My first computer was a TRS-80. It couldn’t do much. My first gaming system was a Pong. Also, I couldn’t do much. It was when I got my second computer that things changed for, the Apple IIc. Smaller than the Apple IIe and less expandable. It was the origin of Steve Jobs vision of a locked down the computer system. I loved my Apple IIc. I moved to Macs, then PC’s over the next few years. The computer was a tool I frequently used in my classroom. When I moved from Indiana to Ohio with my wife, I left teaching to become a computer trainer and later helpdesk professional. I cannot tell you how many calls I’ve been on with someone desperate to solve a problem.
Some of the folks I talked to are still people I talk to now. The reality of those phone conversations is that back then, that was a lifeline. You may not be able to help, but at the very least you cared enough to try! When it comes to helping people, I think Yoda is wrong. Yoda’s quote from the Star Wars movies is “there is no try only do or don’t do.” I think when it comes to helping people there is a try. If someone tries to help you, give them credit. Not all problems can be easily solved. I got back to those days on the helpdesk. People got mad at you all the time. They yelled, they complained, but in the end, they were struggling with an issue, and as the helpdesk person it’s your job to help them.
Own the problem, when someone says they are struggling and you are willing to try, let them know. The reality of problems is that they are like cockroaches. Left in the dark they multiply and become worse. I remember once, talking to a person with a serious printer problem. The printer was making a horrible noise (she help the phone up to the printer). Finally, I had her unplug the printer and let it cool. She then opened the printer (it was in a U-Haul shop in Georgia) and inside the printer (laser) next to the toner cartridge was a now dead mouse. The printer often overheated and they had removed the side cooling vent so that more air would get in. So apparently mice could. You never know what the problem is, but helpdesk are all about listening!