Tech Support Tales: Backup copy

Working in data recovery as I did, you get plenty of amusing disaster stories. One day a businessman brought in some dead floppy disks. (This was in the days when people actually worked on floppy disks, as well as using them for removable storage.) He told us that the floppies contained all his business data, but that they had somehow become unreadable. Fortunately, he had been careful—he had asked his secretary to make a copy of the disks every evening at close of business, and store the copies safely in the filing cabinet.

Tech Support Tales: Dead PC

We had sold a computer system and software to a local company, and were providing them with ongoing support. One day they called, and said the machine wouldn’t boot. Me: OK, so what does it display on the screen when you first power it on? User: Nothing. Me: No text at all? User: No. Me: OK, is the light on the front of the monitor on? User: Yes. Me: And the monitor is definitely plugged into the computer?

Tech Support Tales: Dead laptop

User: I can’t do anything right now, my laptop’s broken. Me: Don’t you still have that spare I set up for you? User: That one’s broken as well. Me: Maybe I can get it running again. I know it’s old and the IT people won’t fix it, but it’s better than nothing. User: Well, it’s not really a problem with the software. Me: I’ve got spare RAM and hard drives.

Tech Support Tales: The software that wasn’t

Customer: I ordered some software from you last week. The package arrived, but there wasn’t any software; just the printed instructions. Support: No software? Was the disk corrupted? Customer: Disk? Support: [Pause] The black square thing with a hole in the middle. Customer: Oh, that. I thought that was just packing material, I threw that away.

Tech Support Tales

Seeing a thread on Slashdot about anecdotes from technical support reminds me that I haven’t posted mine here. So, time to start. I’ll be limiting myself to stories of things that either happened to me personally, or happened to a colleague I was working with; no “friend of a friend” stuff. There are stories of more dubious provenance at I love their quote from Charles Babbage, which has to be the earliest example of a clueless user story.