I don’t consider myself particularly naive.
Now, this is not to say that I consider myself to be especially worldly wise either. I mean, I’ve been around the block a couple of times. Looks pretty much the same on the other side as it does here, except that their yards are a little more sloped. Unfortunately, that slope is pointed toward my yard and when it rains…
Well… We should probably address that in a different blog.
This one is actually a different story, from a different time. A time way back before I started getting paid (regularly) for splattering words across paper. In a sense it is even pre-E K. Not entirely, as E K and I were actually living together. It is just pre-E K in the sense that she was leasing me and had not yet exercised the buyout option in order to have full ownership.
Back then we both worked at a small computer and electronics repair company called MicroFix. We shared an office with our sister company, Computer Connections Technologies. I don’t know that either of them even exist anymore. I know MicroFix doesn’t because when I went to work for T&W they bought them out.
But again, I sort of digress.
You see, back in my Techie days one of the duties was phone support. It’s not that we were a phone support company, but it just kind of comes with the territory. People call with questions and you try to help them. It’s how you get paying customers who come back again and again.
Or, in some cases you can just delete the word “back” from that last sentence.
I should probably explain what I mean by that. I should also probably note that what you are about to read is true. I can make up some pretty crazy sh*t, but not this. Srsly.
I was sitting at my desk one spring day while working up a quote for a customer when the phone rang. So, being the service manager and since the phone was on my desk, I picked it up. (For the sake of the historical accounting, remember, this was pre-Windows. We’re talking about the days of MS-DOS 2.0.)
“Good afternoon,” a somewhat breathy woman replied. “I was wondering if I could ask you some questions about my computer. I’m having some trouble with it.”
“Sure. What sort of trouble?” I asked.
“It won’t come on.”
“I know this sounds silly,” I said. “But are you sure it’s plugged in?”
She chuckled. “Oh yes, it’s plugged in. It just blinks at me. I don’t get a prompt.”
“Do you have a hard disk or just a floppy?”
She sighed in a very odd manner, then breathed, “Hard.”
“Well, it’s possible you have a non-system disk in the floppy drive. Is it giving you any sort of error?”
“Yes,” she almost whispered between panting breaths. “That’s exactly what it says. Non-system disk.”
“Check the floppy drive and see if there is a disk in there.”
“No. There isn’t.”
“Okay,” I replied apologetically since it was looking like the problem could be a little more serious. “You might have a damaged boot record on the hard drive, but it’s hard to say without seeing it. If you have a system disk handy you could…”
“How would you fix that?” she said, interrupting me with a strange gasp filling in behind her voice.
“Well…” I replied, a shrug in my voice that even I could hear. “It really depends on how bad it is. We might be able to just Sys the volume and add the boot files back on. Or we might…”
She interrupted me again, her voice low and breathy. “More technical…”
“Tell me the technical stuff. How would you fix it?”
“Well… Umm… It depends. If it’s really bad we might have to do a low-level format.”
“How?” she breathed.
Her breathing was getting faster and shallower now and I couldn’t help but hear it.
“No… Tell me… Exactly… How…” she panted and now I could hear a faint buzz in the background.
I was beginning to think she was having a heart attack or something. Not only that, our connection seemed to be having issues, what with the buzzing noise and all.
“Well… We have to use a program called Debug which allows us to enter hardware level commands. We would tell the controller to access a particular portion of its onboard ROM and run a segment of code.”
“Yes…” she moaned. “How… more…”
“Umm… Depending on the type of controller and whether or not you have an MFM or RLL encoded hard drive we would type in g=c800:5 or g-c800:ccc, and that…”
At right about that moment she screamed and I heard a loud clattering noise that sounded like she had dropped the phone.
“Ma’am? … Ma’am?…” I said, somewhat alarmed.
I was just getting ready to yell through the door into the front office to have someone call the police, for fear that the woman actually had experienced some sort of catastrophic system failure of the human kind – be it a heart attack, seizure, or whatever. I figured I should stay on the line so they could trace the call or whatever in order to find her and dispatch paramedics.
Just as I leaned back and began rolling my chair toward the door, handset still to my ear, her breathless voice came back on the line.
With a moan and a satisfied sigh she said, “Thanks… Technical talk really gets me off… I’ll definitely be calling you again.”
When I hung up I just stared at the phone for a while. I felt so cheap and used, especially since I didn’t get her credit card number, so I couldn’t charge her for the service.
Hand to whatever deity works for you, true story.
I am not kidding.
To this day I wonder if it ever showed up in Penthouse Letters, or whatever Playgirl Magazine equivalent there happened to be at the time…
More to come…