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If People Are Tech Ignorant, Sometimes You Have To Explain It To Them Like This…

, , , , , | Working | CREDIT: ferddo | June 26, 2023

This happened back in the early 1990s when our office still had only a rudimentary LAN and the ‘386 was the best available computer (intel chip launched in 1985). Instead of network printers we still had individual printers cabled directly to a user’s desktop computer (and only users who constantly needed a computer had a printer – mostly secretaries). I’m not knocking secretaries – just using the titles of the people involved.

Our offices were laid out with a number of small shared offices, fronted by a large open area where the secretary desks were located. Due to furniture layout, a lot of people liked to take a shortcut through one secretary’s space – but they had to shimmy between her printer (on a stand) and the wall. Doing so would often knock that cable off the printer, and it was also leaving a scuff mark on the wall.

The secretary was very good at her job and respected, but she had no aptitude for computer hardware. She would call us that her printer wasn’t working, and we’d find that the cable was off. We showed her how to plug it back in, and she was fine with doing that.

What she didn’t understand was why she had to resend her print jobs after reconnecting the cable. She was used to mainframe computer systems with print queues – but her computer was standalone, so the system was not smart enough to realize that a print job had failed (and to automatically resend it). We tried to explain all of that, and just get her to resend her print jobs, but she was still puzzled. Where did those print jobs go?

Then one of our techs told her, while pointing to the scuff marks on the wall:

Tech Coworker: “Electricity flowed in that cable. The print job electricity comes out of the end of the cable and keeps hitting the wall causing the burn marks.”

She bought that explanation!

Secretary: “Is it dangerous?”

Tech Coworker: “It probably is since it’s burning the paint on the wall.”

After that, she was good about checking her printer cable and reconnecting it if it was loose.

Even better, she stopped allowing people to shimmy through that opening “to keep them from getting hurt”, which meant the cable stayed on and we didn’t have to keep coming back to reconnect it.

Inoperating System

, , , , | Right | May 4, 2011

Caller: “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not a technically savvy person.”

Me: “Well, that’s fine. We should be able to get this working. Can you go ahead and click on the start menu?”

Caller: *pause* “Start menu?”

Me: “Yeah, the little button on the bottom-left of your screen. It’s either a circle with the logo or a rectangle that says ‘start’. It’s right there on your taskbar.”

Caller: *pause* “Taskbar?”

Me: “Yeah, the little bar with all the icons right at the bottom of your desktop.”

Caller: *pause* “Desktop?”

Me: “You know what? I’m just going to connect to your computer remotely and do it myself.”

Caller: *pause* “Thank you?”