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Computer Stupidities

The Bleeding Obvious

As stated before (and proven many times over) the mere presence of a computer can short circuit normally intelligent people's brains. But sometimes it's just ridiculous.

I had about ten different responses flash through my mind, but as this guy was fairly high up on the food chain of management, I had to control myself. I said, "Align the pins with the hole, and push it into the socket." Satisfied, the user hung up.

There was a really angry user who called me, saying my company was @#$!# and its products were !@#$@, and I was @#$*! too. He said he bought our graphics card, and it didn't work, and what the @&$!# was I going to do about it before he sued my lying butt.

After this I learned from him that he didn't actually have our product.

Email from a customer:

I've bought a stolen CDD3610 which didn't come with any software or cables. Could you please send that to me? I presume I do have the full 12 months warranty?

A haughty caller to my Claris Works cue began haranguing me about the Claris Works she'd just bought. When her tirade abated enough for me to ask a few probing questions, she explained that the box promised a word processor, but there wasn't one inside. I asked her to insert the disk from the box into her computer.

From here, she became irate. She dragged in two levels of supervisors, several lawyers, later, and I was nearly placed on the sacrificial altar. For what it's worth, we never laughed and always maintained a professional demeanor. The customer is always right.

My neighbors asked me one day to check their computer, because it was no longer working properly. After realizing that the problem was caused by some corrupted or deleted system files, I reinstalled Windows, but I could not find their cable modem installation disk among their CDs. After I asked them for it, they gave me a weird look, so I put my question in simpler terms. "When you have bought this little box over here," I said, "they must have you given a shiny little round disk like this with it. I just need that shiny little round disk."

They said they kept all their "computer stuff" in the other room in a cupboard, so they went to search for it. After a few minutes, the wife returned with a power cable. "This was the only thing we found," she explained, "but I hope it will be just as good."

Quote from a tech support forum:

"but i'm getting like 2000 lines of mysql db errors... could it be caused by my non-workin mysqldb?"

Once I got called to the office of a co-worker (let's call him Joe User) to help him figure out his username (he knew his password).

He proceeded to write his own name on a sticky note and attach it to his monitor.

I'm in fifth grade, and I've recently started using LimeWire. My friend's cousin (who's in second grade) heard about it and wanted to use it, too.

The next day, he told me it wasn't working. He proceeded to explain how he got a copper wire, dipped it in lime juice, and tried to attach it to his computer.

I couldn't stop giggling the rest of the day.


I work for the help desk of the IT Department of a fairly large university. We had just completed a large roll out of VoIP phones and were expecting some calls from bewildered staff members wondering what these new fangled devices they now had on their desks were.

We had one call from a lady, who seemed to be utterly confused by this new phone. When I answered the phone, the first thing said was, "Ok, how do I make calls using this new phone?" Well, the new phones have caller ID, so I knew she was making the call with her new phone. So I said, "Uh, how did you just call me?" She said, "Ohhhh, thanks!" and hung up.

The place I work for charges about $100/issue for tech support.

Our Hong Kong office had a computer that was infected with a virus. Supposedly they had run antivirus software several times and had been unable to clean it, even after updating their virus definitions. I was asked to diagnose and fix the computer immediately, because it wouldn't even turn on.

I used to work in the computer help desk at a large university. A woman walked into the room and came up to where I was sitting: at a desk marked "COMPUTER HELP DESK" with computers on it, one of which I was using. "Excuse me," she asked. "Do you know anything about computers?"

A call to the technical support line for a cell phone company:

What? He had to be kidding.

After a few more minutes of angry yelling on his part that we would not be sending a repairman to go change the battery for him, he got on the phone with supervisor and demanded I be fired.

Needless to say, I wasn't.

While in the cafeteria one day with some friends, I had a classmate stop by to ask me a computer question.

I went back to my lunch.

I'm a tech support engineer for a software company. I had a guy call up rather annoyed that the disks we'd sent him containing the latest version of our software didn't work.

A minute or two later....

I went to the post office to ship a package of software to a customer. Since the software was expensive, I decided to insure it. As the postal employee was filling out the insurance form, he asked me what I was shipping.

Working at a large ISP I once got a call from a user who had a new iMac. He had just gotten an account and wanted to get setup. I asked him to run the Internet Setup Assistant, but there was no alias to be found in the Apple menu.

That was odd, but, undeterred, I told him to go to Sherlock and try to find the file "Internet Setup Assistant." After it scanned the disk he said it did not find the file. Puzzled I asked him to just search for "Internet Setup." Again it scanned and did not find anything. I was starting to wonder what was going on with this brand new iMac when he asked me, "Would it help if I typed something in the search box?"


A user trying to install new software:

I was teaching an email course to novice users -- some of them I was explaining how to enter contact information in the address book, so the program could "look it up" for them. Bad choice of words.

I asked a user once for the Windows 98 CD that came with her computer. She handed me a copy of Office 97. I said, "No, I need the Windows 98 CD, the one with the operating system on it."

"Can't you get it off of that?" she asked.

In high school, I was the production editor of the school newspaper. One of my jobs was to take all the articles written by the students and arrange them in the final format using a desktop publisher. Students were to save them in a specific directory on a network drive and write the filenames on a sheet. When one day I could not find an article on the sheet, I tracked down the author and asked where it was. He assured me he had saved it under that filename, and I should be able to find it.

Once I overheard the guy in the tech support cubicle next to mine patiently explain:

I do network administration and end user support. A particular clerical person was always having problems running Windows for Workgroups. The hard drive finally crashed, and when we got it back I convinced the boss to load her machine with DOS only. I created a batch file menu, tested it, and then compiled it into an exe file. When the person was at lunch I installed it on her machine.

When she came back from lunch she called and said her computer didn't work. I asked her to read the screen to me. She said "Bad Command or File Name." So I went over to her desk.

We started her machine and the file menu screen came up. It read:

1. Main Frame
2. Word Processing

Press the number of your choice and hit [enter].

It looked right, so I told her to press either 1 or 2 depending on whether she wanted to go to the main frame or the word processing package. She pressed 4. And, of course, we got the error. When I asked her why she pressed 4, she said, "It says press the number of my choice! I choose 4!"

Isn't it amazing how people can forget even the simplest things when they're sitting in front of a computer?

He did, before I could explain a restart. I hope he really saved his work.

I used to work as a salesman in a computer shop. About five minutes before closing time a customer came in. He was quite a frequent visitor and usually also quite an annoying one. This time he wanted a parallel cable to go from the computer to the printer switchbox. He got it and left. About ten minutes after our closing time, the telephone rang. I picked it up, and sure enough, it was this customer, angry and insisting that I had sold him the wrong cable. I was convinced I hadn't, so I asked him what kind of connectors he needed.

While visiting a network user's office to install a small program (we use Windows NT 4.0 here), he asked:

I'm a computer science student. I used to play MUDs quite a bit. A few years ago I was playing on a 386 somewhere in a lab -- through a telnet terminal session, in DOS. Two obvious business majors were standing behind me.

One day I was leading a team of three people working on a new application. Input data for our application came on an old reel to reel tape. Our data center was in the basement, a bit of a walk. I handed the tape to one guy and asked him to take it down there and put it on drive 381. Upon his return we tried to access it but couldn't. I asked him to check it (perhaps the tape didn't load properly for some reason). He returned five minutes later, confirming that the tape was on 381. Still, it didn't work.

Finally I went down there myself. I got to drive 381 and discovered the tape was lying ON TOP of the tape drive.

A friend has a final examination in English theater. subject. She asked me to get something from the net that may help her. I was in a rush and didn't have time to print it for her, so I brought her a diskette.

I am a technician for a school system using a Novell network. One day I had a user call and complain, "Every time I turn off my computer, I lose my network connection."

While working in tech support, a user called me with a problem with their PC. I would ask her to look at something, and she'd set the phone down and walk across the room and then come back. Realizing it would take forever to troubleshoot the problem that way, I told her it would be easier if she could be on the phone and doing the commands at the same time. I asked if there was a phone closer to the machine. She said that there was, and I asked her to transfer me to that extension.

She did. The phone rang and rang and rang, and there was no answer. I called her back and told her. She said, " wanted me to answer it?"

I think she thought I could fix her problem through a ringing telephone.

Once I went out on a service call to fix a customer's PC. My assistant handled the call and brought the PC in for repairs. A day later, I got a call from the customer. He said the computer wasn't working. I asked for more details, and he said the monitor was dead, and there was no picture on the screen.

After a few minutes of trying to figure out what was wrong, I called my assistant and asked what he did to the customer's computer. He said, "Nothing. I still have it right here."

The customer was using release 1 of Windows 95, and I was using Windows 98, so I had to ask her a question about what her Explorer window looked like.

I work in a computer store. One day, at 1pm, a customer walked up to the counter. All the lights were on, and the staff was behind the registers, and he asked, "Are you open?"

One day a customer walked into our computer store, gazed up at the shelves full of applications, and asked, "Do you have any software?"

Someone complained that her monitor was "all green." The problem, I guessed, was due to the monitor cable not being correctly connected, so that the red and blue pins weren't making contact. I talked her through the checking process, but she was adamant that the cable was correctly plugged in.

Somewhat puzzled, I decided to visit her office. Sure enough, the cable wasn't correctly inserted. She'd forced it in and bent some pins. I pointed it out, and she said with some astonishment, "It wasn't like that a moment ago!"

I fixed it, then asked what it had been like before. She said that the plug had been a different shape. I finally figured out what she meant. She had been checking the other end of the cable, where it plugs into the desktop chassis. I pointed this out to her.

She said, quote, "Oh! I didn't know it had two ends!"

Giving instructions on how to use Microsoft Word 7:

I run a chat room on the Internet. One evening, a user "kathryn" entered the room, and her chosen username appeared on the list of users present. One of the regular users greeted her. She said, "How do you know my name?"

Overheard at a school:

My roommate didn't quite get her Mac.

I told one of our customers to send an email message to me so I could see if her mail was working. I told her that my address was mjq@[host]. She replied, "How do you spell 'mjq'?"

Once I was walking a gentleman through the steps to do something -- I don't even remember what -- and when we finished, a dialog box appeared. It offered to do what we wanted it to and had a single button -- the OK button.

He sat there for a minute and then, frustrated, asked me what he had to do next.

"Tell the computer 'OK,'" I said.

He leaned forward and said in a loud but clear voice, "OK!"

This caller needed to reinstall fonts; we started the install, and a couple of minutes later...

Once a student had a problem printing. What was the matter? "It's not printing," he said. So I went to take a look. On the student's computer, a message was displayed: "The select light is off. Please press the 'select' button, and click OK to continue." Sure enough, pressing the select button and then OK worked.

I check the usual stuff, but it's all fine.

My best friend's family recently bought a new computer. They had all the hardware set up and the software ready to be installed when the stepdad picks up the Windows 95 box and says to his wife:

I cracked up in his face and haven't been welcome there since. Apparently he thought that to install software you had to get the box in there somehow.

Customer reads off a list of file names, including 'INSTALL.EXE'.

I recently overheard this family conversation:

A customer trying to get 16 million colors on a new Windows 95 system phones for help.

At our company we have asset numbers on the front of everything. They give the location, name, and everything else just by scanning the computer's asset barcode or using the number beneath the bars.

One day, there were several brand new 386SX-16 machines with Microsoft Works and the like installed. The librarian wanted to know how to use all the neat stuff on it, so I showed her, spending a good fifteen minutes showing her how to use the word processor, spreadsheet, and other fun programs. All this time she stared and nodded, apparently soaking up all the information. Satisfied, I asked her if she had any questions.

I'm the I.S. manager of a small manufacturing company. Recently, I had a user approach me to ask if she could open her own "things" on someone else's computer.

Two days later, I received a similar call from another employee.

Shaking my head somewhat, I settled down to do some network maintenance, when lo and behold YET ANOTHER user rang.

This question and answer has now been submitted to the company newsletter.

So there I was, working at the help desk of a medical facility, when I received a phone call from a doctor who had forgotten his password to log into a workstation. I reset the password to 54321 and told him that's what I had done. I was astonished to hear five tones sounding out over the phone line.

My father works for a multinational company and he is the manager of a project that implements a new sales support system in the entire region he is operating in. The program itself is a distributed database, allowing individual users to make their own updates on their laptop PCs and then uploading their changes to a server as well as downloading all the changes the other users have made. When he wrote the instructions to the sales representatives on how to do this he got the letter back from one of the regional offices with complaints. His original instructions read like this:

From the File menu, select OS-Shell. This will make your screen look like this: C:\SPS\WIN

Now type DOWNLOAD to..., blah, blah, blah, etc, etc.

The hand-written remark on the sheet of paper was: "These instructions are incorrect and cannot be followed! Right after C:\SPS\WIN, a strange bracket (>) pops up and it will not go away!"

For reasons too involved and irrelevant to explain, a friend of mine had possession had a copy of a nasty program on a floppy. It would erase the entire hard drive of whatever computer it was loaded on. The floppy was labelled "INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS" and kept in a locked box at his store.

One day, a man he had hired to work at the store found it and popped it into the company's computer and turned it on. Wouldn't you know it -- the hard drive was erased.

His explanation was, "I wanted to see what it would do."

One day a friend of mine called me up to tell me he was thinking of buying a computer. This guy is particularly sensitive to criticism and not to exactly in the upper eschelon of the IQ range, and personally I don't think he should own a programmable VCR much less a computer, but he's a good guy, so I said "good for you." The following conversation ensued:

Twenty minutes later....

I proceed to explain, SLOWLY, about the difference between megahertz and modem speed, which takes another twenty minutes.

(Now, let me say here that at the very begining of all this I had stated that neither a monitor nor a printer would come with a computer itself, unless you went for a package deal. He was, at this point saying that he wanted to spend about $500 and that everything had to be from the same manufacturer. This was when the 550 P3 had just come out, so prices were still higher than $500 for any system you could go buy in a Circuit City, which he said he HAD to do.)

Inside I was going ballistic at this point, and it did boil over, especially since there is NO WAY there is 800 pages worth of anything in this guy's head, but I explained that (a) one computer can in fact "hold" that much and a whole lot more, and (b) one printer (unless it is a huge Xerox or other office type industrial machine) CAN'T hold that much paper in one shot.

I hope that none of you nice tech support people never EVER get a call from this guy, because I guarantee you it will be the worst call you ever get in your life. You guys may all have to get together and dedicate a page to him, posting only his calls, just to vent your anger. He is the cupholder guy, the NOSMOKE.EXE guy, the guy who insists he "hasn't changed anything" when he really edited his AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS to include lines like "and don't say I'm bad and an invalid," and the guy who has everything plugged in but nothing where it is supposed to be plugged in. He WILL have his powerstrip plugged into itself and will insist that it is NOT. May the force be with you all; you'll need it.