AST Computer – Tales from Tech Support


[Intro music] [V/O]
Every year, I drive over to Las Colinas, Texas to participate in the Let’s Play Gaming Expo. I usually arrive the night before the expo begins to help set up the vintage computer museum, which is just a small part of the expo,
but obviously my favorite part. I also bring several systems from my own collection for participants to play around on. We have quite an active retro community around here, so a lot of collectors show up to bring in various things. And after a few hours, we transform this room
into a vintage computer playground. Next door to our computer room, there’s a larger room for vintage consoles being set up. This room has pretty much every console imaginable up and running and while a lot of them are somewhat more modern consoles like the Xbox, there are quite a few original
Nintendo and PlayStation consoles set up. Downstairs in the main area,
arcade machines are being set up and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
is presiding over them. And the vendor areas are just about ready to go.
And this is like the calm before the storm. These are the computers I brought this year, starting here with the
Tandy Color Computer 2 with a Tetris cartridge. Then the VIC-20 with a Cheese & Onion cartridge.
Next is the Atari 400 with Donkey Kong. And finally, of course, is the
Commodore PET in all of its restored glory. And as you can see,
we ended up with quite a few computers. I also brought a few rare items for display,
even though they aren’t hooked up, including the Commodore 116 with accessories
and the Commodore Max. The next morning, the whole place started to fill up with people including the arcade area and the vendor area. We even had a special room full of eMacs that were running network games of Duke Nukem 3D,
which was quite a hit. There was a room called the Chimera Laboratorium where uh, gee how should I explain this? There were hundreds of stuffed animals and people would take the animals and cut parts off and put them on other animals like Dr. Frankenstein. A lot of people seem to get a kick out of this, including my daughter and her friend, Jordan. And of course, we had cosplay; lots and lots of cosplay. [Music] Back up in our little computer museum, people were starting to fill in and play on the vintage computers. The systems I brought were particularly popular
with the crowd, even the PET. But we had some other neat systems, including one of those rare Macintosh anniversary editions and we had a couple of Apple II systems set up running the Oregon Trail that were quite a hit. And we had the new Super Mario Brothers conversion running on the Commodore 64. And we also had the original Tetris running on an original Soviet-era computer that it was designed for, which was also a pretty big hit. But you probably didn’t click on this video
to see any of those things. You came here to see my presentation on working for AST technical support back in the 1990s. So let’s get started on that. [Presentation] OK, so the company started out around the year of 1980 or approximately in there, and they called themselves AST Research. Now a lot of people wanted to know they always asked me, or even back then, always asked
“What does AST stand for?”, and yeah, some people actually pronounced it “ast”. I used to get phone calls;
people say “Is this AST Computer?” No, it’s A.S.T. But anyway what it actually stands for, is the first three initials of
the three guys that founded the company, which is Albert Wong, Safi Qureshey, and Thomas Yuen. So nothing fancy there, but that’s where it came from. So just to give you an idea
of perspective of the size of AST, they were the third-largest computer company
in the world, during the 1990s, right under Compaq and Dell. [AST AD] [Security Guard]
“It’s sensible for your business to have a PC from AST, who’s got people picking up the phone, seven days a week and at hours when you should be out socializing.” [Announcer]
AST Bravo PCs featuring Intel Pentium 2 processors [Intel Jingle Sound] [News Report]
Vice President Al Gore continues his Southland tour with a visit to Orange County. This morning he met with the employees of a
Fountain Valley computer company. The visit to AST research company as part of the vice president’s campaign to reinvent government. [8-Bit Guy]
So, they didn’t do anything
historically significant like Apple or Commodore, you know some of those people,
so you don’t tend to remember AST, You can kind of imagine if Dell
had gone out of business in 1997, we probably wouldn’t think much about them either, because they didn’t do anything terribly
historically significant. But, they were a very important big company
at the time and so is AST, And so that’s just to give you a little bit of a an idea of the scale of the company. Now they actually started off producing products
like this, this is an AST six-pack card. Now, The purpose of a card like this would be the original IBM PCs and some of the clones, you know They had, I don’t know, 5, 6, 7 expansion slots. But they were always filled with things like stereo cards, parallel cards, floppy controllers, stuff like that. And so when you wanted to add new cards,
sometimes there just wasn’t any room. So what AST came up with is,
they combine all of these things into a single card. So this card here for example has a floppy controller, it has RAM and has a real-time clock, it has serial and parallel, and so it took all of those functions into one card and so this was actually a very desirable card
to have for early pcs and clones and they actually made these cards for the Apple II and The PS2 micro channel architecture as well. And these cards were actually
very profitable and very desirable. The only problem was as time went by motherboard manufacturers started integrating more of this stuff onto the motherboards. So, Eventually these cards kind of became redundant, like unnecessary. Just didn’t need them anymore. So, their business started to decline a little bit and
so they wanted to move into new markets. So they decided to build their own PC. Now this is not necessarily the first ever AST PC model, but it’s one of the first ever and I think this is like a 286 or something like that, and this is actually well before the time that I ended up working there. So they actually ended up changing the name from
AST Research to AST Computer. They also tweaked the font a little bit. So, if you ever come across a computer and you see one or the other, some people might think, “Well that might be a different company like
AST research or AST computer,” but, it’s actually the same company. In fact, there’s actually a few computers
you can find that have both logos on them. They’ll say AST Computer on the front and AST research like
a sticker or something on the back, because they just hadn’t updated the sticker yet. So, they started off in California in Irvine
in the mountain view area and they were actually really really successful and they were Actually maxed out at manufacturing capacity,
which is a good problem to have. They actually could not produce
enough computers to meet demand. So, they had to expand and one of the places they chose to expand to was, Fort Worth, Texas. Now the way they actually ended up doing this,
was they made a deal with Tandy RadioShack. And of course, that’s how I ended up working for AST because of the facility and in Fort Worth. So the deal with Tandy RadioShack was kind of interesting, because one of the things that we did is we actually took over Tandy’s manufacturing facilities and their support facilities. And so that meant, when we gave support for AST we also had to support Tandy and GRID, because Tandy had bought GRID a few years earlier. And so that meant in our support facilities, We actually took phone calls for Tandy and GRID along with Samsung, which I’ll talk about later in the presentation. But yeah, so I often had to answer the phone if it said Tandy on the screen of my phone, I would answer the phone, “Tandy Tech Support”
and I had to support those machines, too. But those machines were all very much at end of life. We didn’t get that many calls from them,
but one of the parts of this deal, that was also supposed to happen as we were supposed to be selling our AST computers in RadioShack, since they would no longer
be selling Tandy computers there. However, for some reason or another that fell through and I’ve never been able to find out exactly why that didn’t happen and they ended up going with I think Compaq instead if memory serves… So we never sold
AST computers in RadioShack stores, but that was originally part of the deal and that was supposed to happen. So, if you look at this graph and this is just kind of a rough graph showing the like the prosperity of AST, and throughout the years and that first part up ’til around, I don’t know, like 1987, that was when they were building their expansion cards. Which was, you know, it was profitable for them,
and then you know, they kind of hit their peak and then like I said, the motherboard manufacturers started
integrating all that stuff and their business started to decline and then when they started building their PCs, that’s when the business shot up drastically, and that was when they were
like “King of the World,” for a little while, and then they started like very rapidly going bankrupt. And so, I’m gonna talk a little bit about some of the reasons why they went bankrupt. First and foremost is poor quality. Now, to be fair AST had some of the most reliable computers on the market, up until they hit
started hitting that decline. Part of the reason the quality went bad which happened around the time they purchased the Tandy facility, had to do with the competitiveness in the PC market had changed dramatically over the last few years, and it got to where was fierce price competition and everybody had to cut costs in order
to keep their product competitive, and there were different ways to accomplish that, unfortunately AST ended up cutting a lot a lot of quality out. So this is an example of how bad
some of the machines were, we had this one called the AST Ascension 950n. It was a laptop computer and it was it was terrible. I mean people were calling in constantly with you know, plastic pieces were breaking and falling off, the screen hinges were breaking,
the screens would go out, and yes, they even caught on fire and melted. In fact, that was quite a common call say:
“I’ve got up this morning there was this terrible stench in my house and my computer is like half of it’s like melted.” And you know, so these were the kinds of problems that the Ascension 950 had in fact, I talked to one of the our database guys and
he ran a database query one time for me, and he said the
return rate on the Ascension 950n was 110%. So, for those who don’t know what that means, that means every single one of them manufactured had been returned at least once and some of them had been returned twice. And I know I took took some phone calls from people who it was their third or fourth time to return the computer for repairs. So, I mean they were they were that bad and they were costing us a fortune on the backend
to support these machines, even if they were profitable
when they were originally sold. So that was one problem. Another problem was we continue to
domestically produce most of our computers, Even our laptop computers, where all of our competitors had started to produce their laptop computers in places like Taiwan and South Korea where they were much cheaper to produce and We just couldn’t be cost-competitive. Not only that, but we still source a lot of our components in the US which, no you’re wrong, I’m all for US manufacturing stuff, but nevertheless this is this is the reality of what happened. So as an example, We were still using Creative Lab Sound Blaster chips
on a lot of our motherboards, and that was something we could brag about saying: “Hey, we have Creative Labs,
all these other guys got them clone sound chips!”, but the reality was the ESS and Crystal Sound chips they were getting from the
Asian markets were much cheaper. They were just as reliable
and mostly just as compatible as the Creative chips So, there wasn’t really a lot of advantage at this point, especially in the world of running Windows, which is kind of where we were at this point. It wasn’t a whole lot of
advantage to having a Creative Labs Sound chip in your computer But yeah, A lot of stuff like that was
keeping us from being a competitive on costs, so they ended up cutting cost in other areas. But really the biggest problem, and this is probably the biggest problem that led to the decline of AST was sales channel problems
and let me explain how this works. So, our competitors at the time such as
Dell and Gateway, they didn’t even… They didn’t even manufacture a computer until the customer had already ordered and paid for the computer. At AST, we worked through retailers. So, we had sales people who would you know call up the retailers and try to sell them our AST computers and, I’m just going to give you, I don’t know exact numbers. I’m just gonna throw a numeric example out there. So, let’s say they’re talking
to one retailer and they said: “Yeah, we want to order 500,000 of this machine
for sale in the country.” And the salesman would be like: “Why don’t you order a million instead?
We’ll give you a little bit better deal.” The retailer would say: “Well, we don’t really think we can sell a million of them, so we don’t want to buy that many.” And so our sales person would say: “Well, tell you what, we’ll do. If you’ll buy the million, and If you can’t sell them all,
within a certain amount of agreed-upon time, You can start cutting the price and we’ll pay the difference on the backend.” So the salesman got his big commission,
because he sold all these extra computers, but then, of course, guess what always happened… We ended up having to pay the retailers to sell our computers on the backend and of course, That costs a lot of money. In fact, I remember when
we made the deal with Walmart, everybody come through or cheering and saying: “Oh yes, this is gonna save the company!
We made this big deal with Walmart! We’re gonna sell so many computers through Walmart!” And we’ve saw ads on TV from Walmart, walked into Walmart saw the computers on the shelves, we got calls from customers at Walmart… So, it seemed like it was going great!
And then six months later, They pulled the plug
on the Walmart deal and they told us: “Well, we lost $200 on every computer
that we sold at Walmart.” So… [Laughs] It was almost like you’re giving them away. So, that was the thing that actually killed AST. I have no idea why they could
not get this problem under control, but this kept going on for years until the death of the company and I just I don’t know why they
couldn’t get under control, but that’s what the problem was Now, we had a savior. Samsung was going to come in and they bought up our company right
as we were on the brink of bankruptcy. and Samsung had this plan. They wanted to sell Samsung computers in the USA, but they felt that AST had a stronger brand recognition in the USA than Samsung had. So they decided that They would buy the company. They would manufacture the computers. We would put the AST label on them
and we would give support at our facility here with our American accents
and everything in the Fort Worth facility and we would support these computers
and they would be AST and then consumers would buy them
and that was that was kind of the plan. [Laughs] Samsung knew that our company
was in shambles and they knew that it was going to take a few years to get things where they wanted to be. So, one of the first products that
we ended up selling was the AST Ascentia M. Now, this is actually a Samsung Sense Pro 500 rebranded as the AST and this is kind of how we slowly started integrating this into our support system. So, we actually agreed to do Samsung’s support as well. So, Samsung was still selling their own Samsung computers here in the US as well. So, sometimes my phone would ring
and say Samsung on it. So I would answer: “Samsung Technical Support,” and I would support the Sense Pro 500 which was the exact same computer is our ASC Ascentia M, so we knew those computers inside and out anyway. We liked these computers. They actually worked. They didn’t catch on fire, you know hinges didn’t break on them and you know things like that
these were good computers. And so, we were again, we were very optimistic about the future of the company, because we had good products finally starting to trickle out. In fact, what’s interesting is a very few retailers actually sold both the Samsung and the AST laptops. On the same shelf and occasionally,
we got customers saying: “You know I was looking at those.
That AST that Sense Pro 500 they look really similar.” I’m like: “Yeah, what a coincidence!” [laughs] So anyway, everything was looking really optimistic,
until this happened. So Samsung knew that it was gonna take
two to three years to, get our company where it needed to be to profitability, and they had made it clear that they
were gonna stand behind us and And make that happen. Oh, and I forgot something, so when they come and took over the company, they wanted to give all the AST employees gifts and we got to pick between a TV, a VCR or a microwave oven.
All made by Samsung, of course And so, I remember the day that we all backed our cars up to the loading dock and they were handing us off you know the boxes of all this Samsung products and stuff and I picked the TV and interesting enough, If you go up to the third floor
or wait, actually we’re on the third floor Sorry, so if you go down there
to the little computer museum, you’ll see a Commodore VIC-20
hooked up to a Samsung TV. That’s the TV that I got from AST and it still works today! So, again a perfect example of Samsung’s durability and reliability. had that been an AST monitor
or it’ll probably would’ve broke a long time ago. So, um, but anyway this
Asian stock market crash of 1997 This was a big problem, because
it affected currency exchange rates dramatically and So even though Samsung had committed to supporting our company for two or three years, the amount of money they had planned to spend on that was now suddenly like five times more, Due to the currency exchange rate than what they had planned, and there didn’t be it seemed to be any end in sight for this problem. So when a few months later, they announced they were gonna close down the company and liquidate the assets and so… That’s unfortunately was the end of AST.
We all got pink slips, we got laid off and one last little tidbit about that: this is the front of Blizzard Entertainment. These the guys that make
Warcraft and Starcraft, Diablo. Stuff like that from those who don’t know
and that’s actually the old AST building. They they bought the AST campus
and now it lives on as another tech company. So anyway, what you all were probably wanting to hear about is the tales from tech support. So, let me tell you a little bit about
how this worked we had, I don’t have an exact count. But if I had to estimate between
the three different shifts, We had a day shift, an evening shift, and a night shift. We probably had 500 people working
in tech support at AST and we had different departments. The Advantage department, Which was the largest, that was
the consumer desktop department. That was the biggest part of
our business at the time and We needed the most
tech support people for that business. Not only that, but let’s just say the people that bought those computers were probably a little less… computer knowledgeable than
the people buying the business laptops, other laptops and the business products. So again, we just we needed a
larger group of people for the Advantage support line I actually worked in the advantage support line for the first year worked there and then the second two years I worked in the laptop department. So um That’s me Back when I worked at AST and there’s a couple of interesting things about this photo not only does it show me in my cubicle there at AST, but that was actually taken on the first ever consumer digital camera the Casio QV 10 which I happen to buy at the time and It was terrible resolution, but it was a pretty novel thing at the time. I hope to do a review on that camera someday But anyway, yeah, that’s the only picture I could find of myself working. Actually, here’s a couple of different pictures here. And that’s that’s the computer that I did my my support on. I got a few stories about that computer. First of all, I think that was a 4633 that I was using and we were running Windows 95. Although they did eventually allow some of the more savvy tech support people
to put Windows NT 4 workstation on their computer and I was
one of the people that did that. Part of the reason was we had shared drives that tended to go down every now and then, And on Windows 95 if you had a shared drive that was mounted to the server and the server went down your computer would lock up. Where Windows NT that drive would just become unavailable, but your computer would still keep working So, I was kind of happy to move to Windows NT. But also some of the things that we did on these computers is we play games. It was not uncommon for me to be
playing Duke Nukem 3D or Starcraft, While I was helping customers through problems and you might think: “How could you do that?” But keep in mind that these calls were really long and a lot of it, I mean everyday it was guaranteed I was gonna have to help somebody reinstall windows whether it be 3.1 or Windows 95 and you know They had to feed the floppy disks in it
was at least a 30 to 45 minute process, which I’d done hundreds if not thousands of times. So I knew all that from memory, so I could easily walk customers through the process of installing Windows while I’m You know playing Duke Nukem 3d or Starcraft. Now an interesting story about Starcraft is that we, well even Duke Nukem, sometimes we played multiplayer games with many of the technicians while we were doing our support calls, and the problem with this is
now normally like in StarCraft, The person who wins is the person, who you know, is the best at the game and the person who gets the most resources and you know, knows how to attack their enemy at just the right time, whatever but… The person who wins, back then was the person who was able to keep the game open long enough, because eventually Something’s going to come up where you’re gonna have to minimize the game and go look up some data or type in an RMA request, or something for the customer and when that happens everybody’s going to come blow up your base, then that’s [Laughs] That’s just the way that worked! and of course, our bosses were
totally aware that we did this and they really Did not care as long as we were doing our jobs and taking care of the customers. So yeah, another angle there of me. Oh, yeah, and I did have hair by the way in case you know Anybody want to know. Yes, I had hair. That was our visionary performers wall. So, some of the best Techs who did the best work. They could come put their Hand in paint and put it on the wall and and sign it and I got to do that as
I got recognized for my exemplary performance. So that’s about all the photos I’ve got from there,
except for this one. Now this one, I actually cut from a
magazine article and scanned it and I remember this photo! We were actually told to dress formally that day, because we were going
to have this special photo op and I’m actually in this photo but you can’t see me, because I’m way in the back and you know, my head is like three pixels tall. So, you can’t see me,
but you normally we dressed business casual at work. So, this is probably not, you know, Exactly how we would look on a normal day, but I actually know all these people in this photo
and one little tidbit, I’ll share is this black guy here on the left: Sean I just recently learned that he passed away and I was really sad to hear about that.
He was a great guy. In fact, all these people were great guys. So yeah, there’s a lot of things
I want to tell you about that You can see out of this photo. So first of all, If you could pan the camera up just a little bit One of the things that you would see on the back wall is we had this big LED billboard and it would show the number of calls waiting on hold and how long they’ve been waiting. So, when you walked into the to the office You could always glance up at that, and you would get a pretty good idea what the rest of your day was going to be like, because it was showed there were 30 calls on hold and the wait time was 20 minutes, you’d know: “Okay, this is going to be a good day.” But, if you walked in and there were 200 calls on hold and the wait time was two hours, You know that every single customer is going to be very angry at you when you finally do answer the phone. There’s a few other things I want to talk about, If you look at these cubicles, they’re actually really big. I mean, I don’t know the exact square footage, but I mean you had a lot of space in these cubicles and there was a good amount
of space between you and the person you’re you know,
the other employee next to you. So, when you’re talking to a customer, the customer could only hear you
and they couldn’t necessarily hear the other employees around, which I know a lot of modern call centers is not like that. And I also want to talk a little bit
about the vetting process. So, when I applied for the job, I went in and they asked me like these really technical questions like: “Okay if you had a computer and it was doing this problem, how would you solve it?” If they didn’t like the answer I gave,
they wouldn’t hire me. And then after they hired people, we were sent to a three-week training course,
where we went into this classroom, They had all of the AST and Tandy and GRID computers that we were expected to support laid out and they would go over each machine and tell us all the unique features of this machine all the nuances, all the things that could break on this machine and how you would go about fixing it whether it be driver configuration problems, Or hardware failures things like that. So we learned about these machines a lot. They even sent us to a networking class
where I learned a lot of the my skills for, you know, everything from IPX and ethernet, you know low level languages and TCP/IP, I don’t know why they thought we needed to know that, but we did and it was a really informative class, and we learned we had a special class on viruses, we learned how they worked and how to Detect them on customers computers
and just from different behaviors and little tests that we could do things like that. And then after we were done with that, they would put us in a cubicle with an experienced employee for about a week while we listen in and then after the call was over, we could talk to the other employee
and they could tell us why they did this or that we could ask questions. The stuff like that, and then once we were done with that, they put us on the phone by ourself and it was up to us to listen to the customers problem and solve it and… that’s kind of a lot different from how it works today. In fact, just to give you an example I used to get calls from, like, IT professionals who would call in, who would be having like Network problems and stuff getting their computers to share a drive or something like that or TCP/IP wasn’t working and I actually had to walk network administrators through
how to solve networking problems, which they probably got paid three times what I got paid, but they weren’t as knowledgeable as
some of us here in the support center. That’s just an idea of what our support people are like and then this is kind of like
what a modern call center is like. Now I have no idea where this picture came from. I just grabbed it off of Google, but they just squeeze them in like sardines and They pay a minimum wage and that’s why when you talk to somebody at one of these call centers, you can hear like five other people
around the person you’re talking to, because they’re all squeezed in like sardines and These people more or less just read off whatever the computer tell to say. They don’t really have any training or troubleshooting, in you know,
knowledge of how to solve problems and you know, back in the 90s, A lot of the customers that were calling in and I mean a lot of them, it was their first computer I mean today everybody knows how to use a computer and everybody knows at least some terminology,
but back then, the customers calling in they didn’t know anything about computers I mean just give you example it was not uncommon when you’d say something like the monitor or the mouse They wouldn’t know what these things are and you would have to say stuff like: “Oh, the thing that looks like a TV screen.” And they go: “Oh! That thing!” I mean this is this is how inept customers
were at the time, because they just had
no computer experience whatsoever. That also meant, they didn’t know how to type and so it was very difficult when you get them down to the command line and you would have to be Telling them to, you know, type this on the keyboard and they often didn’t know what the colon (:) or a semi-colon (;) was or things like that. And so, there were a lot of challenges and dealing with the customers. But today, it’s almost opposite! Today, you’ve got like the customers calling in, no more than the people working in the support center half the time, which is a very big reversal from the way that tech support was, you know back in the 90s. So, let’s talk about some of the crazy calls that That we got. So, you know, this is almost like an
urban legend: the cupholder thing Now I’m gonna go ahead be honest with you. I never received a call where
somebody thought that the CD-ROM was a cup holder. However, some of my co-workers did… So, it actually really did happen, in fact, We had to listen to the recording
one time just to hear that it was really true. But the guy apparently sat his coffee on The tray and when he turned the computer on
or I think he rebooted it, it retracted and it spilled the coffee all over his keyboard and he was really upset about that. Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t get that call,
because I have no idea how I would explain that nicely to somebody what the what the purpose of that is This is something that I dealt with all the time,
and it was extremely frustrating. So when people called in to tech support, even if they had a two-hour hold,
which was not terribly unusual, they would have a report recording that would just repeat over and over like a broken record telling you: “Please have your part number and serial number ready or you will not be able to receive support.” and despite hearing this like five hundred times
over the course of two hours, you would be absolutely amazed how few people had those numbers ready when I answered the phone. And so then I would have to ask them to get those numbers and then you know, what would happen inevitably I would wind up in an argument with them Then why why do I have to give those I’m like: “Well, you know, We have to know what kind of computer you have.” And the invariable answer that I would get when I would say something like that is like: “Well, I have an AST,” or better yet: “I have ast.” And I’m like: “Well, gee I would have never thought you’d have an AST calling into a AST tech support. But yeah, we need to know the exact one. We do make more than one computer, you know.” So, finally after struggling with this, they’d be like: “Oh, ok. Alright, I got the part number, serial number for you here,” and invariably I would look up the serial number
and I’d find out it was a keyboard, they pull the keyboard upside-down and look at the tag on the bottom and read me that and I go: “No, I think you read me the number off the keyboard. I need the number off the computer,” and they’d go: “Oh, ok, ok, oh you want the one here on the back of the monitor?” “No, no, I don’t want the back or the TV screen,” as they say sometimes. “No, I don’t want the number on the back of the monitor. I want the one on the computer.” And after a minute they finally go “Oh! You want the one on the back of the hard drive!” Of course at this point, I don’t even want to argue with them over the definition of what a hard drive is, but at this point, I’m like:
“Fine, just the one on the hard drive, great. Just give me that number,” you know, and so they finally gave me the number. But that was a, you know, One of the things that people would often complain about when they called in is like: “Do you know how long I’ve been on hold?” Of course, What would always surprise them,
is I could look down at my phone and it would actually show me
the exact time that they had been on hold, on the old screen there and I’ll be like: “Yes sir, you been on hold
for 57 minutes and 42 seconds.” They’re always really surprised to know that I actually knew the answer to that question. And then they said
“Why did I have to wait on hold so long?” And sometimes I would actually tell them like “Well… The 10 customers I had to deal with before you they didn’t have their part number and serial number ready either
and I had to wait on them. And that’s why you had to wait. So, huh?” Give a little bit of a guilt trip for him there. So yeah, this is another example of of what the sticker would look like on the back of a lot of the computers. One of the things that we had to learn to do as employees there and tech support
is we had to listen really really well. Now remember what I told you earlier, a lot of these customers had no idea how to type or what things were called on keyboards. Whether it be a colon or semicolon
or a slash or a backslash. Good God, if you try to tell them the pipe command, they’d never find that one. Space bar, however, was also something they often didn’t know what was called, and so this was actually an extremely common thing. If I would tell them: “Type ‘cd (space) dos’.”
and that’s exactly what they’d type (‘cdspacedos’). Trouble is we didn’t have any way
to see their screens back then, I mean, not like we can today
with remote access and stuff like that. So, the only way that you knew they’d be typing something crazy like this, is to listen to the number of keystrokes they would type. And if there was a lot of extra keystrokes, then you know, you might ask them: “Hey, can you exactly tell me what you’re typing there?” and eventually sometimes we’d figure out and yeah, things like telling them, like the difference between a slash and a backslash and a forward slash. Things like that could be really difficult as well, and especially even after you tell them which is the right one and how to find it on the keyboard, they still wind up pushing the wrong one and you get some weird error message that they would read back to you and you know, you couldn’t see what was on the screen, so you didn’t know they were typing in the wrong thing. Although, you guess they were typing something wrong. But yeah, these were some of the challenges that we had to deal with back then. Now here’s a funny story for you. How many of you familiar with WinFax? Just a few of you here I can see. So, let me tell you what WinFax was Back in the 90s, if you wanted to send a fax to somebody from your computer using your fax modem, You needed a fax program. I think Windows later integrated some of this into Windows, but with Windows 95 you needed a third party program to accomplish this, and WinFax was the program we bundled
with the computer that did this. Now the way it worked is you could go into like, I don’t know, say Microsoft Word.
You could type out a document and then you could hit print and when you hit print it would come up
with a list of printers, and one of those printers would be the WinFax printer
and you could click the WinFax, and then you could put in the phone number
you wanted to fax to, and then it would it would do its thing. Now, there was a place in the manual that described how all of this worked and you know, it explained about going to print something
and you know, and it gets so far and it says
whatever is on your screen at this point will be faxed. Well, I had this one customer call in and he kept saying it wasn’t working and we kept going around and around and I kept asking him to read this error message
that he said he was getting he says: “Well, I can’t see it right now,
because there’s this paper in the way.” And like what? Can you move the paper and he’s like: “Well, I can’t I’m holding it up to the screen.” [Laughs] I’m like:
“Why? Why are you holding paper up to your screen?” And he says “Well, it says right here the manual, whatever is on your screen will be faxed.” [Laughs] So that was fun explaining to him how that worked. So CD-ROMS. Well, CD-ROMs started to
become popular around this time. You know, more and more games started showing up on the shelves with CDs in them and customers, of course, would buy them and when customers will call in
and say their CD drive wasn’t working, you know, I’d get their serial number from them
and I would be like “Well, um… your computer doesn’t appear to
have shipped with a CD drive, did you have this installed somewhere?” and [they would say]
“No, no! This absolutely came
with the computer when I bought it!” I would ask them:
“Can you describe what the CD-ROM looks like?” “Well, there was this little slot in the front
of the computer, and there’s just a lever that you pull down in front of it.” and so, of course, what they had is a 5 1/4 inch floppy drive and a CD will in fact fit in there if you put it in there… [Laughs] So, I’d have to explain to them what that was and then of course if the inevitable question
that would come after that is like: “Well, how do I get it out?” [Laughs] And then I’m like:
“Well, you know, you can try some tweezers, You can try picking up the computer and shaking it upside down.” You know, sometimes it would come out, sometimes they would have to take it into
an authorized service center to get it removed. But, the other thing
that happened a little bit later, we did start shipping computers
with CD-ROM drives and so, people would buy these CD recordables on the shelves, because they say: “Oh hey! It’d be nice to record stuff!” So they would call me up and say: “Well my CD-ROM drives not working,
because I put these CD recordables in and it says it can’t write to them!” And then I have to explain to them like: “Well, it’s a CD read-only memory it only reads.” And you’d be surprised how many people were irate to find out that like we scammed them or something. “How could you possibly
ship this product that can only read?” “You did this as a scam, so I would have to
upgrade or something like that.” I’m like: “No, they’re all like that. You have to spend like a
thousand dollars to get like a writer.” and yeah, people were
not willing to accept that very well, but that was something we had to deal with a lot. Oh boy, speaker phones! So beyond the fact, I hated it
when people called me on speaker phones, because it was really difficult to hear sometimes, Especially if there were
other ambient noises in the house. I also really hated it when people called me when they were chewing on food, and drinking and
had crying babies on their shoulder and a variety of other irritating noises that I had to listen to sometimes I was trying to help people. But the real irritation, was this product that we had
with our consumer desktops. We started shipping them with a special modem that was not only a modem, but it was also doubled as an answering machine
and a speakerphone, and of course the way this worked was Actually, this is probably not hard to imagine today, because you know voicemail
has been around for a long time. But basically you’d leave your
computer on 24 hours a day, which back then was kind of an unusual thing to do. But, you’d leave your computer on and when the phone rings, if nobody answered it after a few rings, It would answer, it would play a message
and then it would record your caller’s message and then you can come back and see a list on your screen of all the messages you had and play them back.
People thought that was really cool and it also had the speakerphone feature, where I don’t know why people would want to use this, but you could use the internals or the speakers on your computer and then this stupid little piece of junk microphone we used to ship with those computers and you could talk to somebody
with, like a speakerphone. The problem was all this sounded great in theory and it was actually a
big selling point for these computers and we weren’t the only one. So, I think Packard Bell and some of the other low-end machines were shipping
with stuff like this too is kind of a lure for some sales. The problem has it never worked right. The software was glitchy,
it crashed all the time, In many cases, it would corrupt itself
and just wouldn’t even run anymore. Customers are always having to call in and we would have to walk them through
how to uninstall the software, reinstall the software,
and all the steps, it took like 30-45 minutes and then The next day, half the time it would corrupt itself again,
and they’d be back on the phone again and sometimes we go through this
a dozen times with people, and people after it happened a few times would start to get very irate and… I’m gonna quote you something I heard dozens of times after people got irate about this. They would say: “I spent $3,000 on this computer and all I wanted it for was the speakerphone and it doesn’t work and I want my money back!” We’re not allowed to be rude to the customers, but I so badly wanted to tell them: “Dude, if you go down to RadioShack,
for about $12, You can buy a speakerphone
and it always works every time.” [Laughs] But unfortunately that was not an option to tell them. But, I so badly wanted
to tell customers that when they would say that, because I don’t know who would spend $3,000 on a speakerphone! This is kind of a crazy thing. So… During the time I worked there,
we had quite a few different computers and we were up into the Pentium era. I think we were selling Pentium II machines, around ’97 if memory serves and But just as an example,
I gonna use this Pentium 166 as an example So, say somebody goes out to the store and they buy an AST computer and it had a Pentium 166 in it. It was the latest and greatest at the time.
They spent $3,000 on it or whatever, and now they’re happy with it, and then I get this call and they would say: “Well I bought this AST with this Pentium 166 processor and it was top-of-the-line. I spent $3,000 on it.” I’d be like: “Okay, is there something wrong with it?” He’s like:
“Yeah, I went back to the store today, and now you have a 200 megahertz unit on the shelf!” and I’m like: “Okay…” “Well, I wanted to have the top-of-the-line! They told me this was the
top-of-the-line when I bought it! Now it’s not, I want my money back
or I want you to upgrade me for free!” I kid you not!
I received this call hundreds of times from different people, who thought that for some reason, we were just supposed to stop innovating and just because they bought
the top-of-the-line! and I don’t know exactly why people would think that, but that was an extremely common call
and the other problem, we had that was sort of similar to this is people would go out and buy a computer
and then they had these benchmarking programs that you could go out and buy, and some of them were actually built into DOS, I don’t remember what it was called.
There was some DOS command you could type if you started looking through the folders
and it would bring up a small little diagnostic program and it would tell you you know, the information like how much RAM your computer had and what video card it had and what kind of processor it had Well, a lot of those programs were older
and they didn’t recognize anything above a 386, and so they would run these stupid diagnostic programs and it would say they have a 386 CPU. So then, they would be calling us up at the phone irate, saying that we ripped them off you know. “I spent $3,000 on this computer…”
How many times have I heard that… “…and it was supposed to have a Pentium 200 in there and it says I have a 386!” The only way I could console these guys now,
I would have try to explain to them: “Well, I’m sorry the program just doesn’t recognize newer CPUs other than 386.” I know many of them just flat out wouldn’t believe that and so I had to actually walk them through opening the case on the computer, which is something they could do. I mean you doesn’t void your warranty to open the case although a lot of them thought that it would. I’m like:
“No, you got to be able to put like expansion cards and stuff in there, you know?” And then I would walk them
through how to remove the heatsink on the CPU, so that they get access and wipe away the grease, so that, I could actually see that it is in fact a Pentium CPU and then usually they would be kind of a little bit consoled and apologetic at that point. So yeah, that was something we had to deal with. Alright, I know I said all of the technicians we had at AST
were good and knowledgeable and for the most part that was accurate, but we did have a handful, which were not so good and I worked right next to one of them, the cube next to me and I did not like what this guy did a lot. So, he had this habit of
anytime a customer will call in with a problem that either he didn’t know how to solve, or a problem that he thought
would take him too long to solve, He would simply tell the customer to run ScanDisk, and then when that was done to run defrag, and then reboot the computer and if it didn’t work, call us back. And of course, it almost never fixed any problem and so of course they would call back and of course guess who
would usually get them on the phone? The second time they called when there far more angry after waiting on hold to two more hours, It would usually be me and so I would have to walk them through the correct fix for the computer. Now, part of the reason this guy did this
is because we were judged somewhat by our stats, how many calls we took a day. A lot of people be surprised to find that. I only took about 20 calls a day
for an eight-hour work shift. Now, you might think that doesn’t sound like very many, but a lot of the calls that
we had to deal with were 30-40 minute calls, so… You know, 20 calls was doing good for me, but this guy had like 40 calls a day Yeah, and so he always felt like look at my he’s always bragging about his stats. “Look at my stats! I took 40 calls today!” Fortunately, our boss did listen in to our phone calls. So, you know that message you hear when you
call a lot of companies about: “Your call may be monitored or recorded.” We had a similar message, and so yeah, in many cases
The boss was listening in on the calls and so he knew My stats may not looked as good as his, but he knew, by golly,
when I was done with the customer, it was fixed or I was sending him apart to get it fixed or whatever we needed to do, and I wasn’t telling to run ScanDisk and defrag! We had this other employee by the way, and he had a really odd behavior. So, we had these mute buttons on our phone and it was a toggle button like you
push it once, the light comes on and it’s muted and then
you push it again and it goes off, you know. Some of the older mute buttons you have to
physically hold them down while you talked. We had this thing where he’d be talking
to a customer and he’d be like: “Okay, click there, click this and read me what it says there.” and then out of nowhere, he’d push this button and he’d start yelling like: “You stupid bleepity bleep idiot!
What a bleepity bleep moron! Why can’t you figure out this bleepity bleep computer?!” and then he’d let off the mute button said: “Okay, did you click on that?
Yeah, okay.” and he was so loud! So, he was three cubes down for me and he was so loud, sometimes my customers could hear that
over my headset and he’d be like: “Is that— is that some one of your employees
talking to a customer like that?” and I would always have to cover for him and say: “No no, no, he was having an argument
with another employee over there. Don’t worry about him.” You know, let’s go on with this. One day, he did push that mute button. and I guess he didn’t get it good enough. The light didn’t light up, and he went off on a customer like that. [Laughs] Oh boy, oh boy, What a day that was! Surprisingly, he didn’t get fired over that but, [Laughs] but, it was quite amusing! And he wasn’t wrong! Don’t get me wrong, I mean, the things he was saying
were correct! In many cases they were, bleepity bleep idiots, but you know,
you don’t say that kind of thing. Anyway, that is the end of my presentation! How much time we got? Ooh, right on schedule, 45 minutes. Because, I’ll tell you what I’ll do.
I got three things I’m gonna be giving away. I have these are literally the last five
of these in existence. This was a very limited run. These are vinyl records of the Planet X3 soundtrack. They’re very nice, and I decided to hold these last five I was going to give them away here, because there will never be any more. And then I’m gonna give away five copies of Planet X3 the boxed set game, and then whatever is left over after that I’ve just got some Planet X3 soundtrack cassettes
I’ll give away. So, since these are far less valuable, plus the fact,
that you get one of those inside the game anyway… What we’ll do is: we’ll draw the tickets and then, I’ll let you pick, like, what you want and then I guess, whoever’s first gets to pick first. We’re gonna do it right here, shouldn’t take very long. [Audience member]
Did you ever get the foot-pedal call? [8-Bit Guy]
Not me! Now, I didn’t get the foot-pedal call, but one of my co-workers did.
It was actually a really old lady and she… the tech kept telling her to use the mouse and she didn’t know what that was and she was trying to get the computer set up, like she just brought it home from the store
and couldn’t figure out how to plug all the stuff in and when he finally described to her what it looked like, she said: “Oh, I thought that was a foot-pedal,
like my sewing machine!” So he, yeah, he had to tell her what that was for. So yeah, somebody did get that call not me though. Any other questions, while, we’re waiting on that?
Let’s hear. [Audience member]
Did you ever have to frequently say, have you tried turning it off and turning it on again? [8-Bit Guy]
I don’t think I ever said it exactly like that. I think we would say, you know,
let’s try rebooting it or something of that effect. But, most of the time customers
usually tried that already. Before they called in, because
I mean, they’re waiting on hold for two hours. You know, they’re usually gonna try
some stuff on their own. [Audience Member]
I am curious, did anyone ever ask to how to change the monitor to channel 3
and thought that would fix it? Did that ever happen? [8-Bit Guy]
No, no, I don’t think, I don’t think so. Any other? It doesn’t have to be about AST. You can ask me about anything
in the few minutes we have left. Yes sir? [Audience member]
What was the most esoteric piece of hardware that you helped someone install? Like, esoteric expansion cards, or something? Like something really weird
that someone wanted to install? [8-Bit Guy]
Well, I usually didn’t help people with stuff like that, because if it didn’t come with a computer,
we were not supposed to support it and then, believe me, we got calls all the time! People want us to help [them] install, you know, software that they bought at the store or hardware. But, our job usually was to say, “No, you need to call that company’s tech support for help with that.” Sometimes, they did call us, because like well I already called them and they said
there’s something wrong with my computer, and so and then they would wind up calling us,
and then, you know, there’s only so much we can do in a situation like that. So, we would you know, we’d listen
to what their problem was, but nine times out of ten would say: Well look, I’m sorry I mean unless there’s something you can physically point out as being wrong with a computer, other than not working with this product, there’s just not much I can do to help you. I don’t really remember any specifically bizarre piece of hardware anything though, sorry. Any other questions about anything
AST, 8-Bit Guy or 8-Bit Keys? [Audience Member]
I am not familiar with this game up here [Planet X3], what is it? [8-Bit Guy]
Oh, It’s a game I wrote and I’ve sold several thousand copies of it already. I usually sell them for 40 bucks each so I’m being pretty generous today! It runs on IBM PCs. It will run as little as a 4.77 megahertz XT
with CGA, or it’ll run on later machines with VGA. It’s a real-time strategy game. Everybody got a ticket? What I’m gonna do, is I’m gonna hand the… I’m gonna hand the microphone to Jordan here And she’s gonna call ticket numbers and you raise your hand and you’ll tell me what you want and I will bring it to you. [Outro Music]

100 comments

  • This is a very interesting talk, sadly I feel like the audience doesn't help a lot, maybe you can transform the tales into another video.

  • I had my worst experience with an AST tech support!

    I had a pentium with one of them 3 stack carousel cd reader… one night after a thunderstorm, my cd got fried, so I called tech support for another cd and to know where the local repair shop was…

    too long ago to remember the whole bit but in conclusion, she insisted that she was an expert who knew what she was doing and how dare me to question her instructions that consisted of inserting the AST recovery cd in the (broken) cd reader… I had to "fake" insert the cd in the broken cd reader and tell her nothing was happening, no light, no cd spin, no anything, and she was dumbfounded…

  • Is there an audience? Seems like there should be some laughter or something. Maybe it's the microphone, but seems like you had a dead crowd. If you did, I don't know how you can keep going….

  • 22:43 "In fact all these guys were great guys" shows picture of a room full of men, half of which are apparently transsexuals. AST was crazy..

  • I can't agree more about the level of training tech support people get these days. I know a reboot isn't going to solve my problem, but I also know they're just reading off a list and we have to go through this whole merry-go-round of a ride of things I already tried on my own and knew wouldn't work. I wouldn't be calling if switching the router off, waiting a while and switching it back on would have solved the issue. For example.

  • Blizzard oof 🇭🇰

  • vishwas poojary k

    That was fun! Thanks.

  • WhenJelly Attacks

    my mans at 1:50 said "shi-mare-uh" its pronounced "ky-mare-uh" lmao

  • My wife and I have been married since 1998. I really get your customer support conversations.

  • Speaking as someone whom has worked as technical support (Tier 1 then later Tier 3), I appreciate a lot of the observations in this video lol

    I've actually had the "The screen won't turn on" issue.
    …. The person hadn't plugged the product in, I only found this out when I suggested plugging the socket into another power outlet….

    … They unplugged the phone to do this mid call lol

    Love the channel, love the video 🙂

  • 28:24–31:00 Wow! That is a head-smacking story! 😖 Normally, I have all the information I can possibly gather ready and waiting for me to spout out so I can guilt-trip tech support into assuming I don’t know what I’m talking about. 😏 (I’m also an engineer, and having worked in manufacturing, I know all about the importance of low cycle time.) 🤓 And I know the difference between precision and accuracy, too. 😎

  • AST was sold here in Sacramento, ca for a while just after they got rid of the packerd bell that was consumed by hp. Then when AST disapeared then compaq took over at radio shak thenhp bought them and after that no other pc was sold there any more

  • "in fact , all of these peolpe were great guys "

    me: …and great girls

  • Try listening to a police officer insist that the "computer" is actually called the "CPU." My cousin had to deal with this when her computer was stolen.

    "What brand was your CPU?"
    "It was an Intel."
    "No, ma'am. What was the brand on the CPU?"

  • Ah, memories of being a tech. I can vouch that the "coffee holder" story that's been going around forever isn't a made up thing. At least I don't have any other explanation for repairing CD drives with broken trays and coffee inside the drives. Yes, that was plural on the drives. Also, plenty lots of drives with pictures shoved into them. I guess the users thought that because the CD drive had a laser, it would somehow scan things into the computer?

  • PeBKAC amiright?

  • What I was always astounded by customers calling the monitor "the computer" and the main computer "the hard drive" or "the cpu".

  • 43:20 I did the mute thing once or twice. Only when I got really annoyed.

  • I needed to all AST support once just to find out what jumper on the motherboard would clear the BIOS.
    I was on hold for 90 minutes or so, and I was very tired. I fell asleep! I felt bad because I was pretty certain I was snoring. I woke up to some very nice gentlemen yelling "SIR!?" "SIR!?" 'HELLO SIR!?"

  • 21:37 i like that you can make jokes about yourself. couldn´t do that for years. 🙂

  • I owned a AST computer

  • I worked at Radioshack in Lewisville Texas from 1996 – 1999 and remember some of these and related topics. We sold IBM home PCs in our store, don't think we ever sold AST or Compaq, though those were very popular during that period. I left Radioshack at about the time they started to loose their identity, and essentially became an electronics retailer of many brands, rather than Radioshack branded products (Realistic, Optimus, etc.). I agree on the AST quality comments, in the early 90s great machines, very good stuff, mid 90s and beyond they really fell off. I think Dell improved at that time, and kept pushing harder / developing broader range of products, and the quality was pretty good too if memory serves, albeit lot of proprietary case design and parts, memories! I wonder if anyone else here went to 1st Saturdays on Pearl St. in Dallas buying PC parts in the 90s, I sure did, built lots of machines back then!

  • i am so angry because geocities doesn't exist anymore

  • Robert The Redeemed

    Came for the tech support story's but got a history lesson, not disappointed!

  • One of my "favorite" tech support calls went something like this:
    ….

    Me: "Ok sir, is your computer plugged in?"
    Caller:"Of course it's plugged in! What kind of an idiot do you think I…<beep>… I'll call you back."

  • When I saw the thumbnail for this vid (the cup in the cd tray) it reminded me of a service call I had to a GAP store a few years back. They use some OLD Dell OptiPlex towers as their controllers… anyway. I got a call to go diagnose this store (which was always having something wrong), and that their back office and POS systems were down. When I get there, I go into the office and pull the tower out. No power…. I noticed that it had something dried all along the front of it and I asked "did someone spill something on this?"..They said no of course. I was trying to figure out how the front got something on it sitting slightly under a desk on a cart. So, I pull the cover off the side and see it is coated in half dried syrup (and burned) from a soda. Every part of the DVD-ROM drive also seemed to be covered in it over everything else. You can probably guess what happened. So, as I was coming to my conclusion that something was spilled onto the PC….I look over at the trash can and see a Chick-Fil-A cup (from the mall where the store was located) and it looked like someone had squeezed the bottom of it with a perfect tool…and tore it. I knew what it was released the tray from the drive to actually find the cup fit perfect where the ring was…I also found bits of Styrofoam in the drive.

    All in all….. the ATX shorted out as well as much of the motherboard… No one would admit to what happened and when I reported it, GAP was so pissed off they demanded a review of the cameras in the office. Turns out (from hearing on another call later) that the manager who had told me no 3 times was the one who used the tray as a cup holder.

  • Also worked tech support for AOL… I remember a call about the lady trying to install the disk and couldn't find the "any key" on her keyboard….

  • 27:04 there is no support like that anymore where people call for help, but there is phone sellers that read your pone number from database and call you to sell something,but everyone has block calls from unknow numbers. numbers that are not in your phone book. right? dont answer phone sellers. if you answer hangup.that bbusiness should ne allready die. nobody buy nothing

  • omg somebody cosplayed as Keanu Reeves

  • At 41:40 is that why in your Old Computers did it better video from back in the day, someone says, run scan disk, and defrag?

  • Computers were catching on fire? That sounded like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  • I was a Tech Support Engineer in the mid 80's and it was great. We got lab time to play with the machines and figure out stuff. By the 90's, everything was all database. You type in the problem and read from the screen. Salaries went down because there was no skill involved and your shoulders literally touched the guy next you. Then everything went over seas to the Indians and Phillipinos and tech support in America died. I spent 25 years in the computer industry from DOS-3.2 all the way up to DOS-6.22 and Windows 3.11, then in to Win-95, Win-98, NT, 2000 and XP…… In the early 2000's I went back to school and got a degree in physiology and got into Biomed and started making more money than God. What's sad is, now any eight year old can fix a computer.

  • Tough crowd!

  • I had two AST PCs back in the day,; a 286 10 MHz "turbo" rig, circa 1988 that my mom brought home from work with 1 MB of RAM, a 40 MB hard drive and EGA graphics and a circa 1992 486dx/25 MHz machine with 4 MB of RAM, a 120 MB hard drive and VGA graphics. My last experience with the company was an auction in Atlanta in early 1994 in which I helped my mom buy a new 486dx2/66 MHz machine. While the computers they produced were solidly built, by that time the writing was on the wall that PCs would soon become a commodity.

  • Who else has suffered through modern day call center work/slavery? Sounds like back in the day employees were treated as humans.

  • I had an AST pentium laptop, it worked okay, but the hinges were made horribly.

  • Those jorts are awesome.

  • 452 former AST executives don't like this video.

  • I think its funny he talks like he had shares in the co.

  • 10 for a = "We had Micro Bees at school, I had a Tandy 48k monochrome TRS-80, and somewhere still have an Amiga 500 with the 1k upgrade."
    20 next a

  • I worked for Western Digital tech support in Irvine CA. In 1997-98 for IDE HDD's. Most of the calls were either RMA or Partition/Format. Get a customer who would say “I installed it but its not showing up in windows.” We would ask “Did you partition and format the drive?”. And they would say “no, whats that? And why do I need to do it?”. We would run a utility to test the drive and lot of times the screen would say “push any key to proceed.” I had a little old lady once tell me she could not find the “any key”. Best call ever was the Southern Gentlemen (African American) with one hell of a sense of humor!! He told me he had a Heysus motherboard (ASUS) and he couldn't get into his Cosmos (CMOS). I never hit the mute button on my headset so fast. I lost it. Dude totally made my day. He was the best call ever. Was nice to have calls like that because most the the calls we took were from very unhappy customers.

    I also Worked For SimpleTech tech support doing support for external drives. If you've done data storage support you know how F'd up it is. One of the worst jobs ever.

    Simple scenario:

    Person buys drive. Person puts important data on drive. Drive dies. Calls you and expects you to do something about their lost data. Only to hear the bad news that WD didn't warranty the data only the drive and it was there responsibility to back their data up. Many MANY calls like that. When there is mission critical data for a business on a failed drive its no fun to tell them the only thing you could do is replace the failed drive under warranty. Not what they wanted to hear when the data is way more important. I felt like a crisis hot line counselor talking people back from the ledge.

    WD was a great company to work for, but the gig was brutal. I was completely burned out after a year and a half and I just up and quit. I've sense given up on working in IT. I love computers and anything tech but to fix computers for corporate America, I'd rather stick and ice pick in my ear! The PC industry is one of the best areas to work in, especially if you work for a company actually in the PC bis like WD or better a gaming company. Being IT for any old corp or financial institution sucks. They don't get it at all. The hippy laid back attitude you will find in companies in the PC bis ,you will not find in corporate America.

    We also played Duke Nukem on the LAN at WD. Well we did until some asshat in tech support got caught playing a game during his shift and management put an end to that. They would only let us play before/after our shift. Needless to say for the first few weeks I worked there I was couple hours early then some clown ruined it for the rest of us.

  • Fun fact about Samsung TVs: all of their PAL models were made in my country, Hungary. Because they bought Orion, the biggest TV and hi-fi manufacturer in East-Europe (maybe even in entire Europe). The Orion brand still exists, but they are selling rebranded chinese crap.

  • Who would have known they would start selling all the old borderlands games and cosplaying the characters.

  • We had to listen well! Yup! My first company was a software house that made software running on MUMPS and you started it by pressing 1 enter. And I learned to distinguish the two keyboard klicks in stead of the 6 or even 9.
    Thank god we were generally ahead of time and everyone of our customers had a modem albeit some 1200 baud. But I never had the patience to deal with dumb customers. As soon as they’d booted in MUMPS I’d dial in and solve there issue in mere moments then talking to them. But modems were notoriously unreliable and you had to talk them through how to hookup the modem to the line (often the same line they are on). And give them these magically dyslectic AT sequences. So we made a sort of u spoken deal, that our supervisor who wasn’t an engineer and not as technically developed as me and my other colleague would do those calls and we’d call in setup the Arnet cards and DigiBoards and push configs to terminals. And I’d be the one who done the Crosslink database fixes. Back in 95-95 IT was still fun. Now I hate my job, despite earning a lot of money with it, I no longer get excited and inspired about it.

  • One more or my tech adventures that was a faux pass from my side.
    At this software house, we always had a saying: “after the update the door screeched” Because anything that was remotely wrong after they’d loaded an update was in their mind because of the update.
    In 1996 installed a new system in a veterinarian office. Upgraded it and asked if they’d wanted the backup report to be printed, after the backup was done because that way you didn’t have to go through the system menu (which most didn’t and didn’t have a proper backup for months).

    Yes fine! So I configured it and showed it and they were happy. I go home, the next morning that vet is on the phone. Saying that since I updated the system the alarm went off at 3:12am.
    I calmly (yet annoyed by the ‘stupidity’) explained that there’s no connection between the computer and the alarm so that they can’t be related.

    Low and behold the next morning again, the alarm went of at 03:12… And slowly I started to connect the dots. I recalled that the test backup took 12 minutes when I ran it. Would they’ve set the backup to start at 03am? I dialed in checked and yes…. so the printer would spat out the paper with the backup log and apparently there’s an infrared sensor pointed to that corner that was triggered by the movement of the paper 🙂
    So I reassigned the log to another printer used for invoices that was in a cupboard 🙂 And apologized, as of that moment we implemented a warning in the software when enabling printing the logs to check that there are no motion sensors that could be triggered.

  • A very very long time ago on Coca-Cola's website they had this option where it said click here to receive your free cup holder and when you click on it or CD-ROM drive opens.

  • I had a packaged bell with windows 3.2 and that answering machine was the best answering machine I have ever had.

  • A wonderful time for tech-support 🙂

  • I worked in a call center for 6 years doing tech support. All this is 100% true, even the getting laid off part 🙂

  • I think the best tech support at this point is probably Apple’s tech support.

  • Neat to see the SGI Indigo2 at 1:21. Was it running Lumbus, Doom, Quake, or Quake II? Those were amazingly powerful machines in their day. Cost more than a decent new car, though.

  • 5:22 For anyone wondering what the unmentioned port on the AST sixpak card is, it's a game port, which used a separate backplate with a CD15 connecter, & attached to the card via a pin header.

  • Oh god, I remember customers who called the PC "the hard drive". Now I'm getting 'Nam style flashbacks of tech support in those days.
    C:>cdspacedos
    Aaaaaarrrrgggghhh!!!!!

  • An online friend of mine was tech support and he would play Eve Online with me at work.

  • OMG… I'd forgotten that people used to call the actual computer "the hard drive."

  • The Nightmare Before you

    He keeps saying everyone was 3000 dollars. Yeah ok.

  • I use to do training for tech support at a call center. It's true on the training. Essentially they get 3-5 weeks (depending on the computer company that's being supported) of training on how to use the software that's used in the call center (it's used for keeping notes on the issue for the customer, and the phone). The software also has a built-in flow chart on what to ask, and what steps to tell the customer to do. Most of the flow chart is actually pretty accurate, as it's based on the most common issues, but occasionally you get a complex one. In those cases, either the tech support person needs to rely on his/her own expertise, or call one of the advanced techs to either help, or take over the call. The new ones who dabble in computer repair are the ones that generally ignore the flow chart when they first start, and try to rely on what they've done on their home computers. That has always been a big issue with long tech calls.

  • Its sad that in the future if people see a disc drive they may assume its a cupholder

  • 2:20 spiderwoman has a nice booty

  • Space invadors on a PET
    I could get stuck for hours playing that

  • No BBC Microcomputer?

  • “If the wait time is 20 minutes you’re gonna have a good day”, wow. That is… no longer the case. These days the SL30 — the percentage of calls answered within 30 seconds — is taken seriously.

    We also monitor our FTR percentage, which would out your neighbor with the “great” stats quite quickly.

  • Crap. I remember a time another tech was arguing with me which was slash versus backlash. SMH

  • i had an AST advantage with win. 3.1 student edition. came with a tandy monitor from radioshack. it was plain with just the 3.5" floppy drive, but it was my first.

  • Take a shot every time he says, "actually."

  • 18:13

  • I would love to hear more "Tales from Tech Support" you do it so well

  • Not a big deal but Chimera is pronounced Ki-meer-a or K-eye-mer-a and it's a mythological creature with parts of different animals. Very fitting. 🙂

  • at 2:22 is that….body paint? that doesn't look like….clothing. even a body suit

  • oh man the number of people who STILL call their computer a "hard drive" or "CPU"

  • João Rafael Camargo Biancini

    Hiya David,

    About your comment on the today´s tech support picture you got on internet and you didn't had any idea where it came from. It could possibly be some kind of call center for telemarketing, and surely a Brazilian one (because the writings on the t-shirts and some things are written in portuguese). I can guess it is some kind of Mobile Company, because most of the telemarketing comes from them, and yes, they're very cramped, because when you got some kind of call, you hear everyone else.

    Not that this info could be of much use, but who knows..

    Keep up the good work.

  • Bleepedy bleep idiots 😅

  • Skip to 27:40 for the start of the actual video, Tales from Tech Support.

  • Konrad Kołakowski

    About those guys thought they had 386, didn't they believed on what was written during POST? I think at that time it was quite common (and it was way before Pentium era) to display CPU model, clock and RAM after test. I guess that wasn't enough? 🙃

  • 26:02 looks more like a scam center.

  • Grad bay, grad bay and grad bay.

  • I worked for Sky TV on the broadband and telephone techincal helpdesk for a lot of years. Some of the calls we had were unbelievable. I had one woman doing her nut because I didn't know the windows password on her PC.

  • Regarding the noises on the phone, I've had people brushing their teeth, eating crisps and even on the toilet when I've been on the phone.

  • The mute thing, we had headsets where we pushed up the mic and it would automatically mute it. Anyway, I was on a call with a woman with a faulty phone line. After four-hour call trying to find the issue I was getting let's just say annoyed. In my temper, I pushed up the mic and said for fucks sake. Only I missed the mic. The woman heard me and said did you just say ffs, no madam, knowing I was in deep shit. She actually started laughing and thanked me for my patience.

  • "I don't know why people would think we'd stop innovating when they bought the top of the line…" Because your company's crappy salespeople told them whatever it took to unload those POS computers. (Serious note, I actually loved the stories–just not the company.)

  • tech support people need the patients of a computer and god like wisdom

  • ok this is old now. it reminds me of my tech support days. I had a lot of strange calls. without ones that'd take the longest to share, some of the best were around the mouse. One thought it was a foot peddle like on a sewing machine. another when asked to "click" an icon you'd hear them tap the mouse on the monitor. or "do you see 'my computer' on the desktop?" "no, my computer is on the floor"

  • i feel this. i work on support desk for a software company…what sofware are you using? customer : 'the company name' kill me now

  • “He wasn’t wrong.”

  • WTH, this guy is giving a presentation of my life? I would have never guessed anyone would have gave a shit. Where do I get this gig? I've got tech support stories for days. Telling a customer to "close the window" and they get up and physically close a window. Check. Tricking customers to reseat their cables by convincing them they needed to "shake the bad data out". Check. Fell asleep while on the phone with a customer. Check. Co-workers come in from lunch stoned out of their gourd and attempt to help customers. Check. Lying about my knowledge/experience to get a promotion, then frantically learning a whole new language over the course of a weekend. Check. Attempted to start a union after realizing how bad we were getting ripped off on our pay. Check. And of course…the pranks. Constant pranks. And those were just my shitty tech support jobs in between programming gigs.

    Those wild west days of the computer world in the 90s were the fucking best. If only I realized how good it was at the time. You collect up enough good tech support stories from that time and you've got a movie on your hands.

  • Re: The Thumbnail: I have a file somewhere called "CUPHOLDA.EXE" when run, it opens the CDROM tray further making this gag funny.

  • Chimera is pronounced kiMERa, where the first part sounds like Kyle.

  • https://youtu.be/2hdazA-VUf0?t=750 This is channel stuffing.

  • I'm surprised about the whole not knowing how to use a keyboard thing. Surely those more basic elements would apply to a typewriter? Surely they would have come across it at some point?

  • I'm not going to say that there are no computer support call centers that look like that today, but that's definitely not how it normally looks. First of all, those monitors and keyboards are ancient. There might be places still using 4:3 monitors in some developing countries, but not at a larger tech company. The places I worked at gave you at least two 24" monitors and a laptop with a dock, so effectively 3 screens if you used the one on the laptop as well. I never had a cubicle but the desks were at least 3 times as big as that. The pay was quite bad though.

  • I love you so much for shaming people for complaining about waiting when they didn't have their serial number ready either. Things like that is about all you can do to get some kind of revenge on some of the insufferable people that you have to deal with.

  • 31:15 "Just press a letter C, then D, a longest bar on your typewriter-like thing, then D, O, then S"

    Wow, as a millennium guy like me, it is such a hard thing to say for customers.

  • 35:56 Still in 2019, people manage to make calls while doing something that generates a lot of ambient noise. Like playing loud music. From the SAME PHONE.
    Regards, someone who never has to work in call centres again.

  • Wow, it's funny that you worked for AST….. my 3rd computer was an AST Advantage, 486sx/33
    Think i eventually upgraded it to dx with either a co-processor, or one of those drop in CPU upgrades….. i think it was Cyrix that made those? Brought it to a dx/66 maybe…. and then i either was able to use a Pentium overdrive upgrade…. or the overdrive went into my next pc…

    You'd probably really hate me…. i didn't like the beige box look, so i sanded the metal and painted the case emerald green….
    First computer was a ti99t4a, then an apple iie, then the AST

    "All these guys were great guys…"

    The WOMEN on the other hand…….

  • Did you ever get a call from someone asking for help with OS/2 ?

  • This bleepedy bleep channel and all the bleepedy bleep videos. I bleepedy bleep love it.

  • I work in a call centre, I still call the computer a hard drive as it's usually faster. I still get wrong numbers all the time but only once in 7 years did someone say, oh you mean the PC 😛

  • OH MY GOSH!!

    I work as a technical account manager in a tech support company (but started out as tech support) and almost all of these still happen today.

    We even had a guy who would always tell the customer to replace their switch when he couldn’t figure out their networking issue.

  • Cool tech support stories.. I worked in tech support a long time ago at Intermec (the bar-coding company)… some stories I had too, but not as interesting.

  • 25:22
    That girl is really beautiful!

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