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Comments March 2, 2007

Insert Disk 2…

Filed under: tech stuff — Dave Rathbun @ 10:17 am CommentsComments (5) 

A long time ago I worked in the technical support department for a software company. This company made what was – at the time – the number one backup utility for personal computers. The product was named FastBack, and it would dump your hard-drive to floppies faster than any other product on the market.

Working in technical support was my first computer-related job. And it was also a source for some humor. :-)

I am sure that you’ve seen some of the jokes circulating around the Internet about tech support calls and the customers that make them … interesting. :lol: One of my favorites is the customer who broke his “cup holder” and wanted to get it replaced. Think about it, you’ll get it eventually. It helps if you pop open your cdrom drive and take a good look at it. ;-)

But this is my own story, and I think it’s a good one. I call it, “Users will do exactly what you tell them to do, no more, no less.”

This particular tech support call started out poorly, as the customer was already extremely agitated before they called. One of the challenges of being on the other side of a tech support call, especially for something as sensitive as backup utility responsible for preserving the customer’s important data, is to try to remain calm and collected even while you’re being screamed at. In this case, it was a complaint that I had never heard before. The customer was complaining that there wasn’t enough “space” to backup her entire harddrive.

Now this didn’t make any sense to me. The program would prompt for the first disk, write to it, and then prompt for disk two, disk three, and continue on until the entire contents of the hard drive was safely saved to floppies. As long as you had enough floppy disks (and time) you could back up anything. At the time the most popular format for floppy disks was the 5 1/4″ disk; the 3 1/2″ disk format was used on the Mac and on the IBM PS/2, but most computers had one (or two) 5 1/4″ floppy drives.

For those of you too young to remember any of this, these were drives A: and B: … explains why your hard-drive is disk C:. :lol:

Anyway, to get back to the story… once everyone got calmed down I started walking the customer through the backup process. The backup started with no issues. As expected, the program requested that the customer “insert disk two…” so they did. We continued talking through the process while the program requested “insert disk three” which was also accomplished. It was at this point I started hearing some strange noises over the phone. When I asked the customer, they said it was from their floppy drive. :shock:

Now there had not been any noises when we started, so I asked the customer about the sounds. They said that it always started making noises about this time in the backup process, and it was about now that the backup process failed because they could not insert another disk. This was all very confusing, as I had never heard of a floppy drive degrading so predictably.

Now prescient blog readers might be ahead of me on this one.

The customer was doing exactly what the program instructions said.

Insert disk one…
Insert disk two…
Insert disk three…

What’s missing? :lol:

Insert disk one…
Remove disk one…
Insert disk two…
Remove disk two…
Insert disk three…

The customer had managed to cram three floppy disks into their drive! :shock: I was able to put the customer on hold quickly enough to avoid having them hear me laugh. And laugh. And laugh. :lol: Once I collected myself again I took the customer off of hold and asked them to cancel the backup process. We started over, and I specifically requested that they remove disk one prior to inserting disk two.

Amazingly, it worked. :-D

So it turned out the “space” they were running out of was not related to hard disk space or floppy disk capacity, but the actual physical space within their floppy drive.

True story.

Related Links

  • Wiki on FGS FastBack


  1. I love this kind of story.

    He put 3 floppy disks in his drive? Hilarious! :D

    Comment by Ganon_Master — March 2, 2007 @ 4:10 pm

  2. It’s been a while since I used a 5 1/4 drive so perhaps my recollections of the experience are muddy. But if you ask me, getting three disks into the slot and “closing the door” was no small achievement. I seem to recall having trouble at times with just one disk and its write protect tab!

    Comment by SamG — March 3, 2007 @ 9:05 am

  3. Yes, Sam, that’s part of what made the call so amusing to me. I could only imagine the poor person grunting and shoving and cursing all the way after being told to “insert disk 3…” during the backup process. :lol:

    The even more amazing thing was that the program continued to write to the disks! Or at least it thought it did, otherwise it would never have completed disk two.

    One of the subtle quirks of the program was that it would never write to a disk that was in the drive before it asked for one. We got a lot of calls about that too. A person would put their first disk in the drive, then start the program. Since it used a proprietary format it would not automatically write to a disk in the drive in case it was an actual data disk. (Yes, for you youngsters, at one point we actually kept data on floppy disks, and we liked it. :-P )

    The tech support call in that case when like this:

    Customer: The process has been running for an hour on the first disk.
    Tech Rep: Open your drive door
    Customer: Ok
    Tech Rep: Close your drive door
    Customer: Hey, it’s working now!
    Tech Rep: Glad to have helped

    Comment by dave.rathbun — March 3, 2007 @ 10:32 am

  4. Hahaha, that’s just hilarious! :D

    Comment by eviL3 — March 4, 2007 @ 4:41 am

  5. Hahahaha! :P

    Comment by alexi02 — March 6, 2007 @ 1:53 am

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