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Their Computer Knowledge Is A Little Floppy

, , , , , , | Learning | June 17, 2022

In the late 1970s, I worked as a lab assistant in the computer department. A sense of humor was required for the job. We had yellow vests with the label “Lab Asst.” on them, and we had a bit of yellow tape covering the T. Collectively, we considered buying a T-shirt for our department secretary that featured images of floppy disks and the banner “mini-floppies.” Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and that didn’t happen.

This all was years before the first IBM PC and when the only real alternative to big computers was the Apple II. The computer our department depended on was a PDP-11. It was over seven feet tall and roughly the shape of a filing cabinet. It featured a 200-Mb internal hard drive and a 50-Mb removable drive for backing up data. By modern standards, that’s pretty pathetic, but by the standards of the day, it was already light years ahead of using floppy disks for storage. For those too young to remember, the floppy disks of the era held about 180 Kb of data.

The computer could also handle a dozen users connected by terminals. The terminals were just a screen and keyboard. Students had no access to the actual computer itself, which was in a room separate from the computer lab.

As an example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing, a student came into our offices one day.

Student: “You guys need to listen to me!”

Coworker: “What’s wrong?”

Student: “Your computer memory space. You don’t have enough.”

Coworker: “What do you mean?”

Student: “I was doing some reading about keeping everything in memory.”

Coworker: “And?”

Student: “You guys need to add a floppy disk drive to the computer.”

We all looked at each other in bewilderment.

Coworker: “Okay, we’ll keep that in mind.”

Student: “Great! I just wanted you to know.”

Superiority Complex, Unplugged

, , , , , | Learning | February 4, 2021

A short time ago, I became my college’s newest IT services person. I actually enjoy the job and honestly couldn’t be happier unless I got to play video games all day long. I have a desk, personal email, and job duties, but no timeline that “it has to be done in eight minutes or our necks are on the chopping block.” It’s just straight-up tech work.

The IT department is always on hand during the day to assist the professors in teaching their students. Most of the time, the professors are great. But I do get those once in a while who make me want to facepalm so hard. 

Anyone who has worked in IT will recognize the following story.

Professor: “This computer is not working and I have a class in ten minutes. I have to have my lectures off the computer, now!

Me: “Can I just ask some questions real quick to see if it’s an easy fix?”

Professor: “No! Get your lazy butt over here and fix it!”

Me: “All right, sir, I will be over there in a few minutes as your office is on the other side of campus.”

It takes about five minutes to get there. We are a small community college, so the furthest one would have to walk anywhere would be half a mile.

Me: “Okay, let us take a look at this com—”

Professor: “Well, it took you long enough to get over here. What is wrong with you, anyway? I have a class in five minutes and the computer still isn’t even… Hey, it’s coming on. What did you do?”

Me: “I simply plugged it back in. Looks like you unplugged your computer this morning when you plugged in your coffee pot. You should have no problem getting your files off your computer.”

Too bad he wouldn’t let me ask some basic questions over the phone. Sheesh!

He then pulls a thumb drive out of his pocket, prints the notes for his lecture from it, and then removes the thumb drive. I decide not to mention that he could have done this at any computer on campus and that there’s an open computer lab literally next door that he could have used his thumb drive in.

Professor: “Well, it doesn’t help that you took your time getting here! I know more about computers than you ever will, anyway. Let’s not forget who has a degree and who doesn’t!”

Me: “All right, sir, I hope your fragile ego gets better! Have a good day.”

I grinned and left before the professor could say another word.

This story is part of our Best Of February 2021 roundup!

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Look. SOMEONE Has To Do His Homework.

, , , , , , , | Related | August 13, 2020

I do really love my family, and I know that they love me. I am a twenty-year-old woman, and I have a twenty-year-old brother and my mother and father. While my own university life and career has not always been smooth sailing, at this point I’ve settled, and I’m close to graduating, have a plan for after graduation, have a job, and am working an internship.

While my brother might not be at that exact same spot in his life, I would expect him to be reasonably close. However, my parents have always been a little easier on him than me, so he’s still trying to figure things out. To give some context, he was one of the smartest kids at high school and took six advanced placement classes in his junior year, scoring fours and fives — out of five — on the tests for most of them. This is a small snippet of his story.

Year One of University: he passes the first semester with mostly Cs and some Bs, but that’s okay. We all struggle when the environment changes a little. He fails all of the second semester and ends with a GPA of 1.77. We find out he didn’t go to a single class and didn’t do any of his work.

Summer of Year One: my parents find two classes that he could take to redo those classes he failed and boost his GPA. One class is in person at the local community college; in order to make sure he goes, my mom drops him off to each class. The other class is an online class, and my parents expect him to be fine or ask for help if needed. 

Year Two of University: we find out he didn’t complete the online class that summer and is on academic probation. By October, he receives a letter from the university recommending that he withdraw, as he has not been to a single class from the beginning of the semester. His GPA is 0.79. 

He is enrolled in community college for the second semester of that year, so he can try to improve his grades and re-apply to his university.

Semester One at Community College: my dad wakes him up every morning so that he gets to class on time. We get a letter in the mail that he has withdrawn from one of his courses; it turns out, he drives to college and then sleeps in his car in the parking lot until class starts. During one day of an exam, he slept through the test. At the end of this semester, the health crisis hits, and everyone has the option to credit/no-credit the courses, which means that the grade does not factor into the GPA. He no-credits each of his classes without discussing the options with my parents, his counselor, or anyone else, and then gets Ds and Fs on all the classes. 

Summer at Community College: Currently, he is taking four online classes to try and boost his GPA once again, so he can try and apply to university. The due date for all classes is July twenty-third. As of July fifteenth, we learn that he has not started any of the four classes yet. 

So, this is where we are. My mom, dad, and I are sitting in the front room of our house in the morning, and my brother is asleep.

Dad: “Good morning, [My Name]. Listen, I need you to help me out. When I get back from work tonight, your mom, you, and I need to go to [Brother] and help him with his work. I’ll take one class, you take one, Mom will do the other, and [Brother] will do the last one. Let’s try to get this done before the deadline, okay?”

Me: *Pause* “No.”

Dad: “What do you mean, ‘no’?”

Me: “Um, sorry, but I’m not doing his work for him. If he wants my help, I’ll be glad to help him organize or manage his time or check over his work, but there is no way I’m doing his homework for him. I have my own stuff to do.”

Mom: “Come on, [My Name]. Be reasonable.”

Dad: “Listen, he needs to get this done. If he doesn’t get into university this fall, he’ll have to go back to community college, and since he already has the credits, he’ll be taking useless classes that won’t advance his degree and waste a ton of money. If he doesn’t go back to school, the federal loan he signed will be called back and we’ll have to pay a ton of money that we don’t have. The best course of action is to get his GPA up so that he can go to university.”

Me: “No offense, but how is that my problem? He has been messing up; he needs to take responsibility for it. You need to stop shielding him from his mistakes and help him learn to handle it instead of doing everything for him. You should make him get a job, or volunteer, or do something with some accountability!”

Dad: “Don’t you criticize my parenting! You’re only in your twenties; I’m almost sixty. You don’t understand it. Once you have kids, you’ll see things differently. What do you want me to do? Throw him on the road? I can’t do that. We’re family, and in times of crisis, we can’t turn our backs on each other. Now, you have a choice, but know that if you don’t help out, you will break my heart.”

For anyone wondering if my brother is depressed or has some disorder that is affecting him — maybe. He’s vehemently denied it, but if it is true, as much as it sucks, he needs to take the prerogative to ask for help or see a professional. I can’t do anything about that part.

In the end, I did not help out. So far, my dad and mom have set up twelve-hour patrols in my brother’s room to keep track and make sure he’s doing his work. I’ve also caught them working on some of his homework while he’s sleeping.

An Honest Deception

, , , | Right | July 20, 2020

I work at an institution for further adult education and we offer a very broad variety of courses and workshops, from IT-classes to cooking, music, languages, college degrees, etc. There are also some federal support programs in place that help pay the tuition for people who live on low-income or have none at all.

As a part of this, the responsible federal office also offers to pay for the driving expenses if a student lives more than a certain amount of kilometers from the school. If that is the case, the student can apply for this additional support and, once it is granted, they need to provide us proof of their travel expenses — i.e. expired bus or train tickets. We then relay this information to the federal office, who in turn refunds the money.

A man has just come to my office to give us his tickets. Usually, our customers and students are very polite and pleasant to deal with, but occasionally, we get an odd one like this.

Man: “Hello, I want to give you my bus ticket.” *Hands it over*

Me: “Thank you very much. Can I see your ID, please?”

Man: “Sure, here.”

Me: “Thank you.”

I write down his name on the receipt form we have for these cases and then proceed to check the ticket. I notice something.

Me: “Um, sir, it seems to me that someone has tampered with this ticket. There is something written over the print with a black marker. Do you know what that is about?”

Man: “Huh? No, I did not do that. I don’t know.”

I show him the ticket.

Me: “Are you sure? Here, look. The date of expiry of this ticket has clearly been written over, apparently in an attempt to change it to a later date.”

He looks as if he only notices it now.

Man: “Oh, yes, that was me!”

Me: “Uh, you know you are not supposed to do that, right? It is not allowed to alter your bus tickets like this, and you could get fined for doing it.”

Man: *Apparently still oblivious* “But no one ever said anything about it before.”

Me: “You are still not allowed to tamper with your tickets! Plus, if the federal office learns about this, you might be in real trouble because they might think you are trying to deceive them or commit fraud.”

Man: “Oh, but I don’t want to deceive the federal office. I only wanted to deceive the bus driver.”

He smiles and leaves.

Me: “Did… he really just tell me that?!”

Goes On For Hours And Hours

| Right | July 10, 2017

(I work at a community college library. I am shelving books when an elderly man with a ferocious mustache comes up to me. He has a very grumpy look on his face.)

Patron: *barking at me* “What are your hours?”

Me: “Monday through Thursday we are open 7:30 to 8:30; we do close early on Friday…”

Patron: *before I can finish* “OH, so you are closed on Friday?”

Me: “No, sir, that is a miscommunication. We are open until 3:30 on Friday.”

Patron: *very indigent* “So you go home early, then?”

Me: “No, sir, we use that time to do the jobs we can’t do when the patrons are here, like run maintenance on our computers.”

Patron: “Are you open on the weekend?”

Me: “No, sir, we are not.”

Patron: *narrowing his eyes at me, scrunching up his mouth, and saying through clenched teeth* “How do you get away with that?”