Main      Site Guide    
Computer Stupidities

Piecing It Together

More than with any other product on the market today, people are willing to shell out thousands of dollars to buy something of which they have no real conception -- a computer.

I used to work for MacWarehouse as a tech support representative. One day a gentleman called who had never had a computer before. He was trying to set up his new system. I tried and I tried but I just couldn't make him understand where to plug the cables in. Finally I looked up the details on his order. He had ordered top-of-the-line everything -- monitor, keyboard, printer, modem, scanner, speakers, CD-ROM drive, external hard drive......except, he had not ordered the actual computer itself. No wonder the cables would not plug in anywhere.

On one occasion, a lady came into the store, apparently interested in buying a home computer. After surveying the models on display, she walked over to one and pointed to the monitor and keyboard saying, "I think I need one of these, and one of those...." She then pointed to the CPU and continued, "...but I don't think I need one of those."

I work for a technical college in Georgia as the only tech support staff on campus. A few days ago, I had a gentlemen ask me about purchasing a PC.

My brother-in-law was going to buy my sister a new computer for her birthday. He told me he was even going to buy her a copy of Google for it. She's so lucky.

Well, I had one event happen to me, where one lady had just bought a Apple IIc and complained that she was having problems with her monitor, so we told her to bring her monitor in, and we'd check it out. So she brings her monitor in, and we plug it in, and it works without a flaw. We tell her that the monitor isn't the problem, and to bring her CPU in. She stares at us blankly, and asks, "What's the CPU?" Joe explains that it's the piece of equipment that all your devices plug into. So about twenty minutes later, she returns and walks in carrying the surge supressor. When we explained to her the item that we needed her to bring in, she replied, "Oh you mean the keyboard!" (On Apple IIc's, the CPU box and keyboard are part of the same unit.) And to make this all the more interesting, she was a gradeschool computer class instructor.

Back in the mid-eighties, the high school I went to had just purchased a handful of 8086s along with some basic hardware -- at that time these things still were horribly expensive. A few weeks later, the computer lab was broken into and some of the hardware stolen. But the computers themselves had been left untouched: only the monitors and keyboards were gone. Apparently, the only computers the thieves had known were C64s or Apple II's, where the computer and keyboard are part of the same unit. Imagine the frustration when these guys tried to get the stolen machines to work!

This one happened while replacing PCs with laptops for the customer support staff. The replacement plan included leaving the desktop PC in the office for a week or so as a backup. It was unplugged but left there in case something went wrong. After the week was over and no problems occurred, I went around to collect the PCs and return them to the pool.

I showed up to retreive the PC from one very nice but confused lady who asked me how she was going to be able to work if I took her computer away? It tured out she had been turning on her PC every day, as well as her laptop, and could not figure out how the laptop would work without the PC there.

I was one of a group of students who would help other students and teachers at my high school with computer problems. One day I got a call from a teacher saying that her computer was not working at all. I went to her room to find a perfectly good Mac PowerPC on her desk. With one problem.

A man who owned a small business asked me to program a sales and inventory system for him. He was replacing his old 286 PC and had been running a DOS-based program.

He wanted all the bells and whistles, wanted it browser-driven, with images of all the products in his inventory. But the most important thing to him was that it all run off of floppies -- his 286's hard drive had crashed in the past and he lost all his records, so now he didn't trust hard drives. Not only did he want the whole thing on floppies, he wanted to be able to do a backup onto one floppy every night.

The other thing was that he didn't want to use a mouse or any other sort of pointing device.

A while back, a friend of mine and I were discussing his new computer when he made a comparison to another friend's computer and said, "I know mine's better because it's bigger." I had a hard time not laughing.

I went with a friend to help him shop for a computer. Looking through the different varieties, he said, "I don't think I can afford one of these big ones [desktop machines]. I think I'll have to go with one of these little ones [laptops]."

I was advising a friend on a used PC she was considering buying from a friend. I asked the friend if it was a Pentium PC, and he laughed, "All computers have Pentium processors!"

A few years ago I was watching TV with a few other people in my college dorm lounge. A commercial for the Pentium II came on. That prompted one of the girls to ask everyone, "Ok, what the heck does that Pentium thing DO in a computer, anyway?"

One customer came into our computer store and asked for a parallel cable. As I showed him said cable, he said that that wasn't it. After some time I figured out that what he thought was the parallel port was actually four USB-ports on a card. As they were "parallel" they must be the parallel port!

I tried to explain this, but he became more and more irate, demanding me to acknowledge that a USB cable is only one fourth as fast as a parallel cable, and accused me of trying to sell him inferior technology. After a while I gave up and sold four USB cables and assured him he could make a "real" parallel cable out of those.

I was in our University Bookstore the other day looking at software when I overheard a salesman talking to a lady about an iMac.

I own a computer store. One day, two policemen came into the store and told that they owned a 486 and a 286. They asked if a 486 and a 286 could be assembled together into a 686. I replied to the dumb request by asking them if two 200 horsepower police cars can be used to make up a 400 horsepower Ferrari. The policemen didn't get it and replied angrily that altering car engines is strictly forbidden by law.

I was working on my computer one day, and one of my friends came up to me. He said, in a tone that suggested he thought my computer was inferior to his, "Is your computer DIGITAL?"

I burned a CD with some multimedia stuff on it for a friend of a friend. He couldn't get them working, because, it turned out, he had a 486 with 8 megs of RAM.

The machine didn't even have an IDE controller, so I had to explain there was no way he could get the disk.

Sometime in the late 1990s, I had a friend who was an Amiga fanatic and would spend hours telling us how they were the most powerful, versatile, flawless machines ever conceived by man.

I went with him when he bought his new A-4000 and some 3D modelling software. He told us how it will render true 3D in almost real time. I shrugged, watched him set the thing up, and load the software. He fed the thing a wireframe and gave it some textures and background elements. Six days later, the computer finished rendering the first frame.

He explained later that he discovered he only had 2 megs of RAM and had ordered 4. "Isn't that still kind of pathetic?" I asked. "My girlfriend's HP has 16."

He said, "Well, Amigas use everything so much more efficiently, so it compares to a PC with gigabytes of RAM. It's enough to hack your IBM through the power outlet."

I gave up all sense of restraint and must have laughed for 20 minutes.

I am the tech consultant for a computer repair company, but we also sell computers. Once, I had a teen walk in and say he wanted a gaming PC. I asked what kind of games he wanted to play.

I laughed and said that an Apple II wasn't going to cut it and that a PC that Halo could run on would run about $600. It wasn't what he wanted to hear.

I work in an office for a major bank, which doesn't have an on-site IT technician. As I know more than most people there about computers, it falls to me to fill the role of IT coordinator.

My immediate boss, no matter how many times I explain it to him, insists on calling the CPU tower of a PC "the hard drive." Although it caused some confusion to begin with, I generally know what he means and ignore it, and the job gets done. But this came to a head a while ago when we had some extra work coming in, and we needed 20 new PCs, which my boss dutifully ordered.

When the shipment came in, it was in a suspiciously small box. Of course my boss had put in a call asking for "20 new hard drives," and of course that's what we'd been sent.

The funniest part was listening to one side of a telephone conversation in which he angrily complained that he'd wanted "HARD DRIVES, not this box of useless junk!"