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Ten Types of Computer Users
1. El Explicito - "I tried the thing, ya know, and it worked, ya know, but now
it doesn't, ya know?"
Advantages: Provides interesting communication challanges.
Disadvantages: So do chimps.
Symptoms: Complete inability to use proper nouns
Real Case: One user walked up to a certain Armenian pod manager and said,
"I can't get what I want!" The pod manager leaned back, put his
hands on his belt-buckle, and said, "Well, ma'am, you've come to
the right place."
2. Mad Bomber - "Well, I hit ALT-f6, shift-f8, CNTRL-f10, f4, and f9, and now it
looks all weird."
Advantages: Will try to find own solution to problems.
Disadvantages: User might have translated document to Navajo without meaning to.
Symptoms: More than six stopped jobs in UNIX, a 2:1 code-to-letter ratio
Real Case: One user came in complaining that his WordPerfect document was
underlined. When I used reveal codes on it, I found that he'd
set and unset underline more than fifty times in his document.
3. Frying Pan/Fire Tactician - "It didn't work with the data set we had, so I
fed in my aunt's recipe for key lime pie."
Advantages: Will usually fix error.
Disadvantages: 'Fix' is defined VERY loosely here.
Symptoms: A tendancy to delete lines that get errors instead of fixing them.
Real Case: One user complained that their program executed, but didn't do
anything. The scon looked at it for twenty minutes before
realizing that they'd commented out EVERY LINE. The user
said, "Well, that was the only way I could get it to compile."
4. Shaman - "Last week, when the moon was full, the clouds were thick, and
formahaut was above the horizon, I typed f77, and lo, it did
Advantages: Gives insight into primative mythology.
Disadvantages: Few scons are anthropology majors.
Symptoms: Frequent questions about irrelavent objects.
Real Case: One user complained that all information on one of their disks
got erased (as Norton Utilities showed nothing but empty
sectors, I suspect nothing had ever been on it). Reasoning
that the deleted information went *somewhere*, they wouldn't
shut up until the scon checked four different disks for the
5. X-user - "Will you look at those. . .um, that resolution, quite
Advantages: Using the cutting-edge in graphics technology.
Disadvantages: Has little or no idea how to use the cutting-edge in graphics
Symptoms: Fuzzy hands, blindness
Real Case: When I was off duty, two users sat down in front of me at DEC
station 5000/200s that systems was reconfiguring. I
suppressed my laughter while, for twenty minutes, they sat
down and did their best to act like they were doing exectly
what they wanted to do, even though they couldn't log in.
6. Miracle Worker - "But it read a file from it yesterday!" 'Sir, at a guess,
this disk has been swollowed and regurgitated.' "But I did
that a month ago, and it read a file from it yesterday!"
Advantages: Apparently has remarkable luck when you aren't around.
Disadvantages: People complain when scons actually use the word 'horse-puckey'.
Symptoms: Loses all ability to do impossible when you're around. Must be
the kryptonite in your pocket.
Real Case: At least three users have claimed that they've loaded IBM
WordPerfect from Macintosh disks.
7. Taskmaster - "Well, this is a file in MacWrite. Do you know how I can upload
it to MUSIC, transfer it over to UNIX from there, download it
onto an IBM, convert it to WordPerfect, and put it in three-
Advantages: Bold new challanges.
Disadvantages: Makes one wish to be a garbage collector.
Symptoms: An inability to keep quiet. Strong tendancies to make machines
do things they don't want to do.
Real Case: One user tried to get a scon to find out what another person's
E-mail address was even though the user didn't know his
target's home system, account name, or real name.
8. Maestro - "Well, first I sat down, like this. Then I logged on, like
this, and after that, I typed in my password, like this, and
after that I edited my file, like this, and after that I went
to this line here, like this, and after that I picked my nose,
like this. . ."
Advantages: Willing to show you exactly what they did to get an error.
Disadvantages: For as long as five or six hours.
Symptoms: Selective deafness to the phrases, "Right, right, okay, but what
was the ERROR?", and a strong fondness for the phrase, "Well,
I'm getting to that."
Real Case: I once had to spend half an hour looking over a user's shoulder
while they continuously retrieved a document into itself and
denied that they did it (the user was complaining that their
document was 87 copies of the same thing).
9. Princess (unfair, perhaps, as these tend, overwhelmingly, to be males) -
"I need a Mac, and someone's got the one I like reserved,
would you please garrote him and put him in the paper
Advantages: Flatters you with their high standards for your service.
Disadvantages: Impresses you with their obliviousness to other people on
Symptoms: Inability to communicate except by complaining.
Real Case: One asked a scon to remove the message of the day because he
(the user) didn't like it.
10. Complete Idiot - "Why can't I copy this 25 megabyte text file onto a 360K
Advantages: Believe anything that you tell them, because they don't
have a clue. Often observed wearing aluminum foil
under hat or garlic around neck to ward off evil
Disadvantages: Cannot follow directions. Doesn't grasp simple
concepts, like the meaning of the word "no."
Symptoms: Holding hands under monitor during power failure,
hoping to catch letters as they fall off of screen.
Also observed playing Van Halen tape in Commodore-64
cassette drive, trying to get a transcript of the lyrics.
Most likely to have a bottle of white out next to monitor.
Real Case: User once wrote program for simulations class that
created 25 megabyte output file of every possible way to
safely put 8 queens on a chess board, using "*"'s to draw
board. Insisted that instructor wanted this printed and
handed in. (Instructor only wanted to know the number.)
User wouldn't take the hint when her access to all line
printers was revoked after trying to print this file 4
times. Decided to slip it by and print to Diablo 630
daisywheel printer. Result: 14 pages of output and a
broken "*" on the printwheel before the file and program
were deleted with the permission of the instructor.
Fourth year computer science student that couldn't figure
out that in the best case, this file would take 4965 pages
(2+ boxes of paper) and 7.6 days to print.
Career Path: Gets programming job at Microsoft writing next version
of Windows. Gets PhD in Artificial Intelligence, since
they lack any natural intelligence. Dies of
electrocution using hair dryer in pool, despite safety
labels and tags.
(The irony of this is that this individual was later hired as the Academic
Computer Center manager, and she spends her day screaming at students who
print 2 copies of their resume on a laser printer.)
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