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True IT blooper # 61: Misunderstood IT pro

Years ago an end user misinterprets over-the-phone instructions and rips apart a 5 1/4-inch floppy disk.

The value of clear and precise communication is no less important in the careers of IT pros.

Years ago, when PCs were new in the workplace, Dave Irvine was an assistant information services manager at a major advertising agency. This phone support blooper is clearly of its time: it involves a 5 ¼-inch floppy disk.

Irvine received a tech support call from an account executive who said his PC couldn't read the data on his diskette. The account executive was one of the few at the company who had desktop computers, and as you'll see, he clearly was still learning the basics.

Irvine decided to counsel the exec over the phone, instructing him to take the disk out of its cover. Irvine meant the paper sleeve that protects the disk.

"In the background, I could hear this ripping and tearing noise," said Irvine, who listened in horror.

Finally the exec came back to he phone and said, "OK, I've got it!"

Irvine feared the worst. He asked the exec to describe what he was holding in his hand. "A circle of brown plastic," the novice PC user replied.

"I almost cried," Irvine said.

Instead of removing the diskette from its sleeve, the exec had torn open the disk and stripped the diskette to its bare internal disk.

Irvine, showing signs of IT ingenuity, patched up the situation with Scotch tape. He peeled the plastic cover off an old diskette and slipped it over the exec's disc. Irvine held the diskette together with Scotch tape and then made of a copy of the disk to an undamaged diskette.

"The lesson I learned from this is be very specific when dealing with users on the phone," Irvine said.

One more reason IT pros are thankful for the advent of hard-cased 3 ½-inch discs!

Share your bloopers with us. E-mail them to Read more of our past IT Blooper Series, which originially appeared at, part of the TechTarget network.

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