Sysadmin’s worst client was … his mother! Until his sister called for help

No, Mum, ‘Print to File’ doesn’t make the printer work

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On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, The Register’s reader-contributed tales of tech support tension, terror and technical tragedy.

This week meet “Calvin” who told us that “For many years our small family business had run on paperwork, but increasing amounts of government red tape meant we had to go digital.”

“After sharpening my Mother’s skills on an old Commodore Plus4, and a short-lived attempt at using a hard drive-less Amiga1200 (she was too tight to pay for one), she finally coughed up for a PC running Win95.”

Calvin’s next few years were busy.

“The first task, that took about two years, was to stop her saving everything to the root of C:/.” Calvin’s mum saved so much stuff there that “It would get to the point where opening C: would take 20 minutes before she would call for help.”

Man and woman arguing

Sysadmin's sole client was his wife – and she queried his bill


Mum was also pretty good at clicking "Print to File" instead of just "Print".

“Usually, at this point, she would keep trying to print until the entire 200MB HDD was filled with copies of the document she wanted, before calling me.”

Calvin’s Mum never shut her PC down. Which became important when she took a holiday and actually found the Off button before she left.

This made life interesting for Calvin’s sister, who had left most of all this newfangled computer stuff to Mum but was now forced to confront the beast.

The fun started at 6:00PM on a Friday evening when Calvin’s sister said she was staying a little longer to print some documents.

At 9:45PM the same night, Calvin’s sister called, in a state of some agitation, to report that she’d been waggling the mouse for hours “AND THE @#$%&! COMPUTER WON'T WORK!"

“Is it switched on,” Calvin asked.

“Yes,” was the rapid and ratty response. “I can see the little green light under the @#$%&! screen.”

At which point Calving explained the screen was a screen and the computer was another box entirely.

“What?” was the next retort, followed by some insistent commentary to the effect that Calvin’s sister was not stupid and knew just what was what and which thing was where.

Calvin resolved to be a supportive sibling, so asked his sister if she’d ever noticed “that big, beige box under the desk?”

“That is the computer,” he explained. “The screen is just a screen.”

Cue more loud and impolite denials of Calvin’s competence, a quick explanation that the small, top, button opened the CD-ROM and the large, round button below would turn on the computer, grudging compliance and then … click …. nothing.

Calvin’s sister had hung up the phone.

Calving says that to this day he’s never received a word of thanks and his sister denies the whole incident ever happened.

Has doing tech support for your family ended in tears? If so, write to On-Call and we’ll try our best to share your story without destroying relationships! ®

Bootnote: "@#$%&!" are called "Grawlixes", which is a wonderful word.


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