Nerds with a problem find that assistance is off-line
Computer helpline promises are not what they seem, writes Colin Brown
Thursday 26 December 1996
The tree fairy arrived early, in November, with a personal computer promising "effortless access to all the fantastic built-in software and on-line facilities" for "adults and children alike". The Packard Bell executive multi-media, packed with pounds 1,000 of software installed in the factory, will be one of the best sellers this Christmas, and "adults and children alike" will be dialling the help number.
It was comforting to see it flashing on the screen as I prepared to plunge into the world of PC nerds. I had a bewildering range of options - take a virtual-reality trip around the Louvre, explore the sea with a dolphin, make my own Batman and Robin cartoon, play the computer chess, learn French with Asterix, or enter the Internet through Planet Oasis. But I had a more mundane task first: to write a report and file it to the Independent. I had been doing this without a hitch on a laptop, and knew there was something to do with a thing called a modem before I could hook up.
I looked up modem in the quick-start guide. It offered advice on how to send a fax from Windows 95, from paper, how to access the Internet. Page 64 was headed "using a modem"; underneath was a section on "fax/modem set-up and diagnostics". It seemed pretty straightforward. "Clicking Start, Settings, Control Panel and Modems successively brings you in the Modems Properties screen." That is where I made my first mistake. I entered the right dial-up numbers, sat back, and waited for the connection. I got an irritating "bing" before being told the other modem was not responding. It was clear from the noise emanating from my twin speakers that it had responded. Something was wrong.
I twiddled with the settings, and got nowhere. Then I remembered the helpline number. Engaged. I tried again. Still engaged. I tried at night. Engaged. I tried in the morning. Engaged. I tried another number for Packard Bell. They advised me to ring another number. It was the same number I started with. And it was still engaged.
I continued fiddling with the settings. Bored, I tried the Internet. Now I ran into real trouble. An error sign said I had committed an illegal act! Worse, the computer moaned "Oh, no" - a noise which sounded as if it was borrowed from the Simpsons television cartoon.
I tried the help line at all hours of the day. It was constantly engaged. Things were getting pretty desperate. Child's play had defeated me.
As the days grew into a week, I tried at all times of the day and the evening to get through. The constant beeping of the engaged tone was beginning to disturb my sleep. I woke at four one morning and finally snapped. I telephoned the helpline. Outside, the moon was up. Britain was gently sleeping. And the call was answered.
The software expert was all caring, like a Samaritan helper for suicidal computer nerds. "We do get pretty busy. The busiest times are at the weekend. It usually gets busy again at about 8am, and then all day until about 1am. Then it tails off a bit."
Sleepless computer nerds all over Britain were queuing up even now but he listened to the problem and suggested the simplest solution would be to start from the beginning again, by restoring all the software to the factory settings by using the master disk.
Since then, I have not looked back. I discovered the modem program I was using was the wrong one - I should have used something called the "HyperTerminal". There are still a few problems. I still cannot find the pounds sign in the word-processing system. And every time I try to call up the CD system in the Navigator room, I get the following message: Unable to launch c:\voyetra\voyetra\windata\audiosta.exe. But who cares? I can phone the software helpline again. I will not give you the number: it will only add to their queues.
- 1 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 2 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 3 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...
£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...