Help! My mouse climbed a wall and now it doesn't work right

Support chap learns users will try to solve problems in non-obvious ways

On Call As another week drains down the plughole of history, it's time for The Register to once again deliver a fresh instalment of On Call – our weekly reader-contributed tale of tech support torments and triumphs.

This week, meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Barry," who shared a story from the early 1990s, when he was a student of IT. One summer, Barry scored a gig as a tech intern at an architecture firm.

"It was still the time of such things as 5 1/4" floppy disks, and mice were still a novelty," he told On Call.

Such a novelty that Barry soon found himself answering a call from an architect who complained his mouse couldn't reach the top half of his screen. The mouse pointer would make it halfway up the screen, then stop.

As Barry strode off to visit the user, he imagined that perhaps the mouse ball had become dirty – a common problem back in the day when mice detected motion using rollers that grazed a sphere lodged within the innards of the digital rodent. As users moved their mouse, the ball dragged along their desks and started spinning, moving the rollers and eventually causing the pointer to move.

These mouse balls would sometimes pick up lint and gum up the rollers inside the mouse, so Barry's hypothesis was apt for the era.

It was also wrong in this instance. The ball was fine. Instead, the problem was that the architect was unaware that it was possible to pick up a mouse and relocate it without the pointer moving from its current position.

Instead, the architect moved the mouse as far as it could go, which wasn't very far, as mice of the time were connected to PCs by cords.

"He had moved the mouse further and further on his desk to the point at which it was ascending the wall behind it, and he had reached a point where he simply could not reach any higher," Barry told On Call.

Standing up to push a mouse up a wall was not behavior Barry had ever anticipated.

"I must admit I blinked a few times and paused before quietly and gently explaining the radical solution to his problem," Barry told On Call.

The architect took it surprisingly well.

"Thankfully he did not get defensive, but simply accepted the news silently and continued about his day," Barry told On Call.

The experience remains fresh in his mind to this day because it taught an important lesson: "You can never assume anything about users," Barry wrote.

What's the oddest thing you've seen a user do? Share your story by clicking here to send On Call an email and we may feature the follies you fixed on a future Friday. ®

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