Most computer users understand that you need an operating system to use a computer
even if it is not clear why. But many users don't.
Customer: "I don't use DOS. What would happen if I deleted that directory?"
Overheard in a classroom:
Student: "How much do Windows cost, and do you have to buy each one separately?"
Customer: "How much do Windows cost?"
Tech Support: "Windows costs about $100."
Customer: "Oh, that's kind of expensive. Can I buy just one window?"
Here's a great stupidity: Windows NT requires you to hit ctrl-alt-delete to log on. Who's bright idea was that?
From a Windows 95 user:
Customer: "I think my computer doesn't know what it is doing."
Tech Support: (pause) "Why? What is the problem with the system?"
Customer: "Well, it keeps asking me, 'What is this?'"
Customer: "I keep getting an error message whenever I try using the MSDOS mode in Windows 95."
Tech Support: "Can you describe what happens?"
Customer: "Well, I keep getting a black screen with an error message saying, 'C:\WINDOWS>'."
Customer: "Something's wrong with my computer."
Tech Support: "Like what?"
Customer: "When I turn it on the screen goes all black."
Tech Support: "Totally black?"
Tech Support: "Does it say 'C:\>' in the corner?"
Tech Support: "Then it's not really all black, is it?"
Customer: "I guess not."
Tech Support: "Type 'win' and press the enter key."
We maintain a 24 hour, 800 number call desk for our maintenance contract customers, a very expensive undertaking. Non-contract customers can call as well, but our per-call maintenance charge is $250/hour, with a minimum of three hours. If you only call us occasionally, it's a lot cheaper than a contract, but it's clearly designed to discourage trivial calls.
In 1996 a per-call customer called. "What does MSDOS stand for?" she asked. We told her. Her firm paid the $750 bill without demur.
One time a user was trying to clean up his hard drive. He saw a folder called "system" which took up lots of space but only had a few things in it. So he moved the fonts and sounds to a new location and deleted everything else.
I put my foot in my mouth rather firmly once. I was teaching a new user some basic UNIX commands just so she could get around on the computer when she needed to. I thought I was doing pretty well, but, in a moment of self-doubt, she said that she didn't think she'd ever learn how to use a computer. My feeble attempt at consoling her follows:
Me: "Don't worry. You'll get the hang of it. When I first started using UNIX, I didn't even know how to change directories!"
Her: "What's a directory?"
Customer: "File manager? What's that?"
Tech Support: "How long have you had your computer?"
Customer: "Three years."
Talking to a Mac user:
Tech Support: "When was the last time you rebuilt the desktop?"
Customer: "Did what?"
Tech Support: "How long have you owned this computer?"
Customer: "Four years."
A customer walked into the computer store I work in, wanting to return a computer.
Me: "Sure, is it defective?"
Customer: "No, that's not the problem. When I took it home and turned it on, I realized it was only half programmed."
Me: [scratching head] "What do you mean by half programmed?"
Customer: "Well, look at the computer on display." [points to the Windows 95 desktop] "Do you see how all the programs are on the left side of the computer?"
Me: [biting tongue] "Well, you are right sir, I will take your computer back."
I decided the moron had to solve his life before he could buy a computer.
Two girls walked into the University's Linux cluster one time. They were obviously unfamiliar with computers and chatted with each other trying to figure everything out. I was doing my own work and had tuned out a lot of the conversation, but at one point one of them turned to me and asked how to get into Windows. "Type startx," I replied, for the Linux machines booted to a shell prompt, and you had to type "startx" to get into X-Windows. I never did find out if that worked for them or not, but they spent quite some time trying to correlate the instructions they had on paper (presumably given out in one of their classes) with what they were seeing on the screen. A full hour and a half passed, and finally one of them turned to me again and asked if this was the Microsoft Windows cluster. "No," I replied, "that's downstairs." It was hard to stifle the laughter until they were gone. An hour and a half before they realized they weren't even using the right operating system. Wow.