During the first part of the story, I kept expecting the punchline to be something to the tune of "tech-illiterate user doesn't know enough to properly follow instructions," so it was nice seeing that story resolve with A: an actual technical issue and B: said user actually considering the solution.
Second story... was basically what I expected the first story to be. "Customer" with an ego, doesn't know the finer details, blames the person sent to help. Seen that story a dozen times before.
Hey. Party lines had smart routing, just like the intertoobz. It worked like this.
"Martha, I need to call my cousin in Chicago"
"You mean George?"
"Long distance operator, Dubuque."
"Operator, this is the operator in Poduque. I need Central 1234 in Chicago"
"Long distance operator, Chicago"
"Operator, this is long distance in Dubuque. I need Central 1234"
"This is long distance in Chicago, I have a call for anyone from Poduque."
"Hi, Jack! How's the weather?"
I recall more than one customer who ordered ISP service, then complained when we told them you needed a computer to use it. I would quote Babbage here ("I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question"), but... well, confusion was the main thing a lot of people were selling then (just as it is today).
A lot of people only knew that The Information Superhighway was a thing, but they had no idea what that thing was, just that they needed to be on it. Just as it is today.
Oh, my. I can't recall if I've ever posted this here or not ... I actually worked in AOL customer service, my very first job out of college. I didn't take this call, my friend James in the next cubicle did; he told it about it right afterward, when I asked him to explain why he couldn't stop laughing after he hung up.
This right at the beginning of the transition period when AOL was starting to ramp down sending out 3.5" floppy disks with their software to everybody on the planet and starting to send CD-ROMs to them and also their cousins instead. Well, this nice fellow had received one of the shiny new media, and had no idea what to do with it. It didn't seem to fit any of the various slots and orifices on his computer; he'd even gone as far as to take off the case and look for a place he was supposed to physically install it. It took a bit of conversation to work out, since the user was (obviously) lacking more than one clue, but James was able to verify that the computer in question was not, in fact, equipped with a CD drive.
That wasn't what made him unable to take another call without a short break to regain control. It was the would-be customer's response when Jim advised him that he wouldn't be able to use that disc to install our program. "Well," he replied, "what did you send it to me for, then?"
The first story sounds a little too close to home - My wife grew up in the late 80's/early 90's on a mountain outside of Eugene, Oregon and had a party line for the people on the mountain. And, yes, one reason her family finally got their own line was to get on to AOL.
My grandparents had a party line into the 80s, but certainly post using an operator. As I recall, there were two different rings (they only shared with one other house at that point), so you knew if it was a call for you or them.
A party line? Really? Is it possible this is an American thing and not available - or at least since extremely long disappeared - in Europe? Obviously it's not complicated from a technical point fo view, but I just never heared about such a thing. And I was around in the 80s, yes.
Coincidence that this comes just under YellowOnline's comment.
I was living in rural Colorado early to mid 90s. Our closest neighbor was 5 miles away. Next closest was 20 miles away. For christmas I got a (9600 baud?) modem and of course already had the AOL 3.25" install disk.
We had a party line and we did not have the opportunity to upgrade to a private line. If I was going to access AOL, I pretty much had to do it in the wee hour of the morning, as one of the parties on our party line was a ranch where the ranch hands would spend most of their off-time talking to their girlfriends while the guys had temporarily relocated for Hay season or calfing season or whatever.
AOL, of course, did not have a local number for dial-in, so the long distance charges (remember those?) racked up pretty easily.
In the second part of story, I would have asked him "Where is your line?"
They should know that you need a line connected to the computer to use internet, just like you need a line plugged in the phone to do that. Tell him ADSL^H^H^H^Hinternet line is different than a phone line and call it a day.
Party lines were common in the rural parts of the USA at one time, but were almost gone by the '80s. There are very few parts of Europe that have the low population density of the rural midwest and west USA, so I can see why Europe wouldn't have them.
My parents' phone was on a party line shared with one other house (rural Scotland). I think it was probably done to avoid having to fit an additional bar and insulators to 3 miles of wooden posts and then join them up with an additional copper wire. The arrangement lasted until about 1970 when the local exchange was upgraded to subscriber trunk dialling and the copper wires were replaced with multicore flexible cable.
So, Remy's comment indicates that he's unsure if party lines and CD-R would have existed at the same time. Of course, the story could have been embellished or combined from years apart, but the short answer is yes, it's possible.
Several states, including Connecticut of all places, still had party lines in 1991. Colorado's last few made it a couple of years beyond that. And (to my knowledge) the last party lines in the US, in Texas, weren't replaced until 1995.
CD-R wasn't widely available until around 1995-6, but early adopters with a lot of cash to throw at the problem had the technology well before that. Ostensibly consumer-level CD-Rs were on the market for around $10-12000 beginning in 1992ish. Sane people wouldn't have purchased them, but it's entirely possible for a jackass lawyer with no regard for copyright law to have enough cash on hand to jump on the boat early, thinking he'd found a foolproof plan to get "free stuff".
Party lines do still exist, at least in rural Canada. When my father bought his current house, the previous owner had a private line, but when the ownership changed the local telco wanted to move him onto a party line (I guess they have a waiting list of people waiting for private lines). The telco was betting on mobile taking over for phone service and Internet and didn't want to invest in any more infrastructure in an area with such a low population density and an ROI that would be measured in decades.
a Lawyer who doesn't believe in Copyrights...sheesh.
but i've heard worse: someone who put one of those AOL CDs into a CD player-a basic one, at that, and expected "the internet" to simply appear out of thin air...
and this story comes to mind: