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Computer Stupidities (2013) (rinkworks.com)
112 points by JoachimS 68 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 78 comments

Once a user called about a floppy drive that was eating up his floppies. Support was perplexed, so they sent someone to look into it.

It turns out that the user did not have a floppy drive, but that his machine had an open drive bay through which he inserted floppies. There was a pile of them at the bottom of the case.

Thanks for this, gave me a really good laugh.

Also fun times if the cover on the bay below the floppy drive leaves a roughly floppy-sized crack in the casing...

You should have charged him for slaying the dragon in his PC.

These are funny, but I do want to make a meta point that I take extra care to not make fun of or otherwise belittle anyone who is extremely non-tech-savvy.

I try to apply incredible magnitudes of patience in these cases. Usually these people are older and may feel left behind, self-conscious, or embarrassed. I don’t want to add fuel to those anxieties. I just want to help them achieve their goal.

At this point anyone who works in a office has had a computer on their desk for two or three decades. If they decided not to learn how to use it I don't have much sympathy. Much of these situations are what is called performative ignorance, where someone pretends to be ignorant in order to get someone else to work for them.

> anyone who works in a office has had a computer on their desk for two or three decades. If they decided not to learn how to use it [...]

Knowing how to operate equipment and understanding how to troubleshoot it are very different things. It's exactly why IT support, car mechanics, or electricians still exist.

Some people think that knowing how to use a computer makes them experts, then they start spreading that "knowledge", and IT support ends up with all kinds of seemingly stupid calls where someone is (or took the word of) such an expert. Other times people just want to be helpful and play back what they heard from the IT personnel during the last case because that appeared to be similar for them, even if the issue was radically different.

> Knowing how to operate equipment and understanding how to troubleshoot it are very different things.

While that's certainly true, there's plenty of stories out there (and I've experienced a few myself) of people who just refused to use basic common sense, reading comprehension, or understanding of physics 101 when dealing with computers.

Yep, I knew a guy at another job who did this with his wife: when she wanted him to help with laundry, he'd intentionally do it badly enough (probably involving bleach) to ruin clothes, making her so frustrated with him that she always did the laundry.

But why? Laundry has to be the easiest household chore there is. It takes 30 seconds to load the machine then an hour later another 30 to load the drier or a couple of minutes to hang it out.

If you're going to be lazy keep dropping dishes while you wash them or send the lawnmower over a big brick.

I agree about the laundry, so I really have no idea.

Have you been talking to my entire HR Department?

Hm, IMHO most of the ridiculed under "paranoia" would not be ridiculed anymore post-Snowden. Government listening on all your Internet activity? Remotely destroying hardware? I mean, not only are these things possible, as we now know, they actually happen.

Joke's on us?

The very first item on the paranoia page is ridiculing someone who heard on TV that loading a random disk into their computer could open their machine to remotely located hackers. Laughable in 1985, perhaps, but this threat has existed for real since the mid 90s for almost every computer user(!)

> Mom: "Don't do that! I don't want my voice on the internet!"

Alexa, tell me how much the times have changed.

My mother in law (may she RIP) once called for help, saying her computer had stopped working. Partway through the series of troubleshooting questions, she started laughing hysterically -- having realized her hand was on a stapler next to the mouse.

Well at least she was honest and self aware. There are legions of tech support tales of users just lying their mouths off about having taken troubleshooting steps they hadn't, techs started making up workaround so users had excuses to do the thing they'd said they'd done.

"Unplug it and blow on the connector" is a classic, the point is not to blow on the connector, it's to give the user an excuse to actually check the connection / fit after they've told you they have already despite there being 99 chances out of a 100 they have not.

Unfortunately, I have often had the opposite problem where tech support "lies"* and claims my internet is fine when it clearly is not, trying to get me to go through pointless troubleshooting steps. Mysteriously, it starts working midway through the call.

*I used scare quotes because I strongly suspect the first line tech support don't know it's going on. I suspect someone is frantically fixing things in the background and no one has officially reported any outage.

> trying to get me to go through pointless troubleshooting steps

There is a double edged sword here. IT support people are taught (or learn quickly) not to trust the user. In the sea of users who think they know better there will be occasional user who knows what they're doing but it's hard to tell them apart. So in comes the script, applied as a matter of procedure.

I remember one of my far relatives tried to drag document from one computer to another, by drag and keep pressing the mouse, in the meantime, he disconnected the mouse to one computer and then connected to another. It really confused him why this move didn't work at all.

As far as I know, this does not allow dragging files from one computer to another one. Logitech is not the first one to do this though, I already combined my Windows laptop and Debian tower into one triple screen computer 10 years ago, using Synergy[1] and an ethernet cable. There was no noticable delay, I miss that setup.

[1] https://symless.com/synergy

I remember using Synergy to link my Windows desktop and my PowerMac since this was the only tool I could find to bridge the 2 platforms.

For Windows to Windows I made extensive use of Microsoft Garage's Mouse without Borders [0].

[0] https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=354...

Wow. From UX perspective this indeed make sense somehow.

This is crazy...

Here is a stupidity I did back when I was a kid and just got my first computer.

I had some pre-installed games on my PC. I noticed shortcuts to games are only 1-2kb while the executable files are in MBs. Since both things have same icons, same names they must be the same thing right? I deleted the executables and copied shortcuts to where they were to save some precious space for my PC. And I didn't even test things before hand, I permanently deleted all my game exes and then tried starting running a game, which obviously failed.

Thankfully the place where my parents bought our PC reinstalled my games.

Here's one from my whole family.

We got an Amiga 500 back in the late 80's, it's all setup with word processing and spreadsheets working fine, the games were incredibly hard though. Most games had these dark patches where there were hidden pieces of floor, except sometimes they'd disappear and you would die, so for these games you had to memorize exactly where all the floor was. For some games it was mostly fine, for others it made them almost impossible. I was only 5 or 6 and it was the only games machine I'd ever played.

Fast forward a few years and the computer is no longer an expensive investment, or threat to children, or whatever it is that made my parents have it in their bedroom, so we moved it. As I picked up the monitor I accidentally pressed a button on the back the toggled the graphics mode and when the machine turned on I could suddenly see all my games in full color. In retrospect it affected many other things too.

The only saving grace during that period was that so many games were ports from the speccy or commodore 64 with a limited color pallet.

I remember doing this as well! Imagine how excited I was that Doom, Duke3D and Wolfenstein all fit on one floppy! And they started too when I popped it in the drive and double-clicked on them! So I removed the folders from my harddrive. And didn't notice until days later when I wanted to play Duke. (It was my first PC, and I was 11, so somewhat excused)

Does it somewhere have the classic about tech support finally learning after about 45 minutes that the computer wasn't working due to the power being out? He loses it and says "Put the computer back in the box and take it back to the store because you're too fucking stupid to use a computer!"

(Of course, the tech support guy was promptly fired.)

Honestly, if it took the support guy 45 minutes to notice the cable not being plugged in...

No, it was. There was a power cut to the entire building, but the person calling thought that somehow their computer should continue working even though nothing else had power. And they only mentioned it to the support guy after 45 minutes of trying different things to make the machine boot up.

I don't see why the support guy should be fired for this. There should be limits to the depths of stupidity they should have to deal with. Computers are complicated instruments, and if someone is that idiotic, maybe they shouldn't be using a computer. You can't expect everyone to be completely unflappable no matter how frustrating their job is.

Ah memories. Twenty years ago I worked a few cubicles away from the guy who runs this site. He had a handmade Rube Goldberg machine made from cardboard perched on the edge of his cube wall that accepted coins as payment for candy he kept in a dish.

Was it some kind of special or expensive candy? I just give candy to my colleagues for free.

They're paying for the thrill of the cardboard contraption's operation! The candy is just the denoument.

Since people are sharing their stories. I can add some.

I alone used to be “The IT” for a small e-commerce company, but it was young (very few people over 30).

People can just be absent minded sometimes.

One person contacted me claiming that they couldn’t get new email. After going to their PC and asking her to show me, she opened her mail client and then closed a dialog asking for her new password since she has changed it.

Another had “weird mouse behaviour” she had a Mac and couldn’t click on anything without a context menu popping up. I came over and assumed that the mouse had its right button stuck, but, no. A stack of papers was resting on the control key.

A relative once had to send an invoice to several people.

He got he invoice by email, printed it, scanned it, and then attached the thing in a new email.

The weird part is that he's been using computers for years, even before the Internet. I can't imagine the trouble he had finding out how to scan, where to find the file and how to attach it.

Actually he still doesn't understand the difference between email and a browser.

I liked this gem:

>Tech Support: "Tech support. May I help you?"

>Customer: "Yes, my microwave isn't communicating with my computer correctly anymore. I'd like to bring in my microwave and my computer."

Sadly with IoT this may be a true case nowadays.

From - http://rinkworks.com/stupid/cs_misc.shtml

> My coworker (who uses Windows 95) was having trouble downloading a self-extracting archive off the net. In an attempt to make it easier to open the file with WinZIP, he associated *.EXE with WinZIP.

> Nothing worked after that. Every program he tried to run would load WinZIP first. He couldn't even run REGEDIT to delete the association.

Happened to me.. :) One of those Windows 95 days!

This is a very old website (still no TLS). I remember reading it first time in the end of the 90s. Even though the older anecdotes are more difficult to relate to these days, I'm glad it survived. It made my day (and lightened up my mood) during periods of depression.

These are hilarious and bring back so many memories of my time in IT. But as another commenter said, it helps to be extra respectful of people who are not too tech savvy. I've had many of those examples play out and the people involved usually felt very stupid and awkward. I always tried to go to great lengths to reassure them that it has happened more times to more people than they suspect, even if it weren't true, just so they didn't feel shitty and stupid. I'd also try to tell them about the stupid things I'd done to lighten the situation which always seemed to help.

Bottom of: http://rinkworks.com/stupid/cs_amnesia.shtml

That just has to be made up.

I feel genuinely bad for the people caught in this transition.

Yup. You're 80. You spend your money on a modem, because some marketing guy tells you that's all you need to send e-mails. Then there's this thing in your room, you still have no idea how to send an e-mail, so you call tech support. Then suddenly you are the idiot, and get ridiculed.

Reminds me a lot of how narrow-minded a lot of people are in tech. Everyone who knows a bit more than you is a wizard and everyone who knows a bit less is a moron.

Feel worse for the people that didn't make the transition, they typists and secretaries that were no longer needed and the clerks replaced by excel.

Why? The transition didn't happen overnight,where everyone woke up and suddenly have macs and pcs instead of typewriters.It was actually very gradual process over a period of 20 years or so. Everyone had a chance to catchup...The main problem is that most people aren't inquisitive enough and they just want all they problems or issues, they don't understand, gone. From what I've seen it's mostly lazyness, lack of motivation and general 'I don't care' attitude. I remember going to my colleague's desk,where she was complaining that one of the monitors won't show anything anymore.How long you've been having it like this? About an hour. Ok, most likely the cable is disconnected,so all is needed is to push it back in..She looks at me.Blank face.Well, there's your PC under your desk and this is the cable,so all you have to do is to go down there and connect it.Oh..So you won't do it??No,I'm not IT support but I'm happy to stay here to see if it works out for you at the end..After a minute under the desk: look,the view on the screen is back!!!!! This is a good example,where a user would rather sit and do nothing instead of trying to check what might be wrong and ultimately trying to offload the problem to someone else...

Had this one multiple times at my job: Do you know your email password?I'll need you to enter it when I'll finish setting this one up..Blank face...So what's the password?Emmm...Emmm..I didn't know my email had a password,I just turn on my PC and it's there...Blank face.. There's no money on this planet that could force me to do IT support,as full time job.

Doesn't sound stupid to me. Someone forgot their password since it is stored in the email client. They once went through the steps of setting up the email client or email account with a password and had the right intuition that the whole procedure is reasonably save. The email client is on autostart and looks different to how they read email on their phones. If they follow your instructions to recover the password, then that's fine.

This seems to reside in a different category than some of the other stories here in this thread. I'm trying to make this distinction since, if we're honest, the UIs that we're all building are not always as good as they could be for the common user.

Edit: Reading through some of the stories on that website I see real user issues described as stupidity:

Under "Email Magic": I actually had this emailed to me once: "Help! I can't find your email address. What is it?"

Modern email clients and web interfaces hide known email addresses and just show the name. Good to know that I typed the address correctly, but actually finding out the actual address may not be intuitive.

It wasn't the case the user forgot the password - that's normal, instead she was genuinely surprised she had one at all. As for UIs, I have to agree, a lot of the are so ridiculous..For instance JIRA, especially the settings section...

Classic website. The thing that gets me is that at this point, in 2019, there are so many users who have been using windows every day for 25 years, and have forgotten that eg Start -> All Programs exists. I truly don't understand how you can use a computer for that long and not learn basics like that.

I haven't used it this way in years. I click Start or Win key and start typing. And this basically works on any OS and the "Start equivalent" (like Spotlight on MacOS, or Dash on Ubuntu). It's far more efficient that visually scanning a list that can potentially have dozens of shortcuts in folders and subfolders.

Holy crap -- Rinkworks is still up and around. I had a classmate who was obsessed with that site

Ah Rinkworks...so sad it doesn't update. Like crank.net...

Still looks like it did 20 years ago when I first stumbled across it.

I thought this looked really familiar. I've definitely seen this sometime years and years ago.

Blast from the past ^_^ I wonder if there are any new stories coming out, or if things have been prepackaged so well now that nobody is able to break them?

I know those stories are supposed to be midly amusing, but they always put me into a mild state of depression.

First, most of them are probably urban legends, and I'm not too keen on them. (That's a slippery slope argument, so feel free to dismiss it, but I don't know how far 'that grandma overthere who sued to put her cat in the microwave' is from 'that pizzeria basement where people run sex rings')

Second, the overal tone of stories is "IT people who know about computer stuff" vs "clueless non-IT people who don't know about computer stuff".

Now, there is a huge source of humor and irony in people who claim to be expert at something, when in reality they don't have a clue.

And sometimes, the misinterpretation of computer jargon by non-IT experts can be rather poetic. ("It said I would have 98 windows. Where are the windows ?")

But I claim, that, most of the times, in those stories, the joke should be on us (IT-people), not on them.

Especially since those stories are from the mid-90s to early 2000s the non-IT people were not "clueless". They were never taught how IT "works".

And let's face it, IT does not work.

They probably had references to how things are supposed to work. 60s household technology. Toasters. Light bulbs. Vaccuum cleaners. Fridge. TV sets. Washing machines. Even cars.

Those things "worked". The vendor would show you the thing, you would turn around it for a while, get how it works, and go on with your life. And you would be able to explain it to you kid, and your neighboor.

And yeah, you might have no idea how your car engine worked in the details. (Although, you probably did. Your military instructors explained it to you, because your car and the jeep with which your father freed Europe worked the same.)

But you knew rather intuitively that if it started making weird noises, you would bring it to a technician who would be able to do something.

And car do not break that often unless you do stupid things like running into a tree or mixing up gas, right ?

Introduce 90s computers.

You would pay good money to buy it. No one would explain it to you (because vendors were probably as clueless as you were.)

You would not be trained how to use it - cause it would change in 2 years anyway.

You would be required to know how to use it, or you would start to fear loosing your job.

(Remember when we 'high-salary experts' had 'javascript fatigue' ? Don't you think everyone had some sort of 'computer-nonsense fatigue' at some point ?)

You don't have the words to talk about the things. You have no mental model about the "normal behavior". Or what made a machine "better" than another. Or what made a machine "compatible" with another.

And, let's not forget one tiny little details: THOSE THINGS BARELY WORKED AT ALL !!!!

The number of hilarious bugs, stupid behavior, counter-intuitive UX, border-line ripoff software should be humbling to us.

Anyone read "The insane are running the asylum" as a programmer and wanted to cry ?

Anyone had to explain to their father that "yeah, now that I have installed Windows 95, if you want to switch the computer off, you need to click on 'Start' first..." ?

So, yes, confused people were calling customer support to try and get support, because they had other things to do with their life, and for some reason, the market had decided they had to do it through one of those computer thingies that are slow, expensive, buggy and talk to me like they don't know the meaning of words.

In an ideal world, we would have made computers simpler. More compatible. More standards. Maybe a bit less powerful, but basically more real-people friendly.

The market had no incentive for that.

But now, at least, we have trained people no to bother calling IT support anyway - because IT-support people are expensive, and it's better to have clueless minions on that side of the phone to, only paid to make user waste enough time to accept that the insane behavior of the computer is actually normal, and that it's really their fault.

And, since software eats the world, people have now graciously stopped expecting anything to work at all.

To paraphrase Stroustrup:

"If only my computer was as simple as a my car", one wished ! "If only using my computer was as easy as using my phone", one prayed ! "If only software was as straightforward as laundry", one lamented !

"Careful what you wish for", said the programmer.

"Your car is now a computer with wheels, that will show your speed to be `NaN mph`." "Your phone is now a pocket computer, that will let you make lousy phone calls if you're lucky, between software updates." "And your washing machine is now a computer, so now you won't know with program to use - but that's okay, you don't know at which temperature you're supposed to wash that shirt anyway. Go ask your mom."

We taught them that.

So yeah us ! Let's have some fun mocking the peons!!

Or maybe re-read 'Fondation' on our e-reader - provided the last DRM software update did not break it, of course.

Well said.

> Microsoft Internet Exploiter

I would file that under technically correct.

Cool site. Reminds me of the daily wtf. Haven't visited that for quite a while.

Oh no! This is almost as bad a time sink as tvtropes! I haven't seen it in years and it is a shame it no longer gets updated.

According to the site, last update was in 2013, which I'd still consider "relatively recent" in terms of computers being generally available (and well on their way to being locked-down appliances, but I digress...) --- although the bulk of the content there looks to be from the early to mid 90s.

Father in law (verbatim quote, deadpan):

"I went on the internet, and I downloaded so fast I blew out my printer."

Oh, so that's why some surge suppressors have a phone jack!

Book-a-Minute is the best http://www.rinkworks.com/bookaminute/

Even in that space, one stands out from the rest.


A lot of these seem fake.

I'm sure a lot of them are fake. Stories told by tech nerds huddled around the glow of a CRT to convince themselves that they're better than everyone else because they know some computer stuff.

computer does not turn on even connected: UPS connected to itself

Mostly what I'm seeing here is tech support people who either don't explain things well, or are severely lacking in empathy.



I had a customer with a problem getting his mouse to work. So I tried asking him about his COM port settings and so forth.

Tech Support: "Ok, do you have a internal modem?"

Customer: "I don't know."

Tech Support: "Um...do you have a modem at all?"

Customer: "I call the Internet sometimes."

Tech Support: "Do you plug a phone line directly into the back of the computer?"

Customer: "Yes."

Tech Support: "Ok. And is this a serial mouse that isn't working?"

I explained to him what a serial mouse was, and he agreed that his mouse was a serial mouse.

Tech Support: "Ok, do you know what COM port your mouse uses?"

Customer: "No."

Tech Support: "Ok, well do you know what COM port your modem uses?"

Customer: "No."

Tech Support: "Uh, do you have any other serial devices that plug into the machine, like a graphics pad, external modem, etc?"

Customer: "I don't know."

Tech Support: "Uh. Well, I'm gonna have to guess here, but your mouse should be on COM 1, and your modem is probably set for COM 2."

Customer: "What do you mean guess? I told you everything you need to know! Now quit messing around and just tell me what I need to do to fix it!"


Anyone who concludes from this exchange that the customer is an idiot should NEVER do tech support.

It shouldn't take more than a couple of questions to gauge the customer's technical knowledge, and then adjust your questioning to match. For example:

Tech Support: OK, first we need to find out what kind of mouse you have. Follow the cable going from the mouse and take note of where it's plugged into the back of your computer.

Customer: OK.

Tech Support: Alright, now, you need to remember where it's plugged in because you have to plug it back in the same way, and be careful not to plug it in upside down because it won't fit that way. Now I want you to unplug it, look at the socket it was plugged into on the back of the computer, tell me whether the socket is rectangular or circular, then plug the mouse back in the same way you found it.

Customer: OK... It's rectangular

And now you know it's a serial mouse. Now you can ask things like "Do you have a phone line connected to your computer? or is it connected to a box that's connected to your computer?", etc, then lead them through looking at Trumpet Winsock configuration and COM port config and even IRQs if necessary.

How you ask your questions makes a BIG difference to how helpful the responses are likely to be. Good tech support people ask good questions. It's a skill that can and must be practiced.

>How you ask your questions makes a BIG difference to how helpful the responses are likely to be. Good tech support people ask good questions. It's a skill that can and must be practiced.

You're asking for people who are both good with computers, and good at talking to people who are clueless with computers, and very patient and empathetic on top of that. And finally, you want to pay them peanuts for this job.

Exactly how many people do you think you're going to find who are actually good at this, and want the job?

The design of this website brings so many memories. Where did the old internet go?!

In this case, its right there where it's been forever. How many generations of "front end stack" have happened while this site has existed? Is there any real feature any of those could have offered to enhance it?

Server side rendering of course! I bet those amateurs are just caching that page on the file system like cavemen!

The HTML files are on the filesystem, the rendering is what turns that HTML into graphics and letters on your screen, and it happens on your computer, like god intended! ^_^

> the rendering is what turns that HTML into graphics and letters on your screen

I use a series of -1-days in conjunction with websockets to deliver the latest hemmorhaging-edge experience, streaming the rendered byte stream straight to your monitor.

Meta viewport tag to make the thing not look horrible on my phone for one thing...

> Where did the old internet go?!

Sir, can I get you to click on the circle with the line ...

You mean the circle with the curved line and two dots above it?

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