Oh, boy, does *this* speak to me!

Way back when, I was a beta tester for Windows 95. At the time, I had a 486-33 system, which was a little behind the state of the art, and slightly questionable as to whether it was powerful enough to run the new OS. I think they recommended a 486-66 as the minimum necessary. I liked Windows 95 immediately, and thought it had a much nicer interface than Windows 3.1, but I had to reinstall every few weeks because the beta versions kept trashing my hard drive.

In any case, the CD/sound card subsystem I’d added to the PC developed a problem – this was back when CDs and sound output beyond a simple beeper weren’t standard equipment that came with a computer; you usually had to purchase them separately and install them yourself.

The problem was that the CD tray would be ejected when I powered-up the computer, and the motor wouldn’t turn off. When I pushed the tray in, the rack gears would engage with the drive gears, the tray would get sucked in, then the motors would reverse and eject the tray again. The motor never stopped running, so the rack gears on the CD slide completely disengaged from the drive internals, and the slide could be easily removed. It was obvious that some limit switch or other sensor had broken. Unfortunately, tech support wouldn’t help me. They had their script, and they wouldn’t alter it for anything.

They wouldn’t support me because I had Windows 95 installed. Their position was that they didn’t support Windows 95, and had no intention of supporting it in the future. I suppose they felt that Windows 3.1 was the be-all and end-all of operating systems that would be in use forever, and this new upstart wouldn’t go anywhere. They insisted that they wouldn’t support me unless I uninstalled 95 and reinstalled 3.1, even though I’d been running for several months with Windows 95 by that point.

I couldn’t afford to uninstall Windows 95, because I was a beta tester in order that my then-girlfriend could use the system (and my experiences using it when she didn’t) to develop a Windows 95 training video – she had produced some videos previously for Video Professor, and got them to pay for my MSDN membership so that she could do one for Windows 95 that would be available on launch day. Explaining that it was an obvious hardware issue got me nowhere. Yes, I was reinstalling Windows 95 fairly often because of disk trashing, anyway, but it, at least, came on CD. I ‘d have had to install Windows 3.1 from 5 1/4″ floppies. Even if they’d agreed to replace my system, I’d have had a 3.1 system with no way to install 95 again until I’d received the replacement, and I couldn’t afford that. Actually, it was my girlfriend who couldn’t afford that, because she had a deadline for the video she was scripting, but it worked out to be pretty much the same thing.

Finally, I disconnected the hard drive completely, and booted from a DOS 5.0 floppy that I’d installed the CD’s drivers onto. Exactly the same behavior (which I’d expected). Again (and, at this point, it had been several calls over the course of a few weeks) I called tech support and waited the half-hour or so to get through. I described what I’d done. They said I had to have a hard drive. I asked to speak to a supervisor. Eventually, I got one. I described (again) that I’d booted from floppy and the hard drive with Windows 95 wasn’t even powered up. He said, “We can work with that.” I said, “Finally! Thank you!”

Then he said, “The first thing you need to do is reinstall the hard drive and put Windows 3.1 back on it.”

You can probably imagine my reaction. You’d likely be wrong. I didn’t blow up. I merely asked to whom I’d send a complaint about their support. He said that it would go to him. Then was when I blew up. He hung up on me when I was explaining that I provided tech support for my company’s products, and any complaints about the support I provided went to my boss, not to me, and that I thought that either his boss was stupid or he was a liar.

After that, I wrote a letter to the president of the company, whose address I found in the Dunn & Bradstreet books my company had. I wrote up the entire chronology of my attempts to get support – I’d actually kept a log of all the calls, which I don’t normally do – and very politely explained what I felt were the shortcomings of their approach to Windows 95 and their customer support, including the fact that their customer support people were apparently trying to prevent upper management from learning just how poorly they were performing.

The letter came back to me with a “moved – forwarding order expired” stamped onto it. I may still have it, unopened, tucked somewhere in the garage.

In any case, that was all brought back to me by this cartoon.

UPDATE: XKCD (although not the same cartoon) has inspired someone else.

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