Photo Diary


There was a time when I used to sell computers. In fact, I did it quite a long time – about thirteen years. However, the early days were the best, by far. Computers were new then, and people didn’t get them. And the best proof of that was always the engineering division.

I used to really enjoy dropping in on TM and the engineers. There was always some new proof of man’s inability to come to terms with technology. Nowadays, of course, we’re all used to switching on a box and seeing the screen come alive – but in the early 80s, it was still magic. And some people just couldn’t get on speaking terms with the logic.

To pick a simple example – there was a general move away from the hulking great 8 inch disks to the neater little 5.25 inch floppies. They took up less space, they were nice. And at my firm, Wordplex, the company was careful to ensure that all computers had upwards compatibility in the range, so clients would be less tempted to go and buy from someone else. So they had machines that had either 8 or 5.25 inch floppy drives. No problem.

Yes. In engineering terms, plenty of problems. It started with the woman who phoned to ask for help urgently, because her computer was “swallowing” her disks. This was not easy to resolve. An engineer was despatched, who later called in, crying with laughter, to explain that the lady had been posting 5.25 inch floppies into the 8 inch drive. He took quite a while to hoik them all out.

That was at least resolvable. Unlike the poor woman who lost months of work by carefully taking her 8 inch disks and cutting them neatly down to 5.25 inches. They were, apparently, perfectly square.

Other calls were eventually resolved over the phone. Like the man who called to say he couldn’t get his machine to work. Was it plugged in? Yes. Was the cable in the back of his word processor? Grumpily, yes. Was the plug switched on? Irritably, YES. Was he sure? Well, yes, but it’s hard to see. Why?’ It’s behind the desk. Would the desk light help to see it? No. Why? There’s a power cut. Oh.

Which pales into insignificance beside the lady of a certain age who called in from her legal practise in Surrey to complain that her cursor was flying across the screen. Questioning did not resolve this one. Apparently, if she typed “The winter of our discontent . . .” she would see “T  h   e       w   i   nt   e     r       o   f ” etc. This was no job for a menial, and TM set off in his car.

When he returned, he had to be taken to the pub to recover. The manager of the typing pool in the legal company had shown him the WP and demonstrated how the cursor failed to show proper decorum.

The hardest call he’d ever had, he said later. Trying to explain to a lady of a certain age and size that the space bar was not a rest for her prodigious bosom.

One Response to “Computers!”

  1. Tweets that mention Michael Jecks: Photo Diary » Blog Archive » Computers! -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Jecks. Michael Jecks said: RE Floppies, old tech and nonsense. Good old Wordplex! […]

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