On call As the weekend approaches, think of those unfortunate people forced to, you know, deal with real users. Maybe buy a beer after spending a moment with our usual On Call column.
Today's story, of a reader we will call "Anthony", takes us to the heady days of Britpop, the Spice Girls and Windows 95.
While the rest of Blighty was delighting in Cool Britannia, Anthony worked in Glasgow for an engineering company that will remain nameless. It was, Anthony told us, consisting primarily of employees proud to declare that "they don't understand these things on the computer."
A perfect place to inflict the latest and greatest Microsoft, right?
"We were conditioning a new department with a PC with Windows 95 for the first time," Anthony told us, "and it was the morning of the launch."
The machines were huge beige boxes, stamped with the Compaq brand. Some lucky desktop computers were even equipped with CD-ROM drives. And, of course, everyone had the ubiquitous floppy drive then.
It was outlined as a challenging day. "I was the walker," said Anthony. This meant that he would not be able to hide behind a phone or a ticket sales system since users turned on their machines for the first time.
Windows 95 was a big change with respect to Windows that had preceded it. Gone are the familiar Program Manager environments, to be replaced by a Start button, a taskbar and the glory of 3D Pinball (although we imagine that such fripperies as the Plus package! They were frowned upon).
Anthony was available to answer, in his words, " any question". How to log in to the computer, access email, search for applications, etc. Virtually anything related to the computer that users could find.
Therefore, he was confident when a user waved, needing help.
The gentleman in question, Anthony recalled, "seemed to be doing okay, but said he had a question …"
"Do you see that Recycle Bin there, on the screen?" The user asked.
"Does anyone come and empty that?"
Anthony looked at him for a few seconds before carefully demonstrating the arcane art of the right click.
Then he backed away slowly, no doubt making a mental note to speak quietly with whom he gave the training.
Thanks in part to his impressive mouse skills, Anthony eventually rose to the position of Network and Infrastructure Supervisor. These days he is an IT director and, we imagine, he has an amount of PFY on hand to deal with the arduous task of right-clicking.
Have you ever had to explain what all those annoying little images really mean on the screen? You definitely have. And you should definitely send an email to On Call to tell us all about it. ®