back to article How to keep a support contract: Make the user think they solved the problem

Let us take a little trip back to the days before the PC, when terminals ruled supreme, to find that the more things change the more they stay the same. Welcome to On Call. Today's story comes from "Keith" (not his name) and concerns the rage of a user whose expensive terminal would crash once a day, pretty much at the same …

  1. imanidiot Silver badge

    Sometimes, support is about fixing idiots without upsetting them. Good people skills on display here.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge


      Are you sure? I learned IT support was most of the time about fixing idiots.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Well, most of the time it is a layer 8 problem.

        1. b0llchit Silver badge

          I thought OSI was extended like: Layers 8, 9 and 10 are Friends, Money and Politics; in any appropriate layer sequence assignment.

          1. kmceject

            I heard it as 8- Religion, 9- Politics

            1. Rich 11 Silver badge

              8- Religion

              I've certainly heard people praying for a solution, but the answer has usually been provided by the hands-on approach of the network admins rather than the Hand of God.

          2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            I thought OSI was extended like: Layers 8, 9 and 10 are Friends, Money and Politics; in any appropriate layer sequence assignment.

            You've got the general idea, but layer 8 consists of users, layer 9 of their managers (and layer 13 of auditors).

        2. Spanners Silver badge


          A "wetware" error.

      2. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

        indeed. latest idiot here...

        Day 1:

        Them: "My <ceiling mounted> projector went bang and stopped working"

        Me: "OK I will come and have a look"

        Sure enough, pretty glass dust everywhere

        Me: "I will clean it up and order you a new one"

        Back to desk, order new lamp.

        After they leave work, cleaned it up, removed the old bits, unplugged projector.

        Day 2:

        Them: "My projector doesn't switch on"

        Me "that's becasue there is no lamp"

        also me: bangs head against desk.

        Day 3:

        Me: fits lamp before they are in work and leaves projector on so they get the message...

        Them: <total silence>

        Sometimes they have me wondering if I am the idiot after all....

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          I'll give you a hint, see my username.

      3. NoneSuch Silver badge



        You can fix everything, but the user.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Uneducated users can be fixed. The stupid ones, well, we have Etch-a-Sketches for them.

          FWIW, most of the "education" issues I find with users is a lack of training in the first place. Employers often assume users know how to use their PCs and software. They assume they were taught at school or at previous employments. The users often think they know too because they don't know how much they don't know. And often it's the basics that they don't know. Something as simple as keyboard shortcuts, or even just using TAB/ALT-TAB to go up and down the fields on a form comes as huge revelation to many. They log in every day but always reach for the mouse to select the password field!!

          1. G.Y.

            old hacker

            I've been into computers for 2 (human) generations; I STILL use the mouse, so my Linux memory for shortcuts mix up my Mac and Windows short cuts

          2. RockBurner

            I'd say that's mostly down to GUI developers (on all sides) pushing users towards using the mouse for everything wherever possible (I've no idea why that is).

            Case in point - ever tried to find a reliable solution for moving a window from one virtual desktop to another in Win10 without using the mouse?

          3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            TAB and SHIFT+TAB itym, and I have to use some products where it doesn't work. And some where these keys do transport you around the battlefield but not in a rational order of places where you get to.

        2. Medixstiff

          My two favourites to use were:

          Carbon Based Error

          Nut loose on the keyboard.

          Both everyone around them would get way before the victim did.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With apologies to one of my former colleagues at a UK based support centre for a major computer vendor.

    They were overheard talking to a customer over the phone about overheating systems, and likened solder to butter, saying that it would start flowing away from the joints and the components would fall off the boards if the computers were allowed to overheat.

    This caused a lot of amusement in the centre, but I don't know how the customer took it.

    I believe that one of the hardware engineers in the associated hardware centre took them in hand and explained about the melting point of the solder used in the systems. Eventually the person involved left the centre to start up an online retail outlet that was not computer related.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It can happen

      One of the early Toshiba laptops had two power resistors mounted on the underside of the board. If the user ran off the power adapter instead of the batteries, the solder on the resistors would melt and they would fall out of the board.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: It can happen

        Was that one of those orange plasma screen "laptop" beasts that didn't even have a battery because it would only last about 10 minutes on a good day?

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: It can happen

        I've seen it with MOSFETs and voltage regulators.

        The best part was that the system was still working even though the solder around the legs was clearly liquid

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: It can happen

          Solder actually is liquid anyway atomically, if you stand your desktop PC towerwise then after a few months the stuff starts to ooze out the bottom side. Turn the PC other way up once a month and you should be all right. Pass it on.

      3. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: It can happen

        In the days of valve TV this principle was made good use of with drop-off wire-wound safety resistors that were soldered to the underside of a pair of long tags. This worked beautifully until some poorly educated individual thought they had been put the wrong way up and refitted them to the top of the tags, so a safety feature now became a dangerous heat source - cue for a fire engine to arrive!

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      I had to fix something for a family friend once and diagnosed the issue as overheating. It was a VCR and they'd covered all the vents with video tapes. There had been something on TV they wanted to record but it only recorded 5mins and then it stopped. The thing had a thermal trip switch inside and it was overheating when working. It was next to the radiator which almost certainly didn't help. I explained these things and there was a gnashing of teeth. It had been going on for some time and they'd lost countless recordings to the issue.I was then shown quite a few tapes with only 5mins recorded. New tapes had been bought thinking that would solve the issue. There were 32 of them in a cupboard still in the cellophane out of 50 bought to cure it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Those old VCRs generated a lot of heat. Because of the heat, our cat used to like to sit on top of the VCR all the time. Freaked out visitors that the cat was staring back at you while you watched TV.

        At one point the VCR acted up. A disassembly followed by a thorough vacuuming removed enough cat hair to get it operational again.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: thorough vacuuming removed enough cat hair...

          So how much cat hair?

          Around here I like to report the amount of cat hair in cat equivalents. A small amount might only be a hair ball or a small kitten. A really large amount is when you have more than enough to make multiple cats out of it.

          1. RockBurner

            Re: thorough vacuuming removed enough cat hair...

            re cat-fur measurement standards.

            Used to live with a lady who owned Maine Coons (2).

            After about 3 years I dissassembled my laptop to investigate the constant fan issues and removed the equivalent of a 6-month old kitten.

            1. Remy Redert

              Re: thorough vacuuming removed enough cat hair...

              As a veterinary assistant, I've had quite a few long haired cats that required anesthesia to trim because they wouldn't allow the owner or trim salon owner to do so while they were awake.

              We'd often remove multiple cats worth of hair from the cat. At one point we even jokingly placed the pile of removed cat hair in one of the kennels when the owner came to pick them up, which did briefly fool the owner until the cat had enough of our shenanigans and loudly voiced its disapproval from the lower kennel.

              As a cat owner myself, I regularly clean the filters on my PC that help prevent cat hair from getting to the internals and it has helped massively.

              1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                Re: thorough vacuuming removed enough cat hair...

                Yes, the proportion of actual cat inside the hair can be surprisingly less.

                Mum had a hat that was pretty hard to distinguish from a sleeping cat on her bed, you could be dealing with either or maybe you had two of them. The hat wasn't made of cat shedding though, but if I follow you, it's feasible.

          2. WhereAmI?

            Re: thorough vacuuming removed enough cat hair...

            Maine Coons are good for helping with that. Every time you open a door, multiple large hair balls waft up and down the hallway. It gets particularly bad with the spring moult and isn't helped by having wooden floors. Nowhere for the hair balls to grab onto before they get sent screaming into the night...

        2. mmlj4

          Ah, cat hair! Loved the stuff (not). Back in the 90s I worked in a TV repair shop and found any number of items shoved into VHS machines that gummed the works, but the the funniest was the half-eaten peanut butter sandwich some tyke had crammed in.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            My favorite was a friend who had a lady and her daughter staying with him (friends of his Dad.) The kid jammed crayons into every available opening of every single piece of electronic equipment in the stand... :(

        3. Sherrie Ludwig

          Those old VCRs generated a lot of heat. Because of the heat, our cat used to like to sit on top of the VCR all the time.

          A friend of mine found the program she wanted to record during the daytime would not record correctly, no matter what she did - it would be on another channel, or start at an entirely different time, or record until the tape ran out. Her husband derided her efforts, until he set the VCR for her and had the same problem.

          Then, she was home sick one day, and drowsing on the sofa. She woke up to find the cat slapping the buttons randomly on the VCR until the whine of the motor starting up. The cat then crawled onto the soon-to-be-heated napping spot and took her repose. RIP Clawdia, you were a clever cat.

    3. Potty Professor


      I had a similar issue with an ECU. The vehicle had been in storage for a while, with its battery disconnected. Upon reactivation, the ECU was found to be non functional. When it was removed from its case, the PCB was found to be badly corroded because the memory battery, which was soldered to the top side of the board, had gone flat and burst, spilling the corrosive contents onto the PCB and dissolving the tracks. Had the battery been soldered underneath the PCB instead of on top, the yukky goo would have dropped away from the tracks and the ECU could have been restored by simply unsoldering the dead battery and soldering a new one in its place. The replacement ECU was hastily modified by removing the battery and reconnecting it remotely through two fly leads.(just in case!)

      1. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: Melting

        I had a similar issue with an ECU.

        As opposed to Austin Maestro* ECUs, it wasn't so much the solder melting as not being there in the first place! The temperature gauge showing fully hot permanently wasn't the problem, the fact that the electrically operated choke didn't trigger as a result was. Simply fixed, take apart, resolder everything and reassemble.

        *It was cheap when I needed a car at short notice. Sold it a year later for almost as much as I'd paid.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Melting

          "Sold it a year later for almost as much as I'd paid."

          Including all the spare parts and the cost of fitting them?

          1. GlenP Silver badge

            Re: Melting

            Apart from the ECU problem it ran perfectly for a year. Not something I'd have chosen but it was available.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Melting

          "Sold it a year later for almost as much as I'd paid."

          That's the result of losing all value the moment it's driven off the original dealer's forecourt.

        3. Daedalus

          Re: Melting

          Broken solder and dry joints on the PCB are a common cause of failure. And dodgy switches. Over the years I've picked up and restored a few gadgets that the owners (and occasionally vendors) had given up on. Free phones (landline variety), radios, vacuum cleaners......

        4. zapgadget

          Re: Melting

          I once fixed my Austin Maestro ECU by resoldering all the joints. The MOT garage owner offered me a job on the spot when I told him how my car was now passing the test.

      2. LisaJK

        Re: Melting

        I remember in the late 80s talking to an ex Lucas sales exec...

        According to him the Maestro ECUs cost around £35 to make. They were sold to BL / Austin Rover or whatever it was by then for £28 each.

        When they went wrong, the aftersales replacement price was £850.

        So Lucas wanted them to be just reliable enough to last a year (the warranty period in those days), so that they could make a profit on the aftersales replacements.

      3. waldo kitty

        Re: Melting

        The replacement ECU was hastily modified by removing the battery and reconnecting it remotely through two fly leads.(just in case!)

        we used to do similar in our computer shop... desolder the onboard battery and solder in a replacement AA battery pack... mount the pack to the wall of the case with double-sided tape... some of these replacement packs conveniently came with plugs on the wires that plugged onto the header on the board... otherwise we just soldered the wires to the same places where the battery was soldered...

        the main idea was that we 1) removed a possible corrosion problem from the board, 2) made it easy for the user to replace the batteries when needed, and 3) alleviated these types of board-level repairs in the shop... #3 especially because there are inordinate numbers of college trained electronics techs that couldn't solder their way out of a wet tissue...

        i can't even begin to count the numbers of boards we had to replace the traces on because of bad batteries leaking and damaging the boards... that was if we could even get to all the damaged traces to replace them... the ones with through-the-board connections were especially painful to deal with when those were also damaged by the leaked corrosives...

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      I wonder if the former colleague was, in fact, one with better people skills than the rest of the team and the hardware engineer. It's very likely the customer on the other end of the phone never had another overheating problem.

    5. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Eventually the person involved left the centre to start up an online retail outlet that was not computer related.

      Did they call it Buttr?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Barely 25% of field service is fixing kit

    the rest being fixing people.

    I’ve seen techs with, to be generous, limited technical ability thrive on the ability to sweet-talk clients

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Barely 25% of field service is fixing kit

      fixing people like pets?!! Yikes! No reproduction for you?

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Barely 25% of field service is fixing kit

        We've all encountered users that we wish had never entered the gene pool.

      2. KarMann Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Ob XKCD Re: Barely 25% of field service is fixing kit

        Ob XKCD: CNR

  4. You aint sin me, roit

    I would have sacked Keith there and then

    For wondering how the terminal could possibly be overheating despite the newspaper being (obviously to a supposed techie) draped over the vents.

    Keith should have removed the paper, told the numpty the terminal was fucked, and ordered a "replacement" that they might just, if the customer is lucky, as a special favour, be able to provide in minutes... i.e one of the other "failed" terminals.


    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: I would have sacked Keith there and then

      Really? It wasn't even him that was sent out to observe the issue. The one that was sent out could easily not have seen it because of the observer effect, after all a user will even unconsciously want to keep the problem machine in view of the engineer when fault finding.

      People were not particularly conscious of the vents on serial terminals which were generally passively cooled, except possibly the power supply, in any case.

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: I would have sacked Keith there and then

        I think he was talking about tricking the client into springing for another terminal (assuming hardware commission)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I would have sacked Keith there and then

        I worked at a lab for 20 years, we had one boffin who was a bit of a pain, (his nickname was lord snooty) He wasn't just a pain to IT but to anyone who worked in any form of support, be it IT, finance, HR, etc.

        Anyway he kept moaning to the lab sparky about the lighting tube in his office being crap (it wasn't) So after a while the sparky went in removed tube, disappeared for a few minutes went back and replaced the tube with the one he had just removed. "That's far better said Lord Snooty" and never complained again!

        1. AbortRetryFail

          Re: I would have sacked Keith there and then

          > "So after a while the sparky went in removed tube, disappeared for a few minutes went back and replaced the tube with the one he had just removed. "

          I had a flat mate who often played his music too loud and when you asked him to turn it down he would always, and I mean always, turn it up louder first as a "joke" (yeah, right) and then back down again to roughly where it was before to try to fool you into thinking he had turned it down. We got wise to that pretty quickly.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I would have sacked Keith there and then

          A placebo swap out!!

          I have several PDAs on the shelf for that very reason!

        3. ITMA Silver badge

          Re: I would have sacked Keith there and then

          That reminds of an old joke I saw in one of the electronics hobby mags years and years ago:

          The owner of a local electronics shop (when such things existed) had become so fed up with "gifted amatuers" (one in particular) coming into the shop with burnt/charred/broken "bits" of components from his attempts at repairing stuff and expecting him (and his staff) to spend a great deal of time identifying them before offering replacements. Which he would quite often refuse saying "too expensive" that he adopted the following...

          Guy comes into shop and pulls out a bag of burnt/charred/broken components, empties them onto the counter and asks "Have got some of those?"

          Owner replies "Certainly sir", reaches under the counter and pulls out a handful of burnt/charred/broken bits of components.


    2. kmceject

      Re: I would have sacked Keith there and then

      I think the contract was for the software being used on the terminal, hardware was paid for by the vendor, Keith's boss, and if he had to replace it they would have been another thousand dollars in the hole, besides he mentioned the user wanted to cancel the contract due to the problems and that would cost the company more money

  5. sandman


    Vents on CRT monitors also made excellent drainage channels for causally slopped coffee. Occasionally you might even find a plant being lovingly watered on top of one.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Vents

      Many years ago, when I was involved in designing a low-cost terminal, we "solved" this problem by making the top of the terminal curved enough that it would not support anything.

      Unfortunately, we also placed the anode cap of the CRT (this was a long time ago) only an inch or so directly above the processor. That was not such a good idea. Live and learn!

      1. Tom 7

        Re: Vents

        I have made special covers for certain machines - something that allows airflow when people will insist on piling shit on top. I've even made a chimney to attach to the back of a tower PC that lived under coats in the winter. Even remembered to perforate the top foot of the chimney in the absolute certainty that someone would hang something on it. And sure enough flat caps were often dried on it!

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Vents

          "And sure enough flat caps were often dried on it!"

          Ah, must be Yorkshire, where nothing is allowed to go to waste, even the "waste" heat from a PC :-)

        2. DWRandolph

          Re: Vents

          For a time, I used the heat off my monitor to thaw leftovers for lunch. There was a paper towel folded under the tupperware to catch any condensation.

          1. Swarthy

            Re: Vents

            I used to use 'em (21" Trinitron monitor) to lightly toast pastries

    2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: Vents

      Pot Plants on top of the TV (and being watered while the set was on) used to be a common problem in the 60s.

      My way of dealing with it was the tell the customer that the Xrays from the TV stunts the growth of plants. It worked every time.

      P.S. No, not that kind of pot plant!

      1. ITMA Silver badge

        Re: Vents

        My dad (RIP) spent most of his working life as a TV/VCR engineer back in the days when many people rented such devices (especially VCRs) and they would be repaired in your front room (on site in today's terminology).

        The worst was being called to non-working VCRs. Customer would claim "it just stopped working" usually with a tape inside. My dad lifted up the VCR to have look through the front loading slot and out poured pungent yellow liquid...

        "Dog must have p*ssed on it"...

        A rapid exit and change of clothing was usually required.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vents

      Occasionally find plants on top of CRT Monitors? how abut at least one in every office.

      Even after numerous briefings not to do it people would assume it was OK as they put a saucer under the plant pot, then over watered the bloody thing

      1. Andy the ex-Brit

        Re: Vents

        My plant keeps falling off the top of my LCD and soiling my desk.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge
    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vents

      Back when phone kiosks were still a thing, and took coins, BT introduced some new phones that were set lower so that wheelchair users could reach them. Unfortunately they discovered that Friday-night drunks using the kiosks as toilets then found it amusing to direct their flow into the lower-than-usual coin slots. The result was that the coin collectors who went to empty the coinboxes found them full of very unpleasant rusty sludge.

      Many solutions were proposed & tried, but the one adopted was simple: a hole was made in the coin box, with a small pipe arranged so that any liquid that went in was redirected back out over the trousers and shoes of the originator. The problem went away.

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: Vents

        That's... genius!

      2. ITMA Silver badge

        Re: Vents

        K6 phone boxes (the iconic UK "red" phone boxes for those not in the UK) were designed with that "issue" in mind with appropriate drainage holes in the base and the concrete "floor" with a subtle but deliberate "fall" on it it in the direction of the drainage hole.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had that.

    Customer rang up with a complaint that the software the company I worked for started to cause packet loss on the machine it was installed on. Swore blind nothing had changed anywhere. I had a quick look at their system and noticed that they had patched the O/S right before reporting the issue!

    So I just casually mentioned that changes to the transport layer 'elsewhere' on the network might cause it, gave them the O/S patch number and asked if they had patched anything recently.

    Customer went quiet, said he'd go check, then called back the next day saying "He'd fixed it" and closed the call!

    On the other side, we had a 3rd party support vendor implement and configure a link back to another office. It ran like a 3 legged donkey! So I raised a call, and the Technical Manager came back and said that the speed was "normal" and it was down to a restriction on "the speed of light".

    Cue the ensuing hilarity, and the chuckles had when I finally got to speak to a techie (it was, of course, down to a misconfiguration somewhere. Once corrected, the link was fine).

  7. Natalie Gritpants Jr

    Those were the days

    I remember seeing someone go to move a 19-inch monitor and forgot to wait after pulling out the power cord. They followed the correct lifting technique and put their chest on the glass before reaching around to get a good grip on the case. Luckily their finger passed over the power socket pins before they had got more than a couple of inches above the desk, so they only dropped it back on the desk instead of the floor. I remember thinking that a spark that loud must have hurt.

  8. oiseau


    Ever set the stage so the customer thinks ...?


    I've never suffered fools/idiots/assholes lightly.

    More so when make a conscious effort to be fools/idiots/assholes.

    I wish I had a quid for each and every time I stressed on my customers (~ 60/85 fellow workers at a public office) that storing executable files in their file server folders was very dangerous, only to be ignored.

    Till I set up a routine that would immediately delete any executable file (MS or not) was stored in the server.

    And when they insisted on downloading one of the many versions of kournikova.* and others flying around at the time and wreaked havoc in their desktop PC, I did not even attempt to recover or look for any personal files, simply re-imaging it to stock configuration.

    Pay grade was not nearly enough for anything else.


    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      Re: No

      I always configured SAMBA to veto all execuatable files, so they never got stored in the first place.

  9. ADJB

    How site visits work

    Luser - My XXXX is broken it won't switch on

    Helpdesk - Have you checked its plugged in and all switched on

    Luser (about 1 second Later) Of course it is do you think I am a fool etc

    Helpdesk - I'll get somebody out to look at it.

    Arrive on site

    What won't turn on then?


    and its all plugged in?

    Of course it is do you think ect ect

    OK, let me take a look (seeing plug sitting on the floor and a new coffee machine plugged in)

    Pass Luser said plug

    Could you just hold that for me please

    Could you just plug it into the wall please

    Just try the XXXX now please

    Oh, look it started working

    All the above is said loud enough for the office to hear so when they plug it in you always get somebody who twigs it just needed plugging in ans says so. Luser id then mocked by fellow Lusers.

    Next time a call comes from that office and they are asked to check they do check not wanting the humiliation doled out to the first Luser.

    Nasty but efficient.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: How site visits work

      Dead printer, ring the user is it all plugged in?


      Checked both ends?


      Trudge down to Building 225 (Anyone from a certain Pharma recognise that?) in the pouring rain (Icon).

      6" gap between the printer & the printer cable.

      The protestations of I thought you said said you had checked the cable got a response of

      There then followed a stream of "Yeah but no yeah kinda yeah but no" Vicky Pollard style utterances in a Indian accent, while I stand there soaked to the skin dripping on the carpet.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: How site visits work

        In cases like that long hair has a distinct advantage when shaking your head at that user.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How site visits work

        Selective hearing - help desk says "Have you checked the cables?"

        User hears - "would you like some one to come down and check the cables?"

        User says "Yes"

        I know that if I get a call that states "user has checked cables", I can almost guarantee that bastard is unplugged....

    2. DanceMan

      Re: Of course it is do you think ect ect

      Understandable mis-spelling of etc. I'm hearing ECKcetera frequently now and the more it is heard the more it is repeated. The original Latin is et (and) cetera (other things).

      Yes,an admitted grammar nazi.

      1. Tom 7

        Re: Of course it is do you think ect ect

        And yet you omitted the space after the comma!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Of course it is do you think ect ect

          He's a grammar Nazi, you punctuation Nazi!

          1. Swarthy

            Re: Of course it is do you think ect ect

            Muphry's Law.

            I wonder if leaving one in on purpose would be enough to forstall other, worse typos?

      2. Potty Professor

        Re: Of course it is do you think ect ect

        My particular pet hate is the mispronunciation of "dissect". For some unknown reason, almost everybody seems to pronounce it as "die-sect". In case they haven't noticed, there are two esses in the word, just as there are two esses in dissipate, dissemble, dissociate, dissolve, and many more words that are not subjected to this mispronunciation.

        (And don't get me started on the misuse of "got" to indicate anything other than the past tense of "to get")

        Rant over (for now!)

        1. ITMA Silver badge

          Re: Of course it is do you think ect ect

          I used to get really annoyed every time I had to phone the Cumbernauld factory of a certain Japanese printer manufacturer only to be greeted by someone (not just the switchboard) answering with:

          "O. K. I.".

          It's not a bloody abbreviation like NEC! It's the name of bloody founder Mr Oki Kibatarō!

          Can I speak to "F. R. A. N. K."?


          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Of course it is do you think ect ect

            "It's not a bloody abbreviation like NEC!" - And on the flip side don't get me started on "lazer".

        2. k492

          Re: Of course it is do you think ect ect

          >almost everybody seems to pronounce it as "die-sect"

          Probably because that is in fact the correct pronunciation.

          The online dictionaries I've checked give that as the UK pronunciation, and the US pronunciation is either "die-sect"", or "die-sect" and "dis-sect" as variants.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dissect mispronunciation.

            Sorry, the original poster (Potty Professor) is correct. I have just looked it up in my Oxford English Dictionary (Dead Tree edition), and it only gives "dis-sekt" as the pronunciation. Just because it appears otherwise somewhere on a webpage doesn't mean that that is correct, anyone can put up a page to promote their preferred point of view, and there is little or no peer review to ensure correctness.

            As a lecturer and researcher in english, I have over 20 years experience in proofreading and publishing, and there are many instances of the truth being corrupted by illiterate busybodies for various nefarious (or even innocent) reasons. I surmise that the original error was committed in confusing "dissect" with "bisect", which means to cut something exactly in half, and which only has one "S" in it.

            (Sorry, I have to remain anon because of the nature of my employers).

            1. NITS

              Re: Dissect mispronunciation.

              One of my pet peeves is "zoology". It's zo-ology, not zoo-ology.

              A mispronunciation also heard recently in discussions of the zoonotic origin of a certain virus in wide circulation. Sometimes by folk with academic credentials who should know better.


              How can you tell a plumber from a chemist?

              Show them the word "unionized" and ask them to pronounce it.

            2. ITMA Silver badge

              Re: Dissect mispronunciation.

              "I have over 20 years experience in proofreading and publishing, and there are many instances of the truth being corrupted by illiterate busybodies for various nefarious (or even innocent) reasons"

              Like the word "hologram".

              The "Tupac Hologram" - NO IT IS NOT!

              The election campaign of Narendra Modi by "hologram" - NO IT BLOODY WASN'T!!!!

              Just because something appears 3D does NOT, repeat NOT make it a hologram.

              And as it happens neither the Narendra Modi "hologram" nor Tupac "hologram" even did that (appear 3D). People standing to the left of each of those see EXACTLY the same view as people in the centre and people off the far right. IF they were holograms they should see different views. BUT THEY DO NOT.

              Likewise, projecting an image that appears to hang or "float" in mid-air does NOT make it a hologram.

              Of course most know why they try to label such images as "holograms". It makes them sound (and thus sell) far better than if they called them what they actually are - plain old 3D or video versions of ye old "Pepper's Ghost" illusion.

      3. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: Of course it is do you think ect ect

        My pet peeve is the pronunciation of "controversy". I was brought up that it's pronounced "CONtroversy", but all I hear these days is "contro-versy".

        Cue lots of people telling me that I'm wrong, etc etc. But this is a hill I'll die on.

        1. Potty Professor

          Re: Of course it is do you think ect ect

          I was brought up (in London) to pronounce it as con-TROV-ersy. Just my two pennorth.

          1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

            Re: Of course it is do you think ect ect


    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How site visits work

      Like so many people here, I have had precisely this. When I pointed out the 13 amp plug hung down the centre of the front of the monitor...

      "How the f**k would I know, I'm not a computer programmer!"

      Neither are most people working in IT support. We dont expect you to be that we just expect you to act as if you are not terminally stupid.

  10. aerogems Silver badge

    More than a few times I offered to be unofficial tech support for specific coworkers I actually liked and/or who could make my life extremely difficult, even though my job was completely unrelated to IT. Any time the problem magically solved itself I'd just joke how I love it when the laying of hands is all it takes to fix problems, or that clearly it was just my being so cute and lovable causing the computer to magically straighten up.

    1. ITMA Silver badge

      I find waving one of those orange plastic "dead-blow" mallets from Rapid Racking in the air with "obvious malicious intent" in the vicinity of "problem pooters" fixes no end of problems - especially "user induced".

  11. DS999 Silver badge

    Gotta admit

    In his shoes there's no way I could have stood silent and waited for the light bulb to come on over his head.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That is just good team leadership and mentorship - letting the "new person" "discover" the solution to a problem you had fixed five minutes after you saw it.

    It is good for building morale, and it is a good learning experience. A lesson someone learns THEMSELVES will always be remembered better than one they heard about.

    1. Ken Shabby

      That Engineer, bloody useless, solved the problem myself I did, in front of 'im!

  13. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    King James I

    Was allowed to "discover" evidence of the Gunpowder plot in a letter handed to him. In order to ensure his support in pursuing the conspiracy.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sadly sometimes it's the other way round

    My experience as a "user" dates to long before I jumped ship from an about-to-be-outsourced in-house support team that just got it done. In the past few years I've watched 'our valued service partners' (go on, guess who) destaff, losing experience, and replace hardware with the crap from the channel that no body with double-figure neurones would buy. Probably earning them a bonus for coming in under budget.

    Agreed, a sizeable percentage of users are PEBCAK. I should know, I still have to deal with them, once in IT support it's Hotel California. Unfortunately many of the others are now more capable of identifying and resolving issues by themselves rather than the 'support'. Instead of relying on a helldesk to translate their clear fault description into fluent gobbledegeek that fails to be actioned anyway, I'd rather they stepped aside and gave us the tools to do the job for ourselves.

    Anon until Armageddon, as in knock, knock...

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