A password problem



  • It was somewhere in the middle of Dark Ages, probably 1996. Windows 95 was the hottest thing, and it ran on 150MHz CPUs with as much as 32MB RAM. The encoding of an mp3 file took an hour, we made phone calls to others to make sure they would be available to chat on ICQ, and having a private email address was something to be proud of.

    Back then, being young and having the amazing skills that were needed to install an operating system and printer software, I used to solve computer-related problems at my father's office (which consisted of 3 people at the time). One of the machines was the shiny new Windows 95, the two others used the sturdy Windows 3.11. Things ran smooth for some time, and I tried not to abuse from the dial-in connection that I could use for free to connect to the Internet.

    One of the Windows 3.11 posts was used by Elisabeth - a quite simple-minded 40-something year old secretary with large breasts and a rare ability to forget technical informations within a timespan of about five minutes. Like a goldfish. "Mr. B", she used to call me with a high-pitched voice, "I can't print page 15!" - interrupting my chat session with some girl using "SweetLilPinay" as nickname.

    "Hit Ctrl+P and choose page 15 in the options"  - I yelled back at her, and soon was rewarded with a "Oh that, ok". She was a nice person.

    And then one day as I was sitting in my room and looking at the wall, I got a message from my father.

    "Elisabeth called" - he said. "She has a problem with the password."

    That was interesting. The software rarely used any passwords back then.

    "Is it a password-protected file?" - I started to guess.

    "I don't know, you should go and see with her" - he replied. I took my jacket and jumped on my bicycle to the rescue.

    "What seems to be the problem?" - I asked Elisabeth, who was typing something frantically. "You have a password-protected file?" 

    "I don't know" - she sighed. "Every now and then everything disappears and the computer asks me the password."

    "It must be the screensaver!" - I thought, relieved that it was a simple thing.

    "Is it when you stop typing for a while?"  - I enquired to confirm my guess.

    "Nope" - she said. "I don't know why it happens, but it happens from time to time".

    "Ok, I'll be in the office, can you call me when it asks you the password again?" - I said, and went to launch the other computer to look which one of my ICQ girlfriends were online."

    About 15 minutes had passed, when I heard the high-pitched "Can you come over"  request.

    "I typed in the password" - she said - "and look, I lost all of my changes!" 

    "Dammit" I thought. "Missed the mysterious password request".

    "Can you please wait for me next time? I need to see it." - I said, while I turned back to my unfinished chat with Lucy.

    "Wait... it's back!"

    The BIOS password. It was the password to the computer. 

    But why?

    I sat in the corner to observe what Elisabeth was doing, as she started back the computer and returned to her work.

    She typed nervously, the same text for the third time in a row, and I felt sorry for her, but I had to experience the event.

    When she finished, she reached for a sheet of paper to print out the document. When she went back to the computer, her breasts fell on the desk with a thumping sound. 

    THUD

    Computer chirped and produced the BIOS password box.

    "See?" - she yelled, waving at me desperately. "Again!"

    But I didn't listen. I reached to the back of the machine to find the cables. The thick, black power cable was loosened, and everytime Elisabeth's huge poitrine hit the desk, it lost contact for a fraction of a second - long enough to power cycle the computer.

    I firmly inserted the plug into the socket. "You shouldn't have any password-related problems from now on" - I said.

    As she insisted, I stayed another hour in the office to make sure she finished the document and printed it succesfully. I agreed, and converted another Offspring track to an mp3 file, while chatting with Lucy and SweetLilPinay at the same time. For I felt awesome.



  • So did you explain to her that the cord was loose, or did you opt for the "technical genius who knows how to fix the computer" role?



  •  She saw me fixing it. It wouldn't help if I explained, like many people at the time she would not tell which cord went where and she would refuse to touch it. Can't blame her.



  • It's amazing how sometimes how little bits of information that seem so fundamental to someone working in IT are just "something the computer does" to other people. I mean there's so many things about a BIOS password prompt, especially back in those days, that would be noteworthy (not the least of which is having to wait for windows to start again). Though I'd always take an oblivious user over someone who knows just enough to be dangerous :P



  • Yeah, you really come across as a bit of a dick in this one, to be honest especially with all your bravado talk of ICQ and your female conquests. The sexist breast comments aside, it was hardly her fault that someone (maybe even you) hadn't put the computer together properly. And since when was a lack of technical knowledge or the ability to forget it a 'rare ability' especially back in 1996? Although I would query the year anyway as ICQ was only released in November of that year.



  • @Kiss me I'm Polish said:

    I firmly inserted the my plug into the her socket.

     

    Now, when I got here (at least that's how I read it) I thought to myself: 'Now the story is starting to get interesting'.  Then you ended it like a typical nerd and started converting MP3's.  Shame on you!



  • @Flatline said:

    Yeah, you really come across as a bit of a dick in this one, to be honest especially with all your bravado talk of ICQ and your female conquests. The sexist breast comments aside, it was hardly her fault that someone (maybe even you) hadn't put the computer together properly. And since when was a lack of technical knowledge or the ability to forget it a 'rare ability' especially back in 1996? Although I would query the year anyway as ICQ was only released in November of that year.

    sigh the joke is never funny when one has to explain it.

    The computer wasn't necessarily put together improperly, the cable might be loosened because of someone moving the computer while cleaning the desk. I don't know. 

    The technical illiteracy is not something you would put under "S" in your own SWOT analysis, when you're a secretary. 

    The "female conquest" part was there for entertainment. In a brief moment of auto-irony I tried to describe myself as a skirt chasing teenage slacker, looking for virtual girlfriends while ignoring real women. Maybe if I had added some futility, clumsiness or Rincewind-style potato-induced innocence to the story, it would appear less dicky, so mea culpa. 

    The breasts impacting the desk were the momentary reason for the power outage. It might appear less sexist if it were any other body part (fat belly, knees, etc), but I tried my best to stick with the events. 

    As for the year, well, I don't remember well if it was 1996, 1997 or 1998, so sue me.

    To sum up, the secretary had mistaken a hardware problem (220V power) with software problem (password-protected documents), impossible to figure that out when you're not there.The resolution needed an illumination and

    @amischiefr said:

    [quote user="Kiss me I'm Polish"]

    I firmly inserted the my plug into the her socket.

    Now, when I got here (at least that's how I read it) I thought to
    myself: 'Now the story is starting to get interesting'.  Then you ended
    it like a typical nerd and started converting MP3's.  Shame on you![/quote]

      * facepalms in shame * If it were a New Kids On The Block song I'd probably set myself on fire.


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