Chip Creep by Joseph


by Joseph Picard

2001, late summer. High noon. I stood in the shop with my fellow I.T. professional, Brian. Business was slow, but we were paid by the hour. Brian was newer at the shop than me, but he was the superior technician by a good measure. I was okay, I could get things done, but Brian had a lot more training. Not that training always matters. Both he and I had training that we could have taught. Just that his was much better than mine. I couldn’t teach the classes he took, but at the same time he respected my opinions.
We both had the same amount of time at the front lines of I.T. We’ve both had the aunt who thinks we can fix the VCR, the cousin who doesn’t listen to virus advice, the stranger in a lineup who thinks we can tell them in half a minute how to fix some ungodly problem that they don’t have the vocabulary to describe.
Brothers in arms against the BSOD, the machines, and those who abused them.

Many a tale are told of PEBKAC errors, (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair) and when you’ve heard and lived them all, it become almost ritual to trade the tired stories. The cup holder that slides out of the front of the box, AKA the modem where the screen plugs in, the screen saver behind the pictures that open the boxes, and every 10 minutes things disappear, and OMG I BROKE IT HELP HELP!!! “Wiggle the mouse.” “OH! It’s all back! Thank you so much!” “Ma’am, we’re professionals.”

One kindly old lady asked us, after we showed her how to plug things in, “So what do I need a computer for anyway? My pharmacist gave it to me, and I don’t really know what I want it for.” She ended up quite pleased when we showed her that it could play card games. We charged her for an hour after spending half a day with her, and the next day, she left us a card and a plate of adorable little cakes.

But today would not be about sweet old ladies. Today we met a new type of PEBKAC. The saloon doors swung open as the stout, black hatted desperado hauled his desktop machine in, his lanky son following with the monitor.

The man had a trace of an accent. Maybe. Maybe it was just the accent of grump. He had very little love for his machine, and it had very little love for him. It was on strike. After plunking it on the work bench, and trying to boot it up with no response, we cracked the case. Yup, there was the issue. One of the sticks of ram had popped loose. Click. Happy.

The machine was happy, the man was not. “How does this happen??” He asked, as if we had snuck into his house and dislodged it.

“Chip creep” Brian said.

“What is this? Chip creep?”

“Well, over time, some parts can slip loose, especially if it gets bumped a lot, or you live next to train tracks even, or whatever. It doesn’t cause problems often, but hey, at least your hardware doesn’t need anything replaced.”

The man wasn’t pleased. Maybe because we were charging him the minimum hour for ten minutes of work. His combative attitude wasn’t winning him any sympathy from either Brian or I. The man’s son remained silent in the background, unfazed. Beanpole was born with this guy as a father, and was doubtlessly used to it. The man paid, and carted his machine out. His son picked up the monitor and gave us a sheepish smile. “Thanks, guys.” The kid had learned good manners, seemingly to compensate for his father.

Enough time passed for them to get home, attempt to turn the machine on, and drive right back. The man was pissed. The son was keeping his mouth shut, looking visibly embarrassed by his old man’s behaviour.

“What did you do to it?”

“We refitted your ram. You saw it working after. What’s it doing now?”

“Nothing! Is this what you do? You break it so you can fix it again for another ‘hour’ of money?”

For the record, Brian and I aren’t like that. We appreciate the machine, we want it to work, and live a happy life. Old machines, new machines, beloved ancient machines. Suggesting we were in it for the money was… well it was insulting. It grated against an unspoken nerdly creed. The near-yelling, the frustration with the machine, I could handle. But to question our motives?

Just to get it over with, Brian said “Well, let’s have another look. Free. I know how frustrating it can be, we’ll call it part of the hour you already paid for.”

The man wasn’t really hearing it, not from us. The subsequent blithering of half accusations was only stopped by his son re-stating what we’d just told him. He finally let us take it back to the workbench, but kept ranting.

We were fixing it for the kid. Screw this guy. He kept ranting. If he understood that we never intended to charge more, he didn’t let on about it. Maybe he was trying to save face or something, but it wasn’t working for him.

“Well, that’s odd,” Brian said.

The man was practically up our noses the whole time. “What did you do to it?” he demanded.

“Well, the CPU is loose.” Brian cocked his head. I couldn’t see his face, but I wouldn’t doubt that he had a Spock-like eyebrow raised. “More chip creep. I could have sworn we looked at the CPU the first time.”

“You said chip creep doesn’t happen often!” He ranted further, launching accusations. I took a walk into the back before I gave in to my urge to flatten the shmuck. When I came back, Brian was holding open the door as the man and his son carried the machine back out. From behind the counter, I could see Brian’s jaw drop. “NO! What?” and he walked out of view.

When he came back, Brian was smiling. Smiling the smile of restraint. “Hey Joe.”

“….. Yes….?”

“How do you transport a computer?”

“On the floor sometimes, but if I can, I put it on the seat, with a seat belt, or packed in with other things to keep it from bouncing around.”

“Want to know how he does it? At least before I corrected him?”

“I don’t think I do.”

“Too bad, I’m going to tell you. Loose.”

“Loose? On the floor?”

“In the back of his pickup.”

“Ugh! Like… just sitting in the corner, held by a tire or something?”

“In the middle. Alone, standing.”

Imagining it bouncing, and falling over just going over a speed bump gave me goosebumps, let alone the potential blender-fest of open road driving. It was a miracle that the thing’s motherboard wasn’t cracked in half, much less the screen of the monitor.

“Damn. Know what that’ll cause?”

“Chip creep?”

“Chip creep.”

New Users New Computers New Skills by Barbara

Story Submitted by: Barbara

As a Dell telephone customer service tech back in the Internet days … just before & after Windows 95 came out … and everyone was only starting to buy one for every home, it was my job to help home customers determine if they needed parts replaced in their Dell computers and if so to dispatch them and a tech to replace those parts and return the defective parts.

We had to troubleshoot with people who had no idea what they were doing … my customers ran the gamut from:

The lady who could not get her mouse to work right … turns out it would not work correctly because she had it on the floor trying to use it as if it were a sewing machine pedal. By the end of the call, she was learning to play Freecell [and learning to use her mouse].

The small girl child who knew *most but not all* of her ABC’s but could not read anything yet – she spoke some English but was not completely fluent. The computer was in the little girl’s bedroom and the phone was in the living room – she went back & forth trying to tell me the letters on the screen so I could find out what the message was because her father refused to talk to me [he would shout into the phone “NO ENGLISH & talk *little girl’s name*” before putting the phone down or giving it back to the little girl. She did not know what language they spoke besides English. It took several tries for her to convince her father that he needed to speak with a technician that spoke his language and I needed to transfer them and that he needed to wait on the phone … again … for them. Wait times were very long back then. I finally got him transferred to a multi-lingual technician.

Cranky Cat

Ever had a watch that just stopped working?  Sure, the battery goes dead, you go buy a new one, and presto, it works again.  Or you shove it in a drawer until you feel like buying a new one and end up getting a new watch instead.

My mom had this watch awhile back, a Garfield watch, with his arms as the hands.  And it stopped working.  And she shoved it in a drawer.

She was hardcore broken up about that watch, let me tell you.  She’s a rabid fan of that fat cat.  So she swore she’d get out and buy a new battery, but you know how it goes.  She never did.

Then one day she was looking through the drawer, and she notices the watch is ticking.  It’s working.  Perfectly fine.  So she takes it out and puts it on.

A few days later it stops again.  Dead.

She shoves it back in the drawer.

A couple days later she checks it again.  Working.

She puts it back on.  A day goes by.  It stops.

You see where I’m going with this…

Watch batteries don’t recharge themselves, at least not normally, do they?  What about this watch made it so cranky?  So temperamental?  Was it just taking after the cat on its face?  Who knows… All I can say is, technology sucks.

(This was written originally in 2001, the watch worked off and on until Feb 2007… yup.. was cranky for a LOT of years… damn cat)

Push of a Button


This is a phone.

Simple.  Easy to use.

Push some buttons, call goes through, people you need to talk to answer.

That is, if technology didn’t suck.

I had a phone, not the one pictured above, but one fairly similar to it, and one day it decided it didn’t like me any more.  That’s right, that’s what I said, it didn’t like me any more.  And it liked the rest of my family fine, it liked guests and strangers fine, it just didn’t much care for me.  So to show me how much it didn’t care for me, it started playing tricks on me.

Tell me again how to use a phone… Push buttons, the call goes through, people you need to talk to answer.  Simple.  Easy to use.  This is a phone.  Until the buttons stop doing what they’re told.

I called a number one day, I was calling the local TV station, and the call went through, and someone picked up.  Hello, they said, which was odd since I was calling a business, not a home.  Usually businesses answer with their names.  So I asked if this was News 10 NBC, and the person said I had the wrong number.


So I dialed again, and I got a different person.  And they also said hello.  So I asked if they were who I was looking for, and they said no, I had the wrong number.


So I dialed again very slowly, checking each number as it went in.  And someone new, a third person answered.  And they also said hello.  And I asked if they were the right number, and they said no, they weren’t.

I had someone else dial for me, and the call went through perfectly fine.

And that miffed me off a bit.

Eventually I worked out that every time I dialed *four* the phone dialed something else entirely.  I don’t know what, a random number, and only when it was me.  So I worked around it, and the phone got pissed.  Then the six stopped working, and later the five, but still only when the dialer was me.

I have a new phone now, and it’s perfectly fine.  But I always make sure I’m nice to it.  Cause if you piss off your phone, it can be a real pain in the finkster.

Technology Sucks

Technology Sucks

Technology has become the basis of our civilization.  Computers, cell phones, copiers and the like are no longer optional, they’re mandatory.  Someone asked me the other day where she could fax something to me.  Not if.  Where.  If you’re planning on going anywhere in your life, technology is coming along for the ride.

But technology didn’t begin with the Atari and Commodore 64.  Computers and video games are high-technology, the pinnacle of the field, but we tend to think of them as the entire field.  We forget about electricity, cars, refrigerators, indoor plumbing, all the things that really are civilization as we know it.  That’s all technology, too.

What’s my point?  Technology is life.

Life sucks.

The problem with technology is you need a degree to understand how it works.  You can turn things on, use them, maybe even fix minor glitches.  But to really understand them, you have to be trained, and even then they’ll still manage to fool you.

The things technology does can’t be explained.  I stopped trying a really long time ago.  Computers break down for absolutely no reason, then come back on of their own free will.  Refrigerators stop refrigerating, automobiles stop mobilizing, lights stop lighting, and nobody can figure out why.  We don’t try.  If worse comes to worse, we get ourselves a new one.

Technology sucks.  This is the place to tell us all why.  What’s your car done to you that you just can’t figure out?  What appliances do you have that only work when they feel like it?  What does your television do if you turn it on too fast?  All these things are stories I want to hear.

Technology will always suck.  We may as well get a laugh out of it.