That darned oldfangled technology!

This pilot fish runs a computer repair business. "I deal primarily with residential users who either know just enough to be dangerous; don't know anything but think they do; or don't know anything, know they don't know anything and are incapable of learning," fish says.

"I get a call from a regular client. He's in his 80s but is quite busy writing and editing books, and he has a new laptop that I helped him buy. He says 'they' sent him a copy of something important and he needs to be able to read it.

"I take this to mean that 'they' e-mailed an attachment and he needs to download it and open it in Word."

Once fish gets the user sitting in front of his laptop with the power on, she tells the user, "OK, open the e-mail they sent you."

User: "I can't. It's not an e-mail. They sent a thing."

Fish: "A disc? A CD?"

Yes, user says, and fish spends the next five minutes talking him though the delicate task of opening the slender and finicky CD-ROM drive on the laptop.

Several tries later, user finally reports that it's open. And this time, fish is thinking ahead.

Fish: "Is there writing on one side of the disc?"

User: "Yes."

Fish: "Put the disc in with the writing facing up."

"He puts the phone down again," says fish. "I hear disturbing noises in the background. He finally picks up the phone again and informs me that it won't fit.

"I pause and -- not believing I'm about to say it -- ask, 'Is the disc round?'

"To which his response is, 'No, it's square.'

"After explaining to him the difference between a CD and an old floppy, I tell him to have 'them' e-mail him the file and I'll be able to quite easily talk him through the download procedure.

"As stunned as I am with his inability to know the difference between a floppy and a CD, I am much more stunned imagining a publishing company today who sends an author an important file on a floppy disk."

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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