Computer Newbie Stories

I remember in my newbie days I was trying to e-mail someone a file and I somehow screwed up the attachment or the ISP did - all I know is when I checked my sent file it showed a link to the directory the file was in on my computer, and strangely, it would expand up and contained “links” to my entire C drive. I had several long moments of panic thinking I’d accidently e-mailed my entire computer to someone. I can’t remember what I would have had on there that I would have been embarrassed about, as this was well before I had any … um… compromising pictures of myself, but I was in near hysterics thinking this person would have total access to my computer.

I believe I called Earthlink (my ISP at the time) and asked them how I could get back that e-mail. They must have been laughing their tails off at the silly twit who thought she e-mailed the contents of her entire C Drive to someone. I remember they were very kind when the explained that what I thought happened was impossible and all the person could see were file names and that they didn’t have access to those same files.

So what stupid and/or embarrassing things did you do when new to computers or or the internet?

When we got our first computer, my wife discovered that she wasn’t limited to the boring mouse pointers that come with Windows. She went on a spree, downloading every pointer set she could find that struck her fancy.

Once they were downloaded, she didn’t like the idea of all of them being in the same directory. It seemed wrong to her. She wanted two dimensional in one directory, 3D in another and, for God’s sake, let’s not mix colors.

While I was out having a beer, she created folders and moved all of them where she felt they belonged. Then, because she had no use for the original, she moved them to the trash.

When I came home, she was sitting very still in front of the computer with her hands in her lap, very carefully not touching anything. She realized she’d messed something up and wanted me to fix it.

I tried explaining soft links to her, but she was having none of it.

She might be embarrassed about the story, but I’ve always thought it was one of those things that makes her smarter than me. She recognized she made a mistake and waited for someone who understood it to fix it. I would have rushed right in and made it worse.

But I still chuckle when I think of her sitting in front of the computer doing nothing very, very carefully.

I used to think that you had to be online to write email (I realized you had to be connected to send and receive email, of course). Since I was on dialup at the time as most of us were in 1994, and I sometimes wrote long emails (still do), I didn’t want to tie up the phone line and use up my precious few five hours I was alloted each month before surcharges kicked in, so I composed most of my emails in Notepad before copying them to the email (AOL at the time) when I was connected.

It also took me a little while to figure out how to use the UUE encodings in the binary newsgroups (yes, the porn groups, in case you’re wondering). I thought the random strings of text that came up would generate the desired file, so I’d save these p,ain text files as file0001.jpg, for example, and expect am image to come up when I opened it. I soon figured it out that you needed a separate decoding application to generate the viewable file. This was before I had Forte Agent, which automatically decodes binary newsgroup posts.

Back in the dark ages, as part of a TAG class we were learning to write BASIC programs on AppleIIs.

The teacher kept harping on us to always remember to type NEW at the command line before loading in a new program; otherwise, if there was another program in memory, the new program would just overwrite some of the lines and you’d have a bunch of garbage intermixed with your program.

So I thought, “Ha, I’ll just automate it!” So I made my program:

10 NEW

So, of course, whenever I tried to run my program, when the first line was executed, it would wipe my program out of memory and nothing will happen.

I figured it out my own, though, without embarassing myself publically. This was the first of many debugging triumphs in my career. :wink:

My older brother have always been the computer person in our family (of course, he’s the one who has a computer science degree :rolleyes: ) and I guess because of him, I got into the internet before many of my peers. However, when I started, our home had limited internet access, and I was not allowed to use up our “minutes” because my brother might need them for something “important”, so the only place I could learn was at the library. My brother set up email for me, and tried to teach me how to use the internet. Unfortunately, the only thing that go through to me was the email part, and I thought the internet just consisted of emails, and since my friends didn’t have any internet knowlege, there was no one I could send emails to. So, I’d just sit there staring at the screen, baffled at why my brother thought this was so fascinating.

Then I learned that I could actually type stuff onto the address bar and look at other stuff. :o

This is so embarrasing I wish I could post it anonymously. I knew just enough about computers to screw them up royally. One day, I thought I’d help my dad out by cleaning out old files and stuff on his computer. So I erased that pesky “.” file that I couldn’t see any purpose for.

Yes, he lost everything. I pretended not to know what happened.

slinks off to hide somewhere

When I moved into the operations area of a bank I worked for I had to learn DOS in order to work the PC’s. I had owned a PC for awhile, but was more into BASIC than DOS. When I figured out the DOS shortcut * (a wildcard meaning "any character or combination of characters) I was elated. I had to clean up certain old files off the tiny hard drive fairly often in order to make room for newer files. The first time I used the * command I forgot I was in the root of the hard drive and did not specify a sub directory. I just typed “del c*.*”, thereby wiping out every file on the PC that started with the letter “c”. You know, as in “collections”. Four years worth of collection data gone in one fell swoop. My boss was livid, but did not fire me - mainly because he should have been backing up the files but didn’t. He would have had a hard time explaining that to his boss. That’s when I was introduced to, and became fast friends with, the Norton Utilities. I managed to recover about 95% of the files.

For those of you who owed money to a certain Southeastern US bank in the early 90’s but suddenly, mysteriously quit getting notices, you’re welcome.

Ahahahaha. Since I was really a child of the 90s, I was never clueless at computers. I am the one in my family who knows the most about computers. I ROCK.

I did something similar when trying to recover some lost chains. Nothing actually got erased but every program was rendered unusable until a tech fixed the filenames.

As a freshman in college at Wisconsin, I had just finished keypunching my first assigned computer program for my introductory programming class. I carefully carried the deck of cards to the card reader on the big machine sitting off in the corner. Flush with excitement, I hit the Start button. The cards fluttered a bit and zipped their way through the reader. To my sheer joy, the attached printer started making all sorts of noises, and behold it began to print!

I eagerly ripped off the paper and began to search the printout to see if my program actually did what I believed I programmed it to do. Oddly, there was nothing there but a printoff of my keypunched program. Puzzled, I did it all again. Still nothing.

Hmmm. I must have really bolluxed up the coding. I carefully reviewed it again but couldn’t find any obvious error. By this time I’m wondering if maybe a Computer Science degree wasn’t the best of all possible choices to make.

So, chagrined, I take my deck of cards and the printouts to one of the volunteer advisors down in the bowels of the Comp Sci building and explain my problem. He frowns and asks “where did you say you submitted your card deck?” I pointed to the big machine in the corner.

I could tell right away from his reaction that something wasn’t right. I could tell he was doing his best to keep from laughing. He mustered enough composure however to kindly tell me that the big machine I read my card deck through was not the computer. It was just a machine to read the cards and print what was on them so that the programs could more easily be debugged. To actually compile and run the program I was supposed to submit them to the little window over there.


See. I thought… Huh? No. You see, this was 1971. Yeah, we wrote our programs onto keypunch coding sheets and then physically punched the cards ourselves. Then we had to carry our card decks over to an operator who would run them on the computer. We’d get a printout of our results the next day.

Huh? No, I’m not kidding. Really. I’m serious. Why would I kid about a thing like that? Yes. A keypunch machine.

Stop laughing.

Sheesh. Kids nowdays.

Hm, about the only blatant bonehead newbie thing I can think of right now is when I posted some forwarded crap to a mailing list “because I thought you would all enjoy it” and got royally roasted for it.

Beyond that, just goofy things that I can laugh at now. Like choosing my first e-mail provider very carefully because I thought AOL people could only send e-mail to other AOL people, Prodigy to Prodigy, etc.

Then there’s the first backup I ever made. Backed up the entire HD of my brand-spanking-new 486, all 160 MB, to FLOPPIES. (Hey, I was just following the directions.) Backup Disk 1, Backup Disk 2, . . . Backup Disk 104, Backup Disk 105 . . .

Me? Well, I dismembered the first floppy disc I ever tried to use because I mistook it for the packaging you see…

When I first got my computer, I insisted that my parents buy a lot (40+) of floppies, because if we saved anything to the HD, we would run out of space quickly, then we wouldn’t be able to use the computer. So for a couple of years, everything we saved was all on floppies, then I discovered that floppies don’t like to work all the time.

But my brother did something better, one of his friends had “Red Neck Rampage”, so he had him copy the entire game to a floppy. Then when it didn’t work, he said it was because I didn’t know how to use win zip. So after much A hole, stupid, stupid exchanges, he wandered off. What his friend had actually copied to the floppy was the link (off his desktop) to the game.

In my early computer days, I was one of those idiots whom tech support probably had a good laugh about.
I called about a computer problem (can’t even remember what the problem was) and the tech told me several things to try and when it didn’t work, suggested I shut down the computer and reboot. He said it might take awhile but he’d wait while it shut down.
I immediately said, “Okay, done.”
He asked, “Umm…you did hit “Start” and then “Restart”, right?”

Nope. I just hit the power button on the HD.

When I was new to the internet, I would find links in magazines and very carefully copy in the entire URL, including 'http://". I did this each and every time I wanted to look at a site, even if I’d already looked at it. Imagine my joy and amazement when I discovered history and the favorites list! It almost rivaled the moment when I realized it was possible to just hit “enter” instead of clicking a button.

Just enough knowledge to get you into trouble, but not enough to get you out…
Before I became the paragon of self taught computer knowledge you see before you today, I had to learn the hard way. I rushed home from the computer store with my brand new 32MB grafix card and I couldn’t wait to see the wonderful visuals that my video games promised I would see with such a card. But alas, as I tried to install it, it wouldn’t fit! What is this? I don’t know, but I shan’t be beaten by such trivial details as dimensions! After much thinking I figured that I had an old case, so i took some wire cutters and butchered the back end of my computer… tore it a new hole, if you will. Well, it’s closer to fitting, but this damn little tab on the back kept me from getting it in all the way. Hmmm… wire cutters are a handy little tool, and they did get me this far… so, inspired, I cut off the little tab. But it still didn’t fit. Sigh. How the hell was I supposed to know what AGP is?

Hey, I have a sister who took a programming course in community college. In 1974.

Ask her. I bet she did things this way too.

I have never really had any trouble with computers. But, in order to provide some content to this post, I am going to post the link to TechTales which is basically the largest collection of computer [L]user stories I’ve been able to find. Enjoy.

Probably. At least you had a chance to put your knowledge to good use. With my sister, it was like the entire industry changed the day after she graduated. :slight_smile:

That’s okay, Algernon, Papa Tiger not only learned to compute that way, but back in 1967 when he went to IBM programming school, they had to manually punch out the holes in the cards. Not with a card punch machine, like they had for the computer on campus when I went to college in 1971, but by hand. He also had email in 1974, so you can probably tell he was part of the evil military-industrial complex by that time.

And he swears up and down that he actually had a woman call him one time complaining that her computer wouldn’t work, and when he told her to check to make sure it was plugged in, she said she couldn’t see because it was dark because the power was out in her office.

I can’t think of anything deeply stupid I’ve done, other than accidentally CC an email to the person I was saying nasty things about once or twice, but I did have someone come in over a weekend at work once and erase my entire hard drive. I knew it was recoverable, but since I also suspected who’d done it, namely the boss’s secretary who didn’t like me because I had a brain, I figured make the boss suffer for having the stupidity to be sleeping with her, so I didn’t tell him all it would take was Norton Utilities. For months I had the satisfaction of telling him, “Sorry, we don’t have that document any more since someone erased my hard drive!” :smiley: