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Windows 95 tech support in the early days of internet porn

So, I’ve been wanting to post this story here for a while but haven’t had the chance. But today… there was a blizzard yesterday, I have roofers working above me, and people moving furniture in/out right now so this is a good time to type this up.

The year is 1996 and I had a job in a Windows 95 tech support call center – front line (yeah, yeah, I’m old). I worked the swing shift, so the first half of my day was free support and the phones were constantly lit, but come 6PM, it turned into pay-per-incident so the phones went dead instantly and if I got a call it was usually pretty serious.

Now, I answered two lines – Win95 itself, and a second line for supporting Plus Pack (ugh), IE, and Windows Mail and News (NNTP newsgroups, which was a major source of teh pr0n at the time).

10:30PM PST, I get a call from a gentleman in New York (by the area code he supplied when I asked his number)… on the second line I just described. Now, there is one and only one reason that someone from NYC is paying $35 to talk to a schmo like me at 1:30AM EST…

Me: Thanks for your info, [NYC], and what can I help you with tonight?

NYC: unusually pleasant and polite for a New Yorker So, I was trying to download one of my newsgroups and got an error.

Me: I see. What was the error, exactly?

NYC: Oh, uh, I’m not sure exactly, I closed the error message.

Me: Let’s give it a try again so I can get the exact error, ok?

NYC: Yeah sure.

moments go by, I hear a “hmm”, and later a “huh”

Me: What’s going on? Were you able to reproduce the error?

NYC: Well, no. I just tried downloading from rec.discussion.porches and that downloaded fine.

Me: Huh. I see. Well what newsgroup were you trying to download when the error occurred?

NYC: Let me try another one… like… uh… rec.discussion.somethingoranother

NYC: That one seems to be working too.

[at this point I know exactly what’s going on… text newsgroups work fine, but he’s trying to download from a -binary- newsgroup, ie, pictures, ie… pr0n]

Me: Ok, sir. So, I have a hunch about what might be going on here, but the thing is you’re going to have to tell me what newsgroup you’re attempting to download. Think of me like a librarian. I won’t judge you – hell, I don’t even know you. I promise not to note the actual newsgroup name in my notes for this call.

NYC: hesitates Promise you won’t laugh?

Me: with shit-eating grin and index finger hovering over mute button Haha, I promise. Anything you could tell me, I’ve heard worse.

(I was wrong)

NYC: in a small voice, barely audible It was alt.binaries.erotica.sex.with.midgets…

It’s important to note that this kind of thing was basically unheard of in ’96. At that time, even totally vanilla gay porn was considered outlandish and taboo. I myself was actually pretty kinky, though, so he got lucky to get me on the phone and not one of my more naive or conservative colleagues. Even so, my index finger hit the mute button faster than I’ve physically managed to do anything in my life while simultaneously I started laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face. The few other techs around me all stared at me as I motioned a promise to tell them about it later. A few seconds later:

NYC: not angrily, but sounding more betrayed than anything YOU PUT ME ON MUTE! YOU’RE LAUGHING AT ME!

Me: quickly get my shit together I’m so sorry sir. You’re absolutely right – I couldn’t help it. To be honest, you just made my month.

At this point I reiterated that nothing even remotely embarrassing would be entered into the ticket and, when I inevitably told the story to my coworkers as he was rightly concerned about, there would be no way to find or recognize him in the system. Once he was satisfied, I explained that there was simply an issue with downloading any binary newsgroup (I had him try a non-compromising one to make sure). I found the solution and fixed it for him. To put him at ease, I read him exactly what I wrote in his file and we ended the call with him happy that it was fixed, thankful that he got me instead of anyone else, and relieved that this wouldn’t come back to bite him somehow.

And me laughing my ass off for the rest of the night telling everyone I could find who would listen.

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