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It's funny.  Laugh. Compaq

Where is the Any Key? 369

ricembr noted that compaq has finally provided a FAQ to the world to ask that long standing question where is the any key? Pray that this was added to the FAQ as a joke, and not in response to legitimate need ;)
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Where is the Any Key?

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  • What? (Score:2, Funny)

    by balloonhead ( 589759 )
    Is this really a story?

    Slow news-tastic.

  • by Luigi30 ( 656867 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @10:55AM (#7017414)
    Any key? Where's the any key? I think I'll order a tab. *click* Oh, no time for that, time to work!
  • Finally!? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Drakin ( 415182 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @10:55AM (#7017415)
    Read the bloody thing! It was added in 2001!
    • by brejc8 ( 223089 ) * on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:34AM (#7017651) Homepage Journal
      Created: 10/8/2001 2:13:42 AM
      Modified: 10/25/2002 11:07:05 AM

      Why do you think they had to modify it?
      I wonder if someone complained over the fact they pressed the power "key".
      • Re:Finally!? (Score:5, Informative)

        by fallacy ( 302261 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @12:04PM (#7017862)
        The Way Back Machine [] has the answers []:

        It seems that it was first created in 1999. A modification seems to be the fact that the title changed from "Compaq FAQ: Where do I find the any key on my keyboard? (FAQ2859)" to quoting the "Any" key (along with the relevant change in the text).
      • Re:Finally!? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bert64 ( 520050 )
        Because now it mentions a touchpad screen, so it`s applicable to ipaq users etc... Originally the faq only mentioned a keyboard, i remember reading it back when it was first posted up there.
    • The FAQ once said:

      Compaq FAQ: Where is the ANY Key? (FAQ2859)
      This is not a key. When you are instructed to press any key, this means you can press any of the keys on the keyboard (such as the Enter key, the R key, or the space bar).

      Created: 3/23/99 9:48:24 AM
      Modified: 3/23/99 9:48:24 AM
      Author: COMPAQ - Marilyn O

      So, note what it was actualy created on the 23rd of March 1999.

      I also like the old one better, coz if anyone has the need to read this FAQ (other then for laughs) telling them to STRIKE any ke
  • Needs. (Score:5, Funny)

    by saintlupus ( 227599 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @10:56AM (#7017421) Homepage
    not in response to legitimate need ;)

    You've never worked in a call center before, have you?

    I had a caller who borrowed the DSL installation disk from her friend and was trying to install "The Internet" on her DVD player.

    Yes, this FAQ was needed. Desperately.

    • Re:Needs. (Score:5, Funny)

      by tulare ( 244053 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:00AM (#7017452) Journal
      No doubt - I can't tell you how many times I've had to explain to users that they don't need to enter their username and password into our webmail form in order to "log onto the internet." Or had complaints of a computer "always making this error" but never writing it down - that error message is randomly generated and thus meaningless, after all. And so help me, the next time I have someone point to the monitor and call it the "Computer"...
      • Re:Needs. (Score:5, Funny)

        by TrekkieGod ( 627867 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:14AM (#7017531) Homepage Journal
        And so help me, the next time I have someone point to the monitor and call it the "Computer"...

        Unfortunately, that one is propagated by action movies. It happens in a lot of movies, but the last Tomb Raider comes to mind (don't ask why I went to see it...alright, heck...I'm a nerd, and there was a hot chick on screen). Croft needs to destroy computer so bad guy doesn't get the results of the stuff he was she starts shooting monitors.

        I swear it...I can't help but laugh each time it happens in a movie, and then I get the funny looks from the people around me who are wondering what in that action packed, high-tension situation I find funny.

        • Oh, man, tell me, did the bad guy's computers have that special program installed that sounds the system bell with each and every keystroke? That'd fit right in there, too, don't you think?
      • Re:Needs. (Score:3, Funny)

        by mechugena ( 311767 )
        I know about the "mysterious error" thing. I used to work as a consultant for a company. One of our clients had two users whose machines would supposedly crash all the time. I had asked repeatedly for them to help me out and write the error down. They never found time to do that, so over a span of a few months, I ran every service patch and diagnostic on their systems. I even upgraded them both from Win98 to Win2k, but one still seemed to have problems. The only real application they used was Office2k
      • Re:Needs. (Score:5, Funny)

        by questamor ( 653018 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @01:15PM (#7018334)
        I had to help a friend of mine who had DSL installed, and constantly had problems with it working. Several calls to his ISP later he phoned me. I presumed he was entering his username and password in the right place and DSL wouldn't connect.

        I got to his place and DSl was working fine - the install disk had set his homepage to That's where he was entering his username and password. Over and over again...

    • by heliocentric ( 74613 ) * on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:55AM (#7017799) Homepage Journal
      I have a Sun Type 6 (non-usb) keyboard that has the any key right betwen the help and the F1 keys. It's just above Esc.

      Mind you it's a completely blank key that I have never found a use for so I wrote 'any' on it (figuring it must be the any key).

      My other hypothesis is that this key has a tie-in to solaris and it monitors user gruntle level. As a user begins to lose their gruntles (and become disgruntled) they bash on the keyboard, tripping this key. Once a user reaches a certain level their account should be locked. Unfortunitly all of my sun training and years as admin never demonistrated how to incorporate this with the business plan. *sigh* I guess it's just the any key.
    • Re:Needs. (Score:5, Funny)

      by the_duke_of_hazzard ( 603473 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @01:08PM (#7018287)
      Best one I ever heard of was someone calling up saying "I've followed all the instructions, used the CD, signed up to an ISP, my browser is showing and my homepage is set to Google. My problem is: what do I do now?" The poor chap had heard the internet was amazing and that he had to get it, had got it, and then had no idea what he'd got it for.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by tulare ( 244053 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @10:57AM (#7017431) Journal
    Oh, wow, they're right... there isn't any "any" key anywhere on my keyboard. I never noticed that - whenever I saw that message on my screen before, I just called my housecat who knows everything about computers and she jumped up on the keyboard and fixed it for me.
  • It's Likely True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iCharles ( 242580 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @10:58AM (#7017433) Homepage
    Unfortunately, the FAQ probably is a legitimate point. I've done too much desktop support where things just as stupid have come up.

    There was the time (many, many years ago) I sent a 3.5" floppy to someone with both a 3.5" and 5.25" drive. She calls me up and asks which one to put it in, claiming the big one looks ike it can hold both sizes.

    Of course, the any key one is a bit of a mystery. Not so much because I don't think people would ask that question, but rather becuase it's been years since I've seen that asked (usually it's the "click OK to continue").
    • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:16AM (#7017541) Homepage Journal
      Of course, the any key one is a bit of a mystery. Not so much because I don't think people would ask that question, but rather becuase it's been years since I've seen that asked (usually it's the "click OK to continue").

      I still see it, and I find it very annoying, because its such a lie! The SHIFT key doesn't count, neither does ESCAPE...

      "Press ANY, not that, not that one either...any key except the ones that don't count...keep trying..."
      • by jaredcat ( 223478 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @01:08PM (#7018280)
        How true!

        A recent example...

        Bank of America recently updated the software on their ATMs in Southern California. Now when you first put your card in, insted of asking for your PIN, it says something to the effect of (in all caps mind you):


        So I go and press the biggest button on there, which happens to be the "cancel" button, and it spits out my card forcing me to start over again.
    • by dsfox ( 2694 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:18AM (#7017554) Homepage
      Why shouldn't the bigger one be able to hold either? You just happen to know it doesn't.
      • I pondered that at the time, as I was worried someone would try it (this was early-nineties, and the computer-to-user ratio was like 1:2).

        So I grabbed a 3.5" disk, and tried to put it in a larger drive. The disk was too think to go in more than a quarter-inch.
        • This makes perfect sense if you are interested in computers. If you aren't interested in computers, especially if you are uncomfortable with them, there is a very good chance you will just make sure you have the correct information before trying anything.
          • by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @01:58PM (#7018680)
            To validate this point:

            This summer, we drove from Amsterdam to Paris in a rented car. (We're from the US, FYI). Well, it came time to fill it up, and it occurred to us that the car might be a diesel. So we called up Hertz, and unfortunately for us, the phone system was in Dutch! Looked at the manual, and it was also in Dutch. The gas station attendent, who spoke only French, insisted that the car was a diesel, because he saw the word "diesel" written in the manual. So we go ahead and try to put diesel in the engine, only to find out that the nozzle is too large to go in! It was shaped so you could only put in gasoline!

            So yes, in unfamilier situations, even relatively intelligent individuals can act rather wonky...
    • I had a friend call me up about a web site. "Which one do I press if I want to download? Do I press 'download' or 'register'?"
  • Yep, that's all this is. Working too - front page link on Slashdot.

    Don't do it! Don't click - don't forward this link to your friends! That's what Compaq want..

    Amazon have launched a viral marketing campaign today - a keyboard costing 1 Million dollars, but I refuse to post the link. :)
    • Re:Viral Marketing (Score:3, Informative)

      by gl4ss ( 559668 )
      it's first created in sometime in 2001.. and modified in 2002..

      it's just stupid ass monkey wrenches that post these news and others who write it with 'teh anykyey'

      the 'teh' might have been a joke though.. dunno. it was so bad. maybe taco is having a huge hangover.
  • The interesting thing is that after they created this entry they had to come back and modify it.
  • This is old, old news. Long before the HP/Compaq merger. "Next up: Man killed by a Pepsi machine wins Darwin Award"
  • by Leto-II ( 1509 ) <> on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:00AM (#7017449)
    From the page:

    Created: 10/8/2001 2:13:42 AM
    Modified: 10/25/2002 11:07:05 AM

    So not only did some people not know where the "any" key was, they felt the first explanation was too complicated!! Hopefully this Oct 25, 2002 answer will last another year or so before it needs to be dumbed down some more...
  • If you check out the date of insertion, its been there a while..

    ( and I vaguely remember reading about this on here before.... )

    Of course its NOT a joke.. many people really don't understand what we take for granted, and take things they are told literally..
    • Re:Rather old (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Daniel ( 1678 )
      Of course its NOT a joke.. many people really don't understand what we take for granted, and take things they are told literally..

      Just to be pendantic, this would not be a problem if people would take things literally. "Press any key to continue" means exactly that -- press ANY key. The problem is that some people read too much into it, and think it is telegraphic notation for "press *the* any key".

  • Homer: [reading screen] "To Start Press Any Key". Where's the ANY key? I see Esk ["ESC"], Catarl ["CTRL"], and Pig-Up ["PGUP"]. There doesn't seem to be any ANY key. Woo! All this computer hacking is making me thirsty. I think I'll order a TAB. [presses TAB key] time for that now, the computer's starting.
  • true story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KingRamsis ( 595828 ) <kingramsis@gmail. c o m> on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:03AM (#7017476)
    I was teaching the father of a friend of mine how to use computers, in our first day, he looked at me and then looked at the keyboard and said "I want you to explain to me what every key does"

    he was thinking that the keyboard is like a giant remote control with every key doing one specialized job.

    few years later windows keyboards with "email", "web", and "support" buttons emerged, I guess he was a visionary in his own way.
    • Re:true story (Score:2, Interesting)

      by NibbleAbit ( 528568 )
      Pointess post, but I'm bored.

      Back in the early 80's, I was as close as they came to a support desk for PC's at national bank. A few calls I got:

      Bank manager calls and is having problems reading a diskette. I ask if he knows how to copy it, and he says yes. I ask for a copy, and 20 minutes later a fax gets delivered to me.

      Different bank manager always has problems with diskettes after first use. Many days of troubleshooting by phone, hardware replacements, and of course countless replacement diskett

    • After you explained SysRq, did his head explode or implode?
  • by joel8x ( 324102 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:08AM (#7017500) Homepage
    If someone can't find the "Any" key then how did they connect to the internet, navigate to Compaq's website, determine what "FAQ" stands for, and then read it to find out that there is no "Any" key?
    • Ask them to add the explanation to the FAQ :-)

      Seriously though, maybe it's just a way for HP technicians to be able to say "RTFM" in a more polite way to their customers.

    • If someone can't find the "Any" key then how did they connect to the internet, navigate to Compaq's website, determine what "FAQ" stands for, and then read it to find out that there is no "Any" key?

      When you call tech support, usually all they do is run a search on the website.

      It may well be for their benefit.
  • Finally! No longer do I have to spend hours looking for that damn key; boy, do I feel silly.

    Of course, now I've a different problem. Secure in the knowledge that I could press any key, I whacked the one marked Ctrl. Nothing. So I tried the uparrow key above it; niente. Surely Caps Lock'll work? Nah.

    Bloody compaq. I'm never buying one of their poxy keybaords again.

    But kudos to Compaq (or HP) nonetheless. In their ergonomic guide, they even show you what you should look like when you're standing [].
  • Typically, "any key" refers to any key except those labeled "Shift", "Alt", "Ctrl", "Pause", "Scroll Lock", "Print Screen", "NumLock", and some more with logos.
  • Press any key to continue or any other key to quit.

    Press any key... no, no, no, NOT THAT ONE!

    The information went data way -------->

    BREAKFAST.COM Halted...Cereal Port Not Responding

    The name is Baud......, James Baud.

    BUFFERS=20 FILES=15 2nd down, 4th quarter, 5 yards to go!

    C:\> Bad command or file name! Go stand in the corner.

    Bad command. Bad, bad command! Sit! Stay! Staaay..

    Southern DOS: Y'all reckon? (Yep/Nope)

    Disinformation is not as good as datinformation.

    Who's General Failure & why's
  • Plus the shift key usually doesn't work.

    Now a more nerdy question would be:

    What are the safest keys to press to turn off the screen saver or monitor power saving mode? Basically when the PC is on, and the monitor is blank coz it's gone to power saving or whatever.

    First thing to try is probably the mouse but if that doesn't work, what is the safest key to press?

    It's definitely not Enter, nor Ctrl-alt-del ;).

    Currently I'm thinking of num-lock, followed by capslock, then maybe alt, then tab.

    • Shift, then ctrl if shift doesn't work. You can press those two keys in any program and they won't do anything without you holding them down and pressing a second key.

      Home and end are also pretty safe along with page up, page down. Although those 4 keys will do stuff in most programs.

      Alt I wouldn't press cause it'd go to the top bar of whatever your program you're in and highlight one of the options. Tab might switch to something you don't want to switch to, caps lock well that toggles something so y
  • The limit!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by KoolDude ( 614134 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:15AM (#7017533)

    The term "any key"... particular key on the keyboard

    That's fine. But, where's the "particular key" ?
  • A few decades ago, IBM changed some of their computer service manuals to refer to the "AMD". This was the "Air Movement Device"--what most people call a "fan".

    The story I heard was that IBM's manuals had originally described the device as a fan. Some servicemen, though, were so used to TLAs (Three-Letter Acronyms), that when they read about the "fan" they tried to find the "F.A.N.". And couldn't.

  • The FAQ is wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by ( 102718 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:23AM (#7017580) Homepage
    Unfortunately, I have discovered that the FAQ is wrong.

    As I am lazy, I often pick a key near the edge of the keyboard, and I have found that ctrl, caps lock, alt, and shift are not any key at all.

    The FAQ should be updated to reflect that some keys just are not any key.
  • by lildogie ( 54998 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:23AM (#7017581)
    "Keyboard not present,
    Press F1 to continue."
    Zen engineering?
  • The "any key" really exists ... you can buy it at : userfriendly []
  • This was in response to NEED, not humor.
    The vast majority of the people out there have no business operating any equipment, much less computers.

    They would be better off using "net appliances" that only browse and do email, nothing else. So as to spare the rest of us the agony of their stupidity..

  • I heard the story where somebody luser thought
    the "space bar" was a drinking establishment in outer space.


    I might point out that the explanation recursively uses the word "any". It would be better if they said: "it doesn't matter which key you press" or something like that.
  • It is a coding bug (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tgibney ( 110912 ) <> on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:28AM (#7017615)
    I have always considered "Press any key to continue" a bug for two reasons.
    1) not any key will work (i.e Shift, Control etc.)
    2) there is much easier answer.

    The proper message is "Press a key to continue" because the worst they will do is press "a"
  • by El_Ge_Ex ( 218107 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:28AM (#7017619) Journal
    Taken from: htm []

    This is a true story from the Word Perfect Help line which was transcribed from recording monitoring the customer care department. Needless to say the HelpDesk employee was fired; however, he/she is currently suing the WordPerfect organization for "Termination without cause."

    Actual dialogue of a former WordPerfect Customer Support employee (now I know why they record these conversations).

    "Ridge Hall Computer assistance; may I help you?"
    "Yes, well, I'm having trouble with WordPerfect."
    "What sort of trouble?"
    "Well I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away."
    "Went away?"
    "They disappear."
    "Hmmm. so what does you screen look like now?"
    "It's blank; it won't accept anything when I type."
    "Are you still in WordPerfect or did you get out?"
    "How do I tell?"
    "Can you see the C: prompt of the screen?"
    "What's a sea-prompt?"
    "Never mind can you move your cursor around the screen?"
    "There isn't any cursor; I told you, it won't accept anything I type."
    "Does your monitor have a power indicator?"
    "What's a monitor?"
    "It's the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV."
    "Does it have a little light that tells you when it's on?"
    "I don't know?"
    "Well. then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that?"
    "Yes, I think so."
    "Great. Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it's plugged into the wall."
    "Yes, it is."
    "When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of
    it, not just one?"

    "Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable."
    "Okay, here it is"
    "Follow it for me, and tell me if it's plugged securely into the back of your computer."

    "I can't reach it."
    "Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is?"
    "Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over?"
    "Oh, it's not because I don't have the right angle - it's because it's dark."
    "Yes the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming from the window."
    "Well, turn on the office light then."
    "I can't."
    "No, why not?"
    "Because there's a power failure."
    "A power....... a power failure? Aha, Okay, we've got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and
    manuals and packing stuff your computer came in?"

    "Well, yes I keep them in the closet."
    "Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take
    it back to the store you bought it from."

    "Really? Is it that bad?"
    "Yes, I'm afraid it is."
    "Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?"
    "Tell them you're too @#!%ing stupid to own a computer."
  • I know that I got confused when I started a Mac Quadra for the first time, because the Power On button was on the keyboard.

    Years later, in a call center, I saw a pile of old keyboards from some Gateway computers (maybe from the 486 era), and there was a button labeled "Start Here." I was told it was a power-on button and someone had actually written "The Any Key" with a sharpie on some of the keyboards as a joke. Too bad the keyboards needed a proprietary driver for the "power-on" to work, which is why t
  • Imagine if you will a new computer user...

    do doot da doo..
    I'll just install this new screensaver/hotbar spyware application that uncle Neal recomended.

    dum dee dee dum doodle do
    EULA, next
    do doot da?????? WTF!
    Where is the ANY Key?
    Load IE,
    Type "Where is Any Key" k ey&ie= UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&meta=

    I'll just look at the Compaq Support Doc's for this..

    OOOhh it
  • by bboyers ( 21742 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:35AM (#7017658)
    ...many years ago a caller and a problem with their computer. I told her the only thing to do with that problem was to "reboot" the computer. She made me confirm that's what I wanted her to do, so she did it.

    At this time I start hearing a "clunk, clunk" coming through the handset. Well, to say the least she was kicking her computer, since I told her to "boot" her computer.
  • Better answer: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:37AM (#7017672) Homepage
    If anyone ever actually asks you that question it is vital to give the simplest answer possible. Compaq's FAQ answer is still "too complicated" and may cause the loss of your own sanity when they still get confused.

    Better answer:

    "Any key" is another name for the space bar.

    At this point they will inevitably make a second second assault on your sanity. It is vital to be prepared for this devious one-two combo attack. The deady follow-up question is generally some varient of 'why', such as "why didn't they just say to press the space bar?" or "why isn't the spacebar propery labeled?"

    No matter what the exact question is, the only safe answer is:

    "I don't know."

    If they keep asking about it just keep repeating "I don't know" until the psych-assault ends. Trying to give any other answer will result in severe pain and possible loss of sanity.

  • by jhines ( 82154 ) <> on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:41AM (#7017713) Homepage
    I got a set of labels from cyberguys, which allows all the ports to be labeled, with a matching label for the cable.

    Included is the "any" label, which can be applied as needed.

    Great if your building a PC for a less than technical user, like a family member.
  • Sure, they say it means to press any key on the keyboard... The problem is they don't say not to use the Shift, Ctrl, or Alt keys since they are "modifier" keys. So someone may actually press the shift key and it still won't work. :)
  • by dmorin ( 25609 ) <dmorin@ g m a i l . c om> on Sunday September 21, 2003 @11:56AM (#7017809) Homepage Journal
    True story, made it to rec.humor.funny a few years back. I watched our tester Jane trying to crash our product. She got to an any key screen, and pushed "J." I screamed "Jane! Why did you press J!?"

    "It said any key."

    "When programmers say any key they mean the space bar!"

    At this point the other programmer on the team piped in with, "We do? I thought we meant Enter."


    "Build a classroom of computers for which all keyboards have one key, and tell your class to press that key. To a person, each will look at you, look at the keyboard, poise their finger over the keyboard, look at you and say, 'This one?'"

  • I always thought these stories were mostly just urban legends, until a year ago when my wife was trying to transfer pictures from our digital camera to the computer. She connected the camera to the computer's USB port but was stuck at that point.

    When she came and got me I immediately saw the problem - the camera wasn't turned on.

    When I pointed this out to her, she looked at me with this absolute disbelief and said "it has to be turned on?"
  • As far back as the early nineties, I remember reading a set of guidelines for technical writers.

    One guideline specifically said never to use the language "press any key." The recommended substitute was "press the spacebar."

    The users aren't stupid. They're being presented with a complicated and badly designed system, with many keys whose functions aren't obvious, and many others ("Print Scrn") which look obvious but almost never do what the legend suggests.

  • by tulare ( 244053 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @12:20PM (#7017949) Journal
    Here's my best story to date:

    I work for a school district. The week before last, I got a voicemail from a kindergarten teacher complaining that I had brought here a PC, when the software she had was all written for the Mac. Her message was about three minutes long, but overall it went something like this (just repeated a couple of times):
    "Hi, this is Mrs. X at the elementary school. When I got to work this morning I noticed that you had brought me a PCP instead of a Macintosh computer. We talked about this before, and I explained to you at that time that I can't use any PCP with my students, and my students can't use the PCP either, because none of the programs will run on the PCP. Please get this PCP out of my classroom and bring me a Macintosh instead. Thanks."
    I had a talk with the principal at the elemtary school, and between tears we managed to figure out how to get the PCP out of that teacher's classroom and replace it with a much more useful (and safer!) Macintosh instead. I'm thinking of petitioning to have my job title changed - surely I'd qualify for hazard pay as a PCP Support Specialist!
    • I work tech support at an Internet retailer, and we sell a lot of systems with plexiglass windows and case lights. One product we sell a lot of is a "Blue Cold Cathode Light." A few weeks ago I got a call by someone whose case light had burned out after a month of use and wanted a replacement.

      The funny part? He had a slight pronunciation problem and kept referring to it as a "Catheter" [] Light.

      "I've had this machine for only a month, and my cather stopped working."

      "Excuse me?"

      "My blue catheter light.

  • by vocaro ( 569257 ) <> on Sunday September 21, 2003 @12:33PM (#7018038)
    Yes, we've all had a few chuckles about the mistakes of new computer users. But remember that every one of us was a newbie at some point. Never forget:
    • Nobody is born knowing this stuff.
    • You've forgotten what it's like to be a beginner.
    • If it's not obvious to them, it's not obvious.
    • A computer is a means to an end. The person you're helping probably cares mostly about the end. This is reasonable.
    • Their knowledge of the computer is grounded in what they can do and see -- when I do this, it does that. They need to develop a deeper understanding, of course, but this can only happen slowly, and not through abstract theory but through the real, concrete situations they encounter in their work.
    • By the time they ask you for help, they've probably tried several different things. As a result, their computer might be in a strange state. That's not their fault.
    • Most user interfaces are terrible. When people make mistakes it's usually the fault of the interface. You've forgotten how many ways you've learned to adapt to bad interfaces. You've forgotten how many things you once assumed that the interface would be able to do for you.
    • Knowledge lives in communities, not individuals. A computer user who's not part of a community of computer users is going to have a harder time of it than one who is.
    Adapted from How to Help Someone Use a Computer []
  • by dswensen ( 252552 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @12:42PM (#7018102) Homepage
    This is rather redundant by this point, but I work for tech support and I never tell people to hit any "key", because I have this conversation nearly every day:

    "Go ahead and go to your Start button."
    "Star button?"
    "START button!"
    "I don't have one."
    "It should be on the lower left hand corner of your screen."
    "Nope... I have connect to the internet, my computer, Get AOL, ZoneAlarm, BonziBuddy... oh START button!"
    "Yes! Now go to settings..."

    Users have enough problems with the elements that are right there in front of them. So I just say hit the space bar. They can usually get that one the first time around. Usually.
  • by dacarr ( 562277 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @01:57PM (#7018664) Homepage Journal
    There are people who use the internet who:

    * QED, need to know where the any key is
    * think the internet is operated by Microsoft or AOL
    * believe the internet is solely comprised of HTTP (my brother could be once quoted as saying "that's not the internet I use", when he spotted me using a prompt based FTP client; he's since become more clueful)
    * don't understand that not everybody runs Microsoft products
    * don't realize that an "illegal operation" is not going to get you into legal trouble
    * buy from spammers
    * think the "hard drive" is the case in which the components of their computer resides in, rather than a small box the size of two decks of cards
    * must call the local BOFH to turn on their computer daily

    In other words, users are idiots.

  • by satch89450 ( 186046 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @02:07PM (#7018735) Homepage

    When I had a product out in the field, I had seen the "any" key problem enough that I decided not to do that. In every prompt, I specify exactly which key to depress. The documentation made it clear that a specific key was to be depressed (pressed firmly and then released quickly).

    We never got a service call on that point. EVER.

    We DID get one call from a technician who said that he pressed the wrong key and it seemed to work anyway. I assured him that he was just fine and to continue working with the product.

    As you can guess, the CODE didn't require a specific key, but the documentation and prompt specified one. I also didn't allow type-ahead on those prompts so that there wasn't a problem with astonishing results to clueless users who didn't release the key fast enough. I also had code to wait until the keyboard stopped sending characters before putting up the prompt "Depress the C key to continue."

  • by 3Suns ( 250606 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @02:12PM (#7018773) Homepage
    I'll admit, I laughed when I first heard the joke about clueless users who couldn't find the "any" key.

    And that might have been 8 years ago.

    Stop it, it's nowhere near funny anymore. And if you refer to the CDROM tray as a cupholder again, I'll strangle you.

  • Metaphors (Score:3, Interesting)

    by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:54PM (#7019386)
    The real problem is that most people have a rather limited grasp on the abstract. Psychological research has shown (specifically, research into ethical beliefs) has shown that the majority of humanity can handle only a moderate level of abstraction. A computer is highly abstract --- there are metaphors all over the place, and using a computer requires a great deal of symbolic thinking. For example, most things are iconic. The icon *represents* the file, it is not the file itself. Also, hierarchies are used to abstract the complexity of the underlying structure. Most people just don't handle this sort of abstraction all that well.

    Now, this is not to say that they are dumb. They may be perfectly intelligent and capable in other respects. However, most of life's tasks do not require dealing with a great deal of abstraction.
  • by B.D.Mills ( 18626 ) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @08:37PM (#7020946)
    I had a simple solution to the "Any" key problem that worked a treat. Instead of messages like

    "Press any key to continue"

    I reworded the message slightly in some of my applications:

    "Press a key to continue"

    It works great. The experienced users know what to do, and the users who can't find the "any" key will have more success when they try to find the "a" key.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990