1285E8 (from Kristoph Minchau)
I had a ticket come in from a Very Important User: a member of the Board of Directors. The problem was that he could no longer access the Citrix server. Looking at it, I determined that we simply needed to resynchronize his RSA security token.

After calling him up, I asked him to please tell me "what numbers are currently displayed on the front of the token?"

"1285E8"

"What?"

"1285E8"

"Ah... can you tell me that again?"

"1...2...8...5...E - E as in Edward...8"

"Are you sure that is an 'E'?"

"Yeah, it's definitely an E"

"Um... there are only supposed to be numbers on the token. No letters."

"Well I'm reading it right her and it says: 1...2...8...5...E...8"

Thinking that it might be a broken LCD on the token I tried 128588 and 128538, both which didn't work. I thought it might also be a one time problem with the token, so I said, "Ok. We will wait till it changes, and I'll have you read me back the next number."

After 30 seconds, "Ok. It changed. The new number is: 12h851"

"What?"

"12h851 that is: 1...2...h - H as in House...8...5...1"

"Um....ok....?" I wasn't exactly sure what to do, short of physically replacing the token.

Fortunately he realized what was going on before I had to say anything else:

"Oh! I got it now!... I was holding it upside down! The number is 128451."

"128451... That works a whole lot better."

That's about the point you start wondering about who is running your company.

 

A Highly Specialized Technician (from Rodrigo Valenzuela)
As an IT tech for a newspaper printing company, I occasionally have to help the Highly Specialized Technicians that our equipment vendors send over for maintenance. These techs handle the hardware and software support for all of our complicated, in-house printing equipment.

One day, a Highly Specialized Technician was dispatched to fix a problem, but came armed with a notebook computer that didn't have a serial port or a usb-to-serial adapter. Because we needed the problem fixed immediately, I give him one of the spare PCs that I had in my office and told him that the username was "user" and the password "password".

A few hours later, the Highly Specialized Technician called me up to ask if I knew the serial number for the diagnosis software that he was trying to install. Of course, the software (like the tech) was Highly Specialized, so I had never heard of it before. I suggested that he call his boss for the serial number instead.

A couple hours later (his fifth hour onsite, if you're keeping count), he called back asking for the spare computer's password. Fair enough, I know how hard is to remember a password like "password". I spelled it out to him, letter-by-letter, and reiterated that it was all lower case.

"Sorry," he said, "it's not working."

I made sure he typed in "user" and then "password" - still, no luck. "Well," I said, "I better come down and look myself."

When I got there, the Highly Specialized Technician was at the Windows XP login window with the following data on the screen.

Username: Password
password: ****

Yes, that is a capital P. He was a highly specialized technician, indeed.

 

CD Not Working (from Fred Bar)
I'm sure this was a common occurrence a decade ago, but it remains one of my favorite support calls of all time. I was working phone support for an ISP and took a call from a customer that was having problems with our install CD. The computer just wasn't finding the CD.

I asked her to open "My Computer" and list the drives.

"I've got A, B, and C" she replied.

"B? Ma'am what did the drive look like that you inserted the CD into?"

"It's long and skinny with a lever on the front."

I cringed. "That's a floppy drive, not a CD-ROM drive. How'd you get it in there?"

At that point, I put the call on speaker phone for all the other techs to hear.

"It went in pretty easy," she casually said, "but it won't come out now. I have been going at it like an hour with a pair of tweezers."

"Ma'am you have put a CD-ROM in a floppy drive," I explained, "I'm not sure how you did that, but you need to take your computer to a local computer shop and have them get that CD out of there."

The phone went silent for a moment, and then she replied "oh I know, my kid has some gum."

"Wait, nooooo!!! I think that will just—"

She cut me off, "Sorry, let me call you back, I have to grab some gum."

I didn't hear from her again.