Say what? Three unfortunate users in need of a tech translator

In these classic tech support stories, simple computer tasks become complicated when communication breaks down

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"What was the game your kids were playing on it?" I asked. "I don't know," the customer replied. "It was some game your company put on it -- something called 'Shmoss.'"

I thought about it, and a bell went off in my head. I said, "I've never heard of that. Can you spell 'Shmoss' for me?"

The customer said, "C-M-O-S, from some company called 'Buy Us.' Spelled B-I-O-S."

It would be easier without all these disks

I received a call from a frustrated customer insisting that the manual to a new database program they'd recently purchased was incorrect.

The customer was trying to install the program and claimed to have followed the steps in the manual to the letter, but it still wasn't working. The customer said they needed a new manual -- the right manual.

I got the customer to calm down enough to walk through the steps with me. I opened my copy of the manual and made sure the customer was on the same page. This was back in the day with floppy disks, so I asked if they had all the disks there and ready to use as needed. The customer did.

It seemed like we were set up for success. Together, we read the first step: "Put in Disk #1 and type blah-blah-blah, then press Enter." This went fine, so we continued. Then we reached this step: "Put in Disk #2 and type blah-blah-blah, then press Enter."

At this point, the customer grew frustrated again, saying it wasn't working. I asked for a description of what was happening.

The customer said, "OK, I put in the second disk and did what it says, and here's where the trouble starts. Let's overlook the fact that I don't see the computer doing what the manual tells me it should be doing after hitting Enter. But then the manual says the next thing to do is put in a third disk. There is no way in hell a person could possibly get yet another floppy disk stuffed into that little slot! The manual is wrong!"

As in these three problems, it's amazing how quickly troubleshooting can go once little misunderstandings are cleared up.

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This story, "Say what? Three unfortunate users in need of a tech translator," was originally published at Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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