More Helplessness at the Help Desk


by Edward Cone

My comment that a list of help desk horror stories seemed kind of heavy on clueless female users and that this may be an echo of "an old, misogynistic IT culture" drew a couple of responses from readers.

WB writes that early adoption of computer technology often came in jobs with a high percentage of female staff, and thus "most of the early business PC users were women. They were the first ones to go up the learning curve, and therefore became the stuff from which stories are made."

Interesting, if inconclusive.

(When I'm not being too PC, I'm not being sensitive enough: "Cute, but a waste of time and an ugly put-down to lifetime IT folk who remember those traits but are part of the current technologies," writes Dennis Self about our feature on signs you've been in IT too long.)

Anyway, more help desk stories from readers:

Paula Shank does IT at a US federal agency, where she sees the normal run of viruses and hardware problems and fields her share of "How do I...? requests. "But sometimes I get a doozy," she says.

A couple of months ago a user called me frantic that her computer, monitor and printer had lost power. I confirmed that her floor actually had power, as she responded that the lights were on and her radio worked. I went to her desk and sure enough, her system, monitor and printer were powerless. I crawled under her desk to find the power cords, and located the power strip that they were all plugged into. As I traced the power strip's power cord, I found it to be plugged into itself! When I questioned the user, she stated that she'd unplugged the strip to plug in her new radio, and then plugged the strip into the "first open outlet she could find".
Ross Miles goes old school:
This is a little dated but how about the guy who had two questions. He could not get a floppy into the drive. Seems he took it out of the "case", but it would not go into the drive, and since he had to bend the clips holding the floppy and a little spring popped out, how does one reassemble it. When told it was an integral unit, he wanted to know why it is called a floppy. When told about the 5.25 format, he insisted that the floppy should have been renamed, when they changed the size and put it into a permanent "case".
Bill Ashley emails:
A lady called to complain that the computer was eating her disks. She kept inserting disks and still the drive was empty. After driving across town I discovered that the disks were going into the space below the drive. Her computer was under her desk and dimly lighted. There was a small space between the drive and the next lower bay where she was slipping in the 5.25" diskettes.