I'm sure many of you have had or are currently working in a tech support position. Consider yourself fortunate if you've never had experiences like these.

Duly Noted from Ed

Back in the early ‘90s, I worked as a tech/salesguy at a local computer shop in London. In those days, Atari ST’s, Amigas, and Amstrad PCWs were all the rage, and we sold all sorts of software over the counter and through mail order.

One of the more popular applications was the Mini-Office Professional. It was easy to use and relatively inexpensive. One day, one of our frequent customers – a very nice, little old lady – called up, complaining about some issues with the application on her Amstrad PC 1640. After a pleasant couple of minutes, I deduced that there was a sector fault on the second 5 1/4" disk.

The old dear was more than happy to send the offending disks back to me for replacement, and I asked her to include a small note so that I’d remember what the issue was.

A few days later, a Jiffy bag (ED: translation “padded envelope”) duly arrived at the shop with a large, red “FRAGILE” stamp on the front. Enclosed were two pieces of thick cardboard to hold the offending 5 1/4" disk, a long, handwritten note with the most beautiful penmanship I’ve ever seen that detailed the exact error message she’d encountered — all neatly stapled to the disk.

Not Too Bright from Tony

In the early 1980s, I was working on the helpdesk at a computer center in the north-west of England. Our system was an ICL 2988 with (for then) a massive memory of 32M (and a huge 42G of disc-store which filled a very large hall), which users interacted with using dumb terminals. As you can imagine in those days, what showed on terminals was pretty basic — little more than labels for fields where data could be typed and the input fields themselves. The labels (known as "protected fields" were differentiated on-screen by being half-intensity.

One day, I received a call from one of the application-support engineers. "I know this will sound stupid, but all of the protected fields have disappeared from my terminal."

I thought about his problem for the best part of a micro-second and replied:

"On the right-hand side of your terminal, you'll find a little knob marked 'brightness.' Can you just try turning that up a little bit?"

"Oh, yeah — that fixed it. Thanks!"

I'd be lying if I said I didn't give him a hard time about it afterwards.

Denied Wireless Access from Muki

A coworker of mine named "Jim" got a call from his manager, "Susan." She was in a panic because her inventory management software wasn't working. Not a good thing to happen to the Inventory Manager. Moreover, the software was the only software installed on the system, so Jim feared that it was a total system crash.

Upon arriving to Susan's office, Jim was pleasantly surprised to see a blank monitor — the computer was probably just turned off or there was a loose cable or something. Upon almost no further investigation, Jim found the source of the problem. The laptop dock had no laptop in it.

"Susan, where is your laptop," Jim asked.

"At home," she replied.

Jim wasn't quite sure how to take that and thought for a few seconds about how to proceed without sounding insulting.

"This workstation won't work without the computer plugged in."

Without hesitation, Susan insisted "But it's wireless!"

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