back to article Your mouse can't reach that Excel cell? Buy a 'desk extender' said help desk bluffer

Welcome once more to On-Call, our Friday rummage though readers' recollections of tech support jobs that produced odd endings. This week meet "Wendell" who told us he "worked at a company in the mid-80s, when Windows was just starting to appear." "Of course, the 'executives' insisted on having Microsoft Office, specifically, …

  1. Adam 1 Silver badge

    Wendal has tried to warn us about our ways

    But we don't hear him talk

    Is it his fault when we've gone too far?

    1. choleric

      He should be Arrested and sent for professional Development training.

      1. bobajob12
        Coat

        Says the man in the $6000 suit. Come on!

        1. Old_Moldy

          You're development was arrested!

    2. Inspector71

      Gone too far?....All the way to Tennessee perhaps?

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    Wendell should have offered

    A mouse pad the size of a golf green...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wendell should have offered

      I tried to use a mouse once, it squeaked "Bad touch!" the moment I fingered it's ball. Dang did he ever get cheesed off...

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Wendell should have offered

        Alternatively, a tread mill for the mouse would have allowed it to reach the left edge of the screen.

        If you don't have a little treadmill, you can place a beachball in a dish of water and place the mouse on top of the ball... by rotating the ball you make the cursor go anywhere you want.

        1. harmjschoonhoven
          Happy

          Re: Wendell should have offered

          Dave 126 reminds me that I had for years a chromium-plated mouse treadmill on my desk. AFAIR, I finally donated it to the owner of a hamster in need of some exercise.

      2. juice Bronze badge

        Re: Wendell should have offered

        Alas, that joke won't mean anything who only started using computers in the last 15 years or so

        I have (un)fond memories of having to delint mouse rollers on a regular basis, especially at university. To paraphrase the old joke about household dust, I was essentially evicting the last prevoius user...

        1. BoldMan

          Re: Wendell should have offered

          Essential pieces of kit for a support person was a heavy-duty paperclip ready to unbend to eject reluctant floppies and the top of a BiC pen with which to clean the ball rollers of a mouse!

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Wendell should have offered

            "Essential pieces of kit for a support person was a heavy-duty paperclip ready to unbend to eject reluctant floppies"

            We had an alternative need for a paper clip. An HP tape drive was for some reason "smart" and would "learn" the arcane back and forward movements and currents of air needed to get the end to separate from the rest of the spool, waft it to the take-up spool and attach it there. (Why they didn't just let the operator thread the tape I don't know.) The drive would occasionally get into a state where it would go back and forth with no useful outcome. I suppose it had learned bad habits. There were a couple of contacts on the top of the deck a paper-clip's bread apart that had to be shorted to restart the learning process. Adding this facility always seemed to me to be a case of solving the wrong problem.

      3. MalIlluminated

        Re: Wendell should have offered

        I'm reminded of the IBM "mouse balls" memo

      4. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Wendell should have offered

        I tried to use a mouse once, it squeaked "Bad touch!" the moment I fingered it's ball. Dang did he ever get cheesed off...

        Obviously you're not a girl mouse. If you were, it would have purred and yelled for "more! "....

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This scenario was a dilbert comic strip

    I only mention this because I referenced Scott Adams in a post once and even though he was incidental to the point - which was completely ignored - about a dozen anti-Adams rants followed.

    I'm just curious if this'll bait the ranters again :-D

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: This scenario was a dilbert comic strip

      This one? http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-12-29

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: This scenario was a dilbert comic strip

        So, what you're saying is that "Wendel" is actually "Dogbert"?

        We are through the looking glass now people....

      2. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: This scenario was a dilbert comic strip

        My favourite is this one, from September 26th 2003.

        http://dilbert.com/strip/2003-09-26

        Generally speaking I don’t ‘get’ Dilbert. I prefer Calvin & Hobbes and Alex. But when Dilbert hits the spot, it really hits the spot. But the top strips, for me, are still The Real Ale Twats, Mickey and his Monkey Spunk Moped - and many others from Viz.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This scenario was a dilbert comic strip

          "But when Dilbert hits the spot, it really hits the spot. "

          The same for the Peanuts strip - or B.C. - or The Wizard of ID - or The Perishers. They all contain observations that reflect many walks of life.

          Newspaper current affairs cartoons have a good record of hitting the spot too. In the UK from Lowe in the 1940s - then post-war Giles - and nowadays Matt and Rowson.

      3. OzBob

        Re: This scenario was a dilbert comic strip

        Ah yes, the very first dilbert cartoon I ever saw. Back in the days when life was not trying to outdo satire.

  4. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Have you solved a problem with a lie?

    Is there anyone who never has?

    1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

      I believe you don't deserve techno-shaman (BOFH) status until you can look another in the eye and lie with a straight face. Could just be a survival skill. Possibly.

      1. Alan W. Rateliff, II

        Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

        With regards to William H. Macy:

        "It's not a lie, it's a gift for fiction."

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

      Um, aah, I've er massaged the facts to reflect a certain reality, from time to time. When a technical issue becomes something else...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

      I once told someone you can't get round a circular reference and left them to it.

      1. JulieM Silver badge

        Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

        But you can get round and round it .....

    4. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

      It's not a lie. It's an alternative fact.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

        Or it's just being economical with the truth.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

          Just be careful not to overdo it and end up as a politician instead...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

            "Just be careful not to overdo it and end up as a politician instead..."

            Politicians' lies do not solve problems. They usually exacerbate the problem by kicking it into the long grass. It becomes an S.E.P.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

          "Or it's just being economical with the truth."

          A lie by omission - or massaging the meaning of a word. "I did not have sex with...." being a famous example.

          A youngster in confessional/boasting mode said he slept with a woman after a party - "but we didn't have sex" - which turned out to mean "did not have penetrative sex".

          1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

            Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

            A lie by omission - or massaging the meaning of a word. "I did not have sex with...." being a famous example.

            I presume that's the case of a certain Clinton and his interactions with a certain Lewinsky.

            The beauty of that was Starr accused Clinton of lying about not having had "sexual relations". Starr was forced to define precisely what "sexual relations" were and, when Starr fucked that up, Clinton could quite rightly say, 'by that definition, I did not have "sexual relations". Lewinsky did, but not me'.

            With Clinton having not had "sexual relations" by his opponent's own definition of that, he could hardly have lied when he said he hadn't had "sexual relations". It was Clinton's alleged lying which were grounds for impeachment. No lie, no impeachment. Starr blew his own case.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

              "Starr blew his own case"

              Well at least it was a happy ending for someone.

              1. elDog Silver badge

                Well at least it was a happy ending for someone.

                Like that boy/dog story that ends with: Don't you wish you could do that?

                1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
                  Joke

                  Re: Well at least it was a happy ending for someone.

                  Sweet n Sour Labrador

                  Eventually I was taken into the lounge to meet Davina’s father. He wasn’t too impressed.

                  ‘You look a mess,’ he said.

                  ‘I should think so. I’ve just been raped by your Afghan.’

                  The whole family was there so I had to go around the room meeting aunties, uncles, grannies, brothers, sisters – the whole Jacobson hunting set.

                  … About an hour later, they brought in tea and cucumber sandwiches. While we were all chatting away, Sebastian appeared, limping slightly.

                  Luckily, he was too knackered by now to pay me any attention. Instead, he sat down in the middle of the room and started methodically licking his bum.

                  Now isn’t that embarrassing? I mean, where do you look? No one’s going to say anything, are they? They’re not going to say, ‘Stop licking your arsehole, Sebastian.’

                  In desperation, to break the acute embarrassment of the occasion, I said, ‘

                  Cor, I wish I could do that.’

                  It was just to break the ice – crack a little funny, that sort of thing, but you always know when you’ve said the wrong thing. People start spluttering and coughing and fingering their collars.

                  Thankfully, it was Davina’s mum who let me off the hook. She looked me in the eye and smiled sweetly.

                  ‘If you give him a biscuit, he’ll let you.’

                  1. Pangasinan Philippines

                    Re: Well at least it was a happy ending for someone.

                    Jasper Carrot joke. (or was it Billy Connelly?)

                    Credit where credit is due.

          2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

            Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

            Indeed, but I was thinking specifically of its use during the Spycatcher trial by Robert Armstrong, the then UK Cabinet Secretary:

            Q: So that letter contains a lie, does it not?

            A: It contains a misleading impression in that respect.

            Q: Which you knew to be misleading at the time you made it?

            A: Of course.

            Q: So it contains a lie?

            A: It is a misleading impression, it does not contain a lie, I don't think.

            Q: What is the difference between a misleading impression and a lie?

            A: You are as good at English as I am.

            Q: I am just trying to understand.

            A: A lie is a straight untruth.

            Q: What is a misleading impression – a sort of bent untruth?

            A: As one person said, it is perhaps being economical with the truth.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economical_with_the_truth#Political_catchphrase

            1. JimboSmith Silver badge

              Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

              Indeed, but I was thinking specifically of its use during the Spycatcher trial by Robert Armstrong, the then UK Cabinet Secretary:

              Years ago I was at a business studies A level conference for students & teachers. One of the speakers was a Chief Examiner from one of the exam boards and gave a talk on the structure of exams. He had invited questions and a student stood up and asked......

              Student: "Why do you put trick questions in exams?"

              CE: "Well we don't" (much amusement from the delegates many of whom started laughing.)

              CE: "What we do is put deceptive questions in that are designed to get students not paying attention or who haven't studied enough to give an incorrect answer"

              Student: "Would you like me to give you the dictionary definition of a trick question? I've got the dictionary here."

              CE: "Okay go ahead"

              Student: "A deceptive question that is intended to make one give an answer that is not correct or that causes difficulty. Sound familiar?"

              CE: "On the basis of that definition young lady you are correct we do put 'trick questions' in and we do it for the reasons I listed." (Now looking a bit redder in the face than he had been).

              She sat down to a loud round of applause.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

              And the lawyer whose questions elicited those answers is now Prime Minister of Australia.

    5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

      Is there anyone who never has?

      I can confidently tell you that I've never told a lie.

      But that would be a lie.

    6. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

      > Is there anyone who never has?

      Farage? David Davis? BoJo?

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have you solved a problem with a lie?

      A sin before the Lord but help in time of trouble.

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Desk extenders are selling like hot cakes! Get yours now while stocks last!

    Phone 0800-DESKEXT to order yours now!

    Free gift of BOFH plushy toy with every 1000000 desk extenders purchased!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is that the toy...

      ...with the sinister red glowing eyes that seem to follow you around?

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Is that the toy...

        ...with the sinister red glowing eyes that seem to follow you around?

        No - it's the one with the always-on microphone that records your every word and sometimes sends them off to a remote server to be analysed.

        Or is that Alexa? I get them confused sometimes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I have just applied for a patent on the "Stand-Up Desk Extender". Now if I can convince those hipsters to start using mice again I've got it made.

      Free Beard Delinter(tm) with every order!

  6. TonyJ Silver badge

    "......with the sinister red glowing eyes that seem to follow you around?..."

    Nope...that's your actual BOFH :)

  7. Mycho Silver badge

    May have inspired a Dilbert

    Dogbert did it

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: May have inspired a Dilbert

      @Mycho...a good hour behind... but I guess handy if others don't read all the preceding comments either...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: May have inspired a Dilbert

        "[...] .a good hour behind [...]"

        Maybe it took an hour to find the remembered cartoon. Race conditions don't just happen in sub-second timings.

      2. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

        Re: May have inspired a Dilbert

        @Mycho...a good hour behind... but I guess handy if others don't read all the preceding comments either...

        Stop moaning Tony.

        The original text link did not work for me because when I tried to select the text with my mouse it hit the edge of the desk.

        1. TonyJ Silver badge

          Re: May have inspired a Dilbert

          "...The original text link did not work for me because when I tried to select the text with my mouse it hit the edge of the desk..."

          Lol...have an upvote and thanks for the chuckle :)

  8. Bob Magoo
    Thumb Down

    Porkies

    Microsoft Office wasn't released until 1990, Wendell is telling porkies.

    1. muddysteve

      Re: Porkies

      Office maybe, but Excel was released for the Mac in 1985 and for the PC in 1987.

      1. Eelco

        Re: Porkies

        Maybe he's just got the spreadsheet wrong, I remember using Lotus 1-2-3 with a mouse under Dos 3.11 in the 80's.

      2. elDog Silver badge

        Re: Porkies

        But Bob McG wasn't even born then. The World via Office didn't start until his pop brought home a PC Jr.

  9. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Managers?

    Having done 'desktop' support for middle-management, Terry Pratchett's 'Lies to Children' comes to mind.

    One was whining about having to keep signing stuff all the time -- so I scanned his signature and made a new Word template for him. He was really happy -- and I had a handy copy of his sig . . .

    Is there a 'BFOH' club badge available?

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Is there a 'BFOH' club badge available?

      The first rule of BOFH club is you don't talk about BOFH club.

      The second ... oh hell you know the rest.

      1. Alan W. Rateliff, II

        Re: Is there a 'BFOH' club badge available?

        There is a "Bzzzzzrrtt" in there somewhere.

      2. A. Coatsworth

        Re: Is there a 'BFOH' club badge available?

        BFOH?

        Bastard from Operator's Hell? Are those the poor beancounters under the BOFH's reign of terror?

    2. sandman

      Re: Managers?

      In one very large company I worked at I had to scan the CEO and CFO's signatures - good job I'm honest! ;-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Managers?

        "[...] good job I'm honest! "

        As were all our secretaries who could do a good rendition of their manager's signature for run-of-the-mill stuff.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Managers?

          "As were all our secretaries who could do a good rendition of their manager's signature for run-of-the-mill stuff."

          Rendition? I'm pretty sure in a lot of cases the secretary's version of the manager's sig was the only one. The manager's effort would have been considered a bad fake.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Bassey

    School Days

    I was at school in the early eighties when we received a Mac Classic. And I distinctly remember, as part of our very first lesson, being taught that you could pick the mouse up and move it without the cursor moving. Of course, we were kids and had figured this out through experimentation (messing about). But the "IT" teacher - a Maths teacher re-trained - clearly thought this was beyond magical.

    That was back in the days when you had to regularly clean the balls on your mice to prevent an accumulation of fluff.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: School Days

      clean the balls on your mice

      Phrasing!

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: School Days

        careful cleaning with a small cloth I hope.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: School Days

        My balls got very dirty back in the day.

      3. Kane Silver badge

        Re: School Days

        "Phrasing!"

        Mawp

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: School Days

      I remember cracking open a wonky mouse and seeing a small furry rodent inside or so I though...

      Upon closer examination, I discovered it was a giant compressed bellybutton lint monster, not sure how it got in there.

      1. ChrisC

        Re: School Days

        Yep, even if you kept the rollers clean (and what a strangely satisfying job that was too - was it just me who played the game of "try to peel all the compressed crud off the roller into a single long strip"?), the only way to deal with all the other crap that got picked up by the mouse and thrown into the innards of the mouse shell was to crack it completely open and give it a good clean out every so often.

        Annoyingly, despite the move to optical mice rendering ball and roller cleaning just a footnote in the historical record of computing, the growing trend to add scrollwheels and other mechanical gubbins elsewhere on the mouse body now means we STILL have the same problems of crap getting inside the shell and slowly building up to critical levels. I'm getting quite adept now at opening up the shell of my trusty old MX510 to give the scrollwheel mechanism a good clean out and restore smooth operation for another year or two...

        1. Norman Nescio Bronze badge

          Re: School Days

          ...you kept the rollers clean (and what a strangely satisfying job that was too - was it just me who played the game of "try to peel all the compressed crud off the roller into a single long strip"?)

          OK - embarrassing admission here:

          I got irritated with the mouse pointer sticking in place when I moved the mouse, and I admit to removing the insert that kept the ball inside the mouse, and musing on where one could get new 'friction bands' to install on the rollers as the old ones had become rough in use, hence stopping the ball from rotating and thereby causing the pointer to stick. I resorted to chipping off the existing bands and using the bare rollers instead, which worked well. 'Good hack', I thought to myself.

          Only much, much later did I realise the 'friction bands' were picked up crud, and new mice had pristine rollers.

          You get much the same effect of a 'sticky' mouse pointer on optical mice if a fine thread or hair gets stuck in front of the camera. The tweezers on my Victorinox knife have been useful in this regard.

    3. PM from Hell
      Facepalm

      mouse balls

      I was lucky enough to be given a copy of the IBM technical bulletin on delinting mice balls. I only got halfway down before collapsing in tears.

      I'm pretty sure it was a real attempt to describe the process to engineers who had only ever worked on mainframe computers.

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        Re: mouse balls

        This one?

        https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/mouse-balls/

        So it's real but not official.

        Sorry to spoil the fun

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: School Days

      I remember we had computer lessons at my school and had a teacher who had used a computer before. He was therefore was considered qualified to look after a bunch of unruly kids for the lesson a week we had in the "lab". The school had Acorn computers and a few traditional games such as Chess, solitaire etc. but also Lemmings. The class split into roughly two groups those who could see the potential of computers and those who just wanted to play. I fell into the former category and would set the computer playing itself and then using another student two computers against each other. The teacher was impressed and offered encouragement which was nice. He was forever bemoaning students to be gentle with the mice or they will stop working..

      So I looked into the files the games used and found the text files for the loading splash screens. So on Chess I backed up the original file and then modified the text. The two I remember were:

      For chess I put "Welcome Professor Falken - would you like to play a gentle game of chess?"

      For Lemmings "You're trying not to kill the Lemmings or your computer mouse."

      I thoroughly enjoyed those lessons and thanks to my enthusiasm was allowed to use the computers after school. Thanks to my cleaning I also had the best performing mouse.

    5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: School Days

      you had to regularly clean the balls on your mice

      I have cats to do that for me..

      (Not that we have any mice in our garden. Or rats - the only time we see those is when a new nest starts in the vicinity. We then find their uneaten corpses in the garden. One of our cats *really* hates rats - probably the senior male. Or number two female - she's an ex-feral farm cat..)

  11. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Why no blue mice balls?

    1. wolfetone Silver badge
      Joke

      Maybe because it was warm during the summer?

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Mrs Mouse was very obliging.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Why no blue mice balls?

      I had a very dark grey one that had a blue tint. It also seemed to pick up twice the crap of other mice for some unfathomable reason.

  12. PickledAardvark

    Windows 2.1x

    I recall a colleague demonstrating Windows 286 or 386 back in the day. He managed to move a window to the side of the screen so far that it was impossible to drag it back again. Presumably there was a keyboard shortcut or menu option to restore the window but that may have been beyond many novice users. It certainly wouldn't have happened with Mac System 6!

    1. david bates

      Re: Windows 2.1x

      I've managed that numerous times on Windows 7.

      1. M E H
        Windows

        Re: Windows 2.1x

        ALT+Tab to switch focus to the lost window

        ALT Spacebar M

        Then use the cursors to move your window back to your desktop then hit Escape or click somewhere with your mouse stop the errant window moving.

        It didn't work on Windows 10 recently but I use 3 screens now, all of different sizes and resolutions which confuses my Surface's graphics chip.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Windows 2.1x

      Presumably there was a keyboard shortcut or menu option to restore the window

      Yup. Still works too - (alt-spacebar)

  13. Andrew Moore Silver badge

    Nearly similar situation...

    Had a user who just couldn't get their head around the fact you could lift the mouse and move it back- we ended up giving him a trackball instead.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Nearly similar situation...

      "Had a user who just couldn't get their head around the fact you could lift the mouse and move it back"

      He must have had a deprived childhood. Anyone who played with a friction-drive toy would get it instantly.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On Windows you can just tune the mouse or touchpad settings to give the appropriate phsical coverage.

  15. defiler Silver badge

    A lie to solve a problem?

    "I never touched it" is the usual one...

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: A lie to solve a problem?

      I tend to go with "yes/no* dear".

      * delete as applicable.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are lies, damned lies....and people who will just not believe anything that isn't a lie. I have had customers that flat out could not or would not understand or accept the truth, but a verbal little massage of the situation suddenly becomes a totally plausible rationale for handing over money for services rendered.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have you solved a problem with a lie?

    Never. -David Dennison

  18. SysKoll

    Typo

    Complimented, Complemented is: "A dictionary is a good complement for an editor's bookshelf."

  19. Aernoud

    Dilbert

    I remember a Dilbert with the same solution...

  20. herbgold

    What is wrong with this picture?

    "Wendell wasn't an IT pro at the time, but he had built his own computer in the early 1980s, "before the IBM PC". "

    1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

      Re: What is wrong with this picture?

      Nothing. Just means he did it in the first 19.5 months of the 80s.

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