back to article How one techie ended up paying the tab on an Apple Macintosh Plus

Sometimes it just works. Sometimes it just doesn't. And sometimes users do the most curious of things. Welcome to an Apple-tastic episode of On Call. macintosh plus Apple Macintosh Plus in the National Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia Our story comes from a reader Regomized as "Mark", well into his fourth …

  1. Korev Silver badge

    So Mark did what any good support engineer would do. No, not go for a long liquid lunch.

    It sounds like Mark should have gone for a nice lunch pint on the user's tab....

    1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      *FacePalm HappyGroan*

      I can't decide to upvote you & give you a pint, or to downvote you & chase after you with a foam pool noodle thwapping you resoundedly about the head & shoulders.

      I think I shall do both. The votes cancel each other out & the beer filled noodle will make delightful squealchy noises with each bonk. =-)p

  2. Dave K

    Ahh, the fun of documents from people new to word processing who feel it is a great idea to fill the document with Comic Sans and WordArt (shudder) to "show off their skills".

    It reminds me of the early days of the internet with people creating homepages in FrontPage Express that featured gawdy, blinking/scrolling text, hideous tiled backgrounds and "under construction" gifs everywhere.

    Back then I also remembered coming across a website that scrolled really slowly and unresponsively. After checking the page source, it transpired that instead of setting a solid colour background, they'd created a 1x1 pixel JPG which they had then tiled to create the solid colour background.

    1. jake Silver badge

      "the early days of the internet with people creating homepages in FrontPage Express"

      Front Page was released in '95, the Express version in '97. The Internet is a couple decades older than that. The NCP version of the network started in late '69, Flag Day for the TCP/IP version was January 1st, 1980.

      1. Dave559 Silver badge

        Under construction

        I'm not going to be quite as much of a pedant about the meaning of "internet" as jake «grin» (although he's right: internet >> web), but, yeah, FrontPage was a latecomer to the web, which had been growing and thriving for a good number of years before then: those were carefully handcrafted "Under construction" web pages, doncha know! :-D

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Under construction

          Shirley you mean <blink>Under Construction</blink> ...

          As for being pedantic, I prefer "not forgetting history, lest we are doomed to repeat it" (to paraphrase Santayana).

          Regardless of what the fanbois have to (not) say on the subject, there is a direct line of progression from the first two 1822 protocol connected & talking IMPs in 1969 to every one of today's pointy-clicky TCP/IP driven intrawebtube delights.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Under construction

          "FrontPage was a latecomer to the web"

          Exactly! I thought everyone reading here would be aware of MS being late to whole Internet thing, not just web creation tools. And FrontPage was an abomination in terms of web creation tools. It might have been easy to use for beginners, but was absolutely horrible at how it produced the code to generate a page. Of course, MS kept up that tradition with Word documents too. A "simple" Hello World Frontpage web page or Word document has sooooo much overhead!

          1. irrelevant

            Re: Under construction

            I can't remember its name now, but CompuServe had a free "homepage" generator you could use to create your HTML.. It was dire - each paragraph could be either plain text, OR a link or other element. No in-line links here, thank you very much! Front Page was a dream, after that, although even then I realised that the HTML it created was dreadful.

          2. Is It Me

            Re: Under construction

            Dreamweaver used to come with an option to strip out the extra code from Word (and possibly Frontpage)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But Bill Gates invented the Internet and wrote the first web browser, didn't he?

        And sadly, far too many people think "the web" is the Internet.

        1. Loyal Commenter

          I know you're trolling, but careful saying things like that, or Sir Tim will come for you.

          1. Korev Silver badge

            Yeah, he needs to be conCERNed...

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              You mean he will hunt down that particular AC?

        2. Tim99 Silver badge

          The Road Ahead

          I'm in my dotage now, and this may well not be entirely correct... My wife "obtained" for me one of the very first (trade) copies through our company when we were frantically rewriting much of our software for Windows 95. As I recall, Gates was dismissive of the Internet generally, and didn't see the value of the world wide web. I suspect he thought that Windows 95 and MSN would allow him to create a proprietary version - A bit like an even more locked-down version of AOL. The later Australian Ninemsn Microsoft/Packer-PBL seemed to support that idea. As I recall the internet chapters were hastily rewritten to make it an important feature, but most of us were struggling to get 19-28 kbit/s and so almost everything was still local.

          We talked to customers about "Software as a Service" on Xenix/Slackware/Debian that we could host for them, but the slow speeds for most (2400 baud), unreliability, and lack of the owners' control of their own data meant that there was little interest. Apple Macs were too expensive. Customers wanted MS Office - Screen-scraping, RTF files in Word, and CSV imports into Excel was not going to sell...

    2. RockBurner

      oh god....

      I remember working on Reading Councils website in about 2000/2001 (my first web-job*), using FrontPage...

      The horror..... the horror!!

      Icon -> what should have happened to it.

      * I hasten to add: I was ONLY making amendments, I was NOT responsible for ANY of the design or operational decisions. I was a junior, and mostly learning what NOT to do!

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Ooh! FrontPage... that sent a shiver down my spine. It's a word you never want to see. They used to teach that at college. I kept telling them that there are better options, far better. But no... they had some kind of deal with Microsoft. I've moved from Dreamweaver to JetBrains now.

        1. Lon24 Silver badge

          I would argue the glory days belonged to SoftQuad'd HoTMetaL Pro.(1995-2002 RIP). Bought and closed down by Corel - a company that makes Microsoft look ethical.

          I still have it running on a Win2000 VM to support a client who is unresponsive to my pleas for change. Says his two decade old site helps to differentiate himself from the competition - doh!

          1. F. Frederick Skitty

            HoTMetaL Pro was based on SoftQuad's SGML editing product (called SGML Author if memory serves). The technical authoring company I worked for used the latter, and it was quite neat. It had a concept similar-ish to CSS, so you could import your SGML DTD and then define style rules for it.

            It was less capable than the big packages like FrameMaker+SGML and Windows only, but a damn sight cheaper and easier to use.

          2. TRT Silver badge

            HoTMetaL Pro was a dream to use. Knocked most everything else into a cocked hat.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I *liked* FrontPage. I ran the website for an international search and rescue team, before the days of always-on internet connections. With FP, I kept the master version of the site on my PC, where I could create, edit and (also importantly for me) easily rearrange pages. Then, at the press of a button, connect to the server and sync all my changes. Sure, FP had its limitations but, working within them and not getting hyped up about the latest whizz-bang html feature, it was the right tool for the job.

          I was also a sysop on a CompuServe forum, still with a dial up connection. There was a program call WinCIS that allowed batch runs - one dial-up to download all new messages in the areas I was involved with, a time to read and reply (or block, if messages broke the rules of decency, abuse or downright commercialisation), and a second dial-up to upload my changes (and download anything new). Clunky and inefficient by today's standards, but was the right tool for the job then. When the forum was moved off CompuServe and onto a web server, I had to give up my role as dial-up was still the only option where I lived. Even when ISDN became available, online connections were a lot more expensive (comparatively) than now. £25/month for FTC broadband (which I now have) wasn't even a dream...

          1. ProfessorLarry

            I, too, used and liked FP. As a designer, it was a straightforward way to translate visual ideas into web pages. Yes, clunky and ornery and nonstandard, but it worked for what I was working on at the time. Of course, most of us eventually move on from training wheels.

            1. Flightmode

              > clunky and ornery and nonstandard

              <SPAN>, <SPAN>, <SPAN>, <SPAN>, egg, bacon, sausage and <SPAN>.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            "I *liked* FrontPage."

            "You get weirdos in every breed" ~ Hagrid

          3. Negative Charlie

            "I ran the website for an international search and rescue team..."

            Hmm. I bet I know which email client you used.

      2. Conrad Longmore

        No hiding place

        Thanks to the Wayback Machine, it's still all there... and indeed the HTML says FrontPage. Lovely :)

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      I was one of these users, used notepad then use Homestead's own tool for free websites, various other tools before Dreamweaver (Thanks to college) then moving on to PHP based CMS' systems such as e107.

      1. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

        Wow, e107. I used it many years ago for a relatively simple site.

        You reminded me of it, and I just had a look. It's still around and being updated. Maybe I should have a closer look to see how it's doing nowadays.

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

          Yes it was once very simple and easy to use, last time I looked it hadn't changed much which is a shame.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My university's "intro to our computing environment" course, which was required, taught us to write simple webpages in handcrafted HTML. That was 1998. I still prefer the simplicity of it - it looks good, it's blazing fast, and works well on just about any browser even today.

        1. swm Silver badge

          I am the webmaster of a square dancing website. I use a database (sqlite) and a program that extracts data from the database to make web pages. No scripts, one css style page. and very clean html output. My pages (some of which are long) load instantaneously. Also, the database allows the same information to appear in multiple formats (dances sorted by time, club, caller etc.)

    4. TRT Silver badge

      I'm always perplexed by the amount of time and effort people put into documents when they don't use the full power of a word processor. I mean, even Word. AND I've even seen lecturers teaching this incorrectly. Things like not using the Paragraph formatting tools to keep a heading with the next paragraph and relying on carriage returns to adjust the pagination. They change a sentence around near the front of the document and spend the next half hour going through correcting the pagination by adding and deleting carriage returns, which they can't see because they type with non-printing characters set to invisible.

      And then doing things like adjusting the number of pages to bring it into a page count limit by shrinking the typeface one paragraph at a time instead of using styles.

      And using commas instead of full-stops.

      It makes me want to weep - really, it does.

      I used to do Quark as well... transferring a word document into a page layout programme and imposing it for plate-making... there are automated plug-ins for importing, but there's a limit to how much Word dross they can tolerate.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        ... and not putting a space after punctuation so eveything,;huge;extralong,word.

        And they then complain it doesn't justify properly.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          And then there are those who put in TWO spaces after a full stop. I understand that's an accepted practice in some countries. Just seems wrong to me. Any decent optically kerning typeface should be able to make a sentence just as easily readable with a single space character.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I'll disagree there - I still put two spaces after a full stop. It's in my muscle memory - a hang over from typing and, as you say, shouldn't be necessary, but I don't see any problem with it. Some autocorrect systems read two spaces as a sentence end and enter the full stop for you.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Word now flags period-double space as an error.

              Researchers found that period-double space speeds up reading, but they used a fixed width typeface for their study - it turns out that if you use a proportional typeface the reading speed remains the same.

              When they submitted their paper to the journal, however, they did so with period-double spacing and the sub-eds changed them all to single spaces.

              Other researchers in the past have found it makes reading faster, slower and makes no difference.

              One of the last hold outs for that style, the APA, has recently updated its style guidelines to single space.

              1. swm Silver badge

                HTML ignores double spaces and substitutes single spaces. Using & nbsp; can keep the double spaces but why bother?

          2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

            Two spaces after a full stop was standard practice in the days of typewriters and monospaced fonts. Even now, if one creates a document in Courier font. Which one might do if sending out paper copies which later will be OCRed. Courier comes through OCR fairly reliably.

            1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

              Two spaces after a full stop was standard practice in the days of typewriters and monospaced fonts.

              That was an inheritance from 19th century typesetting, which used an “en” quadrat (AKA a “nutt”, which was typically around twice the width of a font’s standard word-separating space) as whitespace following the end of a sentence, even with proportional fonts. At least one late 19th century typewriter, the Waverley, followed that model: its space bar produced a nutt-sized space, and it had a separate space key (labelled “SPACE”) to produce a standard word-separating space; its space key was located at the upper-right of its keyboard layout.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Two spaces after a full stop was ::mercy snip::

                I do not know the term "nutt", as used in this context. Can you offer up a reference? I collect such trivia.

                1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

                  Can you offer up a reference?

                  I’d imagine that it would be fairly common in older books on typesetting. Some sources spelled it as “nut” rather than “nutt”. The corresponding “em” quadrat was called a “mutton”.

                  One reference is Typographical Printing-Surfaces by Lucien Alphonse Legros and John Cameron Grant (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1916). I reproduce below in its entirety the first paragraph on page 55 of this work, without mercy snipping:

                  Spaces and quads.—In addition to the letter characters, spaces and quadrats, or quads, must be provided for separating the words and spacing out the lines. These usually have the following set widths : hair-space = ⅛ body, thin space = ⅕ body, middle space = ¼ body, thick space = ⅓ body, en quad = ½ body, em quad = the body, two-em quad = 2 × body, three-em quad = 3 × body and four-em quad = 4 × body. It might be inferred that the en and em quads are of the same set as the n and m characters, but this only occurs in exceptional circumstances. Owing to modern conditions of noise in printing-works, and to make orders clear on the telephone, these are better called “ nut ” and “ mutton ” quads respectively.

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: Can you offer up a reference?

                    Ta. Yet another book to find a copy of ... The wife will be thrilled. Not. :-)

                    My lizard hind-brain suggests that I did learn that terminology long, long ago, somewhere far, far away .... but I honestly do not remember ever hearing it used in the wild. I was only in commercial printing for a few years, on and off. Today, I only do my own stationary, business cards and the like ... and I do invitations etc. for friends and family, at cost. Free for brides-to-be.

                    The ::mercy snip:: was because ElReg wouldn't let the post through. Seems the added "Re:" made the subject line too long. Not intended as a slight on your post.

              2. jake Silver badge

                Re: Two spaces after a full stop was ::mercy snip::

                "That was an inheritance from 19th century typesetting, which used an “en” quadrat (AKA a “nutt”, which was typically around twice the width of a font’s standard word-separating space) as whitespace following the end of a sentence, even with proportional fonts."

                Kinda. An em is equal to the height of the font. And en is half that. So for 16 point type, an en is 8 points. A quadrat is simply a non-printing square. An em-quadrat in 16 point type results in whitespace that is 16 points on a side. The en-quadrat in the same scenario would be 16 points high, but half that in width.

                Or, as John Southward put it in his series of articles in "Printers' Register" from 1870 to 1871, reprinted in 1875 as "A Dictionary of Typography And its Accessory Arts" (transcribed by me, from the above mentioned 1875 Second Edition .... all typoes mine):


                Pieces of type metal, of the depth of the body of the respective sizes to which they are cast, but lower than types, so as to leave a blank space on the paper, when printed while they are placed.

                An en quadrat is half as thick as its depth; an em quadrat is equal in thickness and depth, and being square on its surface, is the true quadrat (from quadratus, squared); a two em quadrat is twice the thickness of its depth; a three em three times, a four em four times, as their names specify. Four ems are the largest quadrats that are cast. They are used to fill out short lines to form white lines, and to justify letters, figures, &c., in any part of the line or page. Four-em quadrats are rarely cast larger than Pica. English and Great Primer do not exceed three ems, nor does Double Pica exceed two ems.

                In casting em and en quadrats the utmost exactness is necessary; they also require particular care in dressing, as the most trifling variation will instantly be discovered when they are ranged in figure work; and unless true in their justification, the arrangement will be so irregular, that all the pains and ingenuity of a compositor cannot rectify it. The first line of a paragraph is usually indented an em quadrat, but some printers prefer using an em and on. two, or oven three ems for wide measures, An em quadrat is the proper space after a full point when it terminates a sentence in a paragraph. En quadrats normally used after a semicolon, colon, &c., and sometimes after overhanging letters.

                He then goes on to discuss circular and curved quadrats, how to properly join and justify them, and other interesting but long forgotten lore ... but I'll spare you. If you are interested in this kind of thing, I highly recommend you try to find a copy of the book mentioned above. (There was a reprint in 2018, but I'm sure it doesn't smell right. IYKYJK)

                1. TRT Silver badge

                  Re: Two spaces after a full stop was ::mercy snip::

                  Which is precisely the point. In the days of typesetting by hand there was only one space after all punctuation. It's just that the one space was of variable size. Typewriters minimised the numbers of keys due to the complexity of mechanical linkages, hence l for 1 and O for 0 etc. Very few had multiple space bars - usually only the typewriters derived from keyboard typesetters. The double space thing was a kludge that produced the same appearance as a typeset document.

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: Two spaces after a full stop was ::mercy snip::

                    "In the days of typesetting by hand there was only one space after all punctuation."

                    Not in a properly prepared page of type.

                    When composing a stick of type, when you come to the end of a line, the compositor takes note of the final word, plus punctuation. If the final word, plus punctuation, fits the line being composed, the line is done. However, if the final word (plus punctuation) is too long, the compositor has the option of either hyphenating the word, with the hyphen being the last character on that line, or deciding the entire word will need to drop down a line. Either way, the compositor must now insert equal extra spacing between each word in the line, in order to justify the line. Note that these extra little bits of space must also be inserted between the period at the end of a sentence and the letter at the start of the next one, or between a comma, colon, semicolon (etc.) and the first letter of the next word.

                    So the spacing after punctuation varies, depending on how the justification works out.

                    Making these purely esthetic decisions is part of the art of hand-set type.

                    1. TRT Silver badge

                      Re: Two spaces after a full stop was ::mercy snip::

                      Which is what I just said. The size of the space is proportional to the requirement. OK, depending on what's available the typesetter may use more than one slug, BUT conceptually and even physically, it's ONE SPACE of variable size. Just the same as a paragraph mark should be one paragraph mark, not a sequence of three in order to get a double spaced blank line.

          3. dvd

            When I learned to type I was trained to put two spaces after a full stop. Even now I can't help it.

            Everyone thought that I was weird.

            One day we had a strange thing in the office where the word processor couldn't spot a sentence on anybody's machine but mine. Turns out the word processor (I forget what - the standard one on CTOS I think) defined a sentence as a full stop followed by two spaces. Everyone in the office had to adapt or tolerate that the WP couldn't spot sentences.

      2. Andy the ex-Brit

        It can be worse!

        I once helped someone with a Word document where they wanted a three column layout, and to achieve it had typed their text as

        Here are the first [tabs] and the beginning [tabs] in conclusion, we

        few words typed [tabs] of the second column[tabs] spent a lot of time

        ...and so on. It's not hard to do the first draft this way, but when editing starts, it's a nightmare to change anything! After I showed them how to set up their page with gutters, I was a genius!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: It can be worse!

          "they wanted a three column layout"

          One word: PageMaker.

          The only reason I ever saw fit to use a Mac. Good for single page fliers, IOMs, student newsletters, brochures and the like. For anything more complex, I used LaTeX. Still do, in fact. Old & clunky, to be sure, but my fingers know it.

    5. DougMac

      The early days of the world wide web you mean..

      And it didn't take FrontPage to produce all the hideous homepages. Most people did it by hand.

      Although one could tell instantly if it was a frontpage site just to the hideous layout methods used.

      1. jake Silver badge

        I didn't do it by hand.

        I used vi as gawd/ess intended.

    6. Workshy researcher


      I can almost understand the lure of the font though. When you've been using WordStar on a CPM machine with Courier as your font and a daisywheel printer, then suddenly finding that changing the font doesn't mean having to change the daisywheel, I can see the appeal.

    7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Ahh, the fun of documents from people new to word processing who feel it is a great idea to fill the document with Comic Sans and WordArt"

      I've put a few out of print books on the web (we decided it was easier than risking the money on a reprint) starting with the authors' WP files. Yes - Comic Sans to be changed. Layouts constructed with tabs and spaces instead of tables. Text laid out round images with tabs and spaces instead of setting wrap off.

      Well done to the original typesetters for getting it onto the pages.

      1. jake Silver badge

        "Well done to the original typesetters for getting it onto the pages."

        Just as an aside, composing with lead type is fun, and somewhat meditative. See if there is a Uni in your area that still teaches this arcane art form, and if so take a class. I'll bet you a plugged nickel you'll be pleasantly surprised. Perhaps even hooked.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Done all that. Great fun. Hot foil impression is a good one too. And bookbinding.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Foil stamping and (foil) embossing and die cutting are also a good reason to get a Windmill, should you wish to pursue this as a fairly lucrative hobby. I have a friend who does wedding invites and the like out of his garage. Only works two days a week, goes fishing the other five.

            You don't even need a cutter ... all the stock sizes (including pre-made envelopes) are available from your local paper dealer. Dies for foil (and foil embossing) are also available in standard "bells and birds and hearts" ... as is pretty much any colo(u)r of foil and ink. All you need is the one press, and a gift of the gab. Allow the Bride to "design" her invites out of the catalogs, she'll be absolutely thrilled with her very own custom order.

            Note that the Windmill can handle very small sizes of paper ... Printing individual business cards with it is easy.

            Bindery is an art-form unto it's own.

    8. Anonymous Coward

      I've mentioned these two stories before, but...

      First: My company was highly protective of its image, and any document had to be on headed notepaper and composed in Times New Roman. There were rigid specifications for the size and colour of the company logo that could not be ignored.

      This had gone on for almost a hundred years until Teamworking came along, whereupon 'the team' (aka shopfloor) decided that the new company font should be Comic Sans 'because it was more friendly and fun'. Incredibly, senior management didn't bat an eyelid and allowed it.

      Customers for whom we manufactured licensed medicinal products went ballistic as we needlessly updated ALL our SOPs - which they had to have up to date copies of in their dossiers to retain their product licenses - for no reason other than to change the bloody font to Comic Sans.

      Second: I was updating an SOP one time using Word for Windows. It had previously been written by a secretary on the DOS version. And I was perplexed that the formatting and layout tools were having unexpected results.

      When I turned on formatting view, I discovered why. It turned out the secretaries had been using DOS Word/WordPerfect like typewriters, and instead of understanding paragraphs had taken to using the ENTER key at the end of each visible line on-screen. Two for a space between paragraphs.

      And tables - of which there were many - had not been formatted using any inbuilt table functions, and not even Tabs. The space bar had been used for all that.

      Mind you, it probably explained why some of them were literally in tears when the company moved from DOS to Windows Word. It turned out they all had handwritten pocket books with what keys to press to do simple things, and didn't actually understand any of it at all.

      Yes, it raises many questions about suitable training.

      1. SImon Hobson

        Ah yes, the "word processor is a typewriter" brigade. I still meet them.

    9. aerogems Silver badge

      Have we really come that far though? Now instead of really badly generated HTML everyone uses WordPress or some similar bit of software with all kinds of JavaScript add-ons that lets one relive the glory days of XP and IE6 where there was a period of a year or two in which literally every week there was at least one remote exploit being patched, most of which required little or no user interaction beyond visiting a boobytrapped page. At least with WYSIWYG HTML apps there was some kind of audit trail. These days, JavaScript module A relies on modules B-F and those in turn rely on an assortment of other modules, and basically no one really knows just how far down the rabbit hole goes.

    10. Swarthy Silver badge

      Ah, Geocities....

    11. Not Yb
      Thumb Down

      My example of a slow web page comes from a Cable Company back when 56K modems were still a thing people could buy.

      The home page took several seconds to load on a high bandwidth connection. It consisted of 2 images of their nicely built cable back office server room, each being about 30MB worth. Click on the image, and it took you on to the actual site.

      Could tell they had NEVER tried to open it from outside the internal network, but it did look nice.

      Utterly unusable though.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "I thought MacWrite needed no explanation"

    There is no application that can't have a user too stupid to use it.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: "I thought MacWrite needed no explanation"

      Ah, Photoshop and a really large canvas! That was a good one from a seasoned PS user!

      1. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: "I thought MacWrite needed no explanation"

        Company I worked for sold a scanner with a PC when flatbed scanners had just started to come down in price, but before USB.

        He couldn't scan. Reason: scanner could interpolate to give an output of 19200dpi. And this was the setting the user had decided to use, because why would we sell him a scanner you couldn't use at the maximum setting?

        The resulting scan was larger then the HD fitted to the PC.

        And what did he want to use this massive image for? He was going to fax it (via the internal modem) to a site.

        I don't want to know how long, and much paper would be needed to print out a 19200dpi at 150dpi.

        1. Daniel Bower

          Re: "I thought MacWrite needed no explanation"

          Reminds me of when I was a trainer at a call centre at a large utility company in the mid-90's.

          One of my trainees came to me convinced the fax machine had broken. I asked them what was up and they said they did not know.

          So I asked why they thought it was broken.

          Well, I've just sent this fax [flapping a bit of paper in my face]

          Yes, and...

          Well, I still have the bit of paper so it's clearly not sent

          Wait, so... No actually you genuinely think the fax machine shreds the paper into component atoms and fires the whole lot down the phone line to be reassembled the other end don't you

          Well is that not how they work?

          1. jwatkins

            Re: "I thought MacWrite needed no explanation"

            Your fax is not a Star Trek transporter - it is a remote copier - or did their photocopiers destroy the originals?

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: "I thought MacWrite needed no explanation"

              Ah, but the encoder/transmitters that SHADO used to use to send orders in UFO had a built in vaporiser as well as scanner, encrypted digital frame store and handwriting recognition system. Quite advanced for the time.

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: "I thought MacWrite needed no explanation"

              "or did their photocopiers destroy the originals?"

              Badly adjusted machines often tried ... I can't tell you how many times in the late 70s and early 80s I'd put a stack of paper in the machine, tell it to give me 10 copies, pick up my ten neatly collated & stapled copies ... and discover the originals were folded, wrinkled, torn, smeared with toner[0], and otherwise mutilated.

              [0] On the originals side‽ WTF‽‽

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "I thought MacWrite needed no explanation"

            There are even context clues for that one, unless the user thinks the teleporter doesn't work often enough that there's a conveniently motorised slot built into the front to return the failed faxes

    2. Antonius_Prime

      Re: "I thought MacWrite needed no explanation"

      This looks like a sanitised version of a passage from the BOFH's End User Manual.

      The big heavy one, with the marks that liquids strangely don't stick too...

    3. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: "I thought MacWrite needed no explanation"

      And if, finally, you make an application fool-proof, someone immediately invents a better fool.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: "I thought MacWrite needed no explanation"

        Nothing is fool-proof. Fools are far, far too ingenious.

    4. Flightmode

      Re: "I thought MacWrite needed no explanation"

      A friend of mine was typing a simple program into my old Commodore VIC20. Not knowing what the Return key was for, at the end of each line he simply used the space bar until the cursor wrapped around to the next line.




  4. Notrodney

    As a techie teenager (back in the very early days of home computers) I received a call from a neighbour who was having trouble with her brand new PC. She was using the word processor, but it would not let her save the file. I popped over and took a quick look. The Word Processor software she was using was MS-DOS!

    1. Uncle Slacky

      Not a problem if she used something like:

      copy con myfile.txt

  5. Fursty Ferret

    "On every line, when he got to the edge of the screen," said Mark, "he TABBED to the next line. Just as you would hit return with a typewriter when you got to the edge of the page."

    Could someone explain the typewriter link to me? Why would you tab your way across on a typewriter and then hit return?

    1. Mark #255

      If you were coming from a "typewriter" world, you're responsible for CR/LF.

      And carriage return isn't simply 0x0D, it's a huge lever, on the left of the Carriage (the part of the typewriter that contains the platen [the roller that the paper is wrapped around]).

      A typist might well look on the left hand side of the keyboard for the Carriage Return, see the tab, and decide that that's the right button. Which it was, right up until it wasn't.

      1. F. Frederick Skitty

        CR/LF in the computer world is more specifically a teletype thing - it took the same time to rotate the paper feed and move the head back to the line start as it did to print two characters. So the convention of CR/LF for line endings is to do with using a teletype for I/O.

        What's interesting, is that this convention still exists in the DOS / Windows world that came about after the need to cope with the constant baud rate of teletypes. I assume UNIX printer drivers back in the teletype era dealt with the need for CR/LF during data transmission rather than requiring it in the files themselves.

    2. General Purpose Silver badge

      The user had discovered that when one line was full, tabbing would move the cursor to the start of a new line.

      Mechanical typewriters didn't automatically move to the next line. Users had to operate the carriage return lever to return the paper carriage to its start position, which was usually set to perform a line feed too.

      There are demonstrations beginning at approximately 1:46.

    3. Dave559 Silver badge

      Tab and return

      You are joking, I hope?!

      Unlike word processor software, typewriters don't line wrap when they reach the edge of the sheet of paper (well, maybe some fancy-schmancy electric typewriters might, but ordinary ones don't), so you have to press the «return» key to return the platen (the cylinder which the paper is wrapped around) position back to the starting edge of the paper and advance the paper upwards to a new line, otherwise you'll just keep typing until you fall off the edge of the sheet.

      But this (l)user was misusing the line wrap functionality as they had realised that if they tabbed to the end of the line on the virtual page, the word processor would, on the next tab, line wrap that line onto the next line on the screen (but without a line or paragraph break), which is why they ended up with a document with one horribly horribly long line a_n_d__i__t___g___o___t____s____t____u____c____k

      1. Fursty Ferret

        Re: Tab and return

        That concept I understood. The bit that confused me was the line "just as you would" with a typewriter, because he was doing it exactly as you wouldn't, even with a typewriter.

        1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          Re: Tab and return

          That confused me to. It's not like the concept of the tab key would be alien to someone familiar with typewrites. It seems like in this case we are dealing with a better fool.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Tab and return

        I had one of those fancy schmancy jobs. It would stop clicking the daisy wheel once you reached about 75% of the way across the page, then as you reached just beyond the right margin of the page it would work out where the spaces were and fill the words in going backwards along the line before moving the paper up and putting the remainder on the next line.

        It could also do fully, centre and right justified the same way but it would hold a whole line and for fully justified it would adjust the inter-character spacing too.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: Tab and return

        "so you have to press the «return» key to return the platen"

        What is this thing you call a "return key"[0]? My Royal has a bloody great lever on the left hand side that I have to shove to the right to return the carriage to the first column. It advances the paper a line, too, if I ask it to. Or two lines. Or three or four, depending on the preferences of whoever has control of the Big Red Pencil (and sometimes Blue).

        [0] You must have one of those fancy-schmancy electric typewriters.

    4. Loyal Commenter

      I hope the user in question never had to put anything into a spreadsheet, just in case he was in the habit of using a lower case 'L' in place of the digit '1'.

      Yes, the typewriter I learned to type on had no '1' key, so this is what you used instead.

      1. GlenP Silver badge

        You also had to use a ', backspace and a . to get an !

        Happy days (not)!

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge
      2. DougMac

        And O and 0 interchanged quite often.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          I even worked out a printer driver to get my Remington to print almost all of ASCII-7, eg pling=dot-BS-apos etc. but was stymied when I couldn't work out a way of replacing my fingers with some electronically controlled impact striker thingy.

          1. jake Silver badge

            ::Insert mandatory "But ASCII-7 doesn't exist, there is only ASCII" gripe here.::

            1. Loyal Commenter

              This leads nicely into the recollection that the printer "port" on the Amstrad CPC (I say "port" in quotes, because it was an edge-connector on the PCB sticking through a hole in the case) and parallel controller were cheaped-out 7-bit versions, so whilst you could send 8-bit ASCII to it, it always dropped the high bit. There was an enterprising outfit who produced a dongle and a firmware hack that would alternate the low 7 bits, and the high bit, and reassemble them, halving the throughput in the process, so you could send the full 8 bits to your printer, if you so desired. I remember, at the time, as a young teenager, that it sounded hacky as hell, and being dismayed at Alan Sugar's cheapness.

        2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

          Excel is not amused.

          Spreadsheets for data entry ought to be, but sometimes are not, set up to validate fields to check for that.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "And O and 0 interchanged quite often"

          You had both? Luxury.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        A colleague remembers working with an old-school storeman who hadn't got the hang of these new-fangled computators and couldn't understand that 1/l/I are different characters, so stock was forever going 'missing'

    5. Workshy researcher


      A fixed 80 character line?

      1. Martin Gregorie

        Re: Punchcard

        A fixed 80 character line?

        Not only that, but whole page(s) of text in which you could you rearrange the lines after you'd typed them in. Whats not to like?

        Unless, of course you hadn't entered sequence numbers, didn't have a card sorter, and had managed to drop the lot.

        1. Mike 16 Silver badge

          Re: Punchcard

          That's what the diagonal line across the edge of the deck is for.

    6. Tease'n'Seize

      One of my co-workers sends me emails with random carriage returns in them, collowed by auto-capitalised words in the middle of sentences. I eventually realised he's pressing Enter when the cursor gets to the right-hand edge of his Compose window, as if it was a typewriter.

      You'd expect this from some elderly computer illiterate, but this guy codes VHDL for a living. Scary, isn't it?

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Are you sure he isn't just typing on a phone keyboard or similar? Backspace and enter are usually next to each other.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. H in The Hague

    Some things never change

    I'm pretty sure it's 2022 now, and that all the folk at one of my valued customers, a fairly technical business, are under 50, most of them under 40. But apparently some things never change.

    Right now, I'm translating their terms and conditions into English. What program did they use to write the document? A word processor? Nope, they used PowerPoint. And how did they number the clauses in the agreement and created hanging indents if a clause spans more than one line? Did they click the handy Numbered list icon at the top of the screen? Nope, they numbered every clause by hand, then at the end of a line hit Enter, and indented the new line with spaces.

    Am I enjoying translating this document? Nope.

    Fortunately there's a remedy -->

    A good weekend to all Commentards.

    1. adam 40 Silver badge

      Re: Some things never change

      Print to .txt usually works for that sort of crap.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Some things never change

        "Print to .txt usually works for that sort of crap."

        Ah yes, I had to "fix" many documents that came from numerous sources back in the day. "Printing" to fake printer at least got rid of all the weird stuff that some users did and many different word processors did. It was almost always easier to get it into plain text first, then sort it out from there. Many's the time I used a quick search and replace on CR/LF and replaced all double occurrences with @@, repeat until no more found, then replace all remaining occurrences of CR/LF with <space> then finally replaced all occurrences of @@ with a double CR/LF just to get stuff into simple flowing paragraphs. Macros weren't a thing yet and that got most of the document in to more or less a good starting state for proper formatting. This was back in the CP/M and DOS Wordstar days when most users barely understood the bold and underline commands. People who understood the "dot" commands were GODS of formatting!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Some things never change

          "It was almost always easier to get it into plain text first, then sort it out from there."

          That's why I always type everything out in vi, and wait until it's (nearly) finished before feeding it into a program to format it.

          Which program? Depends on where it's going next.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Some things never change

      When all you have is a hammer....

      Yes, of course they have something other than PowerPoint, they just don't know it.

      1. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Re: Some things never change

        You would really prefer the documentation if Excel?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some things never change

      Their use of PowerPants doesn't surprise me at all. The younger they are, the more likely they are to use it - it seems to be the "go to" application at school these days. Need to write up an essay for submission as part of a GCSE portfolio? Easy - type it into a PowerPoint. Some teachers (mostly the older ones and those who come to teaching via the real world as a second career) do insist on Word but most just direct their class, "Open up a new PowerPoint and put your full name at the top!" (They shouldn't need to be told to put their names at the top by the time they get to secondary school but don't get me started on that...)

      Those who go on to higher education are going to be in for a shock. At least I hope they are. Someone please tell me they're not allowing people to do their dissertations in PowerPoint these days...

      1. pirxhh

        Management consultants too

        Some friends and colleagues received their professional socialization at management consulting firms (think McK, BCG etc.)

        They exclusively think in landscape mode - overly crammed PP slide decks and huge spreadsheets. Full sentences appear as slide titles and are otherwise frowned upon. Why concisely write what you mean when you can rather make people spend an hour trying to derive it from charts and bullet points?

  7. DJV Silver badge

    Manual page numbering

    I was asked if I could convert an aspiring author's Word documents into an ebook. She had written the book with each chapter as a separate Word doc. Well, fair enough, I thought - it won't take long to mash them all into a single file.

    However, what I hadn't initially realised was that ALL the page numbers had been MANUALLY inserted into the document text as she had no idea about header and footer sections, or using automatic page numbering! It also turned out she had no real idea about spelling and grammar checking, either.

    Sigh - never again!

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Manual page numbering

      Oh my god. The options for doing that kind of thing in Word have just evaporated into thin air nowadays. It used to be the way that you would write a long book... they taught that. Break it up into Chapters, create a master document to manage the style sheets, link the individual chapter documents through the master so that page numbering, indexing, contents, references etc could be handled. I presume it was something to do with fitting the files onto floppies or providing some kind of safety against file corruption taking out a 40 chapter book.

      Anyway, nowadays they'd teach you to do the whole thing in one document I expect, because I could find NONE of those options in the most recent versions of Word.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Manual page numbering

        Probably because the vast majority of users have no training. It's just assumed that they will be able to do enough stuff to do their jobs. so as soon as they (we, cos me too) outrun our skills they just have to generalise from what they know. It's not that they can't use styles or whatever. They don't know what these are- or that they exist, even.

        And should we get a hint that something like this exists and try to use it, you'd be amazed how unintuitive they can be when starting from cold.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Manual page numbering

          True. Mailmerge is an art form.

      2. GreyWolf

        Re: Manual page numbering

        Master documents + sub-documents is still there in LibreOffice

      3. man_iii

        Re: Manual page numbering

        Do it in LibreOffice master document.

        Msoffit definitely not meant for large multi-chapter books.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Manual page numbering

          Frankly, and I've been using Word since V6 at least, I don't think it's up to much for anything any more.

          Feeling sore with it I must admit. Yesterday Herself copied some text from an email and pasted it into WORD. And it wouldn't edit. Simple copy and paste of message content. I couldn't see any reason why it wouldn't. Something we've almost all done a squillion times.

          Herself said "Try it in that Libre thing".

          So we did. And it did. No problem at all.

          The problem isn't so much that WORD wouldn't treat the editable text like editable text for some reason, but rather that it gave absolutely no clue as to why not. It allowed us to highlight a section. But not change it. Nothing. No message on the screen when we tried to insert a word. Nothing.

          Tried copying an d pasting it a couple of more times. The same.

          Pasted same text into Writer and she was away.

          Now imagine some poor sod in an office somewhere. Gets an email that says "I think we should add something like this in the report.." - with a few lines of text. An absolutely normal thing that could happen in any office.

          Recipient thinks, "Yeah, sounds good, just needs a bit of polishing.". Copies the few lines of text. Opens the report document, pastes it in and then tries to make the changes. Pretty much what Herself was doing, in fact. And it won't edit!

          And they'll be stuck. Probably end up printing the email and then retyping the content. What a waste of time.

          I've no idea why it wouldn't work for that email. It was one that I'd sent to her. Nothing special about it. I've already copy and pasted other ones since. But that's not the point. It's that WORD refused to edit it but gave no error message or anything. And LO had no problem at all

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Re: Manual page numbering

            Use "Paste without formatting" which pastes only the text and excludes a chunk of other nonsense.

            Microsoft sadly uses the "We are intelligent and have to help the user, he might want to keep all that formatting from the Text. But oh no, we pasted it, but it is from the internet, we don't trust it" logic.

            1. General Purpose Silver badge

              Re: Manual page numbering

              Also, if Word's being extremely daft or simply for peace of mind, paste into Notepad and if that looks OK, copy the Notepad version into Word. Because sometimes I just want to get on with it.

        2. Alan Bourke

          Re: Manual page numbering

          Word processors not meant for large books.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Manual page numbering

            They're not meant for posters or drawing illustrations either, but some people use them for it all the same!

            If a word processor is not meant for large book, what good IS it? OK, most page layout software will have the ability to or a plug-in for chapterising, indexing, referencing across chapters, numbering of figures, tables of illustrations, appendices etc. but who can afford £400 for Quark Xpress now? Or £800 for one of the really decent plug-ins? The point is that Word *used* to be able to do all of this quite happily. OK, Word didn't do imposition, and it makes a royal fuck up of images, text flow, hyphenation etc, BUT it does reduce the amount of interfacing required between an author and a publisher for things like indexing and bibliography. I don't know who on here would even realise that there is a specific job for people who go through a text building up an index of significant words, terms, sub terms etc. OK, everyone on here probably knows it happens, because they'll all have read text books. If they stop for a second to think about HOW their text books at uni had a bit at the back that said "Operating Systems" with a sub list of subjects like Apple Macintosh, Microsoft / Windows, DOS, Unix & derivatives, DEOS, DEC, Chromium etc and all the page numbers on. Someone has to draw up a list of terms, tag them, understand their context and use, understand what people may be using the text for etc.

            I've lost my thread of thought...

            Anyway, yes, there needs to be someone to do it, and it seems a shame that Word has now lost the ability to do things like this in any sensible or efficient fashion.

  8. big_D Silver badge

    No convert

    We had a lot of problems, when we switched from DisplayWrite IV from IBM to WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. 2 users caused real problems.

    You would think that a trained secretary, coming from typewriters to WP software would understand tabs... I certainly got taught tabs when I covered typing and secretarial skills as part of my BTEC Business Studies diploma.

    But we had one user, who insisted on using spaces instead of tabs, even though we had switched to proportional fonts. The problem was, WordPerfect could cope with proportional fonts, but it obviously couldn't display them on an 80x25 text only screen. So, she would line up her spaces, then call support every time she printed, because they didn't line up. We'd then go down, show her, again how to do it with tabs, then wait for the next call...

    The other was a PA who didn't want to switch away from DisplayWrite. She was the DW power user and everybody came to her with their problems. She didn't want to lose that status and didn't want to be starting at the same level as everyone else in WP. "Luckily" for her, the document conversion software the company chose converted the text and formatting, but it was a US product and only understood Letter paper, not A4. That meant, the first time a user opened a converted document in WP, they first had to set the page size, before they could print, otherwise the printer flashed a warning and waited for Letter to be put in, or the user pressed Online and it printed on A4 anyway.

    Our devious PA wouldn't change the paper size on her converted documents, instead, she called the help desk every time she printed a document, "to show just how bad WP was, compared to DW". So we would have to go down, change the paper size and save the document...

    Did I mention, the help desk was outsourced? We worked for a large IT consultancy and the client had contracted us to run the help desk. At the end of the month, the IT Director can storming into the helpdesk area and tore the manager a new one... The manager then came to us and asked what was going on, the number of word processing based support calls was up 75% since we converted, even though all the users had been trained?

    We did an analysis and it turned out that the number of calls had actually dropped 40%, apart from the PA, who accounted for the remaining 60%, plus the additional 75% over the old figures. When our manager politely pointed out to the IT director that it was actually just his PA that was having problems with WP and, in fact, the number of calls (apart from his PA) had actually dropped significantly, we didn't hear any more about it, apart from the fact that the PA never called us again...

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: No convert

      But we had one user, who insisted on using spaces instead of tabs, even though we had switched to proportional fonts.

      So a future Python programmer then?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: No convert

        Sorry to be that pedant, but Python's syntactic whitespace will take tabs too if you prefer them or forgot to set your editor to insert spaces when you press the tab key.

    2. Martin Gregorie

      Re: No convert

      I don't blame her for hating Word Perfect. I also hated it, what with its untidy set of randomly placed set of function keys spread over three shifts, slowness when asked to scroll to the end of a document, and the necessity of using what was a effectively debugging display to fix formatting problems.

      IME Word for DOS was head and shoulders above the other word processors from that era - and was also faster and easier to use than Word for Windows too. I particularly liked that way that hitting F8 once selected the whole word, hitting it twice selected the whole sentence and three times selected the whole paragraph.

      1. VicMortimer

        Re: No convert

        I called it WordPutrid. WordStar and DisplayWrite were both FAR superior programs.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: No convert

        "untidy set of randomly placed set of function keys spread over three shifts"

        Worse, when the IBM AT came out with two extra function keys, and all of them placed along the TOP of the keyboard instead of two columns on the left, it became a pain to print out function key templates because it needed to be a little longer than A4!! Oh, the humanity!!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: No convert

          "it became a pain to print out function key templates"

          That has got to be the epitome of a First World Problem.

          It's Friday, and it's 94F(35C(ish)). This round's on me.

      3. TSM

        Re: No convert

        Did you know the F8 thing still works, more or less?

        Looks like the first press of F8 puts it into an odd selection mode, then subsequent presses select the word, sentence, paragraph, and whole document.

        But then you're still in that selection mode, and clicking with the mouse will select from wherever the starting point of the latest F8 selection was to the current mouse position. It's a little odd to get out of.

    3. pirxhh

      Re: No convert

      Once, I wrote a keyboard driver for DOS (technically, a TSR program that hooked itself to the keyboard interrupt) that introduced typos - but only when the prank victim typed fast. Hilarity ensued.

      Something like this could have helped - make the user's keyboard drop any consecutive spaces. Problem solved as now they had to learn tabs.

  9. Boolian


    Related to user training :

    After user proudly announcing mastery of the PC and having composed their first "E-mail"; I began the usual questions to ensure it was actully sent to the correct recipient, no multi CC's, that sort of thing...

    "So who did you send it to?"

    'I'm just off to do that now'

    "Sorry what?"

    'Was just popping out when you arrived...'

    Brandishes envelope, complete with stamp, accompanied by cheesy grin.

    "Ahh, no. The E-mail application isn't a word processor, and even if it was... look, do you have half an hour?"

  10. LazLong

    Beige, not Platinum

    You say your article "concerns the time when Apple was bringing its beige all-in-one Macs into the classroom for the very first time," and yet instead of a beige Mac Plus you use a photo of a post-SE and Mac II era Platinum-colored Mac Plus. Interesting choice.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Beige, not Platinum

      I bet you're fun at parties

  11. GlenP Silver badge


    I was asked at one employer to investigate some issues with AutoCad. I can't recall what the actual problem was but I discovered the head draughtsman, supposedly very clever and well qualified, had used the CAD as he would a drawing board - if two lines don't meet just draw a third over/between them! His drawing files were, for AutoCad, huge and making changes was a nightmare.

    I don't think he ever really got the message.

    1. SImon Hobson

      Re: Similar...

      Ah, an acquaintance of mine once told me how he used his redundancy money from a local very large engineering firm to setup his own consultancy - including buying the very expensive CAD software they used.

      He got one job where they had this file that took ages to load (try 1/2 hour !), and then was even slower to work with. It was a complex mechanical arrangement in a compartment - with loads of pipes etc. The pipes had flanged joints which you might expect had been depicted with simple discs ...

      When he drilled down, he found that each flanged joint was actually the two flanges complete with holes. Then the bolts all all the detailing for the hexagonal heads and threads, ditto the nuts. So someone had carefully done a detailed nut and bolt, duplicated it for all the bolts in the flange, then duplicated the flange for all the flanged joints in the compartment, ... The drawing was massive, really massive.

      So he earned his fee by returning them a drawing which loaded in a fraction fo the time, didn't slow the entire system down for everyone (multiple users running off one VAX), and yet still did everything that was needed from a drawing of that scale.

      Oh yes, this was back in the 80s, and I recall when they brought this system in (I wasn't involved, I worked in a different bit of the business). A whole special space was set up for the CAD terminals - subdued & diffused lighting, anti-static carpets, etc, etc. The CAD terminals were a piece of furniture in their own right (electronics, massive digitiser, etc. etc. all built into it)- none of this "plonk a load of stuff on a desk" business. I recall there were loads of complaints that the system was slow - but it was also suggested that the company was running at least twice as many terminals off each VAX as the vendor recommended.

  12. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Inquiring minds now want to know how many tabs can Wordstar take.

    And WordPerfect as well.

  13. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    TAB to the next line????? Yeah gods, it was probably attempting to hold a 32000-character line in its editing buffer.*

    And why TAB? How on earth does TAB get you to the next line on a typewriter? I've known people RETURN at the end of every line when using a word processor, and then complain their document is umpty-hundred paragraphs each containing six wotrds. But TAB?

    *A common way for text editors to work is they copy the line currently being edited into a buffer, so and inserts/deletes/wotnots only has to fiddle with the few dozen characters in that line, instead of having to insert-character the whole of your umptilly-hundred-K of document every time you press a key. The line is then inserted back into the main document in memory when you press RETURN or move to another line, so shuffling all that text in memory only happens every now and then.

  14. Peter2 Silver badge

    Ever found yourself dispensing training when you assumed surely none was needed?

    Passing through our office enroute to somewhere else, I noticed a user adding up columns in excel line by line with a calculator and typing the totals at the bottom..

    Unable to stand watching this, I educated the user on how =sum worked in Excel, which was met with total amazement and a comment that all he then had to do was add the VAT etc. I promptly did another column with=sum(cell*$vat) calculating the VAT and then another one with the totals, with a grand total at the bottom, and I saved a blank template for him.

    Apparently, this was passed around the team and saved a unbelievably absurd number of hours work adding everything up manually, then having it checked by different people and signed off before being passed to the accounts department who then did their own checks because errors were still slipping through.

    1. Contrex

      At one time I would have read that and assumed you had made it up. That was before I started at the office I work in now.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        The average IQ is about 100; and one half the population is below average intelligence.

        Now were they being stupid hanging onto a slow inefficient and deliberately time wasting process, or intelligent because following this procedure kept them busy and employed?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Explaining to one 'business user' that you can work out the total+vat price by multiplying the amount by

          1.15 (vat was 15% at the time). They insisted that no 'you had to add vat, so you needed to do amount + amount*15/100'

          They knew best because they worked in business. I was a mere Physics PhD

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Those guys only know UINT32 with the decimal point moved by two digits. Until recently...

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          "Now were they being stupid hanging onto a slow inefficient and deliberately time wasting process, or intelligent because following this procedure kept them busy and employed?"

          Stupid. If they wanted to stay busy and employed without taking on more work and the employer didn't understand the savings to be gained, they still could avoid a lot of monotony by using the formula anyway and not telling people. That would let them complete their tasks in a fraction of the time and earn the label of the one who doesn't make calculator mistakes, meanwhile they'd have plenty of time where they'd be paid to do something of their choosing.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Ah, but how do you do double entry on Excel, eh?!

    2. Giles C Silver badge

      My brother found one of his staff doing the same thing - he told me about a month ago that he had found out that morning when changing some numbers and finding the totals didn’t move.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        I once transferred an accounting spreadsheet from OpenOffice Calc to MS Excel. Then I had that same problem with the unchanging totals. The transfer had copied the cell values but not the cell formulae.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I discovered that as well. I always thought MS did it on purpose to show how OOCalc was "incompatible". Never mind that OOCalc could open and save Excel files just fine.

    3. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      Even with them knowing this, I once had an hour-long support call from an accountant wondering why his spreadsheet was wrong.

      It turned out that in one cell, instead of having "0.10", he'd written "10p".

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >It turned out that in one cell, instead of having "0.10", he'd written "10p".

        Given Excel's famed ability to interpret every number as a date it's not unreasonable that a UK copy of Excel should be able to handle this

    4. Fred Daggy Bronze badge

      I have seen this too. At a certain level, there are the "managers of managers" that disdain use of tools themselves. So as to never actually do any work.

      So, in the unlikely event they are required to, say, present a new strategy upwards, they simply delegate the entire task to an underling. From strategy to powerpoint presentation. Served on a platter, so to say. Of course they take the kudos, and point fingers when things don't quite work.

      In an ideal world the strategy would be developed by a team and lead by the manager. But this way, the manager, WFH, sits on the deck of his house working on his suntan.

      Unable to log in to teams on the phone during a crisis, because of "technology issues" but able to post to social media with his new squeeze during said crisis is another skill.

      (File is being compiled on this oxygen thief and will be presented, cold, at the appropriate time)

  15. PickledAardvark

    Max file length

    Those early versions of MacWrite had a max file length for a MacWrite doc of 64kB. So weird things happened when users stuffed a file in memory with loads of formatting approaching the limit.

    The Mac Plus had loads of memory -- and I have done lots of challenging stuff on 1MB.

    When Microsoft launched their version of Excel for the Mac Plus, they assumed that a Plus would have up to 2.5MB of RAM. That was the RAM size which Mac boosters typically sold to 128k and 512k Mac owners. Owing to miscommunication at Microsoft, developers wrote Excel for 2.5MB rather than the achievable 4MB in the Plus.

    1. Great White North

      Re: Max file length

      Then there is the cat in the microwave urban legend about

      the Secretary with the shiny new MAC that used

      MacPaint as a word processor.

      I will not mention the person who stored their files in the Trashcan.


      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Oh, how ironic

        A comment to an article on word processing, entered in a way that clearly demonstrates the commentard lacks understanding of the way the comment box treats hard returns, which appear to have been entered for no good reason anyway, So you get

        the resulting text formatted



        with empty lines inbetween

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Oh, how ironic


          1. that one in the corner Silver badge

            Re: Oh, how ironic


            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Oh, how ironic

              Erk... yes. And the number of times I've found text entered on web pages which has to be totally rewritten when the CSS is changed (e.g. for accessibility).

  16. aerogems Silver badge

    Vaguely similar

    Some years ago I was fairly new on the job du jour, and I was passing by my supervisor's desk as he was preparing a report for his boss. I noted that he had a spreadsheet up, but was using a 4-function calculator to do some kind of calculation before entering it into the spreadsheet. Being young and eager to please, I asked what he was doing. He explained he was trying to calculate averages for various metrics. I just stood there for a second before saying, "You know the spreadsheet can do that, right?" They didn't, they just thought a spreadsheet was a desktop publishing app. So, I gave a very brief explanation about how each one of those cells was like an instance of the calculator he had sitting on his desk and then told him about the AVERAGE function. As no good deed goes unpunished, this allowed him to make his reports ever more elaborate and he kept coming to me to come up with formulas to create the results he wanted.

  17. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Ever found yourself dispensing training when you assumed surely none was needed?

    Been on the receiving end of this with mighty Sharepoint and Workspaces. But probably, I'm simply too stupid and old to adapt to new tricks.

    1. SImon Hobson

      Ah but that's a different world. Instead of one where the developers have gone to great lengths to figure out how people think and work - and made tools to handle that - you are in MS land. There the rule seems to be that everything goes via the same sort of usability assessments - but anything that users seem to find easy is picked up and flagged for complication. And for good measure, just in case users do mange to master the new "MS improved" version, the interface will be changed in the next version.

      Not to mention, I reckon there must be a competition between MS development teams to see how many different systems they can layer up to create something. A bit like the way Sharepoint layers thick slabs of lipstick on an underperforming database in order to create something that File Manager does in a slick and easy to use fashion as a web version that runs like treacle and seems designed to make doing anything difficult. Then the Teams team come along, and add their layer of lipstick to create a new "improved" idea for managing files.

      You may guess, ${day_job} is heavily into O365 and forcing us (some of us kicking and screaming) onto Teams. Don't get me started on the number of ways Teams devs have come up with to intrude into an otherwise bearable presentation.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Having been happily(ish) using Zoom for the last three years of lockup for parish council meetings, I'd got used to being able to set my display name appropriate for the meeting, eg "Myname (Chair)" or "MyName (Dibley PC)". I've just started a new (public sector) job and we use Teams for team meetings. I naturally started looking to try and find how to set my display to "Myname (Field Tech)", but got further and further lost trying to find how to do it. I eventually browsed online to find out, only to discover "Only the administartor can set up users' Teams display name when creating the user account".


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        This last week I was forced to install the latest OS and MS Office upgrades at work. Now I’m hunting for the menu items I’ve been using for years. Again. I sometimes wonder if they alter the interface to claim they’re “improving” the software somehow, despite the real effect being decreased productivity while everybody relearns the software.

        At home I use LIbreOffice. Not only am I not paying for the privilege of an unneeded redesign, but when adding new items, they go through the revolutionary step of simply adding a new button to the interface it’s had for years. No relearning curve.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Am I being naive, but Sharepoint is... just a file server isn't it? It's just.... directories and files with a fancy user interface. That's what it looks like to me. Yet one of my colleagues has been enthusing about the five-day course he's just been on about how to use Sharepoint.

      1. A Nother Handle

        It's an interface but isn't a fancy one.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Sharepoint *is* a fileserver. In the same way that Word is word processor. Microsoft cannot help themselves when it comes to feature bloat. Sharepoint does serve files, but it does so through a web browser and can squeeze those files through a whole raft of different meat grinders. What's worse, the way it serves those files is itself based on files. So you can use it to create webpages, list files, show images, graphs, meta graphs, share files... it's a Swiss Army knife of a collection of applications that have functions that overlap with each other and with other applications.

        The five-day course will be a basic introduction.

  18. Marty McFly Silver badge

    Yeah, that was me....

    Apple ][+. 1980-something. I had learned DOS, but had no concept of Apple Writer. The very first 'typed' homework assignment I turned in was 'written' in BASIC.

    10 PRINT "The thesis of my paper is...."

    20 PRINT "blah, blah, blah..."

    Probably had to do something else to redirect the output to the dot-matrix printer.

    1. SImon Hobson

      Re: Yeah, that was me....

      Let me dredge the dark recessed of the mind ... It would have been something like :




      PR#1 would, assuming the printer card was in slot 1, redirect all screen output to the printer instead, and PR#0 would bring it back again.

      But the mind boggles, WTF was i able to recall that, after ... too many ... years ! Must be over 3 decades since I last touched Apple DOS. But I still have my old ITT2020 in the attic and boxes of 5 1/4" disks.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Yeah, that was me....


  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    My story from not much later (ca. 1996). I was the PFY at a manufacturing facility that was rolling out PCs on place of green screen AS/400 terminals.

    One "manufacturing engineer" (no degree, no clue why they dished out an engineering title) was having issues with a bill of materials he was creating in Excel. Each item was a line with description, part #, unit price, quantity, and extended price. So far, fairly standard. The issue he called me about was a formatting issue, Excel was truncating decimal points, fairly standard stuff.

    The bigger problem was that he'd type the unit cost and the quantity in the appropriate columns, then use his handy dandy desk calculator to find the extended cost, and manually type that into the final column.

  20. Johan Bastiaansen

    stupid is as stupid does

    How about people who mail a foto


    in a word document.

    Or an offer,

    in a word document.

    How about someone working in administration in a school, who was sent a list of pupils in a word document (of course) pouring over pages and pages looking for one student. I leaned over, pressed CTRL F. She shrugged and said, learn something new every day. And yes, that school does provide computer lessons.

    How about meeting someone working in administration in a school who's showing you she's going to send you an email and you sit there as she's indexfingering the entire email and she finishes by making three typos in her own name, and each time she DELs out all the way to the typo and tries again. Someone could literally have tripled her productivity by setting up her signature in outlook. This was they same school that provides computer lessons to anybody ... but their own staff obviously.

    How about getting and email from your bank, containing a PDF file that you had to print, fill in and sign by hand, scan and mail back to them. I'm assuming someone would have to type it into their computer on their end. Then getting an email from them a couple of weeks later asking to vote for their website and declare it was the best banking website in the country?

    This was not in the previous millennium. One of those was only a couple of months ago.

    1. Ozumo

      Re: stupid is as stupid does

      What was she pouring over the pages - syrup, cream?

      The word is "poring".

      The title of your post is most apposite.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: stupid is as stupid does

        Bit harsh that. we all make misteaks of that sort

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: stupid is as stupid does

        "What was she pouring over the pages - syrup, cream?"

        It's almost always coffee in my experience. Occasionally cola of one varietal or another. Sometimes some other soft drink or tea. All of the above with far, far too much sugar in them, of course. Rarely water.

        1. ya fishy user name

          Re: stupid is as stupid does

          Perhaps the poor soul was pouring tears (of frustration)? There's your salt water....

  21. Richard Pennington 1

    The first Mac I came across ...

    ... was in my first post-University job (1985-1987). It had no hard drive (but two floppy drives, one of which was for the operating system), and it had MacWrite, which we used to produce documentation ... well, sort of. It performed fine until it got to the bottom of the second page, then ran out of memory.

    At least that was an improvement on what went before. The office boasted its own typing pool. I sent one - and only one - document down there for typing. It came back with more than a hundred typos on the first page, at which point I stopped counting. The combination of technical content (including mathematical formulae) and my handwriting essentially transformed the entire document to version 0.1 of the infinite-monkey edition of Shakespeare. Plonking that (and my annotations to the first page) in front of my manager was what had prompted the purchase of the Macs in the first place.

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