RogerBW's Blog

More tales from Tech Support 06 May 2014

Some more things that happened while I was on the Helldesk. (Of course that's what we called it. Sometimes we challenged each other to answer the phone that way)

One fellow described his problem, and then explained that this might be a bit difficult because he couldn't read. It seemed to be true: he could recognise some icons, and individual letters, but getting a full word appeared to be beyond him. Given how text-based the Net was in those days, I wonder slightly what he was getting out of the experience. We got things working, anyway.

All calls had to be logged in a horrible slow front-end to horrible Remedy. But Remedy is always horrible, so you don't need me to tell you about that. The other software we had was pretty good; pick up a phone, click a button, and you'd have the CLID checked against the customer database so that you could see account details; you would have got any previous call history too, but Remedy, so it never worked.

One of the odder classes of call we got were from AOL non-users. If you were around in the UK at the time you'll remember the AOL floppy discs, and later AOL CDs, that seemed to come through every letter-box in the country.

Seems some of our customers tried them (presumably on days when we were being less than perfect). Some of our customers who tried them got to the end of the trial, decided they didn't really like AOL when they could have the actual Internet, and uninstalled the software, then tried to connect to their old ISP.

It didn't work.

The modem would dial and connect, but they wouldn't get any data. They'd call AOL tech support, who would say "ah, Sir is not a customer of ours, we cannot help Sir; unless Sir would care to sign up for an AOL account…" So then they would call us.

And we would fix it. It turned out that AOL had its own special networking stack, which was almost but not quite TCP/IP. It overwrote the Windows TCP/IP DLL in order to make sure that its stack was the one being called by other programs. It did, at least, make a backup of the original DLL, and copying this back into place was an easy thing to talk a customer through. I'd like to thank AOL for giving us such an easy way to make a customer happy (and likely never to consider AOL again).

Tags: anecdote

See also:
Tales from Tech Support
Still more tales from Tech Support


  1. Posted by John Dallman at 12:45pm on 06 May 2014

    Some us of got to "never likely to consider AOL" more simply. Nothing that advertises so desperately hard can be any good.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 12:56pm on 06 May 2014

    I have personally known only one AOL user, and he got it on an eternal free subscription when he was fairly cash-strapped.

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