being pregnant "being in the famale way?"

    Yes, I majored in English, but HTML got me my job.
  • And if one lightbulb were black, and the other one were yellow, instead of both of them being beige against a beige background, that would be even better. People with less-than-perfect vision have a hard time perceiving the imprints.
  • by T1girl ( 213375 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @11:16AM (#250777) Homepage
    The biggest complaint I hear from people trying to use computers for the first time is, "I can't figure out how to turn the damn thing on." This doesn't say much for usability or intuitiveness. Maybe the people who build products with switches that say I/O instead of On/Off are the ones that need to be gathered together in a home where they can do no harm. For the rest of us, there's Oatfield Estates, the wired retirement home. []
  • Great, like my mother doesn't get to hear "a/s/l???" enough already!
  • When working on the support desk for an ISP I once had a dial-up customer who said they were very pleased that they had received our CD but had now been connected to the internet for 3 days and wanted to know how to disconnect!

  • by BlowCat ( 216402 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @10:03AM (#250780)
    Double click is indeed not intuitive. It probably comes from MacOS since Apple has always been using one-button mouse. But even MacOS sometimes needs to bind more than one event to a mouse click. Unix GUI traditionally avoids double clicks in favor of binding events to different mouse buttons.

    The question about double click is valid and logical. Don't make fools from those who ask it.

  • All the tech support war stories are great, but the granddaddy of tech support story repositories can be found here. []

    My vote for "First Luser Sent to the Home" is George [].
  • Hey, I know I was just repeating from the article. I thought that that was about the funniest thing in the whole article, and deserved to be seen by those who don't want to read through four pages of html. I didn't expect a 5 though :)
  • by Drakantus ( 226374 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:38AM (#250783)
    Look at your email address. Does it end in ""?

    If so, you may be technologically impaired.
  • by HongPong ( 226840 ) < minus author> on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @11:39AM (#250784) Homepage
    Judging by these stories you may find amusement at [], where techies go to rant about stupid people.

  • I was working with this one woman. I told her to type the filename to run the program (it was DOS) and she actually typed the WORD "TYPE"!!!!
  • by Martin Spamer ( 244245 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @10:47AM (#250786) Homepage Journal

    Many years, ago when a 4.7Mhz IBM XT PC was state of the art, I was told to call new customer who had a problem printing, a hardware engineer had already called and the XT & Epson were fine. It must be a problem with the software, so I called the customer.

    The first thing he did was claim the system is not working in 'output mode' " when I ask him to elaborate, he explains he was entering his customer details into the system & it was was working fine in 'I' mode, but as soon as tried 'O' mode to print the details out the system stopped working.

    He kept refering to I and O modes, in relation to entering and printing details. I talked him through some tests of entering some details and trying to print them out. I explored every thing I could think of, he repeatedly reported there was no output, there did seem to be a problem printing. Unusual as we supplied a standardised system of software, XT and epson printer.

    I decide to visit him in person, after all it was time out of the office, when I'm shown the PC, he's in a meeting and can't be with me. I start checking out the PC, quickly print some console output,its fine; I print a report from the application, it rattles out on the printer; it's all fine. I leave the report on his desk and head back. Now firstly remember at this time mobile phones are something out of science fiction movies. So when I get back to the office to find a message, it is still not working, he's been calling every 10 min's for the last hour demanding I return immediately, I do so without even stopping for a coffee.

    On arrival, I'm certain every thing is OK, and it's user error, however he's livid, indeed purple with rage. I'm on tenderhooks, even though I know the system is fine, I need to find out what it is and diplomatically correct it, fat chance in his current mood. I ask me to demonstrate what he's doing. He enters some details, displays them on screen, everything is fine, so far. He then reaches round the right hand side of the PC, and flicks the bright orange button marked 'I' and 'O', I'm stunned for a moment, "NO!! DONT DO THAT!"I shout, but it's too late it's off.

    It's the On/Off switch! instantly it all makes horrifying sense!

    Moral: Take NOTHING for granted when doing end user support!

    I could also tell you about the time I asked an end user to send me copies of their apparently corrupt back-up disks, and I received it by fax, but you simply wouldn't believe it :)

  • by FuegoFuerte ( 247200 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @10:55AM (#250787)
    what's wrong with using my cd-rom drive as a cup holder? it fits those big taco bell cups just great.
  • My favorite tech support story comes from a co-worker. He was just out of college, manning the tech support phones and got a call from a user who couldn't see her screen. After all the usual discussions about checking for power, making sure the computer was on, playing with contrast & brightness, he finally discovered her problem.

    The sunlight coming in through the window next to her workstation was too bright, and she couldn't see through the glare. His reply?

    "Lady, I can do a lot of things, but I can't move the sun for you".

  • i have one user that keeps calling it the PCU...

    "Can you blow me where the pampers are?"

    I usually resort to their language- "hit the power button on the hard drive".... but man oh man, do i feel like a gimp when i do that.

    I can't do it. I absolutely cannot bring myself to use their butchered language. Of course, I'm the kind of guy that gets upset when people say that they're "feeling nauseous." (For those outside the loop, the correct word there is "nauseated." Something that is "nauseous" is what makes you feel "nauseated.")

    I actually snapped on somebody once. We use Compaq PC's here at work with the easy, snap in, screwless cases and mounting kits for drives. Someone kept calling their computer the "hard drive," and I took the cover off the case and pulled out the actual hard drive and said, "No, this is the hard drive, and it's coming with me!"

    They were not amused, but they did learn to call it by the correct name.
  • I just wish that companies would provide mandatory computer training (or a computer assessment test) for incoming employees that taught the basics. It's truly insane that they don't already. But the assumption is that if a person has been working in a business environment then they already know how to use a computer. It just isn't so! You would not believe the number of people who I have to teach about right-clicking and how to save email attachments or how to attach files to email and so on and so on. The productivity gains would be astounding if every PC-using employee in every company was replaced with a PC-literate employee doing the same job.

    The problem is, most people don't realize just how computer illiterate they really are, so they don't even know to ask for help. I find it odd that at most companies you have to be trained or licensed in order to be allowed to operate any kind of machinery, but that they set you loose with a PC and proprietary company data without even so much as a skill assessment. I know that upper management likes to scream about TCO, but if you made the effort or spent the money to ensure that employees were properly trained to begin with then you could probably eliminate a couple of support positions. There's some real cost savings.
  • When I did a bit of tech support a few years ago, the best term for those who couldn't or wouldn't RTFM was PEBKAC: Problem exists between keyboard and chair. True now as ever!

    Nope...can't do that. It's become a very common term now, even to the point that I've heard mainstream radio DJ's talking about it. If you pull that one out, you're bound to get busted.

    My personal favorite (and I'm swearing you guys to secrecy on this because I don't want it to get out) is to tell the user that it is a "pre-input processor error." Then you show them the correct way to do whatever it was and say, "That's the work-around for the pre-input processor error." Most users aren't smart enough to know what you're saying, so they'll just nod their head and do what you tell them. Sooner or later they'll be calling you to say, "Hey, I'm having trouble with my computer again. I think that it's another pre-input processor error."

    And the laughs just keep on coming...
  • This may be an implementation issue. I did work at one company that made you take a 2-hour crash course (except for the IT staff) and I found that we didn't get nearly as many "stupid question" style calls as I have at other companies. But it still could have been done better.

    Regarding the recycling bin and temp directory, that's just sad on the part of the "help desk." I know that finding qualified help is tough, but those are some of the basics. In a similar vein though, I do try to write up a monthly article for my users explaining how to use some neat "new" (aka, previously undiscovered by them) feature of their programs, and even include lots of screenshots. Common topics are freeing up disk space, archiving old messages in Outlook, sharing message folders with other users in Outlook, etc. I've finally caved in and admitted that if I don't try to teach these people something then they'll never learn it...
  • by digidave ( 259925 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @10:49AM (#250794)
    1. My brother's in-laws 'got the Internet' a few years ago. I said something about being online at 4am and they stated that it was impossible because the Internet goes down from 3am to 6am every morning for maintenance. Yes, they are on AOL.

    2. Back when my dad started surfing (3.x browsers) he claimed that sometimes using Netscape was faster and sometimes using IE was faster. He thought that when you use a browser you are using them as some sort of additional ISP and were 'going through their systems.'
  • by Migelikor1 ( 308578 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:36AM (#250804) Homepage
    Though I am not a professional, I have provided tech support to my relatives and neighbors for many years. My favorite anectote was when my mother, (who used to program punchcards) decided that she had broken the internet. While she was vaccuuming the family room, she knocked out the ethernet cable supporting our household LAN. When none of our computers could connect, she called in tears, thinking she knocked out the WWW!
  • by infinite9 ( 319274 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @11:54AM (#250812)

    Forget computers, how about cars. A few years ago, my mother and aunt took turns driving my grandmother to miami from orlando. My mother drove a smaller car and drove rather fast. My aunt had a land-yacht station wagon and drove like an old lady. After a few trips, the three of them were together with my aunt driving to miami when my grandmother had an epiphany. She declared that the reason it took longer to get to miami when my aunt drives is because big cars go slower. You see, there's more wind resistance... so they're slower...

    This is the same woman who said that the instruments in her ford tempo look just like an airplane.

  • I would have read the site, but when I went there a window opened saying that my internet connect was not optimized. I tried to close it then it took me somewhere else and I got lost. Now there is a picture of Brittany Spears as my wall paper, how do I change it before my wife gets home? Does someone have a pulse phone so that I can call to enroll?

    (the above is a joke)
  • And in all seriousness, you're right. If you have a loved one who really does want to learn about computers, check out your local community college. Chances are, they have a course called "Intro to Computers" or something like that, where they teach the basics for people who literally know nothing.
  • Oh, and chances are, if your local library is wired, they may even offer a course like this for free.
  • by krugdm ( 322700 ) <(moc.gurki) (ta) (todhsals)> on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:38AM (#250818) Homepage Journal
    Do they give out referral bonuses? I have several coworkers who would be welcome candidates!
    • Everyone who keeps calling their computer the "hard drive"
    • Everyone who doesn't know the difference between RAM and the hard drive
    • People who send documents and use the space bar instead of the tab key for formatting
    • Everyone who can't grasp the concept that you need to actually log into the network to access things on the network
    Where do I sign up?
  • by BillyGoatThree ( 324006 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @11:04AM (#250819)
    I was sitting across from my coworker when I overheard this:

    Switch to the File Manager (this was Windows 3.1). OK, now on the menu bar...the MENU bar. Right under the title bar. The title bar is at the top of the screen--it's probably blue, with words in it. Right, there. The menu bar is right under that. No, that's the file list--above that. No, it's not the same as the title bar. It's *below* the title bar. No, that's the file list--look a little higher, but not as high as the title bar.

    This went on for several minutes while we both switched to the File Manager ourselves to see if the menu bar could be hidden or something....
  • by uiil ( 413131 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @10:10AM (#250820)
    On the flip side; I wonder what percentage of /.'s could identify a pic of a sewing machine floor pedal switch out of a lineup of various mouse types?! Could be interesting / embarasing...
  • by SID*C64 ( 444002 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:34AM (#250825) Homepage
    I bet there are plenty of people out there who would enjoy such a thing :) Maybe if we created some sort of BioSphere like thing and put all of the AOL users in there... they could all just spam each other.
  • I work in a large office as a network admin and a help desk person. this is the first time I ever worked on a help desk and I have to tell you, I could not belive the questions I had.

    "How do I do a right button click"

    you tell them to put in there user name and password...

    "I have a user name?"

    then you have the total technophobes who get beligerant when they don't know how to do somthing, and you try to show them step by step and they say

    "damn-it! I don't care about how to start the program(even though they don't know how), Just show me how to do ______(fill in the blank)

    it threw me aback and I started to think that these people were all idiots.

    the I realized that not everyone is comfortable with computer, and if they were, my boss would find more crap to throw on me :)

Kill Ugly Processor Architectures - Karl Lehenbauer