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Options here suggest to abort the user (opens trapdoor below user), retry with a different user, or continue ignoring the user.

PEBKAC (written also as PEBCAK) is a particular class of computer issue with which most tech support personnel are the most familiar. It dawns on trained personnel that, after 45 minutes of troubleshooting the problem over the phone, the end user receiving the service might be better off with a court order to never be allowed within 10 meters of any gizmo possessing a silicon computer chip. So bad are the cognitive skills of persons of the PEBCAK persuasion that they may be separated into a new species: Homo pebcakus.


Print Screen, PEBCAK style

Unlike other tech support issues which require call center employees to go through a script (earning them the nickname script monkeys), a call center employee can never really be adequately prepared for a PEBCAK issue. There is no proscribed set of steps, no formula, no script. Steel themselves as they may for the inevitable PEBCAK encounter, H. pebcakus will always take tech support staff by surprise, and there is no escape.

edit Typical PEBKAC tech support issues


A member of the species H. pebcakus, who needs help real bad.

The following are a list of the Tech Support issues typical of H. pebcakus.

edit Hardware Issues

Mouse wrong

A user, unclear on the concept, clicks his mouse, and almost got bitten. Incredibly, the computer doesn't seem to be doing anything no matter what he does with the mouse.

Hardware problems are the main source of PEBCAK issues, likely due to the fact that hardware tends to be intangible, and in itself only communicates two things to the user: either it works or it doesn't. Software is needed to make the malfunctions more descriptive, but it often is not descriptive enough. And what if the unit doesn't turn on in the first place ... ?

  • Where is the ANY key? When software tells you to press any key to continue, members of H. pebcakus are thrown into paroxysms of cognitive disequilibrium as they frantically search for the non-existent ANY key, and feel a cruel joke has been played on them.
  • The computer still won't turn on after pressing on the foot pedal several times. After this point H. pebcakus is beyond help, since the mouse is lying in crushed pieces on the floor.
  • Every time I move my mouse, the screensaver disappears. He leaves the computer for a while, then the screensaver comes back. But if he so much as nudges the mouse, the screensaver goes away and the desktop returns. The only reason the person spent over $1500 on a computer was to see the screensaver. Now that he sees that it is transient, he feels cheated, and needs to hold the maker of his computer to account.
  • I only have capital letters on my keyboard. It must be one of those cheap ones. What is surprising is the number of cheap keyboards that have the same layout. And even many of the expensive ones. And even ones on typewriters. They seem to go right through history.
  • My monitor is not working. This is PEBCAK-speak for "I accidentally kicked the monitor plug out of the socket", or "I didn't turn on the POWER switch."
  • I was typing into my document, then the words went away. This is another manifestation of accidentally unplugging the cord.

It is a sad fact that nowadays many computers and laptops no longer have cup holders.

  • My coffee cup holder no longer works. It's that cup holder that says "16x", and has a small button below it that makes it retract back into the system box. This has to work flawlessly, otherwise, the user cannot drink coffee.
  • My computer no longer works, but I can't follow your suggestions, because the lights are turned off and I can't see what I'm typing. This user is also beyond help, since the most likely reason it is dark in the room is due to a power failure in the whole neighbourhood.
  • I know I've been hacked, because the printer's jammed! What can you do about it? This conclusion is arrived at because yesterday when the user was not online, the printer was used and did not jam. Today, user goes online, and the printer jams. Must be online hackers.
  • How many pins does a 15-pin video cable have? You would be surprised how many 15-pin video cables have 9 pins or 25 pins.

edit Software Issues

Software issues are quite common, although members of H. pebcakus may not know the difference between hardware and software. Also, the user may have paranoid fears about data and security.

  • There is a ugly birth mark on Miley Cyrus. This complaint often occurs when coffee is splashed accidentally on to the monitor for some reason, staining the owner's Miley Cyrus desktop image, then allowed to dry for a few days. This will soon lead to loss of consortium if not taken care of right away.
  • It tells me to press ENTER, but when I do, it places another space on the text field. H. pebcakus needs to stop hitting the space bar thinking it is the carriage return.
  • Can I buy a copy of Google for this computer? It would be amazing if your computer could fit an entire copy of Google. But then you would a) have no room left for an operating system to enjoy the experience, and b) no need for an Internet connection for a long time.
  • How much does it cost to install My Documents? The only response now is to quote a dollar amount, ask for his credit card, and email him a ZIP file of "documents" in order to look professional and avoid further confrontation. Since there is nowhere to put the money, since this was not for any product offered by any company, you'll be forced to put the money in your own bank account. Many tech support staff keep a bunch of random text files in a zip archive on their personal thumb drive for the purpose. At the end of the transaction, they're happy, and you're happy. It's a win-win.
  • The police are coming for me! What do I do? H. pebcakus often make this tearful plea after the error "This computer has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down" appears on their monitors.
  • Is it possible to put Windows 7 on a Commodore 64? Writing Windows 7 code to fit into what used to be referred to 25 years ago as "1 segment" of memory would mean you would need an MFM drive of several gigabytes in size for swap. Good luck in finding one.
  • Do you have MS Office for GameBoy? This is in case your parents come in and find you with your GameBoy instead of doing your homework. Well, it would be nice if you can do your homework on your GameBoy.
  • Do you have Firefox for DOS? Tech support might recommend Lynx instead, which is what you might have meant. OK, you probably didn't mean that, but they'll tell you to use it. But if you mean real, 8-bit DOS, that might stop them in their tracks. You might hear either 1) muffled weeping, or 2) muffled derisive laughter over the phone.
  • I downloaded the software update you sent, but I still get the same errors. This happens when the member of H. pebcakus never actually installed the update.
  • What program do you need to create a WordPerfect document? "Uhh, did you try installing WordPerfect, sir?"
  • Is there someone who comes around to empty my Recycle Bin? "Yeah, we have this guy Freddy, who comes around on Thursdays. He's a municipal trashman, comes around the same day as the garbage truck. I hope you don't mind that he has to take your computer apart to get the garbage out from the inside. Should only take a few minutes each Thursday. He'll arrive with his little blue box and a big monkey wrench."
  • Do I need a computer to use your software? Sorry, there is nothing to add. It is a classic on its own.

edit Networking and Internet Issues

Whether "The intewebs won't come up" or "the FBI disabled Internet Explorer", the paranoia of H. pebcakus becomes most evident when networking and internet issues are involved.

  • I have had your internet service for months and I still can't get connected. This longsuffering person had paid for several months of Internet service, phoning tech support after months of not being online, slightly paranoid that his "Online" message in the taskbar is telling him lies, since it finally gives up the truth after an hour of sitting still and waiting, telling him he is no longer connected. This person has not run a web browser or any other internet software. It had never been made clear what the user was actually expecting.
  • I got that letter "a" in your e-mail address, but how do I get the circle to go around it?
  • If I place this CD into my computer, won't people be able to hack into my computer and take all my private information? This question is often asked regarding a computer that is not on any network, and has no network card.
  • Those friggin' Internet Communists blew my DSL filter, so I need something stronger. While Internet Communists are a secret cabal known only to people with paranoid delusions, they have a way of hacking through DSL filters, for, uhh.... whatever reason. H. pebcakus reacts in shock and dismay when he finds out that DSL filters don't come in "strengths."
  • Those hackers came into my computer through the TV, and inserted spelling mistakes into my files! That is why, as an extra good measure of Internet Security, you should turn your monitor to the wall each night before going to bed.

Even the manual page for xeyes says it reports to the boss...

  • There's a pair of eyeballs watching me and reporting to the boss! The UNIX xeyes program, whose manual page is no help in calming paranoid fears. The police are on their way. Kiss your ass goodbye.
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