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Computer Stupidities 182

Stephen R. van den Berg writes "Yet another BOFH [?] -relief site: stories about Computer Stupidities compiled by RinkWorks. "What do you mean, other tape? When it said second volume, I just hit enter again.". "
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Computer Stupidities

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is this one supposed to be funny or is the person who submitted it an idiot? Me: "I can't seem to connect to the Internet. Any problems there?" Tech Support: "What lights on your modem are on?" Me: "'Power' and 'Network'." Tech Support: "Okthen, it's something with your system. Do you use Netscape?" Me: "My Linux server doesn't get a temporary IP address, and there's no PPP0 connection." Tech Support: "We only support Netscape." Me: "A web browser wouldn't work. I can't even do a ping to you or somewhere else outside my network." Tech Support: "A ping? Are you sure you use Netscape? We only support Netscape." Me: "As a matter of fact, my Windows 98 machine runs Internet Explorer, but it always worked fine. I really think something else is wrong. A ping is a signal send to see how the connection between two machines is. I can't seem to get a connection between you and me." Tech Support: "You really should install Netscape. It's on the install disk which came with your modem." Me: "Ok, never mind."
  • I'm surprised that PC makers try to offer the the level of support they do for their products. All of the phone support horror stories we hear are the result of end users who do not understand computers, trying to diagnose and solve problems with (a presumably) skilled tech on the phone. The fault is in offering tech-support in the first place.

    Would the following ever happen?:

    Tech Support: GM Tech Support, may I help you?
    Customer: Hello? My car is not working?
    Tech Support: Well what's it doing?
    Customer: When I step on the gas, nothing happens. It just whirrs.
    Tech Support: Make sure the car is in 'D' and the parking brake is off.
    Customer: I did and it is.
    Tech Support: Okay, open the hood and check the transmission fluid dipstick. Is it at the 'full mark'?
    Customer: Yeah.
    Tech Support: Okay, let's make sure the driveshaft is connected to the differential.

    Of course, this is rediculous. No one would expect average consumers to follow such diagnostic procedures. Cars are complicated. Computers and software are complicated too (as much if not more so than cars). Why should the latter offer such intricate level tech support and not the former?

    By your own admission, your doctor friend is unskilled (inept) at troubleshooting computers. The solution is to simply have someone who is skilled come and fix his computer. If I have a broken leg, and call your doctor to have him talk me through resetting the bone and making a splint to hold the leg immobilized, and I, being unskilled do not do things right, ignore some of his instructions, do other stuff that actually makes things worse and then yell at your doctor for not supporting me and he gets mad and yells back, who's fault is this? Mine? The doctors? No. The fault is is offering phone support for something that should've been an on-site repair done in the flesh by a real person, skilled in his craft, to begin with. Will this be more expensive? Yes! Will fewer people buy computers as a result? Yes! Unskilled people should not be using computers just like people who cannot learn to drive a car shouldn't be buying cars. If your doctor friend won't pay someone to keep his computer running when it breaks, then he shouldn't have a computer. But he'd better not expect a tech-support person to walk him through complex repair tasks anymore than I would expect him to talk me through removing someone's appendix over the phone.

  • Nerds (at least the nerds I know) don't mock non-nerds. We're not snobs. What they're mocking here are folks who are so astonishingly and preventably ignorant that it's just plain funny. I don't view people who refer to speakers as "the computer's brain" or who place orders for "60 nanoseconds of RAM" as idiots, all I see is a remark that is funny from a more knowledgable perspective. I'm sure mechanics pass around similar lists of boneheaded remarks nerds make about their cars, for example.

  • Gads. If that's the one I think it is, I am the person who provided that trick to the author of Stupid Mac Tricks. I'll have to go dig out my copy.

  • Okay, so it's not the best analogy in the world :-P I was just trying to keep the car thing going (I drive a standard, so... Next slashdot poll idea, I guess.)
    Anyway, the idea is the same - you still have to know *something* about driving, about how the spedometer works, about what the '1' and '2' are on the Automatic transmission, as opposed to 'D' (I still haven't figured that out...), etc. If you don't know how to drive, automatic transmission isn't going to help that much.
  • As someone noted earlier, the idea that "they will just be able to use the software" is saying "they will just be able to drive the car (without learning anything about it)". The problem is one of perception, and average logical literacy.

    Perception, in the sense that MS & Co. have been trying like hard to hammer home the fact that thier software is *easy* to use, and doesn't require any thought, and that Apple with thier iMac has been trying to make the 'un-thinking' PC a reality. Imagine someone trying to market a car that you don't have to learn how to drive, it's so easy to use! Absurd. But we see that as the holy grail of software design nowadays - that the user shouldn't have to think at all in order to do anything.

    Logical literacy, in the sense that computers are very, very logical machines, and human minds aren't. In order to effectively use a computer, your expectations of what is and isn't possible have to conform (roughly) to the rules of logic (i.e. you can't do word processing without a word processor, no matter how much you think you can). This really should be addressed by increased standards for Math and Science testing, but with the way things are going in our society (cutting school budgets, the whole evolution mess in Kansas), I don't see that happening. I am not saying users are stupid - generally, users are very good at what they do in life. It's just that thier minds (very literally) don't work the same as a programmer's mind. Something that very few programmers (and technical people in general) realize.

    Logical reasoning is not something fundamental to human thought or behaviour. It has to be learned, just like everything else.

    However, the danger in trying to make things easier is doing it wrong. I'm sure we're all familiar with the results of this process *coughcoughWordcoughcough*.

    To some techies and /.'ers, 'easy to the average user' means 'something that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole because it's too graphical, but I guess it's fine for the people who've never seen something like this before', when said application has years (decade's in Unix's case) of evolution behind it, which the programmer can't get out of his mind. The problem is the perception of the problem.

    The typical UI-solving exersize is 'make it look pretty and have simple, easy to navigate options'. This is generally the approach taken by Windows, GNOME, KDE, etc. The problem with this, is that for anything more complex than a trivial application, the logic of the program can become pretty, well, non-trivial, and communicating the logical structure to the user can be a bit of a chore. So, the programmer just assumes that the user is going to know to look in 'Options' for changing his user information, but in 'Preferences' to change his start page, or 'Page Setup' to change how the thing is going to print, etc, etc. And that's a simple case. Do Tools->Options in Word to see a horrible case (to turn off auto spell check, you have to go to Tools->Options->Spelling & Grammar, but to turn off AutoCorrection, you have to go to Tools->AutoCorrect->AutoReplaceAsYouType, even though those are two extremely related functions). The average complexity of the typical application, which may be cool for someone who got 90's in Math in high school, becomes an insurmountable obstacle for the person who has trouble with logical reasoning.

    And that's really where the difficulty lies - the root of the problem is that many, many people aren't very logically literate - yet we constantly heap very complex logical tasks upon them daily, and get exasparated because they don't know that you go to 'Page Setup' to set up your margins, and not 'Internet Options'.

    To solve this, really, we need to think through not just OS or UI design in general, but application design as a whole. Not just to create a consistent-across-the-board interface methodology, but also a simple, logical, and potentially universal way to interact with the computer. Until you address that problem - that programmers think in a highly logical manner, and most people don't - the glut of clueless users is just going to get larger.

  • Two years you lasted at this place? You must be a saint. I hope and pray (in no particular direction) to work with people at patient and well-mannered as you.

    However, every once in a while, a good tech explosion serves to bring a PHB back to earth. One PHB that I worked with had to endure 12 years of self-inflicted failures and embarassment in front of customers before he finally got a clue about being technically responsible when in the business of selling technology. What turned the tide? His only long-standing code guru finally snapped, gave him a dose of honesty that singed his eyebrows, resigned on the spot, and started his own immediately-successful company. Now if his accountant would snap, he'd have it made.

    There's hope. But generally not enough for everyone.
  • I am amused to see how we are coming up with the car as a metaphor to talk about how people use and understand computers.

    I have a personal metaphor that I use in a similar way to explain to people why tech support is so difficult.

    Imagine that every car that came off an assembly line was different from every other car off the assembly line. Of course that is the case today, green Honda Accords vs. black Honda Accords. The thing is, the color doesn't make any difference in performance, but in this hypothetical situation, it makes a big difference. Your car will act very differently if you get the CD Player in it or the accessory wheels. Because of this, no two cars react the same way off the assembly line.

    Worse, when a person brings them home, they add other stuff to the cars to personalize them. Not unusual for a person to drill in a hole to make a sunroof, or put strips on the side. Each of these minor modifications make a huge difference in how the car performs and most of the time they are being done by amateurs, people who have no mechanical background. That's not to say it is not being done right, but there are a lot of times where it is being done...strangely.

    Then comes "car support." There are two types of questions in car support. One is the "my car won't start" variety. Answer: "you are not putting the key in the ignition, or you don't have gasoline." The other question is "whenever I am driving the car on a Thursday with the air conditioning on, and shift from 3rd gear to 4th gear, my radio station changes to the 5th preset. Why does that happen?" Answer:"get a new car."
  • First of all, as somebody already pointed out, we nerds / geeks are usually mocked by the "normal" people, so it's perfectly legitimate to take revenge in the field we're experts in. But I'll leave that subject to Jon Katz.
    As for tech. support stories, people who are ignorant are not the problem; the problem are the people who are ignorant, arrogant and plainly abusive. Have you read the story of the girl who tried to install Word when she didn't have one of the disks and, when told so, started insulting the tech? Or the person who calls threatening lawsuit because he had to throw out a "broken" computer, when in fact it had a "Non system disk error"?
    As someone working in the field, I don't have a problem if a customer calls me asking for our DNS servers. But if someone calls me telling me that I don't know what I'm doing when it's actually their fault, fuck them, I say.
  • Automatic gear makes you a sufficiently skilled driver. Yeah right...

    Of course you're going to be all alone on the road, no other cars or any obstacles. Forget about traffic lights and traffic signs in general. That's just for the "advanced" driver, normal people don't have to fuzz with all that, they just wanna get from A to B. Yeah right...

    On the north pole, you could probably get away with this actually.
  • People have also been using logical thought and reasoning for umpteen thousand years.

    And you apparently still cannot cope.
  • Hey, there's probably a lot of truth to that comment about those 80s homecomputers.

    I used to have a Commodore 64 and I remember spelling the Reference Guide, which listed everything up to the functional block design and registers of the IC's inside. I found it fascinating, even though I was only 12 at the time.

    Mind you, I also had friends who'd only copy warez and play games all the time and couldn't care less about even writing a BASIC program.

    Sometimes I wonder if I should consider myself gifted by time to have been able to play with computers that were so transparent from the conceptual level to the implementation.

    As far as the "unwilling users" are concerned: most really don't want to lear, _especially_ if there's a techie around who can be bothered to do the stuff for them.

    Most unwilling users are people who have exactly that sort of mindset that they like to manipulate other people into doing their work. They are subsequently left out of computer knowledge, for which others are comfortably to blame. So they have an excuse for themselves to manipulate more.

    Well, maybe that's a bit extreme and grimly put.

    Still though, I've given my father several books about various computer topics, ranging from a comic, explaining basic computer topics, to Word for Dummies. He has Windows95 and it came with a "getting started" booklet. But he refuses to even attempt to read those!

    He just bluntly tells me: "I don't want to have to learn about it, I just want to use it;" and I'm not making this up. Mind you, the guy has a University degree too.
  • I was in the market for a new printer. Running OS/2 at the time, I wanted to make sure that drivers were available. I called up Hewlett Packard, and asked for technical support (knowing I wouldn't get help from sales).

    I gave my mother my old Performa and went with her to CompUSA to pick out a printer. We were cornered by a salesman who insisted that:
    1. All Macintoshes only use USB printers
    2. USB is only for Macs
    I thanked him politely and edged away only to have him get angry at me when I tried to buy a "Windows printer" against his advice.

  • >Subject: Fw: viral warning
    >Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 10:28:22 -0400
    >This came from our IT department, so it must be legitimate!
    > > >>> >Dear All,
    > > >>> >
    > > >>> >This is VERY, VERY SERIOUS!! Please forward it to everyone you
    > > >>> >know..they will be grateful
    > > >>> >
    > > >>> > Important
    > > >>> >
    > > >>> > There is a virus out now being sent to people via email...it is
    > > >>> >called the A.I.D.S. VIRUS. It will destroy your memory, sound card and
    > > >>> >speakers, drive and it will infect your mouse or pointing device..as well
    > > >>> >as your keyboards (possibly motherboards) making what you type not able to
    > > >>> >register on the screen. It self terminates only after it eats 5MB
    > > >>> >harddrive space & will delete all programs.
    > > >>> >
    > > >>> > It will come via E-mail called "OPEN: VERY COOL! :) ".
    > > >>> >
    > > >>> > DELETE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! immediately!! It will basically render
    > > >>> >your computer useless. Please pass this on to everyone you know!
    > > >>> >
    > > >>> >
    > > >>> >
    > > >>> >
    > > >>>
    > > >>
    > > >

  • My two co-workers are completely useless
  • Sure - I used to do Mac support, and tools such as Timbuktu were EXTREMELY useful for this sort of thing (Mac, Windows).

    I assume you're referring to *nix, but that's not the only place this capability exists - it's not as good on the Mac/Windows side, but it's good enough to troubleshoot with.

    - Darchmare
    - Axis Mutatis, http://www.axismutatis.net
  • "Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects." -- Will Rogers
  • "I'm in 386 enchanted mode." I love it!

    I had to stop reading after a couple of pages so that I could stop laughing long enough to catch my breath but I wonder what those who seem so contemptuous of users who haven't spent their every waking moment learning about computers to the exclusion of all else are really angry about.

    I enjoy doing "tech-support" type work. It feels good to take what I've worked hard to learn and make it easier for someone else to learn by my being smart enough or clever enough to see the problem through their eyes (so as to understand what it is that's confusing or misleading them) even though their area of expertise is terra incognita to me.

    Just because I don't hold them in contempt for not being 'leet doesn't mean those stories aren't hilarious, though.

  • I daresay the DOS prompt isn't what was meant by being able to "get under the hood." It may be the equivalent of opening the hood of a car, but when the user wants to do some heavy duty work under the hood, he can't.

    It's about like if I decided to change my camshaft and bore out the engine in my car, only to find that the engine was welded together. Sure, most drivers don't have the desire to do this, but if they do get a hankering, it can be done.

  • This is exactly right. As I said in another reply, folks expect to have a certain basic knowledge in order to be able to drive a car, and they should do the same thing with a computer. I hadn't thought about it, but like you say, nobody else gets the kind of tech support that computer manufacturers get.

    Plus, most people don't call up GM when they try to install an aftermarket stereo and end up botching up their electrical system, and then complain loudly when GM refuses to help them out of their quandry.

  • It's like giving a 16-year old a Corvette or Viper or something, handing them the keys, and saying "You don't have to know anything to get on the freeway. Why don't you go pick up an aftermarket stereo and some rims and install them? It's so EASY!", except it's not nearly as deadly with a computer.
  • When PC's first came out I was a univ "helper" and had to help a person who had got a abort/retry error on a disk write. They placed their only backup in the drive and pressed retry. In Dos1 days, there was no media change check so the FAT of the bad now was copied to the good. Total loss of a year of research for that person. Computers are difficult to use, what may be perceived as stupidity is often lack of knowledge. I think things are getting better, GUI's have helped people by reducing the machine-human barrier somewhat.
  • The personal computer is 24 years old now. It is the most important technology of the 20th century.

    People who do not know about computers after all this time DESERVE to be mocked.

    At least, that is an opinion that I heard a couple days ago.
  • The African storyteller is the daughter of Carmen Electra? Wow! I didn't know that she was African. You learn something new every day. (or maybe not).

    [Folks, go read www.snopes.com]
  • I believe you that you heard the story first hand from an African Storyteller.

    But, I have to believe that the African Storyteller was just --- [are you ready for this?] --- telling you a story!

    The reason is that the glitter story is an old and well-known urban legend. Usually in the story the doctor doesn't laugh and run out of the room though. The comment is usually "My you look fancy today" or something similar, and the person discovers later on at home that they glitter all over their pudenda.

    Carmen Electra told the exact story on the Conan O'Brien show just a couple months ago, but she claimed that it happened to her! Last I checked, she was an actress, which is a sort of a storyteller.

  • Oh this brings back a good one that my buddy did. He was working at one of those quick change oil places and he did the lights and windshield wiper check on a lady's car. When she saw that her blinker light was out she asked him if he could change it for her. Of course he could, and that was his job to do that. But instead he told her that she was out of blinker fluid and she had to go to the dealership to get the right fluid for her car.

    Ho ho! It still makes me laugh.
  • I've come to the conclusion that user-friendliness is not and should not be the holy grail of computing.
    Why should computers be so easy to understand that anyone can turn them on and instantly be proficient?
    The only reason for that is improper training of the potential users.

    Really, face it: We have to learn a lot of very complicated things in order to be able to function properly in our society.
    Reading and writing are complicated tasks. Don't underestimate how difficult writing is, let alone proper spelling!
    Driving a car is complicated, especially when there's a lot of other traffic on the road.

    If you want your computer to do anything more sophicistated than what a PlayStation can do, then need to sit down and _learn_ how to operate the machine, and you have to get some basic understanding of how the machine works. That is more than knowing what icons to click to open MS-Word: If you know a bit more about the basic principles behind the operation of the computer, a smart person can infer a lot of those details from his/her background knowledge.

    Of course, training might have to start at a rather early age, so that all this becomes part of a persons 'native' background knowledge, just like reading/writing is automatic for most people nowadays.

    Over time, this will happen and the 'stupid luser' syndrom will disappear.

    However, what I just said doesn't mean that I think all talk about user-friendliness is utter crap: Things like a consistent user-interface across a range of programs is a very good thing, imho. Not identical, but at least consistent. Not all cars have identical dashboard, but at least there's a huge amount of consistency across models. Inconsistencies in the various pieces of M$ software are a nightmare imho.

    But the 'dumbing down' of users is not desirable and is not really what 'user friendliness' is all about, I think.
    Instead of 'dumbing down' the users they should be educated.
    If you design your computer in such a way that fools can use them, you will end up with even more foolish people and your computer needs to be redesigned for even more foolish people!

    'Tech' and 'User Friendly' need to meet each other in the middle where you don't have to go in and wire up the computer manually, but where full control over the system and complete insight in it's working is still available.
    Somebody gave the example of a car with a locked-up engine: Car designers don't do that. When something goes wrong with the car, a techie can come in, take everything apart, fix the problem and put the whole lot back together.

    They DON'T replace your car and they DON'T replace your whole engine when something like a carburator needs cleaning! All the parts are accessible and serviceable to the knowledgeable engineer. The complexities of a car are hidden away behind the controls, but a car is not 'dumbed down' to the degree an OS from M$ is...

    (Okay, I managed to get in my opinions on computer-use and I managed to get in some anti-M$ advocacy as well ;-)

  • by afc ( 12569 )
    The fact is that the people are at fault for their own ignorance. Computers have existed for 25 years now.

    25 years??? Yeah, whatever. So much for Von Neumann and other pioneers, so much for the ENIAC etc. Sheesh, talk about putting a foot in one's mouth...
  • Hiawatha, you picked the WRONG crowd to cop this attitude with.

    >>...I don't care for the idea of nerds mocking ordinary folks.

    We're not talking about "Ordinary folks" here hiawatha. We're talking about the sort of absolute morons who think that the mouse is a foot pedal and that a computer works like a sewing machine.

    Ordinary people take the time to learn what they want and need. I work in retail so I have experiences _first hand_ some of the types of stories that were posted on that site.

    Here is a sample conversation(no exaggeration, but some sentances re-phrased.)

    ME: Hello (my employer's name) how can I help you.
    IDIOT: I need to get my computer upgraded to run AOL 4.0, I have 5 RAMS and I need more.

    ME: What kind of computer do you have?
    IDIOT: What do you mean?

    ME: Do you know if it's a Mac or a PC?
    IDIOT: OH, it's a Mac.

    ME: What model Mac is it?
    IDIOT: It's a performa.

    ME: There are some numbers too, I need to find out the EXACT number so I can tell what type of memory you need to upGRADE it.
    IDIOT: Oh, It's a system 7.5.

    ME: No, that's not it. On the front of your computer...
    IDIOT: There's just an apple below the screen, there are no numbers.

    ME: No, that's your MONITOR, you need to look at the front of the COMPUTER.
    IDIOT: Oh, you mean the hard drive?

    ME: No, I mean the computer, the hard drive is something INSIDE of the computer.
    IDIOT: Ok, it's a Performa 575.

    ME: Well it's $X to max out the ram on that model.
    IDIOT: Ok, So that'll let me run AOL 4.0, right?

    ME: If that's what the AOL people told you, you need, then yes. I personally don't know. I don't use or support AOL.
    IDIOT: Alright, when can I bring this in.

    ME: Our hours are (insert hours here).
    IDIOT: What? How am I supposed to get there? You guys don't make it easy for the working people.

    ME: Well, WE ARE working people too.
    IDIOT: I guess I'll have to try to make it in on your late day.

    >In many cases, they really shouldn't have to understand the intricacies of a system; if the system were better designed, it'd be self-explanatory.

    Even though you don't need to know how to build a clock, you should at least be able to tell time WITHOUT a digital watch. The average user doesn't need to understand why certain chipsets handle file I/O better than others, but they should know the 8.3 rules of the DOS filesystem.

    >The fact that so many ordinary folks are mystified by computers speaks not to their stupidity, but the crudity of the technology and the limitations of the designers.

    It speaks volumes about their stupidity. You don't deal with these morons EVERY FSCKING DAY, many of us do. Please haiwatha, do us all a favor and drop the "I'm not a geek like YOU" attitude.

  • Ah. How cute. Make fun of the people who aren't technically-inclined enough to grok all of the idiosyncracies and otherwise non-sense-making aspects of a computing device. I don't know if anybody has noticed lately, but computers generally don't make a tremendous amount of sense, nor are they particularly intuitive. While I can occasionally find joy in poking fun at people as they make seemingly foolish mistakes, I can also recognize self-serving mockery when it arises. I'm not impressed...

  • ...to many of the users in these stories. I'm not a computer idiot...I'm a CS major and pretty good (although inexperienced...and it shows) at programming. However, a few years ago, I hadn't a clue. Not because I was stupid...but because I just didn't know. A couple examples:

    1) My first computer (like many people my age...I'm 21) was an Apple IIe...which, of course, had no hard drive. When my grandparents got a used 386 running DOS, they asked me to help them use it. They had the game Wolfensteind, and my first goal was to figure out how to play it. I knew nothing about DOS, so, to play it, I stuck the floppy into the floppy drive (even though it was already installed). I reinstalled the bloody thing every time I wanted to play it, until I figured out how to use DOS.

    2) I first learned UNIX from a book. When I read about the 'ls' command, I thought it was '1s' (note the number 'one' instead of the letter 'l').

    The people in these stories may now be sysadmins, programmers, etc., for all we know. They aren't necessarily stupid, they just don't know.

    The stories are pretty darn funny, however. But, then again, I can also laugh at myself.
  • We're not making fun of end users, we're laughing at the things people say and do. Can't you just relax and laugh?

    I personally laugh all the time at things my users do... some of the things have absolutely nothing to do with the PCs really.

    Once, for instance, I was called to our warehouse to fix a printer, and when I got there, I died laughing. The printer was indeed broken. It did not help the printer that someone had crashed one of our golf carts through the wall and smashed the thing to bits.

    Sometimes, people do goofy things, and we're not laughing at them, we're laughing at the goofy things people do.

    Off Topic Example:

    An African storyteller once told me the story of her mother. Her mother had recently moved to the united states at the age of around 60 I believe and wasn't all too familair with United States customs. Sooner or later she went to the Gynecologist to have a PAP test done (a gynecological exam to test for cervical cancer) and was very nervous about having to have a man look at her in that area, even if it was a doctor.

    Well, she didn't want to embarass herself, so she made special effort to clean the area, and even sprayed deoderant on the pubic hair, just to make sure it didn't stink.

    When she got to the Ob/Gyn office, she sripped and laid back on the table just like the nurse had told her to. The doctor came in, took one look under the sheet and burst out laughing and ran out of the room. Horribly embarrased, the old woman got dressed real fast and ran outside crying.

    Her daughter asked her, what was the matter?

    She explained what had happened, including the part about spraying deoderant on to make sure it didn't stink.

    "Mother, we don't have any spray deoderant. You used my daughters 'Green Glitter' hair spray."

    : Okay, so maybe it looses a bit without the accent...
  • Quite honestly I heard this story first hand, in college, from an actual african storyteller. Now maybe it's been changed around and bastardized into something like that, although that would be the first I've heard of that.
  • Heh, I guess I should watch TV again then. I'm just an internet addict, I sold my TV to buy another computer so my wife would quit bugging me to let her use my computer all the time.

    Becha that wasn't on the Internet Addict survey.

  • The big list from Dell isn't really from Dell. I contributed a couple to that list, and I've never worked for Dell. :)
  • i got a bit aggravated after reading about half of these. people are soooo stupid.
    but because of the format of the page...and me wanting to read ALL of em, i found out that win95 using ie5 can handle 45 browser windows open (with some disk cacheing of course) at once!
  • by Otto ( 17870 )
    Bah to you.

    >The fact that so many ordinary folks are mystified by computers speaks not to their stupidity, but the crudity of the technology and the limitations of the designers.

    No, it speaks to their unwillingness to learn. Using a computer is no more difficult than driving a car. Fixing a computer is a lot harder, but people can drive cars and not be able to fix them either.

    It's like anything else. "Don't blame the people, blame the technology" is rubbish. The fact is that the people are at fault for their own ignorance. Computers have existed for 25 years now. Plenty of time to hop on the bandwagon.

    No big deal though, the newest generation is growing up in an internet-enabled society. My 6-year old cousin knows more about computers than his parents do.

  • After reading through a whole bunch of these, did anyone else have the idea that Intel marketed the term "Pentium" WAY TOO MUCH?!?!?
  • At http://www.rinkworks.com/stupid/cs_freedisks.shtml we see:
    "Customer: "I just got your software in the mail...when are you sending the computer?"
    "Tech Support: "You don't have a computer?"
    Customer: "Nope. But I have the software -- just send me the computer, and you've got a new member."

    Isn't this actually the business model for some companies now?
    A. Michael Froomkin [mailto]
    U. Miami School of Law,POB 248087
    Coral Gables, FL 33124,USA

  • Computers have come a long way since they were first invented half a century ago. Someone (probably head of IBM many years ago) once estimated that the total number of computers the UK would ever have would be about six, because there weren't enough qualified mathematicians in the country to run more than that.

    In the old days, computers ran with punch cards, punch tape, programmers booking time at 4 am, and so forth. Computers these days are much easier to use than they were 40 years ago. Sure, they're still daunting if you are not familiar with them, but they're still evolving technology. In ten years, computers will probably be as easy to set up and use as a video recorder. Perhaps your computer will be the same device as your video recorder, microwave, television, refrigerator, stereo system and washine machine, and all of them will be running Linux...

    login: washingmachine

    % wash -gentle
    % spin
    % logout

  • I completely agree with what you are saying - and can relate an episode that I watched about a year ago when I took my car in for an oil change - this lady had a new car and had no idea what the RPM guage was for. She thought it was a clock and brought her car in to have the clock fixed because the needle was jumping all over.

    One of the other posts here says that they don't consider this stuff funny anymore. I am in the same boat. I hang out on one of the help channels on IRC and oh my some idiots come in there. Then I get to deal with the same shit for brain types all day at work.

    It all makes me sad.

    I think it goes to show how our educational system is running when people can not even program a VCR, set a digital watch, or turn on a computer.

    Maybe I should just move to an island and get away from the morons of the world.

    Mister programmer
    I got my hammer
    Gonna smash my smash my radio
  • But there *are* certain things people should learn about their computer to keep it running properly instead of running to someone else for help. I know that when the fuel gauge in my car says "E", then I have to go to a gas station and put in more gas. Lots of the anecdotes on the webpage in question are like people running out of gas, sitting in the middle of traffic, and expecting their car dealer to do something about it.

  • My point was that the learning curve can be flattened (learning to drive an automatic Tranny is way easier than a standard) with good design. Learning is not taken out of the equation just shifted...I can learn to drive a car but never know how to fix it or even do basic maintenance. By the same token, I can learn to use a well designed peice of software with out getting too deep into how a computer works ("My modems a Pentium"). More people are using computers and were getting more of these questions. Now are we just going to laugh at them and call them stupid (which may make us all feel better for the treatment we got from most of these same people in High school) or are going to listen to them...if they are having problems with our products, then that should say something about our design. If you don't respond, somebody else will...and then you'll be out of a job.(or out of business).

  • If you've never seen a computer before, clicking on the "Start" button is complicated:
    • How does one click? There are over a hundred things in front of the user that go click when you push them, and only one of them is the correct one - the left-hand button of that soap-bar-looking thing.
    • How does the user know that that little picture of a window with Start written next to it is a "button"? Could the raw newbie not be excused for searching the keyboard and case for a physical button labeled "Start"?
    And on the other hand, if you've never seen a car before, how would you know that the rightmost squarish thing underneath the driver's seat is what you push to make the car go, or that you first have to stick your key in the slot on the side of that round thing in front of you and turn it?

    The problem is that people who've never seen a car before aren't expecting to be able to drive without learning a bit about it first, whereas we've got people who've never seen a computer before but nevertheless expect to go roaring away on the Internet.

    What response is there to "I don't want to have to learn a bunch of stuff, I just want it to work" but "When we come up with a computer that can read your mind, we'll let you know"?

  • Or people not knowing that those two black squarish things on the floor are supposed to be stepped on, and the right one makes the car go if you step on it and the left one makes it stop.

    Cars only seem intuitive because we get taught how to drive them. Computer stores ought to be encouraged to offer a how-to-use-a-computer course whenever they sell a computer. And those salescritters who advertise products that claim "You don't have to learn a bunch of stuff to get on the Internet" should be drug out into the street and shot. :-)

  • Some of these are just too painful to read.

    It worries me that some people who are supposed to be teaching others how to use computes are no better than this (not all obviously). At least it reminds me to make certain that anyone who asks me for advice doesn't walk away from me misunderstanding something i told them, and then repeating their mixed up interpretation to others.
  • Huh? I doubt many hackers call around looking for folks who have set their software up to answer when somebody calls.

    15 years ago, this is *exactly* what people did to find machines to hack. There were a ton of programs called "war dialers" for the Atari 800, Commodore 64, etc. that would dial through a large range of phone numbers and flag those that had a modem at the other end.

  • Here's my two favorite stupid tech stories:

    1) Microsoft's Novell client does not operate to spec (surprise). If you do a Novell "capture" to file and start printing, you are fine. If you stop sending data for 45 seconds the file pointer (apparently) resets to the beginning of the file so subsequent data overwrites existing data. I proved this by writing a qbasic program that demonstrated the effect and then called Microsoft. I explained the whole issue and mentioned my qbasic demo. His response: "Windows 95 doesn't come with QBasic." He literally wouldn't let me go any further with the call at that point. I asked to speak with his supervisor and he said "OK, it'll take 2 business days", but the guy never called.

    2) This one happened to a coworker. Gateway computer with a hard drive that shows several bad sectors. Still under warranty so he calls tech support to get a replacement. Techs answer: "Bad sectors are usually caused by software, so do a full reinstall of everything and it should be fine. In any case, we don't replace drives until they are 50% bad sectors." Uh-huh, is there anyone with a brain I can speak with?
    Put Hemos through English 101!
    "An armed society is a polite society" -- Robert Heinlein
  • I got a call once from a high-ranking manager in our building. I logged a trouble call and walked down to her desk.

    When I got there, the first thing I did was took the coffee cup off the CD-ROM drive and closed it. I then took the floppies off the side of her file cabinet where they had been stuck with magnets. I pulled the case off the machine and dumped out the diskettes that had piled up inside, and for good measure I pulled the CD-ROM out of the 5.25" floppy drive. After doing all of this, the computer still wouldn't work, so I picked up the keyboard and dumped out the coffee that was spilled in it. The manager walked up while I was doing this and told me "The first level tech said I'd need a copy of my startup disk, so here it is." She handed me a photocopy of a diskette.

    I picked her mouse up off the floor and put it on her desk where it belonged. The machine started up just fine, but when I checked the disk it only had 5 megabytes left on a 4.3 gigabyte hard drive. Looking around, I found that the C:\WINDOWS\TEMP directory was filled with porn. I asked her what she was doing when it stopped working, so she showed me: she sat down at her desk, leaned over to pick up the phone, and her breasts bumped the keyboard. I told her she was too stupid to own a computer.

  • Some of these hurt. I felt the tech support's pain...but I also know what it's like to be that stupid customer...
    I put together my computer with a friend's help. Set jumpers, put drives in their mounts, everything from the case up. I got the system home and my monitor instantly died. No matter, just drive 40 miles round trip back to his house to get his spare monitor. Then I got home...

    IO Conflict 3f8
    Press DEL to enter SETUP

    I knew what that meant. I punched DEL angrily to wrestle with the BIOS again.
    No response.
    I tromped to Radio Shack and two other computer places in town to get some help--diagnosis of everything from a bad BIOS battery to bad motherboard. I bought a new battery. I jumper-cleared the CMOS. I checked and rechecked connections. I took out cards one at a time and booted to see what the problem was. I racked my brain for days.

    Then I decided to put the keyboard connector where I'd had the mouse plugged in, and vice versa.

    I laughed so hard I hyperventilated.

  • same with AOL, im sure they've brought 15million+ idiots onto the internet, and i should know i did tech support for them! although most of the people that called we're not very competent in the first place.
  • 1. A removable core, where the computer acts more like a laptop (without the screen) in a docking station. So that the central components can be as easily removed as say a toner cartidge (weird analogy but it works, and yes there are some people who can't change their toner cartidges), and the core can be taken in for repair. This has the major drawback of not being nearly as user servicable.

    Hrm, I'm not sure if that's really necisary, computers don't really *phisicaly* break down very often, if they do it's usualy just the power supply or, god forbid the hard drive, but this is very rare.

    2. Self diagnostic, user correcting, polymorphic, self evolving programs, that fix any problems themselves. HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.. sorry good laugh. Its a good idea, but still ahead of our time.

    not really, I think microsoft has this idea, but the thing is, why not just make software that just dosn't break? I mean most computer problems are ether bugs that effect everyone (In witch case nothing can be done.) or User error.

    Give someone a linux box with quality, and have them a 'suped up' acount that's not root, but can run things like adduser and such, give them a cute little esay to use shell, and you'll probably never have any problems (you'd give them the root password as well, but you'd tell them that its only for fixing problems and such)
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • actualy, bad sectors *are* caused by software, I once had about 20% of my hard drive marked bad beacuse I had a bios-setting misset, and scandisk couldn't access the rest of the disk....
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • It's not 'The' pentium, it's just "pentium" the correct use of the terms is like this: "I got pentium, so the internet will be faster now". and don't forget the pentium III, it makes the internet imersive
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"

  • It needs more floppyramk
  • I always come across these tech support nightmare stories and am happy that I don't have their job, but it really points out whose problem this really all is.

    Computers are the most complicated machines ever to be used by this large a section of the world's population, and we will not begin to see the proper productivity increases that these machines were supposed to bring until we find a way to tame this complexity.

    A writer shouldn't have to know about 7 different types of recordable media in order to write her book. Same goes for anyone that uses a machine to get something done.

    In time our industry will mature and we will get past most of these problems, especially as good solutions to the most common problems (those problems solved by the office type suite of programs for example) head into their 10th revision.

    I need a shovel to dig a hole, not to become an expert at shovels.
  • Basically, the oncall admin for the network was redoing the entire network. Me? I'm basically the "computer guy" when he's not around (most of the time - but I work office hours by rule [other duties than just maintaining the computers]).

    So he resetup all the computers, and a number were having a problem with outlook (NT network) starting up slow on some machines, but not others (say, taking 5 minutes to startup on a PII is pretty unreasonable, especially when the POS computer I got starts it up in 1 minute).

    He found the problem - NIC drivers installed bad version of TCP/IP. Fix: reinstall TCP/IP.

    So I proceeded to do so on the 5 or so computers he missed. 4 done, now wait till guy goes to lunch. He leaves. I go to work. Discover no CD-ROM drive. Fine, I'll use the shared server CD-ROM drive. OK, Network Neighbourhood, Properties, Protocols, TCP/IP, Remove. Reboot. D'OH! Duh, no network (TCP/IP only network, but NetBEUI runs on the server, too), therefore no CD. Tried copying files to a floppy, but naturally I didn't know of the blasted file NT needs to recognize it as an "NT install CD".

    In the end, I got it to work - luckily we had a zip drive external floating around. Copied NT i386 dir to zip. install zip driver. done.

    D'OH! It's pretty funny on reflection. It's the excuse I use if I goof up.
  • Category " sex" is blocked
    [huge faceless corporation] logs and audits all Internet usage

    They got that one too. Now some suit has me on their list...

  • Press the any key... where's the any key... there's esk, sitrol, and pigup... where's the any key... whew, all this hacking is making me thirsty...

  • I try to remind myself often that the reason I have a job is because of people described in that bunch of jokes, and that I should not make fun because they provide my livelyhood...But pardon my french, that is some funny shit. I just spent the last 30 minutes crying laughing...
  • Not a good example. I have a real problem with getting left and right confused and could easily have made the same mistake. (I also get really mixed up over the little icons on my cooker knobs that tell me which ring is going to light up.)

    Most people who know me would agree that I am not stupid, although if you saw me struggling to follow directions or boil an egg you could be forgiven for coming to that conclusion. :-)

  • >Ordinary folks who don't understand computers
    >don't deserve to be mocked. Ordinary people who
    >want to use their computers but refuse to learn
    >anything about them do.

    It's probably easier for those of us who grew up on the home computers of the 80s where all we had was the ROM BASIC and a cassette recorder. We had to learn what was going on to get anything out of the machines, and it wasn't too difficult. Subsequent developments in computing have been incremental changes that we have been able to take in our stride.

    For new users of the late 90s, computers must seem overwhelmingly complicated. I completely understand a reluctance to learn how it all works.

    As well as the users who are unwilling to learn, part of the problem must be the techies who are unwilling to teach. I'm sure most of us have been asked to fix a problem on a friend's computer, and have proceeded to zoom through countless dialogs at the speed of light, fiddling with options as we go, and simultaneously typing obscure commands into a terminal window. With the problem fixed we go away, feeling superior, only to be asked to fix the same problem again the next week. A better approach, in my opinion, is to let the user make the changes themselves, explaining each setting as we come to it, and why it needs to be changed. As long as I make an effort not to sound too patronising the users seem to appreciate the help, and get the satisfaction of feeling that they've fixed the problem themselves. With a bit of luck they'll be able to fix the same problem should it occur again, and may even have the confidence to tackle a whole load of similar problems in the future. It may take a little bit longer the first time but in the long run, everybody gains.
  • ObTrueStory(tm):

    Lemme guess, you used to hang around on alt.hackers. I used to hang out there too, I was surprised to not see 31337 k-rad alt.2600 people there at first. The ObHack requirement was quite a nice touch. I remember when it got to food hacks :-)*

    As for computers sold on television, I remember laughing at the shopping channel ones. There's now a commercial played way too often up here in Canada now by "denny computers."

    It's hilarious/infuriating. A family of really bad actors pass by a number of good computers with ok speakers (Labtec). They get to the last computer, which is so obviously put together with the cheapest no-name parts possible. That includes those crappy 7W speakers that all the stores pass off as 80W. The family goes nuts over it, pointing, touching, oohing, aahing. It even looks plain uglier than the other ones, and the family only has looks to go on.

    3.2GB HD, 40X CDROM, 64MB RAM, Win '98. No other specs like video card, sound card, or who made those parts (though they probably don't know either :-)* ).

    "The only computer that comes with everything you need!"


    I keep resisting the urge to call them up:

    "So, your computer is the only computer with everything I need, right?"

    "Yes it is."

    "Ok, well, I need 100MB ethernet, 3-piece speakers that actually have some bass response, an RDBMS, UNIX, a laser printer, 17-inch monitor (I can't stand anything smaller), Matrox G400... That is what I need, and you appear to be the only company that can provide these things. You also charge only CAN$999 for it all!"

    "Um... we can't give you those things."

    "But your computer is the only one that comes with everything I need."

    "We only sell that one configuration."

    "So, are you telling me that your advertisement is making false claims."

    "Well we don't mean it like that."

    "But you led me to believe so. That's false advertising, isn't it?"

    ...and so on. Until I hang up and open up my phone book to the number for reporting false advertising.

    Then I realise that the whole thing would only be worth my time if I would get a free computer out of it. That's extremely unlikely, so I go off to read some more Slashdot, which, incidentally, is also unlikely to provide me with a free computer, but I feel much less insulted.
  • Hey: what do we call those things?!? CPU? no, that's the processor... It can't be the case, obviously. The cabinet? sounds reasonable, but that has the same connotation as case. The best name I've heard comes from, ironically, one of the stories listed: engine. Makes sense, doesn't it? it performs operations based on parameters passed to it by its peripherals...

    Eh, maybe I just got sick of the people on the phone calling it a "hard drive". (shudder)

  • This isn't about people who don't know about computers, it's about people who are too stupid to think about what they are doing.

    Classic example from a class I once taught: "Move your cursor to the Apple in the upper left hand corner of your screen"

    The person I was standing next to proceeded to move their arrow to the upper right corner. Is this a computer problem? Nope - this is a person problem.

  • err..my computer *does* have 6 gigs of memory. its also got 192 processors (origin 2000).
  • yes, it's sad..
    and I know another, not as funny, example:

    just because they don't understand how to use a calendar program that they want.. the computer is suddenly "stupid" and all associated programs contained therein are "stupid." and now it's a piece of junk. but the funny part comes when, as i've asked them what program it is that they're used to running (i.e., what calendar program it is that they used [at their school] and were accustomed to) they replied "it isn't a program."

    like hell it isn't...

    well, sorry about that, but, seriously.. come on people!
  • So you would put the PC above the airplane, the car, the TV, the radio and the phone? I don't know the exact year these were initially invented, but I do know that not until this last century did they have a significant global influence.

    What global impact does the PC have? Outside Europe, the Americas, and some areas of Asia I would assume the PC has very little impact on people's lives. I know there are pockets very highly developed outside these areas, but these examples are just for simplicity.

    Nobody "deserves to be mocked" unless they are themselves mocking others, and especially not because of their ignorance. If you don't know about something you may not know that you don't know, so how would you know?

  • It seems pretty clear to me that in several of these stories it's the tech support guy who is too stupid to realise that the customer is having fun with them.
  • Below is my favorite.. and It sound like TCI @home.

    I called my cable modem service about a problem involving a series of constant disconnections and lock ups.

    Tech Support: "Oh, you need to empty your browser's cache."
    Me: "Well, that's a different program."
    Tech Support: "Do you use Internet Explorer or Netscape?"
    Me: "Internet Explorer."
    Tech Support: "Ok, click on View/Properties/Internet Options."
    Me: "I'm sorry but cache files from an entirely different program couldn't possibly be causing this."
    Tech Support: "Hmm, let me refer you to advanced technical support."

    The advanced technician knew exactly what the problem was and solved it. A month later it happened again.

    Tech Support: "When was the last time you cleaned your browser's cache?"

    Yet again I was forwarded to advanced tech support, and my problem was solved. A while later, it happened a third time.

    Tech Support: "Oh, it's the cable line in your area. We'll get a truck rolling on it right away."
    Me: "If it's the cable line, how am I able to connect at all?"
    Tech Support: "There could be a short in one of the lines, and that could be causing it."

    The next day the cable repairman arrived and checked the lines in my area, but my service was again working flawlessly even before he arrived. When he left, I
    turned on the TV and noticed the cable was out.
  • From the site:During 12th grade, I read up a book called "Stupid Mac Tricks." One of the tricks in it was how to replace the Mac's startup screen. As a joke, I made a graphic of a black-bordered white box with a gray background. The text in the box read, "This computer will self-destruct in ten seconds. Thank you, Apple Computer Co." I
    made this the startup screen for a computer in my high school's computer lab.

    The next day an "out of order" sign was taped to the monitor. The lab attendants usually wrote the reason on the bottom edge of the paper, so I leaned in to read what had been written there. It said, "Will self-destruct." "

    Oh lord, this site is *too good*! Can you imagine???? (well, yes, I can, I've been there too!)

  • Hmm, as long as we are laughing at the expense of other (hey I think it's funny too) I thought I would throw in my own stories.

    When I was programming in BASIC on an old IBM PC (12 years ago) I knew how to save files to the floppy, but I didn't know how to delete them. I heard that if you opened the drive when the light was on you could lose all your files, so I tried that. It didn't work. I heard that if you put a magnet on the disk it would erase the files. It didn't affect it at all. 360K floppies have never gone bad on me. :-)

    Same time period, I once accidentally erased or corrupted the STARTREK.EXE game. I called the adult who had set up the computer for me. He had made a backup of everything into a c:\arc directory. So he managed to navigate me to the c:\arc\games directory and told me to "copy startrek dot exe space backslash games star dot exe" so I typed to STAR.EXE instead of *.EXE (which in a DOS copy means use the same name as the first file). STAR seemed likely since it was Star Trek after all.

    Then there was a time I thought I had a virus because the computer screen background was completely red all the time instead of black. Turned out the video cable was loose.
  • Here's another hillarious computer site, Techtales.com [techtales.com]. It's so fun to laugh at the computer illiterate : )
  • I have done tech support for a computer company, an ISP, and a software company. I have heard ALL of the dumb people and their questions. This site is great. Somewhere i have a web page just like it too.
    Several years ago there was a contest in U magazine for the Jerky Boys. all you had to do was submit a crank call idea. The one I submitted, not thinking it would win anything, would be for someone calling a comptuer tech support line saying their "foot pedal" doesn't work.
    - Roughly a week later I received a phone call, being told I was one of the runners-up. They gave me a Jerky Boys tshirt(to promote their godawful movie) and a hundred bucks.
  • Forgot to add. Did anyone see that SNL skit starring Tom Hanks and one of the other regular members?(cant remember his name, he was after Dennis MIller for the news). This was around '86, and Tom calls tech support in a total frenzy. The skit was 100% accurate as to what can really happen on the workplace.
  • ...especially about the terminology we use. "Select" means click once with that doo-hickey that makes a pointer that moves across the screen. The old typewriter hard return is now "Enter." And if you want to just put your friend Bob's name in your list of names and addresses, you have to type it in something called a "field."

    Sure, some of the comments from the uninitiated *are* funny. And frankly, I'm bookmarking the site for future comic relief. And I even have plans and the material for a similar site that is dedicated to my particular corner of the computing industry. But we sometimes just don't realize how foreign this little world of ours is.

    I just got through attempting to train the 76 year old owner of my company on how to send and receive email, write letters in Word and print out what he writes. My eyes were opened. We use a language all our own. And as for my boss...he is one very frustrated man. A former fighter pilot, beaten by a little grey box that he thought was nothing more than a glorified electric typewriter. This man knows his own business -- like anyone in any specialized industry, he can speak a lingo that few others would recognize. Do you know what it means to "roll cylinders," "dry trap," "make-ready?" No? You'd sound silly to my boss.

    So...the site was funny, yeah. But I look around carefully to make sure no one catches me laughing too hard.

  • I do technical support for a medium sized ISP in Canada and the problem quite often is a lack of communication between the technical support staff and the customer. But, often, it is the customers' stupidity. The is a big difference between not knowing something and being stupid. The stupid ones are the ones who think they know what they're doing and refuse to listen. You tell then to go to point x and they go to point m. They then try to guess what you are saying because they're screen does not correspond to your directions. Also, there are quite a few people who do not know the alphabet. I believe Illiad said it best in a recent User Friendly comic strip.

    tech: Now please enter your password sir. Type "C" as in "Charlie"
    customer: Uhh..don't you mean "C" as in "Computer?"
    tech: ???...
    tech: No NO, You need to use the "C" as in "Charlie" or it won't work.
    customer: Jeepers, these computer things sure are tricky.


  • A few points to make here:

    1. Don't ever bitch about nerds mocking ordinary folks -- we're just making up for our formative years.

    2. The lion's share of stories on this site are either about people with extremely humorous misunderstandings or people who have very basic problems following directions. In the former's case, I'm fairly certain that all professions have similar lore (picture a a bunch of chemists laughing because someone asked about the valence shells of trichloroethelyne and you'll get my drift).

    The latter, the people who can't follow directions, are the really aggrivating ones. People who can't master pressing the "a" key or for whom the concept of clicking on the "Start" button seems horribly complicated. There are a lot of users who call for help and follow directions well; the others deserve to be laughed at -- imagine if you were teaching someone to drive and they couldn't find the steering wheel; you can't help but laugh, can you?

    There is a third class as well: people who get themselves so worked up that they call tech support to vent and ignore the help that could so easily fix their problem. The reason they're funny is self-explanitory: if techs didn't laugh, they'd go postal. These calls are probably the most destructive possible influence on a support organization's morale; fortunately the company I used to work phone support for let me hang up on customers who got abusive (which is a good thing, since I would have anyhow).


  • They can be funny - no doubt about it. And most people I hear these stories from have no ill intent. However, I think that many people are missing the fact that they are just as clueless in a nearly infinite number of subjects. Sticking your head into the big blue room every so often will give some perspective.

    Interestingly, one of the largest lists of these stories I ever saw came from Dell's tech help dept. Customer service indeed. The amount of cluelessness involved in releasing that document with Dell's name on it is easily an order of magnitude larger than anything in it.

  • I think you have more of a problem with badly set up abstractions, not with the concept of abstractions in general.

    Take your example of shortcuts. Ideally, a user shouldn't have to know how a shortcut is done low-level, the user should just know it's a shortcut that points to the actual file. OS/2 implements this properly. When you move a file, the shortcut points to the new location automatically. The only reason win95 shortcuts are bad is because they're implemented as simple textfiles that contain the directory/filename of another file. Same problem with UNIX symlinks.
  • Chances are, these are old mainframe guys. In them there days, CPU meant Central Processor Unit, and unit it was. None of this Microprocessor nonsense, a large converted coffee machine, or even several stacked together, was what was meant.

    It's only in the modern microprocessor era that CPU meant anything smaller than a box the size of a small office, with a heat output comparable to Andromeda.

    Personally, I'd cut guys like that some slack. If they made it with their brains intact, back then, and are still in the computer business, there's more between those ears than pea soup.

    Then again, there are also plenty of guys who like to sound cool, hip and knowledgable, who wouldn't know what an acronym was if it ran up and bit him. =THOSE= are the guys to hang up on, if they're in tech support. The challange is sorting them out from the first lot. Anyone can, after a while, it's painfully obvious, but it's not so easy, right off, like that.

  • Actually, it had. I'm sure this is a recycled story, as I e-mailed several stories to Rinkworks after finding it mentioned on Slashdot.
  • So? I've a 4 terrabyte 5.25" floppy disk!

    (Sector editors, and a buggy version of DOS, are great fun to play with... :)

  • Personally, I feel that laughing at users for making mistakes we've all made, ourselves, is perfectly fine IFF we are not thinking of the user as "less than", but merely a human, with a human's tendancy to be falliable. Especially in areas they have little experience in.

    The test is, IMHO, can you laugh at yourself, for all the mistakes YOU made, whilst climbing the learning curve? Not shaming, not belittling, but laughing. If you can't laugh with yourself for your errors, how can you laugh with others?

    The stories regarding tech support people and admins are, perhaps, the funniest. Not because these people are "bad" or "stupid", but because they have claimed greater expertise than they have. They may know a lot about a great many things, but like the Emperor's New Clothes, their technical skills reveal something other than what is intended.

    Laughter is good, and healthy. This site is packed with good laughs. Shame and blame can take a long walk off a short plank, and the label of "Stupid" deserves a life-long GPF. Boot them out, and enjoy watching people be people.

  • We've got a guy who teaches an "Introduction to Computers" class at my school. It's the only computer class we have right now, and it basically teaches people how to point and click, navigate in Win9x, and use WordPerfect. The guy used to teach at a community college, and it pains me to think of all the students he has led astray. Some examples of things he has said:

    "Before Windows 95 existed, Microsoft was working on an operating system called Chicago. But, it was way to buggy, so they scrapped it and then re-released it as Windows 95." (This one has the most truth in it of all of them)

    "After Microsoft introduced Windows 95, they created an operating system called Windows NT. The NT means that it is a network server." (What about NT 3.51?)

    "After you get done using the internet, you need to disconnect your phone line from your modem to make sure nobody hacks into your computer and puts a virus on it." (Huh? I doubt many hackers call around looking for folks who have set their software up to answer when somebody calls.)

    "If you double click on an icon and it tells you that it can't find it, it means the icon isn't there . . ." (How do you double click on something that isn't there?)

    (After a blue screen "fatal exception OE"): "That computer must have some kind of virus. I'll have the computer guy (me) check it out after class."

    And, my personal favorite:
    "One day, you might turn on your computer and discover that someone has put it a logon password and you don't know it. Has anybody ever had this happen? Yeah . . . what you can do is turn off the computer, and take the case off. There are usually screws in the back to do this. Y'all come up here and watch this. (Begins disassembling the case, much to my consternation -- but, I listened, just to see what was going to happen.) Y'all see this shiny thing here? This is the CMOS battery. It keeps that logon password. All of the hard drives have them. All you need to do is remove this battery for about 15 seconds and it will clear out that logon password." (Ummm . . . is it really wise to tell folks who can't figure out how to double click to open up their case and mess around with the internals?)

    It really makes me somewhat angry that these folks still let this guy teach even after I've notified folks that he doesn't know what he's talking about sometimes. Usually, I just get "Well, he's taught computer stuff for 4 years, so he must know about some things that you don't." HELLO? TAKING OUT A CMOS BATTERY HAS *NEVER* CLEARED A WINDOWS LOGON PASSWORD, NOR WILL IT EVER (that I can imagine) DO SO!!!

  • Heh. My dad bought an Atari 800 in '79 when I was four. I discovered Atari Basic pretty early on, and I would often try to write programs like:
    20 DRAW CAR
    Then I would wonder why it wouldn't work. I'm quite thankful that my dad seemed to have no end to the time he would spend showing me how to write real programs in BASIC, even after an agonizing 8 hours at work. I must say, that without it, I probably wouldn't be where I am now. Thanks dad!

    OK, I'm done with the emotional part now . . .

  • I love these sorts of stories myself, but I don't care for the idea of nerds mocking ordinary folks. People who don't spend their lives learning the ins and outs of computers are not stupid; they just don't know. In many cases, they really shouldn't have to understand the intricacies of a system; if the system were better designed, it'd be self-explanatory. The fact that so many ordinary folks are mystified by computers speaks not to their stupidity, but the crudity of the technology and the limitations of the designers.
  • I think the real problem is that many people do not understand the concept of "abstractions" in the first place. The idea that "...this represents..." is hard to for some to grasp.

    Perhaps that is why 'Math' may still be a good primer to computing - mathematics is nothing but abstraction.


    These "Dumb User" articles aren't funny anymore. I feel my stress level rise just reading them. Some of these stories go beyond "I am new to computers", and into the realm of "I am just plain stupid, but I expect you to make up for that fact anyway."

    "All that is visible must grow and extend itself into the realm of the invisible."

  • I've worked on-and-off in tech support for about ten years now, and I've got to say that 'clueless user' stories tend to piss me off. Not that they're false -- I personally had a photocopy of a diskette faxed to me -- but the inherent smugness involved in telling these stories annoys me in a major way.
    Guess what? Computers aren't easy to use. If a secretary puts the mouse on the floor and tries using it with her foot, it's because she's used to steno equipment that looks remarkably similar. Once the mouse is expained, there's no more problem.
    Yes, there are a lot of morons out there who refuse to learn, and ten explanations later are still typing in their real name to log on to the computer. But the vast majority of problems are due to unfamiliarity, and are the fault of employers.

    Sorry about the rant, but I've spent years grumbling on this very subject.
  • I was in the market for a new printer. Running OS/2 at the time, I wanted to make sure that drivers were available. I called up Hewlett Packard, and asked for technical support (knowing I wouldn't get help from sales).

    Me: I trying to find out if there are HP692c drivers available for OS/2 Warp 4.

    Tech support: I'm sorry sir, but our inkjet printers won't work on the Mac.

    (I eventually found the OS/2 drivers, and Mac drivers along the way)
  • You seem to forget though that even though personal computers have been around for 25 years, they have only been in wide use and easily affordable for about 5-7 years. When I was in University in the 80's, only engineers used computers for anything. All other Word Processing and such was done on typewriters and adding machines. This was back in the days when a computer that you needed to load WP5.1 on disk by 5 1/4 inch disk cost over $4000. Don't forget that although the cost of PC hasn't really changed much (for a good one anyway), most people now make way more money (so in a sense, as a percentage of income, they are cheaper). Sub $1000 PC that almost any one can own have only been out for about 2 years. The internet has been around since 1969, why don't more people know how to use it? Because it wasn't generally available and viable for the average person until 1993 or so. Since then internet use has jumped from 3 million to over 100 milion. Maybe we as software designers should get our belly laughs out of the silly user then figure out a way to make our programs more user friendly FOR THE AVERAGE PERSON (ie not us) so people won't have to ask these question... they will just be able to use the software. If we don't, we are gonna be reading a lot more stuff like that site and wondering why... BTW for those pea brains out there who like to say " Make it so easy idiots could use it and only idiots will use it", I say " make it difficult to use and NOBODY will use it (translation - you will be out of a job and poor)". There are more people in the world than techno-snobs engineers and computer scientists.
  • Well, the removable core idea isn't just for hardware problems its for software configuration problems too. Sure, you could remove just the harddrive and take that with you, but as hardware specific configurations are stored on the harddrive it would probably crash immediently upon being booted in a different persons computer. So you take the desktop with you, only you don't have to deal with a huge box, and all the little connections. I'm NOT avocating this solution btw, just mentioning it, because I love going inside my computer and changing the parts easily. As such a solution would leave a very non easy hardware repair job.
  • The fault is is offering phone support for something that should've been an on-site repair done in the flesh by a real person, skilled in his craft, to begin with.

    That is a very good point, we as techs need to come up with a solution. The idea of remote administration has been around for a long time, but is riddled with security problems. Even if the system is secure people are not comfortable with allowing someone whom they've never meet to peer around in their personal computers. So enters the idea of computer shops where you take your computer to get fixed. The only problem with this is that most people (even me) find it annoying to unconnect and move their computer somewhere to have it fixed for a minor problem. The only 2 solutions I see to this problem would be,
    1. A removable core, where the computer acts more like a laptop (without the screen) in a docking station. So that the central components can be as easily removed as say a toner cartidge (weird analogy but it works, and yes there are some people who can't change their toner cartidges), and the core can be taken in for repair. This has the major drawback of not being nearly as user servicable.
    2. Self diagnostic, user correcting, polymorphic, self evolving programs, that fix any problems themselves. HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.. sorry good laugh. Its a good idea, but still ahead of our time.
  • Well, if he turned around and fixed the blinkers its funny. But if he accually let her drive off thinking she needed blinker fluid, I would say he sounds like a complete as$.
  • That didn't make me laugh. It made me mad. Of course, I'm also mad because I've been on hold with Sun for the last 3 hours, and someone tried to run me over on the way to work, but that's not the point.

    Users who can't read piss me off. "It says it is NOT safe to turn off my computer" (Windows 95). "No, it says it is NOW safe to turn off your computer."

    Users who have no idea what they're talking about also piss me off. Yes, I'm high and mighty, but it doesn't take that long to figure out that there's both RAM and a HDD in your computer, and that referring to both as `memory' doesn't help the rest of us.

    I used to do tech support, so I can identify with a lot of the stuff on that site. I didn't think it was funny then, and I don't think it's funny now. It was, and is, frustrating. Computers for the masses? Please no! :( Computers for people with at least half a brain. And if they have half a brain but just don't know anything about computers, they should read a book or twelve before bothering me.

    I don't recall seeing "handholding a bunch of idiots" in my job description, or in any of your job descriptions, either.
  • I'm rather simpathetic to the newbie user who doesn't know much about computers. Heck i remember zooming in on the page of my step fathers performa thinking that would make the text bigger when i printed. The people who really piss me off are those who act like they know all about computers but then fail drastically. Like a columist in my local newspaper who answers tech support type questions. He told a user once that there was no way to get sound off of her CD rom and that in order to save sound files on her computer she needed a CD-R. That guy should be fired, but drastically he's still out there giving other advice to poor folks.
    And my school computer techer who doesn't even know to access differnet computers across the LAN, i had to show her. It seems like just anyone can become a computer authority now because they know how to type.
  • My computer has 20 Gigs of memory. Why is that funny? ;)
  • by Velox_SwiftFox ( 57902 ) on Tuesday August 24, 1999 @11:29AM (#1728158)
    I spent a frustrating two years or so trying to help a company I won't name into being an Internet Service Provider, with explicit permission and encouragement to do so. Unfortunately, the president of the company decided that he was going to be the sole and only salesman for the services; he knew little or nothing about the Internet and displayed no willingness or ability to learn about it, preferring to operate on the assumption that whatever he wished to be true about the business would magically become the case, and blaming any failure of reality to mold itself that way on his subordinates.

    The result was the predictable disaster. He was told that because not all customers would be using the proposed 250 dialin connections at once, statistically the 250 connections could support perhaps as many as 2000 users. This caused him to jump to the conclusion that all 2000 could dial in at the same time, 8 customers using each a modem and ordinary phone line simultaenously, and therefore only 32 modems would be needed to support 2000 customers by the statistical rule. Then I was presented with 4 analog dialin lines and modems, and a statement that they should be able to support 250 users, which we would start the business off with.

    Upon reality being presented, along with the original provisioning documents, the idea of selling dialin lines was suddenly dropped, and reselling T1 service from our connection was declared to be our new Internet business; also it was proposed that we would be selling web sites, though already web farms with much higher bandwidth were coming into use.

    Then everything seemed to - oscillate. One week, it would be declared that we were going to put websites up, a couple of weeks later we were going to go full bore selling bandwidth. No details were ever available of the "plans".

    Eventually this climaxed in an angry, out-of-the-blue mobile phone call demanding "Yes or no - do we have a clear T1 channel to the Internet?" and escalating fury as I tried to explain that that was a trick question; we had a T1 to a backbone ISP, but no guarantee there was 1.544mbps to each and every server on the net, et cetra. Upon being told I would be fired if I did not simply answer the question with a "Yes" or "No", I said "Yes", true in the sense we had a "clear channel" DS1 line and not a Frame Relay connection. Nothing more happened for a while, then I was called into the president's office and was told he had sold some T1 connections - and that he decided, and had told the companies involved, that they did not have to actually purchase a point-to-point connection to us, or any CSU/DSU or router; because we already had the T1 & et cetra, we would just sell them "part of ours". Magically wishing the bits from our networks into the customers'. The response he was given, which as it had to be was that the president/salesman had been given specific lists of the required equipment down to part numbers and itimized costs, was not well accepted - I was told, in effect, that he was too important a person to be required to read such trivia as what subordinates put into his "In" box.

    Probably I should have known things were not going to work out well when the principal involved proposed early on that we could save much money by buying an AOL account or two to resell to our high-bandwidth customers. Sigh. At least they finally learned to use email, but it was rather a relief to leave that place.
  • by fireproof ( 6438 ) on Tuesday August 24, 1999 @01:38PM (#1728159) Homepage
    Ordinary folks who don't understand computers don't deserve to be mocked. Ordinary people who want to use their computers but refuse to learn anything about them do.

    However, after spending a good afternoon reading these stories, I note that many of them involve a user who assumes that he knows more than the tech support person or a tech support person who won't consider the obvious.

    When a user calls up, claims to be an "Apple Tech," and then proceeds to ask how to do something simple the techie tells him to do, he rightfully should be mocked. When the user refuses to take the advice of a knowledgeable tech and then threatens some sort of recourse because "the tech doesn't know anything," they rightfully should be mocked.

    The problem with many computer users is that they get proficient with using MS Word, figure out how to drag and drop, and install a program or two while surfing the web using AOL and they decide that they're an instant A+ certified MSCE know-it-all. I've got friends like this. One of my (least) favorites thinks he knows all about designing web pages. He's decent at Photoshop and knows a bit about WordPerfect. One day, he applied for a job where I work, and told the folks that he had a "vast knowledge of computers." The next day he called me wanting to know how to put in a CD-ROM drive.

    I'm often reminded of the "General Motors Tech Support" joke that was circulating about two years ago, where a user calls up tech support because his car won't start. When the support guy tries to get the user to check things out, he is met with replies like: "What's a steering wheel? What's a dashboard? Fuel Gauge? What's That?" Finally, the exasperated user exclaims "I'm not a technical person! I just want to go places with my car!"

    Although it seems ludicrous that we would allow someone with such limited knowledge to pilot an automobile, we do the same thing with computers every day. I'm not saying that people who don't know computers shouldn't be allowed to use them -- I'm saying that most people realize that a certain amount of knowledge is necessary to drive a car on our highways. Computers users need to realize that despite the fact that they might want to do something useful with their new toy, they are going to have to take some time to master some concepts.

  • Incidentally, I'll go the other way in terms of blaming why computers are so hard to use - it's the level abstraction set up between the user and whats really going on.

    For example, I'll propose that the newbie Windows 95 user hasn't a clue what a "Shortcut" is with respect to the idea that its an actual file on the disk with a special file type. They're just told it's a "Shortcut" and how to work it. These types of abstractions only serve to convuse new users as when it comes to problems, they havn't the faintest idea what they're actually supposed to be fixing, nevermind how to. How are they supposed to know when a problem is because of the shortcut, or the actual file it points to? Similar abstractions (wizards, "dumbed down explainations") may serve to help the uninitiated get off the ground faster, but makes it all the more difficult for the user to make an emergency landing when it comes time.

    Cars are complex things. Why do auto makers not lock the engine from the driver? Because if the driver /wants/ to look at it and know whats going on, s/he can. And yet, people who don't know anything about engines just don't touch theirs, and refer to experts when it comes time to fix it. But at least they can see it, and chose to learn about it and fiddle with it if they want to. If a proper interface was set up bewteen the low-level and the high-level in an OS, the user should recognize properly what not to touch, or conversly, what to touch when they want to fiddle and learn. Barring this low level from the user (such as in most Windows 9X componants' interfaces) makes them live on another plane of reality from whats really going on, and leaves them clueless when its time to fix things of describe whats going on to tech support.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982