Reality Support (from Stuart Whelan)
Many, many years ago I used to be on-call support for the local hospital and emergency department. The IT system consisted of Wyse serial terminals connected to a Sun system running RealityDB. The software was PMS, the Patient Management System, and I dealt with PMS every day, all day.

I should note, RealityDB had the best error message I have ever seen in my career: “Reality is corrupted”. And also my favorite confirmation message: “Are you sure you wish to destroy Reality?”

Anyway, most of the on-call support calls consisted of telling the users to check the contrast and brightness, press enter 3 times, press Control-Q, then turn the terminal off and on again. But two calls really stood out through the haze.

One was on a Friday night, and came in while my friends and I were indulging in our weekly “rent the worst movie you can find.” When then the pager beeped, I wrenched myself back into reality and went to the nearest payphone.

The number went through to the Cardio Department. Specifically, a concerned doctor: his “terminal” was telling him that “someone was performing an illegal operation.”

I really wanted to tell him to get an orderly and go check all the ID’s of the people in the operating room, but I didn't. It was one of these new fangled Windows 95 machines, which he was using for the first time.

The second call I remember happened in the middle of the afternoon. It was someone from ICU (Intensive Care Unit) with the usual problem description “PMS is not working.” I ran through the usual list: contrast, brightness, enter three times, control Q, switch it off, and switch it on. And then, all of a sudden, I heard the alarms start blaring over the phone. And then the shouting. The phone went dead.

I found out later that someone had moved the terminal from the white power outlet to the red one. Although the outlets are more protected these days, back then, the color red was the only indicator that the outlet was exclusively for life support equipment.

Apparently, the terminal tripped a breaker, or blew a fuse, or something (I never got a straight story), and all the life support equipment attached the circuit stopped. Nobody died, but the nursing staff were kept very busy with hand-held respirators for a while.


Telephatic Support (from Matt Westwood)
I’ve had the pleasure of working tech support for a company that had a large employ of slightly less than sophisticated computer users with slightly less than understandable accents. The first time I received a call like this, I was surprised.

"Hello, Matt here."

"It's Bubba, Ah've got a prahblem with mah prohgram."

"Which program would that be, Bubba?"


I had since learned to ask different questions.


New Thing Support (from Joakim)
I recently took a call from someone who was having trouble with his new computer: his Internet Explorer got a new “thing” showing that he hadn't seen before. He couldn’t quite describe it, aside from calling it “weird” and having all sorts of “computery symbols” and what not.

My first thought was that it was an error message, but it turned out that wasn’t the case. I figured it was a toolbar, so I guided him to open the browser, and click an empty area so he could uncheck whatever new toolbar he got. That didn’t help the problem one bit, and I had still had idea what he was talking about, so I figured a screenshot was in order.

After a grueling thirty-minute exercise of locating the Print Screen PRT SC key, loading Paint, pasting, saving, and then emailing, I waited another few minutes for the rather large attachment to show up. When I opened the attachment, this is what I saw.

My palm immediately and instinctively went to my forehead.

I'd love to hear your tech support stories; go ahead and send them to me!