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Computer Stupidities

Screen Savers

A screen saver is a simple, ordinary, commonplace often misunderstood.

I got a call from someone in our office.

It was a short walk to her desk, so off I go. Looking at the monitor, I saw that it was on with no flashing red lights, so I knew it was connected to the computer. Instinctively, my hand went to the mouse, and snap. The screen came back with all her work.

A guy called in and said, "My computer blew up!" But, really, he had only experienced the 'starfield' screen saver.

A student dropped by the school's computer lab and asked us if we could make lasers come out of the screen. He was very insistent about this being possible. I asked if he meant supermarket scanning lasers. He said no, the kind that damages your eyes, and also they move around. We were wondering if this was a clever engineering question, but finally he said his sister's computer could do it. One of us realized he was talking about one of the Windows screen savers.

I was doing Excel support at Microsoft shortly after Win95 came out. Someone called and needed some help on Excel. He told me he had left the computer for a few minutes, and when he came back, the "devil" had "possessed" his computer. He told me it was bubbling all over the place, and the devil was in his monitor. I told him to move the mouse. The devil left. It was the screen saver.

My mother frequently has to leave her computer on overnight at work, one day she installed a new screen saver and left it overnight. It turns out this screen saver makes some "less than normal" noises, and when the cleaning lady turned up she thought the room was possessed by ghosts. She has refused to clean the room since.


The customer had spent an hour and 45 minutes staring at the Windows XP screen saver.

This exchange with one of my co-workers had me laughing:

It turned out the polarized screen filter had fallen off and hit the scroll lock key.

Trying to ask how to remove a screen saver:

My girlfriend is fond of The Little Mermaid, so she downloaded the free Little Mermaid screensaver offered at After a month of using the screen saver, I got on to use the word processor, and I noticed I could see the words "Disney's The Little Mermaid" faintly at the bottom of my document. The screensaver, instead of "saving" the screen, caused those words to burn in on the monitor. High five to the geniuses who designed the thing.

I sold my old computer to a friend's friend. He never call me again. Some months latter I saw him and ask him how it was going. He told me that he had thrown it away because it was broken. When I asked him what the problem was, he told me that when he stopped typing for a while, the image on the screen started to melt and slip to the bottom, leaving a black space. If he touched the mouse or the keyboard, everything returned to normal. He was convinced I was sold him a defective machine and dumped the perfectly good computer. Apparently he haven't ever heard of screen savers, and I forgot to tell him I had installed one named "Screen Melt FX."

I was in the process of putting some new PCs in place of older ones in a small department here in the hospital. While I was working away, an older lady (the person in charge of the department) noticed that I had replaced her old 15" monitor with a brand new 17" monitor. She immediately came up to me and said:

At this point I thought she was on acid.

It was the screen saver, of course.

I was sitting with my friends in the local computer club. A girl walked in and spoke to the administrator:

She pressed the power button.

One of our clients called us because she had a "dead Mac." The machine was on, but the screen was blank, and nothing would wake it up. It turned out that the keyboard had become disconnected and, ten minutes after that, the screen blanker had activated.

I personally love the reaction of some people to the screen savers on the Macintoshes in our computer lab. I was sitting next to a blonde (at that point I didn't place any significance to this fact) who was typing a paper, and by the way she was doing it, it was clear that this was just about her first time. Well, a friend of hers sat at the computer across from hers, and they started chatting...and the screen saver kicked in. The scream was heard, I was told, around two corners in the hallway.

After she'd nearly passed out, her friend told her that she hadn't lost anything, and that she could get back to what she was doing just by moving the mouse. She didn't count on the fact that when her friend jumped up in hysteria, she'd bumped the keyboard/mouse connector out of the socket.